Amelia Earhart Disappeared, So Did the Georgia Team We All Knew And Loved?

Those of you who have not yet seen the movie “Amelia” that came out this fall, don’t bother.  If the reviews that I have read are any indication, this is almost two hours of your life that you will never get back, no matter how desperately you want it.  And by the time you finish this movie, you will want those two hours back.  So let me do you a service and save you those two hours plus the 8 or 10 dollars that you would spend on a movie ticket by telling you how it ends.

Amelia disappears somewhere over the Pacific and is never seen or heard from again.

There.  Now you know all that you could ever possibly need to know about this movie.

Amelia Earhart was born in 1897 in the town of Atchison, Kansas, just a little ways north of Kansas City.  When she was 21, she saw an airshow and decided that she wanted to be a pilot.  Her early career was nothing to write home about, but by 1927 she managed to accumulate 500 hours of solo flying without serious incident.

In 1928 Amelia Earhart accompanied pilot William Stultz and copilot/mechanic Louis Gordon on a transatlantic flight, thus becoming the first woman to fly across the Atlantic.  This happened just a year after Charles Lindbergh became the first person ever to fly across the Atlantic.  After this flight, Amelia Earhart felt bad about her limited role and was determined to one day complete the flight solo.  She did this in 1932, becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.

In 1936 she began planning for a round-the-world flight.  In March 1937 she made her first attempt, flying from Oakland, California to Honolulu, Hawaii.  But she encountered mechanical trouble in attempting to take off from Honolulu.  She was forced to abort the trip and bring her plane back to California for repairs.

In June 1937 she began her second attempt.  This time she would be flying west to east, which meant that the Pacific would be the final leg of her trip.  By July 2, she had reached New Guinea.  She took off from there, intending to stop off at Howland Island, a small uninhabited island just north of the equator and right smack in the middle of the Pacific, to refuel.  She never made it to Howland.  To this day, no one knows what happened to her or her plane.

And what happened to the Georgia football team last Saturday is just as much a mystery as what happened to Amelia Earhart.  Where was the team we have been accustomed to seeing all season–the team whose offense can’t move the ball consistently, whose special teams can’t cover kicks, whose defense can’t cover–period, which spews out penalties and turnovers at a most dizzying rate?

Here was a team that came out and completely dominated an opposing team.  We have never seen Georgia do this all season, unless the opponent happened to be from the Ohio Valley Conference.  They racked up a grand total of 339 rushing yards and led 17-3 by halftime, largely because they were able to keep Georgia Tech’s offense off the field for most of the first half, and because Josh Nesbitt was knocked out of the game for a goodly portion of the second quarter.  In his absence, Jaybo Shaw threw an interception which set up Georgia’s second touchdown.

But this was Georgia Tech.  You knew how explosive their offense could be.  Last year Georgia held a 28-12 halftime lead and it was all gone in just a couple of minutes.  Just last week Georgia led Kentucky by two touchdowns at the half and wound up losing by one.  So you had to know that a 17-3 halftime lead was not safe by any stretch of the imagination.

Sure enough, Georgia Tech got the ball to start the second half.  Just three plays in, Demaryius Thomas caught a pass and broke loose for a 76-yard touchdown.

But this time Georgia answered.  On the first play of the ensuing drive, Caleb King went right through the middle of the Georgia Tech defense and ran 75 yards for a touchdown.  Who knew?

Georgia Tech drove for a touchdown to cut the Georgia lead to 24-17.  A couple of Blair Walsh field goals pushed it to 30-17.  Georgia Tech answered with a touchdown.  On the ensuing drive, Blair Walsh had a rare miss on a 55-yard field goal attempt that would have put the game away if it had been good.

Georgia Tech got the ball back with 3:03 left in the game and one last chance to score the winning points.  And Paul Johnson’s much-vaunted triple option offense went to work.  They moved the ball all the way to the Georgia 46, converting a fourth down along the way.  No surprise there, if you know Paul Johnson.  But then they started taking shots at the end zone.  And the Georgia secondary actually covered.  On one pass Reshad Jones used the sideline to great effect, forcing the Georgia Tech receiver out of bounds as he was attempting to make the catch.  On another, Reshad Jones came from out of nowhere to break it up.  On fourth down, Josh Nesbitt threw a simple possession pass to Demaryius Thomas that would have gained just enough yardage for the first down.  Demaryius Thomas never drops passes that are thrown his way, but this time he did.  Ballgame.

Of course there was still 1:22 left on the clock at that point.  But three straight kneeldowns by Georgia took care of that.

And now a whole host of issues and questions open up.  Why hasn’t Georgia been able to play like this all season?  Is this performance an aberration or an indication of better things to come?  Does one good game override a whole season’s worth of problematic performances by Willie Martinez, and problematic performances galore in the years before?  And can what happened Saturday really be attributed to Willie Martinez, or just to the Georgia offense’s ability to dominate and keep Paul Johnson’s offense (and, by extension, Willie Martinez’s defense) off the field for long stretches at a time?  And remember that Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Dave Wommack is believed by Tech fans to be just as ineffective as Willie Martinez, if not more so.

But for now those questions can wait.  Now is a time to celebrate.  And to hope that the team we saw for almost all of the season up to this point has disappeared, never to be heard from again.  Just like Amelia Earhart.

UPDATE: Willie Martinez is gone.  So are linebackers coach John Jancek and defensive ends coach Jon Fabris.