Updated: Nov 6, 2020
A few thoughts to jump start your Thursday morning:
Paybacks are hell. Just ask Mark Richt.
Back in 2007 nearly all of Poodledom was seriously perturbed with Georgia coach Mark Richt. Georgia had lost to South Carolina in Athens in the second game of the season, needed overtime to beat Nick Saban’s first Alabama team (they weren’t very good) and was neutered by Tennessee, 35-14. A week after the abysmal performance at Tennessee, the Poodles barely escaped going down to lowly Vanderbilt. The folks who write the big checks that keep the Georgia athletic program afloat weren’t exactly enamored with their coach and here they were heading to Jacksonville. Now keep in mind this was a time when the. Florida Gators basically owned Georgia so Richt’s tush felt as if there was a blowtorch fired up and lodged between the cheeks.
The Gators were ranked ninth nationally, 5-2 with wins over #22 Tennessee and #8 Kentucky and losses to #4 Auburn and #1 LSU. This was Tim Tebow’s Heisman year so while the Gators were capable of putting up scads of points on just about any team they faced, nobody felt the wrath of God when the defense took the field. Because of the defense, Georgia was expected to hang three or four touchdowns on the Gators but Tebow, Percy Harvin and the Florida offenses figured to light it up and win a shootout similar to the one in Lexington the previous week when UF outscored Andre Woodson and Kentucky, 45-37.
Richt couldn’t afford to lose a shootout, much less a blowout in case his defense couldn’t get off the field. He also couldn’t afford to lose his job and a loss that day might have set a firing in motion. What he needed was something that not only would fire up his team but the half of the stadium in Jacksonville that wore red and black.
In the days before the game, Richt told his team that if they didn’t get a celebration penalty after Georgia’s first score of the game the entire team would be running early morning the next week. When Georgia got the ball after a Kestahn Moore fumble in the first quarter, Knowshon Moreno carried the ball eight of nine plays, scoring from a yard out with 6:00 left in the first quarter. At that point, the entire Georgia team rushed the field to celebrate. There was plenty of taunting going on almost as if Georgia was trying to provoke a response that would offset the unsportsmanlike penalty the Poodles knew they were going to get.
Cool heads prevailed on the Florida side and there was no response to the provocation but the celebration got the exact response Richt wanted. Georgia was fired up on the field and the fan base forgot all about those Fire Mark Richt petitions they were readying to circulate. Florida was stunned by the action and never recovered. Georgia won the game, 42-30, went on to win out the rest of the season and finish fourth nationally although Georgia fans consider it one of their several “near national championships” won since 1980.
After the game, Richt claimed with a straight face that the celebration was spontaneous, a claim he would make again at SEC Media Days in July of 2008 in Hoover, Alabama. Here is why you know there was nothing spontaneous about the celebration. It was planned and rehearsed well before Jacksonville. It wasn’t about firing up the team because they were fired up because Richt was letting them storm t