Sports Columns

October 9, 2013

Loran Smith: Victory, but at what price?

Time will tell if Georgia’s stressful success this past weekend against Tennessee will turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory — a win so costly that it is tantamount to defeat. Can the Bulldogs continue to win big games with so many players out on offense and so many who are not ready on defense, with both situations compounded by injuries?

Pyrrhic victories often bring about struggles that wind up ruining the victors. You don’t have to be a Greek historian to appreciate the circumstances. As you analyze the Tennessee game, you lament the losses but are moved to express gratitude for victory. The mantra incumbent upon the Bulldogs is to accentuate the positive with an appreciation for the fact that this team, despite its Pyrrhic troubles, is finding a way to win.

Perhaps at this juncture one can readily see the importance of scheduling. Playing non-conference games against heavyweight opponents, namely Clemson, is great for the non-partisan soothsayers and television pundits, but it’s not good for business. The fallout from playing a heavyweight schedule is that attrition, when the playoffs begin next year, may determine the national champion.

In other words, you might win the prize only if you are the healthiest. If you play a dozen games, as is the case, you need home games where you have the advantage to bring about opportunities to heal and regroup. Fortunately for Georgia, the Bulldogs have an athletic director who understands this.

In the final analysis, focus on this perspective. Georgia, which did not play with the urgency to tack on a touchdown in the second quarter (another score and a 24-3 halftime lead would have likely affected the psychology of the day) allowed Tennessee to stay within a two-possession opportunity. With today’s offenses that is nothing.

That brings me to Aaron Murray, who is putting up Heisman-worthy numbers. As a quarterback, he has experienced the vicissitudes of being the focal point of the team. As goes Aaron Murray, so goes the team. Of all the successes he has enjoyed playing for the Bulldogs, all other highlights pale against the drive he directed in the fourth quarter at Tennessee to get his team into overtime and bring about opportunity to win the game.

With 1:54 on the clock and 75 yards to the Tennessee end zone, he calmly moved his team in what Larry Munson would have noted as “a hundred and fifty-four seconds.” With one timeout! Your two best backs — Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall — are lame and out of the lineup. Two starting receivers — Michael Bennett and Justin Scott Wesley — have joined them on the trainer’s table.

Has there ever been a more critical drive in Georgia history to meet up with mission accomplished? I don’t think so.

If a championship had been on the line, it would have been a drive for the ages.

We can now see the folly of anticipation. Yes, following LSU, you might have succumbed to thinking that this team might well run the table, but such thinking is always insane. You only think in those terms when there are three or four games to go. Even then, it is not advisable. There are too many variables, like critical injuries.

Georgia’s defense is not a championship defense at this point. Perhaps it can grow into one, but is there enough time? Giving up points is one thing. That is the order of the day in these times.

On Sunday, the Broncos beat the Cowboys 41-38. Seventy-nine points. There was a time when you could have scored that many points, plus a dozen, and won the national championship.

Before Saturday’s game, an on-the-field conversation with Tennessee assistant Willie Martinez, Georgia’s former defensive coordinator, centered around the fact that kids today don’t want to play defense.

“Where are the Thomas Davises?” he asked.

He also sounded a warning about Southeastern Conference dominance. Oregon, which defeated Tennessee 59-14, has recruited players who are not as big as you might normally find in the SEC, but they have extra speed. In other words, a 260-pound lineman can hold his own against a lineman 30 pounds heavier because of speed and quickness that becomes the equalizer.

Georgia is faced with an offensive and defensive challenge. The defense is sorely in need of playmakers (they have just one interception and three forced fumbles in five games) and the offense needs to produce points to cover for the defense’s deficiencies.

Can the offensive production (39.8 points per game) continue with critical injuries to playmakers?

Marshall and receiver Justin Scott-Wesley are both out for the season with torn anterior cruciate ligaments in their right knees. Another receiver, Michael Bennett, is likely to miss the next couple of games and perhaps more.

Good news remains, however. These Bulldogs find a way to win.

Loran Smith is a contributing columnist for The Daily Citizen. You can write to him at loransmith@sports.uga.edu.

1
Text Only
Sports Columns
  • CharlesTodd.jpg Devin Golden: Todd leaving a legacy of success

    To many, Charles Todd is known as “coach Todd.” Some of the divers, swimmers and water polo players who have been on his teams in the Dalton area over the years shorten that to simply “coach.”

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Larry Case: Take a shot at improving your aim before you hunt

    Do you consider yourself an accomplished marksman with a shotgun? Are you satisfied with your shooting in the bird field or on the clay target range?

    July 11, 2014

  • Jamie Jones: What does Sting's number mean?

    Here are the notes and news items from the week in pro wrestling: Sting has left TNA. But will he resurface in WWE?

    July 11, 2014

  • Tom Lindley: Time has come to forgive, if not forget Rose

    It would be simple to study Pete Rose’s record as a player with the Cincinnati Reds, Montreal Expos and Philadelphia Phillies and determine whether he should be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Certainly. Absolutely. Without a doubt.

    July 10, 2014

  • Loran Smith: Perry's honors matched by his stories

    Gaylord Perry is everything you expect a small-town, retired big leaguer to be. Hospitable, entertaining and without any trace of arrogance, Perry is a guy who has been honored about as much as any dominating pitcher who played the game.

    July 9, 2014

  • Murray vs Farmerstown softball 2 mlh.jpg A Look Ahead: Slowing down

    Softball is for girls. And slow-pitch softball is for factory workers with a cooler of cold beer and bellies hanging over their shorts.
    OK, maybe that isn’t really true.
    And to prove it, Dalton and Heritage Point Park will once again serve as the host location for the Southern Softball Association of America’s 2014 Boys World Series beginning on Thursday. This will be the second year in a row that Heritage Point has hosted the event as 59 teams played in the tournament last year.

    July 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tom Lindley: US soccer pushed by its fanbase

    The 2014 World Cup is over for America after the United States was knocked out in the Round of 16 by Belgium, 2-1, in a match with extra time that was intoxicating and crushing.
    The U.S. team was oh so close. That’s how sports go: One day you’re fighting for victory, the next you belong to history.
    But, despite goalkeeper Tim Howard’s remarkable performance, the game perhaps will be remembered not so much as a loss but for what it did for the future of the sport back home.

    July 6, 2014

  • Larry Case: Get up or you'll get left behind

    The lone fisherman stood and looked down the hill. There was a path that cut through the brush and rocks that lay between the road and the stream. He did not remember that it was this steep.

    July 4, 2014

  • Jamie Jones: WWE retains Diva Emma

    Here are the notes and news items from the week in pro wrestling: Emma was gone. Now she’s back. WWE released Emma this week after she was arrested for shoplifting at a Wal-Mart in Hartford Conn.

    July 4, 2014

  • Devin Golden: ‘Dead Week’ gives athletes summer rest

    This column, which is published each Monday in The Daily Citizen, used to be called “What’s Going On.” The premise is to let all sports fans — high school, college and community — know everything happening during the upcoming week.
    This week, however, is different — in that there’s very little happening.

    June 29, 2014