Updated: Nov 6
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 the field. This was about getting the crowd behind them and intimidating the Gators. They succeeded on both ends.
Why we know it wasn’t spontaneous is because not a single coach on the Georgia sideline made even the slightest attempt to keep the team from storming the field. If you have ever watched any time there is an incident in which players leave the sideline, coaches are always making every effort to put themselves between their players and the players from the other team. That never happened. Another reason why know it was rehearsed is the way Georgia’s players taunted and tried to provoke a response without actually taking a swing or shoving a single Florida player.
For a full year after the storm the field incident, Urban Meyer plotted his revenge. Like him or hate him, but one thing you can’t discount about Meyer is his long memory and his inherent belief that no act of disrespect goes unpunished. The video of Georgia storming the field played hourly in the offseason and once the 2008 season began, it played with greater frequency. Game week it was almost a continuous loop.
Leading up to that Jacksonville matchup between 5th-ranked Florida and 8th-ranked Georgia, Meyer was asked at least a hundred times what, if anything, he was going to do to exact his revenge on the Poodles. He simply said the response would be appropriate and would offer no further detail.
The tone of the game was set on the game’s second play when Brandon Spikes decleated Knowshon Moreno in the hole for no gain. The Gators took a 7-0 lead on their second possession of the game, a 13-yard TD run by Percy Harvin. Most on the writers on the beat had figured the Gators would storm the field after their first touchdown, but the Gators did their been there, done that routine and acted as if they had been in the end zone before.
By the time the game reached the final minute of the fourth quarter, the Gators held a 49-10 lead. With the exception of a few hundred gluttons for punishment, most Georgia fans had long since headed for Hahira and parts north. The TV cameras were still on, however, and Meyer exacted his payback.
After a 15-yard run by Emmanuel Moody, Meyer called time out. Over on the Georgia sideline, Richt was seen staring at the scoreboard. There were 44 seconds to go in the game. Moody ripped off a 16-yard run on the next play. Meyer again called time out. Richt again stared at the scoreboard. There were 30 seconds remaining. The scoreboard read Florida 49, Georgia 10.
It was a humiliating moment for Richt, who knew in his heart dating all the way back to the year before that Meyer had never bought his explanation of a spontaneous gesture. For Meyer and the Gators it was akin to sticking Richt’s nose in the mud and grinding it in.
As Richt learned that day, paybacks are hell.
JAYDON HILL ON DAN MULLEN
Florida corner Jaydon Hill talked Wednesday about what he appreciates about UF HBC Dan Mullen and that includes Mullen’s mad dash to midfield after QB Kyle Trask took a hit just under the chin in last week against Missouri: “I’ve been behind Dan ever since he was recruiting me. Mullen took me in after an ACL so I see it as more of a respect thing. He trusted me enough to come in and it would’ve been easy to drop me. From a player to a coach, I respect him tremendously. I like how he was behind his player and was made about it, as he should be. It just goes to show how he cares about his players.”
FOOTBALL IN THE SEC AND ELSEWHERE Consider Arkansas coach Sam Pittman a real fan of his QB, Feleipe Franks. “He was team captain during COVID without spring ball and that tells you something. He takes care of the football … leadership skills … we were very fortunate that he transferred to Arkansas.”
With former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville elected to the US Senate from Alabama Tuesday night, University of Alabama coach Nick Saban was asked if he has any political aspirations. Saban answered, “I can answer that real quick. No.”
Paul Finebaum of the SEC Network was asked about Georgia and quarterback Stetson Bennett IV in advance of Saturday’s Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville. Finebaum replied, “They’re (Georgia) severely challenged and as I say that, Florida has one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Kyle Trask. So this is a very dangerous game for Kirby Smart.”
Tennessee fans hoping for a quarterback change are seriously disappointed. Jeremy Pruitt plans to stick with Jarrett Guarantano when the Vols travel to Arkansas Saturday.
ESPN’s Tom Luginbill thinks Mike Leach will have to make some changes to his Air Raid offense if he wants to find any kind of success in the Southeastern Conference. Speaking on a radio show earlier in the week, Luginbill said, “He absolutely needs to modify it and that goes back to what I’ve said to you since the moment he was hired. I said watch out because now you are in a line of scrimmage league with superior athletes on defense and if you are not going to play with a tight end, you are not going to run the football.”
You won’t see the usual Big Noon Kickoff crew for Fox Sports Saturday due to Covid-19 protocols. Instead of Urban Meyer, Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, Brady Quinn and Rob Stone, Fox will broadcast a one-hour pregame show featuring Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long.
Louisville’s game with Virginia has been moved to November 14 after 15 Louisville players tested positive for Covid-19. Earlier in the year, Virginia’s game with Virginia Tech was postponed and rescheduled for December 12. Like the SEC, the ACC made provisions for postponed games, a lesson the Big Ten and Pac-12 probably could have learned if their brain trust (inject sarcasm) had common sense.
It’s the annual Battle of the Roommates in Columbia, South Carolina Saturday when Texas A&M travels to South Carolina. Aggie coach Jimbo Fisher was a roommate of South Carolina coach Will Muschamp when they were on Nick Saban’s staff at LSU. For years before Muschamp became Florida’s head coach back in 2011, Fisher and Muschamp shared ownership of a Gulf Coast beach house.
PITHY THURSDAY THOUGHTS: The PGA Tour will stop in Houston this weekend for the Houston Open which will be played on a public course. Unlike last week’s event in Bermuda there will actually be more than two or three golfers whose names you might recognize … They’re playing the Masters in Augusta in another week. I’m glad they’re playing but it still feels weird that they’re playing in November … It is being suggested that the Tampa Bay Rays might trade ace lefty Blake Snell during the offseason. The Rays management can’t be that dumb, can they? Okay, they do play in the Plastic Palace there in St. Petersburg … Not that anyone actually listens to what he has to say, but Colin Cowherd thinks the Dallas Cowboys should think about drafting Ohio State QB Justin Fields. For the Cowboys to draft Fields they would need to tank the season. The New York Jets are accomplishing that without even trying to tank. The Jets are just that bad and Adam Gase might go down as one of the worst head coaches in history.