Consistency had been Mark Richt’s hallmark at Georgia. He’d won 10 or more games in six of his first eight seasons on the job, but the bottom fell out this season.
The Bulldogs (7-5, 4-4) lost their opener to Oklahoma State, and it was a rocky ride the rest of the way. So rocky that Richt overhauled his coaching staff for the first time in his career and fired defensive coordinator Willie Martinez, ends coach Jon Fabris and linebackers coach John Jancek.
Defensive struggles have endured for the last two seasons at Georgia, and Richt said he had to take whatever steps necessary to get that winning edge back on defense. The Bulldogs have given up 37 or more points nine times in the last two seasons. In Richt’s first seven seasons, an opponent scored 37 or more on the Bulldogs only twice.
It wasn’t all on the defense this season, either. Senior quarterback Joe Cox threw 14 interceptions, and Georgia was again the most penalized team in the league. The Bulldogs repeatedly hurt themselves with mistakes, and that was never more apparent than the Kentucky loss when they turned it over four times in the second half.
The upset win over Georgia Tech in the regular-season finale took some of the sting out, but it’s not a season they will remember fondly in Athens.
Offensive MVP: A.J. Green, WR. Even though he was sidelined with an injured shoulder and missed the last few games, Green was the most consistent offensive threat the Bulldogs had. He was second in the SEC in receptions per game (5.22) and also had six touchdowns catches in nine games.
Defensive MVP: Rennie Curran, LB. It hasn’t been the best stretch for the Bulldogs when it comes to tackling the last two years, but Curran is the exception. He’s one of the surest tacklers in the SEC, as evidenced by his league-leading 122 tackles.
Turning point: Losing to LSU 20-13 in the final seconds was tough, but the game that sent the Bulldogs reeling was the 45-19 blowout loss at Tennessee the next week. They were stopped in their tracks offensively in the kind of whipping Richt has rarely endured at Georgia.
What’s next: The Bulldogs will be playing in the Advocare V100 Independence Bowl against Texas A&M on Dec. 28. But the bigger picture question is what Richt’s going to do on his defensive staff. He has three coaches to hire, and there could be another opening or two before it’s all over. Look for Georgia to at least make a play for Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.