Martrez Milner does the Hokie Pokie and he turns those muthas out -- THAT'S what it's all about.
As many of y'all know, I'm from Virginia originally -- born in Roanoke, spent five glorious formative years in nearby Radford, just a quick jaunt down Peppers Ferry Road from the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg. My parents are both UVA grads, but I've got a ton of relatives who are either Virginia Tech graduates or consider themselves VT fans due to some kind of familial connection. So this was one of those games I was kind of looking forward to and dreading at the same time: On the one hand, this would be a reason for my relatives to pay attention to the Bulldogs for some reason other than me yakking their ears off about the Dawgs at every single family gathering. But on the other hand, if Georgia loses, I'm gonna be hearing about this for the rest of my worthless life. (Y'all know who you are. I know some of you read this.)
Halftime, Georgia is down 21-3 after giving up a 53-yard TD on an Antwaan-Randle-El-ish trick WR option play and after having gained all of three net yards on 13 offensive plays following their opening-drive FG. (Yes, 13 offensive plays. If you're going to assume there couldn't have been many third-down conversions if we ran only 13 offensive plays, you would be correct.) And I can just picture in my head the stack of subject lines in my GMail inbox after Georgia loses 42-6 or however many they were going to lose by. But then a funny thing happened: Brandon Coutu kicked a 51-yard field goal (God, was I glad to have him back), then Mark Richt dropped his pants to reveal a titanium-plated pair of balls and called an on-side kick that the Dawgs recovered with about six minutes left in the third, and all of a sudden all the pain that VaTech had been inflicting upon Georgia in the first half was turned back on them and then some. A flurry of VT turnovers, 28 straight points by the Dawgs, and a 31-24 UGA win, game over.
(Side note: Nothing against VT quarterback Sean Glennon, and I'll apologize to him for writing this if I ever meet him in person, but I was really glad it was not him and not Matt Stafford who was throwing picks all over the place last night. In the "College Gameday" discussions of the Peach Bowl, Official Bane of Hey Jenny Slater's Existence Mark May had taken to repeating "SIX TOUCHDOWNS! TWELVE INTERCEPTIONS!" as his own personal mantra, in a tone that implied Matt Stafford was a functional retard who should be toting Gatorade rather than playing football at the D-IA level; not that this will change May's apparently fossilized impression of anything Georgia-related, but I was gratified to see someone else be the goat in that regard.)
Tony Taylor sez: im in yuor base int3rcepting yuor d00ds.
But anyway, I digress. Something really struck me as Georgia was mounting its hellacious comeback in the third quarter (and no, it wasn't a Hokie fan's empty beer bottle); it was when ESPN put up their graphic about how many times Georgia has been behind at halftime this season, and how they'd come back to win three of those four (and make a valiant comeback effort in the one loss). There's a flipside to that coin, though, and it is this: In Georgia's last nine games of the regular season, they were only 2-3 when holding a halftime lead. Tossing out the three blowout victories with which Georgia started the season -- which still look like an aberration to me in hindsight -- here's how Georgia's season went from week 4 on, for those who need the recap:
September 23 vs. Colorado: Down 10-0 at halftime to one of the worst teams in the country, Georgia storms back to win 14-13 with two fourth-quarter TD passes from Joe Cox.
September 30 at Ole Miss: Down 3-0 at the half to another one of the worst teams in the country, Georgia gets it in gear in the second half; while nothing from this game will ever make it onto the Sanford Stadium Jumbotron "Baba O'Reilly" pregame highlight reel, the Dawgs still win 14-9.
October 7 vs. Tennessee: Up 24-14 on Tennessee at the half and presumably rolling, the Dawgs have their legs kicked out from under them by a combination of turnovers, blocked punts and shitty pass coverage, give up more points in the second half than they'd given up the entire season before that game and lose 51-33.
October 14 vs. Vanderbilt: Up 13-7 at the half, the Dawgs turn it over on their first drive of the second half for the second week in a row (and their third time in four games) and go on to lose to Freaking Vanderbilt, 24-22.
October 21 vs. Mississippi State: Up 21-7 at the half, the Dawgs get outscored 10-0 in the third quarter for the second straight week and have to hang on to beat the SEC's worst team 27-24.
October 28 vs. Florida: The Dawgs are down 14-0 at the half and give up an Auburn-sociology-degree easy nine-yard scoop-'n'-score on the first play of the second half, but battle back to within a TD and have a chance to win right down to the last few minutes.
November 4 at Kentucky: Up 14-10 at halftime, the Dawgs fall asleep on defense for two late Kentucky drives and lose 24-20.
November 11 at Auburn: Georgia is up 30-7 at halftime and continues to whup Auburn's ass for the entirety of the game. OK, this is the exception that proves the rule.
And yes, it deserves a picture.
November 25 vs. Georgia Tech: After losing a fumble at their own 13 and thus handing the Yellow Jackets a field goal in a stylish Bloomingdales gift bag, the Dawgs fight back in the second half and, thanks to shrewd play-calling by His Royal Awesomeness Mike Bobo and the usual ass-wittedness from Reggie Ball, win 15-12.
So you see the pattern there? Trailing at the half, we're 3-1 (with even the -1 being a valiant sort of loss); ahead at the half, we're 2-3 (with one of the 2- being a lucky escape from an inconceivable defeat). During that stomach-churning 1-4 midseason stretch, everyone was all over Willie Martinez's ass for being a lousy halftime adjuster, and not without cause, but the above evidence indicates to me that he wasn't that bad when we were behind; homes was adjusting like a motherfucker against Florida, Colorado, Virginia Tech, etc. etc. It was when we had a lead that we were apparently substituting red wine and Lunesta for the motivational halftime speech. I don't know what portends for next season; hopefully nothing, but it is something I'd like the coaching staff to work on over the next few months.
But it's hard for me to get too discombobulated about that at the moment, because I've just witnessed Georgia bounce back from probably its most humiliating stretch of the Mark Richt era to whack three ranked teams in a row, one of them on the road, another in a neutral-site game (which has been a pitfall for the Dawgs under Richt even when the "neutral site" isn't Jacksonville). I wasn't sure I wanted to believe it myself, but Mayor Kyle was right: It really is 1973 all over again (with the obvious caveat that I'd prefer we not follow this up with a 6-6 campaign next year).
After the Kentucky disaster, I said I was at the point where I was just going to be very happy and relieved when the season was over. Now I'm at a point where I can't wait for the next season to begin. We've got a team that has fought through adversity to show what they're really made of (which, FYI, is pretty good stuff); a young QB who is growing into the superstar we've all hoped he would be; a defense that wandered in the wilderness but has found its way back to being the killers we wanted them to be; a proper offensive play-calling hierarchy keyed by a Bulldog hero who's slowly building legend status; and a coaching staff that, as a whole, I would not trade for more than one or two others in the nation. I've ripped on them on more than one occasion this year, but every team is going to have a shitty game or a subpar stretch at some point; the $64,000 question when it comes to coaches is whether they can lead the team out of it. And this group of coaches did. The losses were bitter, but the wins have been much sweeter.
Undaunted by the December 19 attempt on his life, Hairy Dawg bounces back to represent with the rest of the team.
As baby sis and I were driving back into Birmingham after Thanksgiving, the jubilation of a sixth straight win over Georgia Tech still tingling in our synapses, we had a conversation about Georgia's wins and losses over the course of the season. I posed a hypothetical question to her then, and now, with a stirring bowl win to add to it, I pose it to you Dawg fans out there.
Before the season began, there was hope that we might break out and win 10 games (or more), but also a realization on the part of many fans that maybe we were headed for an 8-4 kind of season. Had God sent an angel down to Bulldog Nation and told us that yes, we were destined for a four-loss year, most of us would've probably assumed that those losses would've been Tennessee, Florida, Auburn and, I don't know, Georgia Tech; instead, it turned out to be Tennessee, Florida, and the two humiliating upsets to Vandy and Kentucky. Now, I know most of us would give up quite a lot for the chance to go back in time and erase those two losses, but my question is: Would you give up the wins over Auburn and GT?
I wouldn't. As much as I wanted to crawl in a hole and die after the Vanderbilt and Kentucky games, a season that includes those losses can still be considered successful if you come back to beat Auburn and Tech (and then a respectable bowl opponent). Think about it this way: If we beat Vandy and UK but not Auburn and Tech, we'd beaten everybody we were supposed to beat but hadn't scored any notable upsets, and we'd gone 0-4 against our four biggest rivals -- in other words, a Jim Donnan kind of season. We don't come out of that season mumbling, "How the fuck did we lose to Vandy and Kentucky," but we don't come out of it holding our heads high due to any particularly memorable victories, either. The season we actually had contained a couple of stinkers, yes -- well, more than a couple, we just managed to win a few of those others -- but it also contained maybe the most impressive three-game stretch of the Richt era, it contained an unholy beatdown of a top-five Auburn team, and oh yeah, we don't have to deal with the Techies crowing about anything for the next 300-something days.
Yeah, this season was rocky, and we didn't need to suffer those losses to Vandy and UK. But it's like my sister said at halftime of the Peach Bowl: "If you can only play one half, play the second." We played the second, we finished the drill, and at this point anyone who's focusing more on the 1-4 stretch at midseason than the 3-0 rampage that followed it should probably look for some therapy.
Congrats to the Dawgs, and thanks for some incredibly exciting wins. I'm counting down the days to Oklahoma State.
And Go Dawgs!
I'm comfortable enough in my sexuality to say it: I love this man.
All the small things:
· I don't want to see any of my Georgia brethren going out of their way to shit-talk Hokie Nation today, because again, I happen to be related to some of those folks and they're pretty nice. Two of 'em were kind enough to meet my sister and me in Atlanta for the game, accept my failure to procure tickets to the game itself (after wandering around in the cold and drizzle for a couple hours, no less), and buy us dinner at Jocks 'n' Jills at the CNN Center where we ended up watching the action. In fact, the vast majority of the Hokie fans we ran into were very nice. There was the one kind of douchey guy at Jocks 'n' Jills who made a habit of sarcastically crooning "Georgia On My Mind" after every UGA screwup of the first half (which, I'll admit, were numerous), but there was also the guy at the table next to ours who it turned out was born at the same hospital as me in Roanoke, and there was also the girl on the subway who gave me one of the little stuffed Chick-fil-A cows she was taking home from the stadium. (I have fond memories of those cows from the '98 Peach Bowl, when beanie-baby cows rained down from the third tier of the Dome like a Biblical plague after every score; it got to the point where I was wondering if someone was manufacturing more of those things somewhere in the upper deck.)
Anyway, good show, guys. Obviously I wasn't rooting for a Virginia Tech win, but I wasn't hoping for a complete Hokie collapse either; what I thought would happen was that it'd be a close-fought, back-and-forth game right down to the last second and that neither team would have to suffer through a particularly embarrassing stretch. In the end, both teams did, Georgia was just fortunate enough to have theirs early enough to pull out of it. Thanks for a good game; y'all have nothing to be ashamed of. If we end up meeting again in Miami, New Orleans, or Pasadena sometime soon, that's just fine with me.
· I'm not one of those people who takes bowl results to be the be-all end-all indicators of a given conference's strength, but there are plenty of people out there who apparently do, so let's take a look: Big 10, 0-3 with four games remaining; SEC, 3-1 with the one loss coming on a last-second field goal. Again, I'm not going to throw my hands in the air and declare OMG Big 10 suxx0rz because of this, but I'll hear no more of this nonsense about how the SEC really wasn't all that good this year.
· Quick NFL digression: Obviously the NFC stinks this year, and as of this past week there were still about a half-dozen mediocre NFC teams that still had a chance at the playoffs. So why is it the only one we heard anything about was the Giants? Why was their struggle so much more newsworthy than, say, the Rams' or the Falcons'? Yeah, the Giants stink (other than Tiki Barber, who is awesome), what else is new? (On a related note, can we now officially declare that I was right right right when I said back during the 2005 draft that Ben Roethlisberger would turn out to be the best of the four QBs drafted in the first round, and that no way was Eli Manning worth all the picks New York handed over to get him instead of Philip Rivers? If I'm Marty Schottenheimer, I'm eagerly awaiting the day I get to run into Archie Manning in the green room at CBS Sports.)
I know Peyton. I've seen Peyton. Peyton has stepped on my heart and crushed it many times. You, sir, are no Peyton.
· Finally, as this was my first year of producing actual sportswriting-like product and participating in stuff like the Blogpoll, I wanted to thank some of the other bloggers out there who have helped me along, linked to me, given me opportunities to do more writing and pontificating, and basically been encouraging examples as I plow blindly ahead with this blogging thing. Thanks first and foremost to Paul Westerdawg and Mayor T. Kyle King for their links and frequent kind words, but also for being admirable ambassadors of Bulldog Nation; I've heard many bloggers marvel at how well-represented Georgia is in the blogosphere, and those guys, along with folks like Realist, Kanu and the Gunslingers, are the reason why. Thanks to Blogpoll founder Brian Cook at MGoBlog and, indeed, all of the Blogpoll voters for giving me the opportunity to participate in something that was not only fun but also introduced me to a vast network of tremendously talented writers. Thanks, of course, to Josh, DAve, Pasqua and Stanicek, and the rest of the Tent City crew for running a tailgating clinic week in and week out, whether it was an awesome win over Georgia Tech or a let's-forget-that-ever-happened loss to the Commodores. Like I said, I'll be in Athens for Oklahoma State. And yes, I'm bringing the dog.
And finally, thanks to