Sunday, September 30, 2007
FLORIDAGASM FINALLY ENDS
Despite Tebow's valiant effort to erase a 14 point deficit in the 4th quarter, around 11:30 p.m. EST on Saturday September 29, 2007, the final shivers, shakes, and convulsions of what had been a 9 month FLORIDAGASM came to a merciful end. Sure, they may get it up again, and soon (watch out LSU) but unranked Auburn proved that not even Tebow can keep it up forever.
I think this kid is looking for a new team. One that will never, ever lose. "You're fucking fired, Meyer!" Sane. Rational. SEC Football.
Here is what I had to say last year when Mohamed Massaquoi was booed. Here is what I have to say now to the fans who boo our players...
There is never a good excuse for booing our players no matter how disappointed you may be in their performance. They are amateurs between 18-22 years old. Booing their play does not alert the coaches or the players that someone screwed up. Guess what, dumbasses, the coaches and players already know that! They are the ones who have put in weeks and weeks of intense blood, sweat and tears into preparing for the games that we so much enjoy. They are the ones hurt most when a player screws up. They don't need us to draw their attention to it! Do you think that your boos will inspire the offending player to try harder for your approval? F#@& NO it won't. It will only serve to alienate the player from all of us fans - including the majority of us who have the sense and decency to not boo our players. The player wants to make the play much more than we want him to make the play. The players love fan support, when they receive it, but when the fans act like stark-raving a-holes, all of the players (not just the player who screwed up) are turned off by the fans. It is just plain stupid and entirely counterproductive to boo our players. It helps nothing and harms much that is important to emotionally mature fans. We do not want your infantile booing to harm our reputation as a supportive fan base that has purchased every ticket sold for Georgia games held in Sanford Stadium for many many years running. We don't want your idiotic displays of fair-weatherness to influence the recruits who are in Sanford Stadium for every game. We need recruits to WANT to come to Athens and to WANT to play in front of 92,000 supportive fans who have enough sense to hold their freaking tongues when a young man fails to make a play that none of the 92,000 are actually capable of making to begin with! Our coaches know what they are doing - at least moreso than any coaching staff we have had in a long long time - so why don't you let them do their jobs and decide who gets on the field or not based on their judgment which is ALWAYS going to be more informed than yours. Here is an inside tip for you, the coaches are going to make their decisions without your input anyway, so why not spare us all the embarassment in the future and try to pick a guy up instead of kicking him when he is down. As Mike Gundy would say, "I'm done. This makes me want to puke."
Now, about Tripp Chandler... I have just watched the replay on CSS. I watched Tripp as much as possible to see how he was blocking. I hope that you all will pay attention to this part of his game. He is an amazing blocker. He locks up with his man and drives him for 3, 4, 5 seconds while TB or KM sprint past and into space. Much of the time, his man ends up on the ground and out of the play. It is an easy conclusion to draw that Tripp's blocking is more important to ur success than his pass catching.
Speaking of his pass catching, while he has had 4 (by my count) drops this year that are indefensible, several other would have been circus catches. To wit, the pass on our first possession was broken up by the defender whose hand got between Tripps arm and ribcage and the ball was stripped out. It looked like the defender arrived early and could have been flagged. Neil Williamson, Matt Stewart and Buck Belue all had the same comment. Sure, he could have held on and it would have been a spectacular play, but it was not a case of terrible hands on that play. The second "drop" was indefensible and Tripp damn well knew it the second he hit the ground and looked utterly lifeless. Nice job booing in that instance, a-holes. It really helped. In the Alabama game, one of the "drops" was thrown well behind him, high and hard. Nearly impossible to catch. The "drop" against South Carolina in the seam around the 7 yard line was thrown to high and dangerously hard. It was catchable, but it was not well-thrown. By dangerously hard, I mean that the only danger on the throw would come on an overthrow because the safety was deep. There was no defender underneath, so Staff should have put more touch on the ball and I'll bet you he knows it.
I am disappointed that Tripp has made some drops, but we will need him down the stretch so I hope that his woes are behind him. He responded with two nice catches after being resoundingly booed. So hopefully, he has overcome the kick in the balls from our shittiest fans and can focus on helping the team win in Knoxville.
Come on people, support our kids. They are working hard to provide us vicarious thrills. Give them your best, not your worst.
This game had a little bit of everything from falling behind, facing some adversity, catching a few breaks and forcing a few others. Offensively, Stafford was sharp and the receivers did well catching (I will talk about Tripp Chandler in my next post) and blocking down field. BUT, it was the running tandem of Thomas Brown and Knowshon Moreno that carried the day as the Dawgs rushed for 328 yards and 5 touchdowns. Brown had 180 yards on 16 carries and three of the touchdowns. Surely these Dawgs would not have gotten out into space so often without some fine blocking up front bythe O-line and down field by the receivers, and in interviews after the game, I heard Coach Richt, Brown and Moreno all give credit to the line and receivers. By the way, Chandler made some great blocks - GREAT blocks out there.
Our defense struggled to get the Ole Miss offense off of the field for 2.67 quarters. But, apparently we made some adjustments or just survived by having better depth. Either way, we need to shore up the off-tackle run defense. As far as the pass defense, it went about as expected. Seth Adams has a good arm and some talented receivers and shutting him down completely is not likely for most defenses in the league. I think it was a good outing for our d-backs to work on their skills and hopefully learn some things that will benefit us against Tennessee next Saturday. After 5 games now, it seems that we can expect our defense to yield about 14-17 points. It is up to our offense to score over 20 and we will be fine.
Being that this was a classic sandwich game between two giant road games for the Dawgs, I would say that the outcome was as good or better than anyone expected. Sure, it causes some concern for when we face the next team that wants to run right at our smallish ends, but in the end, the team kept after their asses and ran Ole Miss out of the stadium for a satisfying win.
THOMAS BROWN TOUCHDOWN CELEBRATION
I have noticed that every time Thomas Brown scores a touchdown (8 on the season) he seeks out Fernando Velasco and leaps into his enormous arms. Then the 318lb Velasco military presses 200lb Brown over is head and holds him up there for about 5 seconds. I enjoy seeing this end zone routine and hope we get to see it many more times this season.
Offense - Thomas Brown, duh. When a back rushes for 180 yards on 16 carries scoring 3 touchdowns if 50 yards, 41 yards and 4 yards, there is but one choice for the Dawg Bone. Nice game Thomas Brown!
Defense - Brandon Miller. Brandon had 6 tackles and an interception that essentially put the game on ice. But, the number one reason I am awarding him the Dawg Bone is that his play was inspired. He finally looks hungry to make plays and that should bode well for this defensive unit during the remainder of the season.
Special Teams - Brandon Coutu/Prince Miller both get Dawg Bones for their flawless execution of the onside kick. Just perfect. Way to go guys.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Last week was an atrocious 5-8. A monkey and a type write could have done twice as well. For the season 26-28.
Here are my picks in BOLD and GOLD! (Man did I stink up the place this week. 3-12! WTF?)
West Virginia 7.5 SOUTH FLORIDA NOPE
Michigan 17 NORTHWESTERN (Duke beat these panty weights.) NOPE
Penn State 3.5 ILLINOIS (IF JoPA can’t beat the Illini – he should retire.) NOPE
SOUTH CAROLINA 14 Miss. State (USC will miss Jasper) NOPE
GEORGIA 15 Ole Miss (Where did this big ass line come from? Dawgs will win by 13.) NOPE
Navy 2.5 AIR FORCE (We – Navy - can’t stop anyone – including Duke.) NOPE
Oklahoma 22.5 COLORADO (Stoops learned running the score up from Spurrier.) NOPE
Clemson 3 GEORGIA TECH (Because it makes NO SENSE and that is how Tech rolls.) YEP
RUTGERS 16.5 Maryland (Fat Fridge has no more magic.) NOPE
TEXAS 14.5 Kansas State NOPE
OREGON 5.5 California (They have uglier uniforms.) NOPE
*Florida State 2.5 Alabama (Did I miss an injury report or something? This is a gift.) NOPE
VIRGINIA 7 Pittsburgh YEP
FLORIDA 18 Auburn (This may just be wishful thinking.) YEP
Southern Cal 20 WASHINGTON NOPE
Georgia will beat Ole Miss because they are just flat better and must win this game no matter how flat, unlucky, sloppy or whatever could cause the Dawgs to look anything but impressive. However, I think that the Dawgs will look impressive in this game even if the do not cover the surprising 15 point spread.
Georgia should be able to run and pass with equal aplomb in this game against the weakest defense in the SEC. I would like to see Sean Bailey and Mohamed Massaquoi get over five catches each. I would also like to see Tripp Chandler rebound with several confidence building grabs. On the runs, Thomas Brown and Knowshon Moreno will continue to share carries and catches out of the backfield. Don't be surprised if Knowshon goes over 100 yards rushing today.
Our defense will need to slam the door on BenJarvus Green-Ellis and force Ole Miss to throw - which, incidentally, is their strength. However, if we get an early lead and force them into a steady passing mode, our dbs will get a great workout and an opportunity to sharpen their skills before heading up to Knoxville next week. I have no doubt that Seth Adams will get over 200 yards through the air, but I do expect those yards to come between the 20's and the Dawgs defense will stiffen in the red zone to keep Ole Miss under 17 points.
We should have a good day on special teams both in the return game and on Coutu's foot. As I always say, with Mikey Henderson, it is not a matter of "if" it is a question of "when?" Maybe today. That would be nice.
After a physical game in which Georgia will slowly and methodically put 30 points on the board, the Dawgs will prevail 30-16.
GO DAWGS! GATA.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Opponent: Ole Miss Rebels
Kickoff: 1:00 PM
Well, well, well…we might want to put the Sabanfest on hold for another few weeks. He’s a great coach and he’s probably getting more out of that team than reasonably should be expected, but the talent level just isn’t there yet to really take advantage of some weaknesses in the UGA offense and defense. Of course, many of those holes appear to be closing, as this team will continue to get better and better. Another solid SEC road win for Richt and some validation on the season.
About the Bama game
Was it a perfect game? No, not at all, but it was a really, really good one from this group of young road pups. Considering the OL situation, I don’t know how you could have asked for anything more than what we got. No sacks…
Would it have been nice to see the defense make a stop on Bama’s last two drives? Sure, but in some ways it made the win that much sweeter. It gave Tripp Chandler a chance at atonement. It gave Scott Howard a shot at immortality. It nearly gave me a heart attack.
There’s really not much to say that you haven’t already thought. Our defense played great (aside form the two 4th qtr drives) and really rose up in OT. The offense was efficient and showed some real unexpectedness to it that should pay off down the road when teams try to scout us. Great game all around to the coaches, players, etc. Hard to believe that we lost the turnover battle, missed two FGs and still pulled out a win.
· This is a weird team to figure out. They benched last year’s starting QB Brent Schaeffer after he struggled mightily last season, even managing to have Coach Orgeron admit he made a mistake handing the job to Schaeffer in the first place. They generally have taken on the persona of their coach, pound the rock and every once in a while, blow up. They played really well last week in the loss to FL and displayed some serious big-play ability, so this is a dangerous 1-3 team.
· Taking over for Schaeffer at QB is senior Seth Adams.
· At RB, BenJarvus Green-Ellis returns for his senior season after falling a yard shy of 1,000 yards in 2006. He’s a bruising RB at 5-11, 225. He’s not a tremendous breakaway threat like we saw last week in Terry Grant, but he’s the kind of back that just gets better the more carries he gets. On the season, he’s averaging 4.6 ypc and he’s averaged over 100 ypg. Both of those stats are buoyed by his 33 carry, 226 yard performance in week 2 against
· The Ole Miss WR corps has 3 solid options, but Jr. Mike Wallace has stepped to the front in a big way so far with 16 catches (4 for TD) and 400 yards on the season including a 77-yd TD last week against FL. He has 3 catches of 50 or more yards on the season and 6 of 30 or more. Shay Hodge and Marshay Green (a pair of sophomores) aren’t quite as explosive, but each has more catches than the speedy Wallace. They also both have Shay in their first name. Converted
· The Ole Miss OL is headed by LT Michael Oher, a big 6-5, 325 pounder who will likely be in the NFL for a long while. He’s their best player on either side of the ball. Their starting unit is large, likely the biggest we’ll face all season. The right side of their line features 2 guys that weigh 340 or more. RT Maurice Miller is a little bit of an oddity in that he’s 343 but is only listed as being 6-3. OL coach Art Kehoe headed up
· Bottom Line: Ole Miss is a weird team. They WANT to pound the ball with Green-Ellis and work in some play action stuff over the top to their WRs, but so far they haven’t proved overly successful at it. They’re barely managing 100 ypg rushing, but their 250+ ypg through the air is solid. Think of this offense as Bama-lite. They are probably a notch below Bama at most every offensive position save RB perhaps (although Grant could ultimately prove better than Green-Ellis, he’s too young right now). Given our ability to largely contain Bama, I think we should have similar results this weekend, but they certainly have the pieces in place to hurt us if we don’t come out playing well again.
· Key Matchup to watch when they have the ball: They are going to run the ball, or at least give it the ol’ college try. If Green-Ellis is as successful as he was last year in
· The Ole Miss defense is called by John Thompson, he of the famed “minnow bucket” defense that often sees folks moving around like crazy pre-snap, only to ultimately be at their assignment at the snap. Weird. He’s been the DC at
· The Ole Miss DL sports an emerging SEC star in So. DE Greg Hardy. At 6-5, 255, Hardy is a lanky pass rusher who’s already snagged 35 tackles (3rd on the team) with 7 TFLs including 3 sacks. He’ll be a tough matchup for our OTs. The interior of their DL doesn’t have a ton of productive depth, but they’ve got some size and will try and tie up our young OL. They have some good experience inside.
· At LB, the 3 listed starters in their depth chart for this game are all first year JUCO transfers, due in large part to the departure of their top two LBs, especially 1st round draft pick Patrick Willis. SLB Ashlee Palmer leads the team in tackles with 41 and pass breakups with 3. The real oddity of this group is backup MLB Chris Strong. A true frosh, Strong weighs in at 6-2, 280. I watched his robust self drill Tim Tebow on a bootleg last week, so he can obviously move.
· The best player in the
· Bottom Line: The Ole Miss back 7 doesn’t have much experience. Heck, the front 4 doesn’t either. This is a unit that’s trying to improve and they’re making strides, with the UF effort being their best outing yet, which isn’t great considering they still gave up 30. They’re still struggling (according to Orgeron) with wrapping up and making tackles. Look at these numbers in terms of statistics: 91st nationally in rush defense, 86th nationally in pass eff. defense, 105th in pass defense and a shocking 107th in total defense. They don’t do a great job of pressuring the QB, with only 5 sacks on the season. This is a defense that we should be able to move the ball against. Look for us to put a strain on their LBs with our RBs in the flats. Bama struggled with that aspect of our game all night. Ole Miss has struggled against screens all season (Orgeron said those exact words this week) and that’s something that’s been a staple of the Bobo regime to date. Given their struggles tackling this year, the hard running of
· Key matchup to watch when we have the ball: The UGA running game is in capable hands with
OM Game Overall
Alright, let’s not sugarcoat this. This is in all likelihood the worst team in the SEC. As an aside, it’s weird that two of the top arguable candidates for that spot at this point are AU and UT (since MSU beat AU). They were beaten handily by Vandy already this season. They’re struggling on defense and they’ve yet to really get the offense going the way they want to. If we’re going to be competing for the SEC East title, this is a team that we should handle. I’m not saying we will necessarily, as we have a history of playing down (and up for that matter) to our opponents, I’m just saying we should.
Ole Miss has struggled to capitalize this season. In 16 trips to the redzone, they’ve managed 5 TDs and 5 FGs to go with a flurry of mistakes…missed FGs, TOs, etc. They’re last in the SEC in rushing offense. They’re 11th in scoring. They’re last in sacks allowed. They’ve passed the ball decently, but haven’t faced a secondary approaching what they’ll see Saturday. On defense, it’s more of the same, lots of double digit conference rankings in statistical categories. Just more evidence that if we play smart, sound football like we saw last week in
Normally I’d say this is a perfect opportunity for a trap game as we’re coming off an emotional win on the road (again) and will be heading off to another big road game in Knoxville next week, with little ol’ Ole Miss sandwiched in there, begging to be overlooked. Unfortunately for Ole Miss, they appear to have broken out the grade-A effort a week early. Given how well they played against UF, it shouldn’t be difficult for the UGA coaches to get this team motivated and focused this week. If Ole Miss can play with UF for 4 quarters, they certainly aren’t a team we can go to sleep on. The scary thing about that game is it’s not like UF turned the ball over a bunch to keep Ole Miss in it, they just fought and scrapped and eventually started busting big plays. The longer they hang around, the more they’ll start to believe.
· It seemed like every catch Sean Bailey made was incredibly important. Just very clutch. The same goes for Massaquoi. I thought those two set the tone on that opening drive when they both made great grabs to extend the drive. Excellent performance from our WRs.
· On the other hand, Tripp Chandler struggled through a rough game. It was great to see him pull in that last catch on 4th down though to pull us into field goal range. Hopefully he’ll rebound and put that behind him, as we really need him to play well.
· Reshad Jones looked really solid…again. That kid is going to be a player. He reminds me a lot of Deon Grant, the GA native that went to UT.
· I don’t think you can say enough about the performance of Clint Boling. This is a true freshman that came in ready to contribute despite the fact almost no one gave him a chance to do so. He injures his ankle so bad last week that he was hobbling around in a boot and he still guts it out and plays about as well as some upperclassmen we’ve had come through in recent years. Just amazing.
· How nasty was that little slip move Moreno put on Mitchell last week when he skipped sideways at full speed and the poor fella didn’t even touch him?
· Mike Patrick is just weird. First there was the whole Britney Spears comment. That was just surreal and I honestly don’t know what to say about it other than I loved the fact Blackledge was perfectly content to leave him hanging. In addition to that, I honestly don’t think he has any idea what constitutes pass interference. On the play where the official flagged Bama when Castille was basically taking Goodman’s jersey off, Patrick said he just didn’t see anything, no reason to throw that flag. Then, on a call where Prince Miller mugged DJ Hall on a ball our coaches were (wrongly) arguing was uncatchable, he decides to announce he thinks the uncatchable ball aspect of that rule is stupid. What? It’s like he doesn’t understand football. With that performance, he’s now shot straight to the top of the list for the role of play-by-play guy I’m most likely to be weirded out by. He would of course be paired with the dynamic color tandem of Tim McCarver and Joe Morgan in a 3-man booth of annoyance.
· What’s the deal with this football season? It’s like some weird bizarro-SEC.
· I’m sure you’ve all seen or heard about OkSt’s head coach blowing up in his press conference and going after a newspaper writer. I was surprised to see him do it, but I applaud him standing up for his player if he feels they were publicly wronged. While I was surprised at Coach Gundy’s outburst, I was even more surprised to hear the response of some of the media voicing their disapproval and saying that he should have handled that out of the public eye. I’m sorry, wasn’t he doing what he did precisely because his player had been dressed down in the article in that very same public eye (which was largely based on rumor and hearsay)? Yes, he probably should have read a prepared statement to keep his emotions in check, but I have to applaud a coach standing up for his players.
· Be glad that apparently no one told
· Munson turns 85 on Friday. I suppose it’s OK for him to miss road games given that fact. I thought Scott Howard handled that final call about as well as he could have, but you just can’t help but wonder what little gem Munson would’ve thrown out there, something about folks rending Houndstooth...actually I shouldn’t even fathom a guess as to what Munson would say. He had no idea what a hobnail boot was before that popped out.
· Speaking of that final play, it was like a mix of two recent GT passes both in execution and in end result. One, the Bobo to Corey Allen TD in ATL back in ’97. The other was the Shockley to McClendon pass two years ago. All 3 were just beautiful. Of course, the one from ’05 was still a couple of minutes from the end of the game, as Reggie Ball still had to really destroy GT fans with his INT at the goal line. Thank you Tim Jennings.
· Don’t be surpised if AU gives FL’s offense some fits. AU’s O has been horrid, but they still have some talent on D, especially at DE, so look for them to tee off on Tebow.
Have a safe weekend,
Just as Jesus told the Apostle Peter that he was the rock upon which the church would be built, Thomas Brown is clearly the rock upon which the 2007 Bulldog football team is built. Everything you read and hear about Thomas points to his leadership on and off the field. He has always been an extremely hard worker in the weight room and conditioning program and this is particularly evident in his return from his ACL surgery in less than 10 months. Not only is he running the ball with as much or more quickness, effort and determination as he did before his injury in the Vanderbilt game last year. Couple that with his fearless runs on kick returns and his other contributions on the punt coverage team and you soon realize that Thomas is a hard person to keep off the field. For his effort thus far through 4 games, here are his statistics:
Rushing - 54 carries, 213 yards, 3.9 yard average, 3 TDs and 53 yards per game average.
Receiving - 9 catches, 73 yards, 8.1 yard average, 2 TDs and 18 yards per game average.
Kick returns - 10 for 260 yards, 26 yard average with a long of 40 yards.
All purpose yardage - 546 for the season, averaging 137 per game.
He has 5 of the 14 touchdowns scored by the Dawgs this season, which leads the team.
These are not eye-popping statistics. In fact, Knowshon Moreno has more rushing yards, more receiving yards and a higher average per touch. However, the impact on the team of having Brown's leadership on the field and on the sideline is immeasurable. Also, not to be overlooked is his pass protection blocking. It is obvious that Coach Richt and Coach Bobo are more comfortable with Brown in the backfield protecting Matthew Stafford and that is borne mostly from experience and desire - meaning that it is only a matter of repetitions before Moreno also becomes a reliable pass blocker. It is a plus that both are talented pass receivers coming out of the backfield.
Despite the fact that Brown does not have gaudy statistics, in my opinion, he is the key to our offense in both tangible and intangible ways. Moreover, I believe Thomas is the key to our team overall as a battle-tested senior leader he looks like he is truly having fun out there and loving his role on this football team. Look at what Coach Fabris had to say about him in this article.
Assistant coach Jon Fabris calls Brown "the best football player on the team," even after coming off an ACL injury last season.
"There aren't too many guys that are your leading rusher the year before he got hurt that are still covering punts, will block on a punt return if you ask him to, will be on the kickoff team," Fabris said. "At a meeting, he's not like some prima donna sashaying in at the last minute. He's one of the first people in his seat and is all business. And the guy is going to play. He's just a warrior."Watching the games this season, I have gotten a clear sense of how Thomas Brown's effort and enthusiasm has inspired his teammates and I believe that he is a great mentor for Knowshon Moreno and Caleb King. Moreno seems to be cut from the same cloth and his energy also appears contagious. With Brown's impact on the field and on the sideline, the duo of Brown and Moreno is more potent than either would be individually. It has certainly been exciting to watch these two guys delivering a nice one-two punch for our offense and I am excited about what remains in front of them for the rest of this season.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
A little slow getting these out, but here they are...
Offense - Thomas Brown. Thomas was fighting like a champion all night. I was seated in the ionosphere and I could sense his extraordinary effort level even from the clouds. He was clearly the leader of our team and his experience and non-stop superlative effort was contagious to the younger guys. Thomas had 74 yards rushing, 39 yards receiving and a total of 181 all-purpose yards and our first touchdown. His kick returns were fearless and more importantly, he took what was there and didn't try to get fancy. We started beyond our 30 yard line almost every time. Knowshon Moreno also had an impressive night, and I can't help but think that having Thomas Brown as his mentor has made him a better player. Those two make a great tandem and watching them is a pleasure.
Defense - This is a group award for the entire secondary for blanketing Alabama's talented receivers and breaking up more passes than I can ever remember seeing from a Georgia team. Prince Miller batted away two third down passes in the second half. The play by Reshad Jones running stride for stride with a Bama receiver on a deep ball and then elevating with precise timing to reach out and knock the ball away was pure poetry. It was so beautiful that the referees couldn't even throw a flag on the play. In overtime, Asher Allen stepped in front of the Bama receiver on their third down attempt and batted the ball away, forcing Bama to settle for the field goal. I may have missed one, but those are the four that I clearly recall. Great job guys, keep up the good work.
Special Teams - Mikey Henderson had two nice punt returns in the second half that gave us the ball near midfield. Unfortunately, we were not able to capitalize on either possession, but his returns are always electrifying as he is a threat to score on every return. He will take one to the house very soon. Maybe even this week against Ole Miss.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Here is a brief recap of my several days going back to last Wednesday around 6:30 pm. At that time, I was sitting in my office working and trying to finish up so I could get home to the wife and kids. Then a friend, Trey Dennard, came in through the front door and announced that he had tickets to the Georgia-Alabama game and needed company for the 9 hour drive each way from Amelia Island to Tuscaloosa and back.
My wife, Leslie, told me I should go, so we headed out Friday evening at 8:00 pm. We drove until a little past midnight and stayed in Eufala, AL. On Saturday morning, we had breakfast with my best friend Taylor Bennett's parents, Robert and Rosemary. I can never pass through Eufala without visiting the Bennetts. Better people you will never find! Their son Taylor, one of my Naval Academy shipmates, was in London for the weekend and had discovered an American-style Sports Pub where he could catch all of the NCAA football action while ordering up some delicious John Smith Draught. After filling up on a great country breakfast, we were on our way to Tuscaloosa and arrived around 2:00 pm. On the drive in, we were listening to ESPN Radio and getting constant updates on the Ole Miss upset bid against Florida. We parked in the yard of some students who had the game on in their carport, so they invited us to watch with them and shared their keg beer. Good hospitality, which has been my experience both times I have been to games in Tuscaloosa. The Bama fans have a great setting for college football and they tailgate as well as anywhere in the country.
After Florida finally vanquished Ole Miss, we left walked over to the strip and met some friends at The Houndstooth Bar and watched much of the LSU-USC game. Speaking of "Houndstooth," only in Tuscaloosa will you see so much clothing and accessories utilizing the pattern made famous by the Bear. That is something entirely unique to Bama and it is much better than the Tide detergent box and two rolls of toilet paper. Soon, it was time to head into Bryant-Denny stadium, so we headed over and up, up, up, up, up and up a little more to the new addition to the stadium called Section 422 Row 27. There were only about 10 moe rows between us and the Central Alabama stratosphere. The only good thing about being so high was that when it rained, we did not get wet because the clouds were below us. Anyway, it was great to be in the stadium and it was a great night for an epic clash.
This is what it was like at the end... (sorry this video can't embed)
After surviving the highs and lows of the ebb and flow of this game and sneaking out of Tuscaloosa with a much-needed character building win, we drove down to Prattville and checked into a hotel at 2:30 in the morning. We were happy campers, but entirely exhausted. On Sunday, we stopped back in Eufala because Judge Robert Bennett wanted to give us some of his Bennetts Blueberry Wine - Private Reserve that he has been making for a hobby for many years. We got a thorough tour of the Judge's winemaking operation where he had batches of Scuppernong and Muscadine fermenting. It may not be Napa, but it looks like an interesting and fun and potentially intoxicating hobby. I have to say that visiting with the Bennetts was a wonderful highlight of the trip. After our fun, but brief visit, we continued our long journey home to Amelia Island, grateful that we were basking in a hard-fought victory making the ride a pleasure instead of an interminable death dirge, as it easily could have been. Thank you Mikey Henderson!
I would like to thank all of the Bama people for be wonderfully hospitable to us in their house and I look forward to seeing them in Athens next year.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Because I flipped a coin and it landed Georgia's favor. Very scientific. Actually, I see these two teams so evenly matched that I truly feel that Georgia could definitely win this game and they can definitely lose this game. Of course, that is always the case. Especially when you are coming off of a season in which Vanderbilt and Kentucky beat you. However, from a purely prognostication standpoint, I normally get a feel for one team being better than the other and barring bad luck or bad execution, that team should win. In this case, I cannot state with any confidence that either team is better than the other. Both have strengths and weaknesses and both have sufficient intangibles to weigh in their favor.
On offense, I think that the slight edge goes to Alabama because they have a competent quarterback with proven receivers and emerging runners behind an experienced offensive line. On the contrary, Georgia has emerging stars at Quarterback and running back (Knowshon Moreno) and sufficient capable, but unpredictably inconsistent receivers trying to execute with an inexperienced o-line with loads of potential. I like our balance and play calling, but Alabama showed great balance in their win over Arkansas. For our offense to get it done Saturday night, our receivers need to dress out with their sticky hands and leave their Jokari paddle hands in the dressing room. We also must not lose the turnover battle.
On defense, I think that a slight edge belongs to Georgia. While it is close, I think our front seven are a smidge better than their front seven. Our guys will need to play fast, as they are capable of doing, and tackle well. In the backfield, I see it mostly even. The presence of Simeon Castille probably gives Bama a slight edge there. If the Dawgs can mount a good pass rush, it will help our d-backs immensely. Conversely, if our o-line can give Stafford time, he will make good throws and neutralize any slight advantage Bama might have here. In toto, I give the edge on defense to Georgia, ever so slightly.
Special teams... our kickers should be better, their kick return team is better and our punt returner is probably better. I am giving Georgia a tiny advantage here. How tiny? How about one point. As in the one point needed to win on a late Brandon Coutu field goal!
I am expecting to see a big game from Knowshon Moreno, Mohammed Massoquoi and Tripp Chandler on offense and Kelin Johnson, Danell Ellerbe and Roderick Battle on defense. In the end, Coutu will be our hero, a la Billy Bennett 2002. DAWGS 27 - TIDE 26.
Robert Preston, Jr.
Douglas Daily News
DOUGLAS – Andre “Pulpwood” Smith is in jail. Barely two weeks after Miriam Holland and I visited him in his Atlanta home, officers from the Fulton County Police Department took him into custody.
He is being held in the Fulton County jail without bond.
The exact circumstances of his arrest remain a mystery. All we know is that he is being held on two counts of burglary, and one count each of entering an auto and terroristic threats.
The rumor is that Pulpwood was picked up on outstanding warrants for these charges, but that story has not been confirmed. I do not know the circumstances surrounding his arrest. I only know that he is in the custody of the Fulton County Police Department, and he has been their property for about 10 days.
I have never denied that Pulpwood has a criminal record. When we first began searching for him, the first place we checked was the Department of Corrections. Smith wasn’t in prison at the time, but we learned that he had been in the past.
Pulpwood served about two months in prison in 1990 for two drug possession charges. Other than that, he has spent no time in the state penal system.
What we couldn’t find out was how many times he’s been locked up in the various county jails in the Atlanta area. That information isn’t readily available to the general public. I did learn that Pulpwood had been cited in early October for a charge of some kind, but I never was able to find out exactly what that charge was. He was written a ticket and released.
Apparently, though, he had more charges pending, charges that have now landed him behind bars.
To be honest, I’m not that surprised. Pulpwood has struggled with an addiction since he left the University of Georgia. Though his legal woes have been at least at some levels exaggerated, he has had numerous run-ins with the law, all of which are related to his addiction.
So does this change the way I feel about Pulpwood?
Not at all. And here’s why.
I find it impossible to stand in judgment of Andre Smith. I cannot fathom having to face the choices he had to make at such an early age. Smith had the talent to be a professional athlete before he could vote. He was surrounded by people who wanted something from him, people who wanted to capitalize in some way on his talent.
He was a big fish in a small pond at Coffee High. But when he went to UGA, he became a big fish in a big pond. And even more people attached themselves to him.
He couldn’t handle the pressure. He didn’t know where to turn. So he turned to the wrong things, and today, two decades later, he’s still reaping what he sowed back in 1984.
Does this mean that Pulpwood is not responsible for his actions? Not by a long shot. He made the wrong decisions. He exercised poor judgment. And he knows it. When we spoke with him, he readily admitted that he was responsible for where he was in life.
I will never dispute that Pulpwood has made mistakes, and he should be held accountable for those mistakes. But I can’t judge him for what he’s done. I have never been in a situation that remotely resembles where Pulpwood has been. Who knows? If I had been there, I might have made the same decisions.
And you might have, too.
Two weeks ago, I wrote that I didn’t think it was too late for Pulpwood. I still feel that way. He needs help. He needs help breaking his addiction and rebuilding his life. He has children that need to know their father. He has a wealth of knowledge that he could pass on to youth. Pulpwood is very good with children; I’ve seen him interact with kids.
Helping Pulpwood Smith would be risky. There’s no doubt about it.
But the Golden Rule says to treat others as you would like to be treated. Let me ask you this: If you were in Pulpwood’s shoes, wouldn’t you want help?UPDATE: As noted in my post earlier, as of today, September 20, 2007, Pulpwood is living and working in Coffee County and has been for over 18 months.
Is the time right for Pulpwood?
Robert Preston, Jr.
Douglas Daily News
DOUGLAS — So Pulpwood Smith is alive and well, living in an apartment in Sandy Springs. That's very different from the various rumors that continue to circulate the community in reference to the former football and baseball star.
You're probably wondering what kind of neighborhood he lives in. Pulpwood lives in an economically depressed area, and his apartment isn't government housing. He doesn't venture very far from his neighborhood, staying within a few blocks of his home. He often eats breakfast at a nearby Days Inn.
Miriam Holland and I pulled up to Pulpwood's apartment in my vehicle. Prior to last Thursday, I had never met Pulpwood; I was 10 years old during the 1982 football season. But when I saw him, I recognized him immediately. He looks remarkably similar to the pictures I've seen of him taken 23 years ago.
As Pulpwood spoke, it became quite clear that he knows exactly what could have been. He knows that had he done things just a little differently, he would be in a very different place than he is in right now.
He also never tried to shift the responsibility for his life. One of the last things he said to me, words that are quoted in the front page story in today's edition, were, "I regret that I'm not a completer."
He didn't say, "I regret that I listened to all those other folks and took their advice, because they cost me my career." He accepts the blame for the choices he's made.
His story is one of unfulfilled potential. It's really sad to see Pulpwood where he is. He should have been in the NFL. He should be a retired running back, drawing a pension and coming back home to Douglas a few times of a year to put on football and baseball clinics for the youth of the community.
But that isn't where he is. He's tucked away in Atlanta, seldom venturing outside of his neighborhood, much less leaving the metro area to visit home.
I'm quite sure people are chomping at the bit to learn of Pulpwood's criminal history. Is he on drugs? Has he been in prison recently?
I have done a search of Pulpwood's criminal record, and we have discussed his record in this space before. Other than what was previously covered, I know nothing of his record, except that he was cited about six weeks ago for a misdemeanor in his neighborhood. Officers wrote Pulpwood a ticket and let him go. He wasn't incarcerated, and it wasn't a drug offense. An officer gave me a case number, but did not tell me exactly what the charge was.
Other than that, I am ignorant of his criminal history.
As far as drugs go, I didn't see any drug-related paraphernalia in his apartment, and he didn't act as though he was under the influence of any substances when we spoke. He didn't tell me he was a user, and I didn't ask.
After visiting with him, I believe he has something to offer a community. He has a family, a son whose future on the playing field looks bright. Maybe with the right kind of guidance, he can avoid the pitfalls that snared his father.
Can Pulpwood provide that guidance? I don't know the relationship he has with his son, but it's certainly a very real possibility.
People want to vilify Pulpwood. I think I know why. A lot of people went out on a limb to help him, and he didn't deliver. He specifically mentioned the Andersons and the Tanners during our conversation, but I know there were others who assisted him. Coach Royal and his family, of course, along with the Gene Wade family, the late Frank Sparks, Walter Huckaby and countless others among the Bulldog faithful tried to help him.
Their help wasn't enough.
But Pulpwood's life isn't over. There are a lot of people, myself included, who would like to see him return to the community and use his experiences to help others avoid his mistakes.
I may have on my rose-colored glasses and people may snicker at this, but I think it's a real possibility. Pulpwood has expressed to others his interest in bettering himself. Maybe now, 21 years after leaving UGA, the time is right.
Robert Preston, Jr.
Douglas Daily News
ATLANTA — Football is still Andre "Pulpwood" Smith's life. It always has been, and it always will be. The description given of Pulpwood in his senior yearbook states "Andre centered his career at CHS around athletics."
Pulpwood made no bones about his priorities. He was an athlete first, and school was his ticket to an athletic career. And now, 20 years removed from the spotlight, he is still an athlete. "Pulpwood comes in here and talks football all the time," said a clerk at a Days Inn located near his apartment. "He'll come in the lobby and run plays for us."
Some have argued that he may have been a better baseball player than football player. A quick look at his stats during his junior year shows some staggering numbers: a .590 batting average with 14 home runs, many of those homers hit on the South Georgia College baseball field, which sports a 400-foot centerfield fence. "Man, we used to hit balls in those trees behind that fence," he said during his interview with the DDN.
As good as he was, he wasn't the best baseball player on either the 1981 or 1982 teams. But he still had an opportunity to join a professional baseball team after his senior year. He didn't want to play baseball, instead choosing a football career at the University of Georgia under legendary head coach Vince Dooley.
Georgia was only two years removed from a national championship when Pulpwood joined the team. "Ray Goff was the tight ends coach," said Pulpwood. "He's the one who recruited me. He came to Douglas to get me."
Pulpwood played sporadically in 1983, his freshman year. But the 1984 season was his best — and last — year with the 'Dawgs. That year, he rushed for 665 yards from the fullback position (leading the team), scoring four touchdowns, two of which came against Alabama in front of a national television audience.
Still, though, Pulpwood didn't talk too much about the University of Georgia.
He did talk about scoring touchdowns between the hedges in Sanford Stadium. As he reminisced, he smiled, almost as though he were embarrassed, and said, "It felt good, kind of like when your girlfriend says, 'I love you' for the first time."
What Pulpwood really wanted to talk about were his playing days in Douglas. He didn't recall any specific details about the 1982 season, instead speaking of several different aspects of his senior year. His favorite moment? "Before a pep rally, Kyle Waldron gave a great speech that pumped all of us up." However, he didn't specify the game before which the speech was given, nor did he quote any parts of Waldron's address.
But he did talk about his head coach, Bonwell Royal. "Man, I love Coach Royal. I remember before the playoffs, he said to me, 'Andre, I need you in the playoffs, and I'm going to give you the ball.' He didn't try to take credit for our success. He worked with us and he kept us together," said Smith.
He also remembered that Coach Royal's offseason workouts included a lot of "gator ball," a rather loosely organized form of tackle football in which it was every man for himself. Gator ball was a staple in the P.E. department under Coach Royal. "Coach would get out there and play with us. He'd tackle us himself. Coach Royal was tough."
Pulpwood also said Royal wouldn't hesitate to scold his players when the need arose. "He'd discipline us. He kept me out of the Fitzgerald game once."
He recalled spending time with the families of John and Cleary Tanner, and Ronnie and Malois Anderson. "I love the Tanners and the Andersons," he said. "They used to let me travel to games with them. I remember riding in the Tanners' Winnebago going to baseball games. They let us climb all over that Winnebago. I have friends here in Atlanta who have never ridden in a vehicle like that. And we were riding in one when we were 12 years old."
The primary point of the DDN's interviewing Pulpwood was not to discuss the Trojan Hall of Fame, but it certainly warranted a question or two. Smith knows he isn't in the Hall. "When I first heard about the Hall of Fame, I didn't know how big it was. But I knew that one day, it would come down to me getting in," he said. Pulpwood also seemed largely ignorant of the intensity of the recent Hall of Fame discussions. And why should he know what's going on? He's 200 miles away from Douglas, hasn't been here in three and a half years, and doesn't make a habit of staying in touch with his old friends.
Smith wanted to talk about his two children, a 16-year-old son and a five-year-old daughter. His son is especially interesting. He's a sophomore at Lovejoy High School. "He's a great football player. He plays linebacker and running back, and he's a straight-A student," said Pulpwood.
A quick check with Lovejoy confirmed what Smith said: Such a sophomore does play on Lovejoy's squad. His coach reports that he has dominated at the JV level and has played well at the varsity level. The coach said he could be heavily recruited, particularly if he grows a few more inches.
And his grades are excellent. He also benched over 300 pounds his freshman year. It appears as though he is following in his father's footsteps.
He said his daughter is going to be a track star.
As the interview with Pulpwood drew to a close, one question begged asking: What did Pulpwood regret about the journey that landed him in a small Sandy Springs apartment as opposed to drawing a pension from the NFL?
Answered Pulpwood: "I regret that I'm not a completer. I realize the money I could have made, and the way I could have changed my mother's life."