Undermanned Dogs Struggle in '04-'05
"Scratch" might have been an accurate starting point for the 2005 Georgia Bulldogs. Head coach Dennis Felton was indeed starting over in his second season, having lost four experienced, savvy seniors after 2004.
The Felton Era began in earnest in '05, and because that squad was so bereft of any veteran presence, its results were predictable. Georgia struggled to an 8-20 record, the fewest wins for the program in 30 years, and a 2-14 mark in the SEC.
As young and inexperienced as they were, the Bulldogs reflected the personality of their coach: competitive and determined to make life difficult for their opposition. Rarely did they bow out early in a competition and at times, their fighting spirit allowed them a successful comeback or two.
Frosh Starters Make History
The season opener against Western Kentucky marked just the second time at Georgia since freshmen became eligible in 1973 that three rookies started their first games together. Channing Toney, Sundiata Gaines and Dave Bliss all started against the Hilltoppers. Hugh Durham began his second season (1979-80) by starting three freshmen on Opening Night: Dominique Wilkins, Terry Fair and Derrick Floyd.
The very next year Durham started multiple freshmen again: James Banks and Vern Fleming. No Georgia team did it again until the 2004 season opener, when Levi Stukes and Steve Newman started against Western Carolina.
Odds & Ends
- Georgia players missed a combined total of 35 games because of injury, eight by its starting five. Only Dave Bliss and Steve Newman started all 28 games, and walk-on Kevin Brophy was the only other Bulldog to play in every game. Brophy, in fact, averaged 32 minutes over the team's last eight games.
- Sundiata Gaines enjoyed one of the most productive rookie seasons in recent Georgia history. He finished with more steals than did Rashad Wright in 2004, when he won SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors. He also led the Dogs in minutes, assists, free throw attempts and makes, as well as ranking second in rebounds.
- Gaines and center Dave Bliss became the first Georgia freshmen in seven years to pull down 100 rebounds in a season. Not since Jumaine Jones (299 rebs. in 1998) has a Bulldog rookie reached the mark. That betters at least two effective rebounders since then (Chris Daniels, Steve Thomas).
Walk-Ons Play Key Roles
Because the Bulldogs had just eight scholarship players on their roster, head coach Dennis Felton made frequent use of several walk-ons in the 2005 season. Most prominently:
- Kevin Brophy, an exchange student from Australia, became a valuable backcourt reserve and even started seven games. He averaged nearly 27 minutes in 16 SEC games, with a season high of 19 points in the Bulldogs' win over Vanderbilt.
- Jay McAuley. Injuries also forced the team's most experienced player into a greater role than expected. He even started two mid-February games and scored a pair of key baskets in Georgia's game at Kentucky.
- Matt Womack. Added to the team through open tryouts in October, Womack was one of the Bulldogs' most valuable reserves in the frontcourt.