This is in response to an outstanding discussion of the issues surrounding the Georgia-Florida rivalry and the Jacksonville issue over at Dawg Sports. I highly recommend reading all of the comments for all of the arguments on either side of the issue, and the particularly cogent commentary of RationalGator.
Professor Sentell, the fearsome Torts professor at UGA Law, always cancelled classes the Thursday and Friday before Florida, because that’s where he was headed. “They’ll be jumping off the balconies of the hotel into the pool by 10 AM” he used to say. Anyway, by and large those who favor home-and-home do not attend the game in Jacksonville, while those who do feverishly support keeping the game at the neutral site. I fall on the latter side, sporting a lifetime 5-6 record in Jax.
The constant references to the 3-16 record over the past years is just another example of media and intellectual (which are mutually exclusive) laziness. As if Spurrier’s dominance over Ray Gump and Dim Jonnan bears any relevance to either program today. Since the departure of Darth Visor, the series has been achingly close. As TKK pointed out, in the 5 games immediately after Spurrier’s departure, the games were decided by an average of less than 4 points.
There’s really no more compelling argument against the theory of a Gator “advantage” in Jax than CMR’s very own record in enemy stadiums—the team seems at its disciplined, focused best when away from Athens. And in odd-numbered years, the Dawgs play a second neutral field game on North Avenue in Atlanta, where the number of fans is roughly even, and Georgia seems to do just fine there.
As opposed to the location of the game and the number of supporting fans in the stands, UGAs recent defeats in Jacksonville might be explained by:
- Dropped passes.
- Ill-timed and poorly executed trick plays (Joe T notwithstanding).
- Consistently lousy special teams play, especially field goals.
- Throwing the football to the guys in the blue jerseys.
- Giving up multiple long 1st quarter TD drives (yes, Mr. Martinez, I am looking at you).
- Putting the football on the carpet at the start of the 2nd half (what, 3 times since ‘02?).
- Do not even get me started on not going for it on 4th and inches on the Florida 1 in 2005.
All of the above are simply the symptoms of an unfocused, unprepared team and coaching staff. The above can also be found in most all UGA defeats in the CMR era, home, away and in Jax. Coach, we have met the enemy, and he is us. And I fail to see how a change of venue would have prevented these errors.
So why does Georgia consistently play this way against Florida? Because they are in our heads, you moron!
Were I CMR’s sports psychologist (and I should be), I’d tell him this: CMR, my man, Florida is in your head and everyone on the staff and team. You try to avoid it, prevent it, and not admit it, but UF is in your head, and everybody knows it. You get it all year, from mat drills to spring practice to media days to after most big wins and all through game week: 3-16, 3-16, 3-16. 2-6 against Florida yourself. You and the team want this one so badly…you resort to the Celebration and onside kicks and halfback passes. The fans are dying for a win and never let you forget about it. And Damon certainly has a weed up his rear end about the Gators, too. That can’t help. So what do you do? Work that much harder? Watch a little more film? Put Tebow posters in the locka’ room? Get Bill Goldberg to give the team a pep talk?
Actually none of that will help. Coach, you and the team have a problem, and you need to name it. You need to EMBRACE the fact that Urban & Co. are in your heads. Welcome Tebow in there. Get an autograph. Have Mrs. CMR prepare coffee and warm croissants for your sweet little Gator guests and set the thermostat at 72 to make their stay up there as comfortable as possible. Laugh about it. Be straight with the media: “yes, how could they not be in our heads…they beat us consistently and we always seem to make the worst mistakes at the most critical times against them. Obviously the Gators are up there, how could they not be. It sucks.” The first and biggest step is to NAME IT. Shout from the rooftops, ‘yes, the Gators are in our heads.’ Because remarkably, once you name it, it’s out there. And when its out there, it will go away.*
Then you can get back to playing football, tend to your own business, and make the Gators earn every yard and every point. Then I think Jacksonville will be much more to your liking.
*Using this tried-and-true methodology for overcoming fear and anxiety would also have the lovely consequence of driving Urban & Co. absolutely nuts. There’s nothing more satisfying than being absolutely straight with an enemy, then watching them tie themselves in knots trying to figure out what you’re “really” up to.