And just like that, the lights have dimmed at Georgia's playoff party.
Hope sank at the bottom of the St. Johns River after Florida shellacked the once 11th-ranked Dawgs 38-20 in the World's Largest Outdoor Surprise Party. I'm not sure any cocktail could really lessen the pain Georgia fans, players and coaches must be feeling after watching that absolute debacle at EverBank Field Saturday.
With all due respect to a Florida team clinging on to the thinnest of threads heading into Saturday, this was not a game Georgia had any business losing. Not as the more talented team. Not as a potential playoff team. And not with the month of November supposedly a certifiable SEC cakewalk for a Georgia team that has now dropped to second in the SEC Eastern Division behind a Missouri team they boat raced 34-0 on the road.
Florida manhandled the Dawgs up front on both sides. Florida threw the ball six times, but ran for 418 yards and averaged 7.0 yards per carry. And Georgia's offense was bottled up for most of the day.
Not even Todd Gurley could have saved the Dawgs.
Unfortunately for Georgia fans, they've seen this before. Too many times, and it makes you wonder why "Georgiaing" hasn't caught on among the masses like "Clemsoning" has.
Yet again, when everything looked so secure and simple for the Dawgs, they lost a game that should have been theirs inside a season that put everything in front of them and for the taking. With the East so bad this season, Georgia appeared to be the clear favorite after winning five straight following a 38-35 loss to a South Carolina team that has fallen asleep at the wheel ever since.
If you've kept up with Georgia fans in the past few days, they're livid. It's a despondent, frustrated fan base that is once again directing much of its ire toward longtime head coach Mark Richt.
Once again, his coaching has been called into question. Even with eight double-digit-win seasons and two SEC titles during Richt's 14-years in Athens, the Bulldogs have lost too many of these games and never played in the BCS title game, despite being stationed in one of country's most fertile recruiting areas and owning some of the nation's most talented teams year in and year out.
With two teams ranked inside the top five in 2002 and 2003, Georgia lost to inferior Florida teams both years. In 2004, his third-ranked Dawgs lost to No. 19 Tennessee at home. There were the back-to-back losses to Florida and Auburn in 2005 after starting the season 7-0. In 2007, there was the first loss to South Carolina and a rout by Tennessee.
We saw 6-7 in 2010 and a blowout loss to LSU in the SEC title game in 2011, thanks to mistakes ruining any chance of an early lead expanding. In 2012, South Carolina routed the Dawgs in October before Georgia came up about 5 yards short against Alabama in Atlanta. Last season brought five losses, including one to Vanderbilt, for the preseason East favorite.
A lot of players have played in these losses, and Richt has coached all of them, so I understand fans' frustration with him. Big-game losses and inexplicable losses are sprinkled throughout Richt's tenure, and it's incredibly agonizing for fans. It doesn't help that all of this has happened when the East has been incredibly weak.
With ample opportunities to take the division by storm, the Dawgs have found ways to lose. Since Urban Meyer left Florida and Tennessee's continued to struggle with reaching relevancy, Georgia has zero SEC titles, and with the East hemorrhaging this season, the Dawgs are in trouble of missing out on a trip to Atlanta.
It's easy to call Richt out, but it's been a collective collaboration by the Dawgs. Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who appeared to have most of the holes on this defense sown up before Saturday, stood in front of the media and took the blame for the Gator gashing, but neither he nor Richt were out there getting thrown around by Florida linemen. They weren't the ones missing tackle after tackle or getting pushed over with ease.
Richt isn't the one limited in what he can do throwing the ball. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has been ridiculed for years by Georgia fans, both justly and unjustly, but neither he nor Richt got blown off the line by Florida's pass rush. They are the ones developing these guys, and have to be held accountable, but there also comes a point where the players have to accept blame and outrage.
Remember, linebacker Ramik Wilson said players "underestimated" Florida. That's on everybody.
The underachievement is real. Georgia is a top-10 job surrounded by platinum talent, but for whatever reason, this program has been held back from breaking through to achieve consistent championship success.
No matter who you point the finger at, it's baffling.