In defense of Kirby Smart and his shredded defense

Nobody could have stopped this guy. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Nobody could have stopped this guy. Nobody did. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

PHOENIX — I’m in Sky Harbor, watching Clemson and Alabama fans — way more Clemson fans, though, as was evident last night at the game — walk past. I’m thinking about Kirby Smart, whose farewell to Alabama came very close to being a career nadir.

A year ago, Alabama lost to Ohio State in the playoff semifinal. The Buckeyes scored 42 points — seven on an interception return, it should be noted — and gained 537 yards. Smart said over the weekend that then-Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman “embarrassed us,” though Smart himself wasn’t too abashed to call Herman and ask how he’d done it.

On Monday night, Alabama yielded 40 points (all scored by the offense) and 550 yards to Clemson. If you’re a Georgia fan and you know Smart is your new head coach, you might be wondering, “Did we hire the right guy?”

Answer: Yes. You did. Stop worrying.

Smart’s defense was the nation’s best. It happened to be trumped by the nation’s best quarterback — heck, the nation’s best player. Deshaun Watson accounted for 478 yards by himself, 11 more than Vince Young managed in what’s widely considered the greatest performance in the history of college football.

Difference was, Young’s team won the national championship, edging Southern Cal in the final minute. Watson’s team lost, albeit narrowly. And the one turnover Alabama induced — Eddie Jackson’s second-quarter interception — was a key early turning point. (Come the second half, bigger moments would arrive in a flurry.) Watson was so splendid he made a great defense look terrible. But sometimes that happens.

Nick Saban, who knows a bit about defense, was wise enough to take the game out of Smart’s — and Watson’s — hands with 10:34 remaining. Saban ordered an onside kick. Alabama covered it. The subsequent touchdown put the Crimson Tide ahead to stay. Smart’s defense would yield 16 more points, but it wouldn’t matter.

That Smart’s defense couldn’t handle Watson will be of importance only if Georgia faces Clemson next season, which would probably come only in a playoff game, and if you’re Georgia and you haven’t played for a national title since 1982, you’ll take that matchup and glad. Smart lost no brain cells in University of Phoenix Stadium. This was one game, not a body of work.

Oh, and it should be noted that the last Georgia coach worked a national championship game as a coordinator before settling in Athens. His offense managed but 301 yards and scored no points. Florida State lost 13-2. Two years later, Mark Richt led the Bulldogs to their first SEC title in two decades.

Further reading: Is Nick Saban the greatest college coach ever? Yes indeed.

From Monday night: Deshaun Watson was beyond belief.

Also from Monday night: The great Saban thinks of something and wins again.

From Monday afternoon: Dan Radakovich: From Tech AD to Clemson’s guiding light.

From Sunday: Does Clemson have a chance against Bama? Yes, I say.

From Saturday: Kirby Smart would welcome a dual-threat QB at UGA.

Reader Comments 0

55 comments
OH:IO
OH:IO

OH so vaunted......


 The Buckeyes scored 42 points — seven on an interception return, it should be noted — and gained 537 yards.

OH:IO
OH:IO

@KeepOnSmilingWetWillie


They've been our nemisis of late, wet, but we smoked em in our 2015 National Championship run. 


Get back to me the dogs even sniff the Least! 

LuxLucisofVerum
LuxLucisofVerum

I am pulling for Kirby to do whatever some of you think he was hired for....I want the Dawgs to win - but look at what Richt walked into when he came to us....Kirby is walking into a MUCH better situation. And remember also that Richt's first 5 years were brimming with success. Is it too much to expect the same from this new savior so many of you wanted?

dawg fan
dawg fan

@LuxLucisofVerum Dumb post.  Richt walked into a roster loaded with NFL talent.  Our 2002 offensive line was best the Richt era and guess who recruited every single one of those guys?  Jim Donnan.  Our recruiting up front declined precipitously once Mark Richt took over and it showed.  We started getting pushed around in '05-'06 and it never stopped.  Kirby is walking in to a roster that is more equipped for flag football than big boy SEC football.  We have several individual players that are great but we lack depth.  Richt was recruiting for magical 10 win seasons and Belk Bowl berths.  You are on drugs thinking Smart is walking into any better of a situation than Richt did. 

MikeS777
MikeS777

@dawg fan @LuxLucisofVerum Oh look, another Richt bashing post with no facts whatsoever.   Just more made up nonsense.

UGA did not get pushed around after Donnan's recruits left.   They started to after Van Gorder's recruits left.   Once the team was all Willie Martinez's recruits on defense, starting in 2008, the defense collapsed.

2005 they won the SEC Championship, destroying a top 5 LSU team in the SECCG.  2006 injuries at QB forced Stafford into action mid-season.   They finished the year with wins over 3 ranked teams, including destroying a top 5 Auburn team, and nearly beat national Champ Florida that year.   2007 they finished #2 in the nation after a Sugar Bowl win.

2 BCS bowls and 2 top 10 finishes in 3 years, ALL WITH MARK RICHT RECRUITS.  That's as many SEC championships and one more BCS bowl game berth than he had in his first 4 years with Donnan recruits.

Donnan did nothing but barely make bowl games which was actually an improvement over Ray Goff.

MikeS777
MikeS777

@LuxLucisofVerum He absolutely comes in with a better situation.   UGA has won 40 games in the past 4 years, including a lot of big wins over ranked teams, despite all the injuries to top talent and the Todd Gurley suspension.

That's far better than Donnan did in his 4 years, or really any 4 years you want to pick between 1984 and when Richt arrived.

Anyone trying to say otherwise, or tries to say that long stretches of games missed by players like Malcolm Mitchell, Todd Gurley, and Nick Chubb should have been non-factors, has no clue.

dawg fan
dawg fan

@MikeS777 No facts?  So Donnan did not recruit our entire 2002 offensive line, the best we ever had under Richt?  Who did then smart guy, Mickey Mouse?  Oh, I know, it was Tinkerbell wasn't it clown? 

dawg fan
dawg fan

@MikeS777 A lot of "big wins" over ranked teams? Your hero beat a grand total of TWO Top 10 teams over the past 4 years and only one of those ended up meaning anything (2012 Florida).  Your choke artist golden boy is gone.  Take the lovefest to Miami clown and leave the big boy football to Kirby.  He's already done more in a month than your half azzed hero has done in the past 5 years.  I don't care if we go 0-12 next year.  The excuses and loser mentality are gone.  That alone is remarkable progress.  Kirby has balls and will take responsibility.  He has my respect.  Have fun at the Miami games this year and say hello to all the empty seats for me.  Try to stay awake. 

LuxLucisofVerum
LuxLucisofVerum

If you are going to criticize Richt about everything and anything - then  you need to accept criticism about Kirby...in the two biggest games Alabama has played in the last two years, this defensive genius we just hired has given up over 1000 yards in two games. No brag...just fact. 

dawg fan
dawg fan

@LuxLucisofVerum  I absolutely am going to criticize Mark Richt about everything and anything because he was the head freaking coach.  You're just speculating about Kirby.  You have no idea what he's going to do.  We know exactly what Richt was going to do if he stayed here:  Coast to 9.7 seasons and choke his underachieving arse off in big game after big game.  65 degrees and sunny in Coral Gables right now clown.  Sounds nice to me.  Enjoy and good riddance. 

MikeS777
MikeS777

@LuxLucisofVerum While I agree the Richt bashing is absurd and out of control, I still wouldn't hold these games against Smart.   The reality is those games are still the rare exception in an otherwise highly impressive defensive resume for Alabama.

Like I said in another post, UGA had the same level of defensive effort from 2001-2007.   They haven't had anything close to that since.   The results speak for themselves.   2 SEC titles, 3 BCS bowl games, and 5 top 10 finishes from 2001-2007.   0 SEC titles, 0 BCS bowls, and 2 top 10 finishes since.

If UGA had the same level of defense Alabama has had since 2007, Mark Richt's job would have never been remotely in doubt.

KeepOnSmilingWetWillie
KeepOnSmilingWetWillie

Kirby will cut some dead wood after spring drills. Of course since he isn't Nick Saban you folks will give him a pass. 

EndofThird
EndofThird

Alabama's D didn't show up in that game---kirby was too distracted by the uga job to get them ready to play. Their special teams won that game.

camelToeJoe
camelToeJoe

"Watson’s team lost, albeit narrowly."


Down by 12 with 35 secs to play.  Ok.  What ever you say.  You are the xspirt.

Edgar
Edgar

From what I've seen the past several years is this....

Websters Dictionary should update. Change the word "Clemsoning" to "Georgianing" for a few years until whomever the head football coach is capable of winning games it's supposed to and capable of winning. Or, do this...

Get behind a movement to boycott all UGA football games until a new stadium is built in Athens, GA or the UGA will move the whole school to Los Angeles if they will build a new stadium.

dawg fan
dawg fan

I continue to get a kick out of all these demands the Fan Club is putting on Kirby Smart.  10 years with no championship under their hero with multiple blowout losses and losses to inferior opponents without a peep out of the Fan Club.  But now the new guy is here and they NOW all of the sudden want to talk big boy football.  Hilarious.  Truly hilarious. 

dawg fan
dawg fan

@ResidentGeorgiaFan That's what we did in big games under your choke artist hero.  Take a hike to Miami clown.  See ya.

Rhynos
Rhynos

Nice job trying to spin your boneheaded support of the Richt firing and Smart hiring. 

dawg fan
dawg fan

@Rhynos  Flights to Miami are going for around $130 right now.  BUH BYE. 

Rhynos
Rhynos

@dawg fan @Rhynos It's less about the Richt firing and more about the Smart hiring to me.  Richt probably needed to go & UGA start over, but Kirby Smart is going to be a bad hire and we'll be doing this all over again in about 4 years.

dawg fan
dawg fan

@Rhynos You're entitled to your opinion on that.  The only problem I have is that you gave your hero a lot more than 4 years to get something done even though it became painfully obvious that the choke artist was incapable.  It's the hypocrisy that kills me.  I guess I wouldn't be so touchy about it if you clowns hadn't told me for years that I wasn't a "real fan" because I didn't worship your hero.  It's all come full circle now. 

TOJacket
TOJacket

Don't worry Lil dawggies...........Coach Kirbey's defense will be the best in the nation when he gets to UGA!.......as long as you don't play Clemson?

dawg fan
dawg fan

@TOJacket  I'm not worried about Clemson right now.  We've got to learn to walk before we can run.  We do not have a championship caliber program right now.  Our players are soft and coddled.  We lack depth in key areas, particularly up front.  I'll be happy if we can just fight and compete in every game in 2016.  That's what I'll be looking for.  That would be an improvement over the previous regime.  If I see that I'll feel good about the future because I think Kirby is going to build the team we need personnel wise. 

TOJacket
TOJacket

@dawg fan @TOJacket If he just acts like he gives a shat on the sideline every now and then should be stirring for the players!

salsaman
salsaman

Your bias for M.Richt has been handed over to KS.

MikeS777
MikeS777

No I'd worry more about the fact that Kirby Smart has to beat Nick Saban for said championships.   Saban is 8-0 at Alabama against former assistants, winning by an average of 29 pts per game.   He was up 29-7 on McElwain late in the 4th.  This playoff was the second time he blasted a top 10 MSU team led by Dantonio (another former assistant).  It would be a first  for a former Saban assistant if Smart even gave Saban a 4 quarter ball game, much less beat him.

Then again at age 40, Smart should be coaching long after Saban retires, so maybe that's the long term plan...outlast Saban haha

slydawg
slydawg

Best way to counter that is for the offensive coaching staff to implement a spread offense. A pure spread, not a read option. The problem with all those assistants is, they all ran copycat versions of what Saba does. Hopefully Smart and Tucker will mix up their 34 package on defense so as not to be so predictable. It's one thing to copy Alabama, but you better have the players.

TOJacket
TOJacket

@slydawg UGA has a contract to only run the Pro style offense.........with a high school QB?

dawg fan
dawg fan

@MikeS777  Oh, so NOW you're worried about beating Nick Saban for championships?!?!?!?  That didn't seem to be the case when your hero Mark Richt was the coach.  All you wanted to talk about is 10 win seasons and "building young men."  You continue to make a mockery of yourself with each post. 

MikeS777
MikeS777

@dawg fan @MikeS777 Man you need to stop and think before you post instead of posting a tantrum every time.

People hire Saban assistants because they hope for the same success.   That's all I'm talking about.   Smart was also hired to take UGA to championships, which he has to beat Saban right now to do.   Make sense now?

Since you mention Richt, he came far closer to beating Saban in 2012 for the SEC title than any of Saban's former assistants have.

MikeS777
MikeS777

@slydawg Exactly.   Saban assistants tend to copy what he does, but they are doing it without the same level of players.   Not only is Saban the best at what he does, he's doing it with a roster full of #1 recruiting classes and 5 star players.

MikeS777
MikeS777

As for the defensive stats themselves, its not a concern.   Games like what Clemson had are the rare exception for Alabama.   In general, the Tide has shown defensive dominance like UGA had in the first half of Richt's career.   Rarely does a team reach 30 pts on Alabama, just like they rarely did on UGA from 2001-2007.

That is what UGA has been missing since the 2007 season.  That is what Pruitt had brought back.  The past two years, UGA's defense finished in the top 20, something they had only previously done once since 2007 (2011).

When you're defense regularly holds teams to under 20 pts, it takes all the pressure off your offense and gives you a much better chance to win.   Hence UGA winning 10 games in 2015 despite a train wreck offense without Nick Chubb.   Pair that kind of defense up with an offense like what UGA had with Aaron Murray, and you end up with a real shot at championships.



Infraredguy
Infraredguy

After the game, Saban was overheard to say to Smart " Kirby, 40 points? Really ? give me your parking pass "

DawgNole
DawgNole

"His team managed but 301 yards and scored no points. Florida State lost 13-2."

______________________

"His team" was FSU, which obviously scored more than "no points"--albeit it not much more.

 

slydawg
slydawg

Please excuse MB, surely he meant..."his offense....."...lmao

MaybeMaybeNot
MaybeMaybeNot

Watson is good, but the Nations Best Player?

Bradley you obviously have East Coast bias......McCaffrey by all accounts is the nations best player.  Check out a Stanford game sometime........ 

How come when I google 'dawg butt sniffing'... the first name that appears is Mark Bradley?

DawgNole
DawgNole

Well, you can't finish first in everything. 

You'll get over it.

SEC > BigTen
SEC > BigTen

We really don't need to know about your online fetishes; save it for your therapist.

HootyGoot
HootyGoot

Stop worrying??? I was worrying about the Dawgs before Vince Dooley came along and nobody had heard of Mark Bradley and I'll keep on worrying especially when we play Tennessee and Florida and Auburn and any other team that is capable of cleaning our clock with our new coach.

LOGS1973
LOGS1973

The dawgs can get used to yielding 40 points

in most games going forward in 2016

Mutley
Mutley

If anything Smart brings a sense of optimism that has been absent in Athens since 2008. The Fans, sports writers, the whole state will be in a frenzy by the time of the first kickoff. It's great to have a season to look forward to again.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Mutley 

It's also great to open with a decent team again--instead of the all-too-frequent parade of disgraceful cupcakes.

That will definitely add to the "frenzy."