Monday, April 7
G-Day/Bloggerpalooza '08: There will be precipitation.
My only regret about this picture is you can't see the sweet red pants I was wearing.
God may frequently smile on the Georgia Bulldogs and their fans, but he apparently takes a vacation the weekend of the G-Day game. For our first Bloggerpalooza tailgate two years ago, the festivities were dampened -- literally -- by a weather system that, if memory serves, actually sent tornadoes through the area the night before; last year the skies were bright and sunny, but the temperature was in the low 40s; and this year it was back to torrential downpours. Evidently we're going to alternate back and forth between these two until the year when I can't go to the game, and on that day it'll be brilliantly sunny and in the mid-70s, I'm sure.
Rain aside, though, we had a good time. Baby sis was there, as were DAve Akins, Scott and Meimi Hartman and a couple of friends, and none other than Kyle King, cruelly jilted by kids who had the nerve to pick Chuck E. Cheese over spring football. At any rate, we had an actual tailgate, even if it was on Level E of the slightly less-than-romantic North Campus Parking Deck. Beer was guzzled, Krispy Kremes and pigs in blankets were consumed, inappropriate stories were shared, and a good time was had by all.
So what worked, what didn't, and what rocked Bulldog Nation's collective face off?
• Caleb King, as you already know if you've paid even a smidgen of attention to the post-G-Day coverage out there, acquitted himself pretty nicely in his first real work in a Georgia uniform. King only got six rushes but made the best of them, averaging just a tick above five yards a carry and rarely, if ever, going down after the first hit -- the kind of tenacity and determination that Bulldog Nation loves. Having him and Knowshon Moreno, who also averaged more than five yards a carry and rarely went down without a fight, in the same backfield is going to be a hell of a lot of fun for the next few years; it's a bit early to declare them a Ronnie Brown/Cadillac Williams-caliber pairing just yet, but they have the potential to get there.
• Michael Moore had a pretty productive day at receiver, snagging three balls for 53 yards and both of the victorious Red team's touchdowns. The knock on Moore has been that he's incredibly physically gifted but also very inconsistent; if the comments reported by David Ching are accurate, though, Moore may have made a bit of a breakthrough this spring. If he can continue to show the skills he demonstrated on Saturday, he has a chance to be the kind of sure-thing, game-breaking receiver the Dawgs haven't had in what feels like forever.
• Matt Stafford was efficient -- 6-of-10 for 78 yards and a TD -- and looked like a guy who's continued to progress under Mike Bobo's tutelage, both as a QB and as a field general. But there was also a spark from third-stringer Logan Gray, who was only 2-for-5 for 11 yards but also threw a TD and showed some impressive scrambling ability. Granted, it's easier to scramble when the defense technically isn't allowed to tackle you, but the determination he displayed was impressive.
• Brian Behr nailed a 52-yard field goal at the end of the first half; he wasn't being rushed by anyone, of course, but 52 yards in the rain isn't anything to dismiss.
• The weather, of course.
• There was a whole lot of sackin' goin' on, particularly by the Red team, who got to the QB five times. However, the Black team, going up against the first-string offensive line, still managed to notch two sacks and also had five or six TFLs. (Though sacks, at least, were easier to come by since the QBs were in green jerseys and a touch equaled a sack.)
• Injuries kept a lot of folks out of the game that we would've liked to see. The receiving corps was missing Mo Massaquoi, Tony Wilson and Tripp Chandler, our top three returning receivers; fullback Brannan Southerland was also held out. On the other side of the ball, Jeff Owens, Marcus Washington, and Darius Dewberry were all on the bench. DAve commented that between the non-playing starters and the quick hook given to the starters who did play, this was as close to an NFL preseason game as you're likely to see on a college field, and that's a pretty good way of describing it.
• Then there was the usual sloppiness you're accustomed to seeing in a spring game. Last year's 34-21 final was a rare shootout that wasn't at all typical of how these games usually go; this year's 17-3 final was a lot more in keeping with spring games in which new guys are being introduced and the bench players get a lot more field time than they'd ordinarily see. Paul Westerdawg gave the game a "yawn" overall, owing in large part to the injuries mentioned earlier.
• Meimi Hartman's crushed Oreo balls. Obviously a lot of you want no part of anything with "crushed" and "balls" in the name, and that's understandable, but Meims is quite the tailgate chef.
• Duvel and Krispy Kremes. There's a reason that two spots on Ponce de Leon in Atlanta -- the Krispy Kreme place and Green's package store -- have become my standard stops on the way to a Georgia game.
• Getting recognized by a couple of regular readers. Nope, not making that up -- finally, my decision to use my actual name and picture on this blog pays off! I want to thank you guys for that -- because of you, my ego has grown so big it's been granted observer status at the UN. But rest assured that if The 50 Biggest Plays of the Mark Richt Era does become a published coffee-table book a couple years from now, y'all will get the first two autographed copies, which plus two bucks will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks, I'm fairly certain.
• Football in the springtime. Round about the middle of the second quarter, as the pads cracked, the band played and the cheerleaders cheered, I turned to my sister and said, out of the blue, "I'm so happy right now." Kyle King is probably right when he says spring-game devotion is kind of the football equivalent of going to the cupboard and drinking the vanilla extract when all the booze in your house is gone, but still, football is football, and in spite of the weather, it was great to be back in Athens again.
So in the end, there was nothing of an actual football nature to get too worked up about one way or the other, but neither were there any disasters big enough to elicit doubts that a national-title run is still a possibility this season. Thanks to my fellow tailgaters for a fun afternoon, and thanks to Bulldog Nation for a big turnout at the game. Here's hoping 2008 does indeed end up being a special year.
Other people's takes:
• "Official" game report from the UGA athletic association.
• David Ching's take, including fairly comprehensive individual stats.
• Paul Westerdawg's rundown, which also includes a nice long list of links to other people's recaps and analysis. He also brings us some nice video.
• Two AJC blog entries -- one from sportswriter Carter Strickland and another from devoted fanblogger Bill King.