Instant Analysis - Oct. 10
Tennessee 45 ... Georgia 19
Unless you're talking about a Mount Rushmore of
Coaches-type like Bobby Bowden or Joe Paterno,
or unless you're referring to a proven superstar,
like Pete Carroll, Bob Stoops, or Urban Meyer,
coaches should be treated like goldfish. When one
has outlived his usefulness, just flush him and get
They're coaches. They're not professors, they're not
gods, and they're not deserving of necessarily being
revered ... again, they're coaches. That's it.
I don't mean to be as callous and as harsh as that
sounds, but if you're an elite program, or if you
want to be an elite program, you can always find a
superstar to come in and lead the way. But the first
step is knowing what level your program is at.
If Mark Richt had an 85-25 record with his history
of getting teams in the SEC title, or close to it,
at South Carolina, Ole Miss, or Kentucky, there
would be buildings, streets, babies, and mediocre,
mid-priced theme restaurants named after him. But
Georgia wants national titles, or at least be in the
national title discussion, and it's not close.
2008 was supposed to be the year the Dawgs finally
took the next big step forward, didn't, and now the
window might have slammed shut. If you don't take
advantage of your turn in then the SEC national
title rotation, then you might not get another
chance. This year, Georgia has had some nice moments
against a killer early schedule, but it wasn't
supposed to give up 45 points to a Tennessee team
that has made a habit out of giving the ball away
and struggling with its passing game. Jonathan
Crompton became Peyton Manning, the Georgia running
backs that were supposed to combine to replace
Knowshon Moreno still haven't shown up, and the
Dawgs are now 2-2 in conference play.
Can Richt ever bring this program back to being
among the national title contenders? He's not going
to get fired any time soon, but Georgia needs to
start producing like the elite team it's supposed to
be or the pressure might be on next year. There are
still some big chances to make statements with
Florida, Auburn, and Georgia Tech still to play, and
Richt needs his team to produce in all three games.
It sure didn't show up in this one.
Boy, did Tennessee need that effort against Georgia or what?
With one win—over Ohio—since the opener, the Vols and head coach Lane Kiffin were in dire need of something positive with the rival Dawgs in town. They got it ... and got it ... and got it. The 45-19 rout in Knoxville is the type of outcome that could pay dividends over the next four months. As usual, success boiled down to the play of QB Jonathan Crompton, who finally performed as if Western Kentucky was in Neyland Stadium. He threw four touchdown passes and limited his mistakes, which opened things up for RB Montario Hardesty and WR Gerald Jones to operate. The defense was typically stingy, keeping the Bulldog offense out of the end zone.
Having stopped the bleeding and picked up a momentum-boosting win, Tennessee can go about trying to become bowl-eligible and earn those extra 15 practices in December. Remember, this year is all about laying a foundation for the 2010 season and recruiting cycle. Kicking the Dawgs over the final three quarters goes a long way toward achieving both of those goals for Kiffin and his staff.
1) Jonathan Crompton, you deserve the heartiest salute and the highest compliments after your performance today. Bravo, congratulations, and kudos for never ceasing to compete while continuing to trust your teammates and put forth nothing less than your best, most sincere effort. The fortunate few manage to play in the NFL and collect fat paychecks; other football players are graced with the ability to compete for championships. Jonathan Crompton won't be doing those things in his life, but he's actually done something far more meaningful: He's defeated his own demons and proven to himself—even more than his critics and doubters—that he can succeed when he puts his mind into an endeavor. That is a sweet, sweet story of redemption and renewal. It's worth quite a lot of goosebumps.
2) People will be burying Georgia's defense for the second-half collapse, but
give credit to UGA's defense and special teams for keeping the Dawgs afloat
in the first half. Joe Cox couldn't make LSU respect the passing game last week, which enabled the Tigers to load up against Georgia's ground game. After this train wreck in Knoxville, it's all the more apparent that his play is far too inconsistent to be trusted by Mark Richt. Cox needs to fix his toolbox, or else an already-horrid season will only get worse in Athens.
All of a sudden, Jonathan Crompton showed why Lane Kiffin had so much faith in him at the beginning of the season. Crompton had thrown eight interceptions in Tennessee's five games before Saturday, but against Georgia, he looked like an all-SEC signal caller. In the process, he helped the Vols to their first legitimate victory of the season and gave UT hope for the rest of the season. Crompton's 310 yards and four touchdowns were easily his best performance of the year. As impressive as Crompton's career day was, the Tennessee defense was even better, holding Georgia to a mere 214 total yards. Were it not for a kickoff return for a score and six points on an interception, the Bulldogs would have been blown out of the stadium. It's interesting that both teams are 3-3 right now, because the Vols are happy to be at that point, and Georgia is even after six games for the first time in Mark Richt's tenure. This isn't to be read as any kind of grand statement on the teams' long-term fortunes, but the Bulldogs have to wake their offense up, in order to salvage the season. Tennessee, meanwhile, has a QB with 13 touchdown passes and nine picks and a fervent hope that the player who showed up Saturday will be on hand for the rest of the season.