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Painful practice...
Michael O'Casey
Michael O'Casey's View from the Riverbank

For Bulldog fans around the world, the Saturday night football game with the Missouri Tigers in Columbia had similar symptoms to the most strenuous cardiac tests known to mankind.  Surviving fans should have no fear if they have a nuclear stress test scheduled as their thumping chest pumps survived 60 minutes of heavy stress against the Missouri Tigers in Columbia that should have been over, or at least well in hand, during the first half-hour of the contest. 

But it was far from over.  If my late father had summed it up, he might have allowed that “Georgia made more mistakes than Huckleberry Finn reading in a first grade reading primer.”  That would be an apt comparison as the Georgia boys stumbled and fumbled and missed blocks and tackles for the better part of three quarters. If the Tigers had been able to score touchdowns instead of field goals, that hill would have been impossible to climb in the fourth quarter.  

The stage was set well for a historic loss.  Being the number one rated team in the nation and getting upset by an unranked team with a 2-2 record would have amounted to four flat tires on the Bulldog bus to the 2022 playoffs. A raucous crowd that roared with each Dawg misfire served to throw heart pine lightwood into the fire of the Tiger locomotive steam engine, and the fire got hot and the steam pressure was way past dangerous.  Coach Smart and the Dawg staff deserve lots of credit for withstanding the pressure and extinguishing the fire. 

It’s not unusual.  College football players are young men mostly in their late teens, and they are told thousands of times daily in social media of every description just how good and wonderful and talented they are. Sports fans, coaches, and wide eyed television pundits, some of considerable expertise and others who could barely pass a multiple choice test over the most identifiable characteristics of a pigskin football, spew lavish praise that creates a destabilizing aura of invincibility around the top teams which can be absorbed through unprotected eyeballs, eardrums, or exposed skin.  Alabama Coach Nick Saban calls it ‘rat poison.’ 

Perhaps that is not sufficiently descriptive. In reality, the number one rating in the nation is like an anvil hanging around the necks of team members in a freestyle swimming race across the Mississippi River.  

Alabama temporarily escaped the shackles of that evil sabotage early in the season when the University of Texas scared the bejesus out of the Crimson Tide.  Just like Georgia, Bama should have lost. Based on recent performances, that wobbly outing sobered up the troops from Tuscaloosa.  Here’s hoping that the recent Dawg performance will serve as individual and team immunization against Coach Sabin’s ‘Rat Poison’ and generate the focus and effort necessary for a second championship season.

In reality, the first half of the Missouri game should have been much like the second half, and the second half could have been more like previous games when second and third team players enjoyed significant game time experience and the opportunity to show their talents. But hiccups and miscues shot that in the foot.  In the long view however, the cumulative experiences of the first half could certainly be beneficial.  Coming back from such lackadaisical beginning and finishing so strong has to be reinforcement of the fact that “it ain’t over till it’s over,” and the Dawgs should remember that was the central theme of the national championship game last hear.  That is a positive, and it should be motivation to ratchet up individual and team focus to laser-like  precision which certainly led up to the national championship victory. Maybe it should be called ‘painful practice.’

Can they win it all again? Who knows? After the game Coach Kirby Smart said in effect that they have a long way to go and a short time to get there.  That was obvious Saturday night.  Certainly there will be more cardiac tests in the future.  Florida and Auburn can never be counted out, and Tennessee, Mississippi , and Kentucky are lurking in the bushes alongside a winding and dangerous road. But two months from now we may look back and realize that the Mizzou game was a  launching pad for another unforgettable season. 

If the Good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise, we’ll will be on hand for that final cardiac event of the season. Go Dawgs..!