…Because Something Has to Be Done About These SEC Refs

I haven’t blogged since last weekend. And as I explained in my first post, that shouldn’t be surprising since my team lost last Saturday.

However, unlike the week after my trip to Stillwater, I haven’t been absent because of mourning as much as anger.

By now, we’ve all seen/heard/read/deconstructed the egregious celebration flag thrown against A.J. Green after he scored a touchdown to give us a 13-12 lead with 1:09 left against LSU. It was a terrible call live, but when the game was over, I did not walk out of Sanford thinking it had cost us the game.

Part of that was because I had ended up taking my 5-year-old niece (okay, so technically, she’s my second cousin’s daughter, but niece is easier) to the game. Lucy was a joy – perfectly content to stand on the bleachers with her red snow cone and yell “Go Dawgs!” and “A.J. Green!” when prompted – and in her Georgia cheerleading uniform (and later, wearing my oversized sunglasses), she was the star of section 304. But her presence meant that I had to watch my language, split attention between her and the game and ensure that she was happy before ensuring that Joe Cox had completed the pass or Rennie Curran had made the tackle. More than that, though, I believed that our dreadful kick-off coverage after Green’s touchdown was what actually ended the game. When LSU gets the ball inside an opponent’s 40-yard-line, it’s hard to imagine them ever not overcoming a one-point deficit. And while I was certainly upset – my team lost, and I generally don’t deal well with that – I was okay, because I had fun at the game. And before.

LSU fans are crazy.

Nutty. Insane. Wooooah, craaaaaaaazy.

But in the best possible way. Minus the few bad apples (that all fan bases have), they are warm, hospitable, funny, energetic and oh man, do they know how to drink. (Probably has something to do with that proximity to New Orleans, which is only, like, the greatest city in the world…) When I went to Baton Rouge last year, they were perfect hosts, making me Bloody Marys at 10 a.m. and pouring me beer to chug before I entered the stadium, and I and my family/tailgate party tried very hard to return the favor on Saturday. As a result, I was disheartened at the outcome of the game. But not devastated.

Then the videos of the play and blogs dissecting it and “Oh yeah, bad call. Our fault. Nothing we can do about it now. Sorrrry”s from Redding, the officiating crew and Mike Slive and – my favorite – the “whiny Georgia fans, just get over it already” sentiments from the rest of the college football world happened.

And after six days of festering and rationalizing, it’s time for my (informed) rant:

  • First, a message for my fellow Bulldogs. Regardless of the call last Saturday (or the bad ones in the Oklahoma State game) or the offensive line’s amnesia for how to block or the defensive’s inability to tackle or Mike Bobo or Willie Martinez or the consistently awful kickoff coverage, Mark Richt’s job should absolutely not be anywhere close to in question.

Have these two loses been difficult? Absolutely. Have the games in between been less than assuring? Yep. Are all of those things previously list concerns that must be addressed? Of course.

But Richt has a higher winning percentage than Vince Dooley. And he   has made this program annually relevant again for the first time since Herschel was running between the hedges. When Ray Goff and Jim Donnan were in Athens we were permanently third in the SEC East, could only solidly count on beating Kentucky and Vanderbilt each year, lost to Tech four years in a row (although speaking of terrible, game-costing calls, anyone remember the Jasper Sanks non-fumble of 1999???) and we killed our own hedges because we beat Tennessee at home. (We wouldn’t dream of upsetting them in Knoxville).

Richt has (re)transformed this program. Our performance on the field once again matches our gorgeous atmosphere and spirit off of it, and Richt deserves most of the credit for that.

So all the “job in jeopardy” stuff needs to stop. Now.

  • I still contend that game was ours if we could simply cover a kickoff, especially after seeing this. But the flag very much changed this game. The 15 yards, of course, affected the kickoff. Walsh had been kicking well all game – and into the end zone. He does it again, and LSU has to move the ball 55 yards to attempt a field goal.

More than that, though, the flag definitely distracted players from the 2-point conversion in between the offending “celebration” and the kickoff. If we complete it, the pressure shifts to the LSU offense to tie the game and off of the Georgia defense to lose it. Big difference.

  • Georgia fans have been ridiculed for being winy and (more) obnoxious and not accepting that our (lack of good) football plays actually lost the game. As I just made clear, I know there were (big) mistakes after the flag. I don’t blame the flag (completely). And sure, we can bitch and moan with the best of ‘em.

But give us a little credit here, folks. We have EVERY right to be upset, just like every other team would be.

Green makes what could be the definable catch of his career so far, and it’s essentially lost and unimportant a minute later.

We had the #4 team in the country beat on the nationally televised SEC game of the week, and a referee changed that. And as a result, we’re kicked out of the top 25 and sent to the local-only SEC TV.

The head of SEC officials comes out and says it was a mistake. And then told us to get over it. Like Cox said, it’s salt in the wound.

Will our complaining change the outcome? Of course not. But we have every right to be upset and fight the SEC and its corporate heads to make sure this doesn’t continue.

  • The bigger issue here is that the SEC is the best football conference in the country with the worst officiating. And frankly, that separation between the quality of teams and the quality of referees is embarrassing and unacceptable. SEC Supervisor Rogers Redding acknowledges the mistake. Awesome. But does he assure us that he’ll do something to make sure calls like this do not continue?  No. Instead, he assures us that the ref who made the call feels bad. Sorry, but that’s not good enough.

Then, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive says that we need to back off; that there’s no need to “hang” the ref. No, Mike, there’s not. But there is a need for you to ensure that perpetually bad refs don’t continue to ruin excellent games.

Furthermore, as Tim Brando pointed out, the SEC just inked a $2 billion with ESPN. The last thing the conference needs is to open itself up to such a potentially controversial issue. Simply put, ending such a classically good SEC game on this kind of note is ridiculous and unacceptable, and it needs to be fixed immediately.

  • The last thing we Georgia fans need to remember is that while our two losses this year have been tough to say the least, they do not make us mediocre (despite what the asinine polls say). We lost to a Top 10 team on the road and a Top 5 team at home. We played competitively and had a very good shot at winning both games. Losing sucks. You’ll get no argument about that from me. But as losses go, those are pretty defensible ones. (For more evidence, see David Hale’s post.)

So keep your heads up Dawgs. We still have a lot of season left. And with a young team and a great coach, we have a lot of things to look forward.

And now… Go Dawgs!!

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