Sunday, December 4, 2011

When You Do All The Things You Absolutely COULDN'T Do......

you typically lose.  And when you do all the things you absolutely couldn't do against the best team in the country, you will always lose, and lose badly.  We all knew there were certain things that could not happen if we were to win:

  1. We couldn't win if we showed no ability to run the ball
  2. We couldn't win if we gave up points to their special teams
  3. We couldn't win if we gave up points to their defense
  4. We couldn't lose the turnover battle
  5. We couldn't win if the offense put the defense into some impossible situations
  6. We couldn't win if we failed to convert the precious few scoring opportunities we would have
I found it interesting as the week wore on last week, that the fan base in general became more and more optimistic about our chances in the game.  I saw posts all over the place comparing this stat and that stat, that somehow showed that LSU wasn't really THAT much better than us.  The thing about statistics though is you can make them say just about whatever you want them to say, but anybody who has watched those two teams throughout the year should have been pretty clear on how small of a chance we had to win.  The thing is, on a purely physical level, they're probably not THAT much better than us - but on a mental level, they're Miles (sorry, bad pun) ahead of us.  But you know what?  That's ok.  We will get there.

I definitely felt like the team quit at some point in the second half, which was disappointing to see, but I'm still on board with what this team did this year.  I still feel exactly the same as I did when I wrote my prediction post for the SECCG and said this:
In the end, I just think they are too good and too deep for us, and I think eventually we'll start to press on offense and make some critical mistakes.  I see this game being close through 3 quarters, but ultimately being another fairly convincing win for the Bayou Bengals.  What I also see it being though is a tremendous learning experience for our team, as the majority of them will be coming back next year.  They need to see what it takes to be the best, digest it, then put in the work during the offseason to reach that level.
I really, honestly feel that next year, this team will be better for having taken the whipping that they received last night.  I referenced this a while back here in the blog, but I liken this back to what Michael Jordan says about the 1986 playoff series that the Bulls had against the Celtics.  The Bulls already had a ton of young talent on the squad, including Jordan who was on fire, but they were no match for the quality and experience of the Celtics, who skunked them 3-0 for the series.  Jordan has talked about how that series was the turning point in his career and for that Bulls team, because they saw exactly what it took to be the best.  They then applied those lessons, and the team grew from there.

That's what this team now has to do.  I'm sure we will end up losing one or two underclassmen to the draft, but regardless we will be returning a whole boatload of talent next year.  Given another year in the improved Strength & Conditioning program, and just another year of experience in general, I expect to be right back in the SECCG next year, and we'll be ready to go toe-to-toe with anybody.

As for the game last night, I was proud of the gameplan that the coaches came into the game with.  Richt & Bobo scripted a great first quarter, but it was doomed by poor execution from the players on what should have been 2 early TD's.  I've seen some early criticism of Bobo already that after he got past the scripted plays, he did a poor job........but honestly, what was he supposed to do?  You can't run trickeration all game long, and once LSU made their adjustments, and we had no ability to run the ball at all, there's just not that much you can do against a defense like that.  Bobo put the guys in position to really jump on LSU early, but again our guys are just not mentally there yet to execute on the big stage.

The Defense had the most amazing first half we've ever seen from a UGA defense against that level of opponent, but were then shell shocked by the early 2nd half mistakes from the offense and special teams.  I would have liked to see more grit from the defense to try to keep us in the game there, but once the turnovers and special teams breakdowns started happening, I think we all knew the inevitable result.  LSU did what they do.......stay patient, patient, patient, on offense, then once the special teams and defense gives them a big play, they slam their foot on the gas and crush you.  They've done it all year, and they did it to us.  If it weren't for the pain of watching it happen to your own team, it's actually quite remarkable to watch LSU play.

The second half proved that LSU was the better team in all phases of the game, but I applaud our coaches for the preparation and plan coming into the game that should have given us a better shot.  I will say this though, as good as LSU is, even if we had converted those two early TD's, I still think LSU would have come back and won.  They still would have made the special teams plays that they made, which would have unnerved our guys, and I still think we would have ended up making a lot of the same 2nd half mistakes.  Folks, LSU is just that damn good.

As for the players.......well.......at this point I think calling players out by name is best left unsaid right now.  But my opinion of a couple of players on the squad has dropped pretty significantly in the past month.  We'll see what happens in the offseason, but it is imperative that one particular area on our team be addressed in recruiting, starting on Dec 6th (I'll let you put two and two together).  I hope there will be some growth and maturity through the offseason, but the lack of character and toughness throughout the depth chart at that position has been the one real lowpoint of the season for me.

I'll have some more season wrap-up thoughts either Monday or Tuesday.  I'm guessing we'll end up in the Outback Bowl, so let's hope our boys are ready to extend the domination of the SEC over the Big 10!

-Rev.

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