Monday, September 22
Go west, life is peaceful there . . .
Damn, I'm such a G, it's pathetic.
If you actually watched the Georgia-Arizona State game as opposed to just taking a cursory glance at the box score, then you know the Bulldogs whupped the Sun Devils on Saturday much worse than the score might indicate. Our defense crushed the ASU ground game to the tune of 19 rushes for four net yards, leaving Rudy Carpenter to pile the entire team on his back -- admittedly, something he's probably getting used to by now -- and save them with his arm; this did not happen, as Georgia's defensive front keyed in on him and pressured him in a fashion that had to look distressingly like the 55-sack disaster of ASU's 2007 campaign. On the other side of the ball, the revelations were even more dramatic, and the star of the night was undoubtedly freshman receiver A.J. Green, whose "coming-out party" was more like Times Square on New Year's: eight catches for 159 yards and a score, the majority of that damage done in a single half, as Green repeatedly knifed through ASU's coverage like an F-22 Raptor dogfighting a squadron of single-engine Cessnas.
And when those Cessnas finally figured out a way to contain Green in the second half, out comes Knowshon Moreno to do the road-paving work, an A-10 Warthog demolishing Arizona State's ground defenses if we're going to stretch this military-aviation metaphor even further toward its breaking point. Then again, maybe the metaphor is pretty damn accurate:
The look on the cheerleader's face? F$#@ing priceless.
Looks like flight to me, hoss. And the funny thing is, Knowshon didn't even get loose until after halftime, when Arizona State flung their entire defense at A.J. Green and the passing attack. 'Shon ran 11 times for 107 yards in the second half after totaling just 12 for 42 in the first; given that the above photograph was taken at the denouement of Knowshon's first touchdown run, just seconds into the second quarter, we can therefore conclude that that's what 'Shon looks like when he's getting bottled up. You can have your spreads, your triple options, your talk of "scheme," period -- recruit five-star talent at as many positions as you possibly can and it doesn't matter how you line them up. The key here was balance, as once Matt Stafford shook out the cobwebs in the first quarter, ASU just never seemed to have enough guys on the field to account for everything Georgia had the potential to do.
It wasn't a perfect game, obviously, and between stupid-ass penalties (12 for 104 this week, as if we're trying to overtake Texas Tech for the D-IA lead) and field goals that should've been touchdowns, we probably threw away about 21 points (I guess they were in the luggage that got checked through to the wrong city when the team changed planes in Dallas). But again, to only scan the scoring summary and the 27-10 final means you missed quite a lot -- a new personal record for Stafford in yardage; Knowshon's eighth 100-yard day as a Bulldog; a defense that went up against the best passing attack they've faced so far this year and figured out how to obstruct it with something other than PI penalties; and, of course, the eye-popping catches by A.J. If you had to go 2,000 miles for a game — or, in the case of my friend Meghan, six-thousand-something, since she came all the way from Freetown, Sierra Leone, to join us in the desert — then that was a pretty worthwhile one to go see.
Not a bad view at all. +1 for you, Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area.
And I feel for you if you weren't able to go to the game, because even if you watched it on TV, even if you DVR'd the whole thing and Zaprudered it from start to finish, you didn't get to experience Tempe, Arizona, with twenty thousand Dawg fans in town. I've been to bars in Athens on game day that weren't as packed with Georgia fans as some of the bars we went to in Tempe, and every time I turned around it seemed like there was something else to make me nearly tear up with pride at the devotion of our fan base. Hearing people yell “Go Dawgs!” at us in Sedona, a hundred miles north of Phoenix. Hearing somebody get a “Mean Machine” started as we walked down an unfamiliar street two thousand miles away from home. Getting honked at by cars decked out with Georgia flags and magnets as we whizzed up I-17 in the literal middle of nowhere. Standing on the balcony at the Gordon Biersch in downtown Tempe, where the local Bulldog Club was having their “official” get-together, with people screaming “GEORGIA!” while other people shouted “BULLDOGS!” from the balcony of the Hooters that was catty-corner across the intersection from us. And all that was even before we walked into the stadium. The upper deck wasn't quite as solid-red as I'd hoped — the red-to-gold ratio wasn't quite as high as what you'd see at a Tech game — but what we lacked in striking visuals we more than made up for in noise. I was looking forward to hearing what the stadium would sound like when we “called the dawg” for the first kickoff, and I was not disappointed; the place positively thundered.
My friend Kristen asked an ASU fan on Saturday why there weren't more tailgaters out and about, and he explained that tailgating isn't a big scene in Tempe because it's just too hot to sit around and drink in an unshaded parking lot, but then he added, “And we're kind of intimidated by all of you showing up here.” Arizona State fans may or may not be keen on Georgia making a return trip anytime soon, but I'll bet you that the bar, restaurant, and hotel owners of Tempe are — depending on whose numbers you trust, as many as 25,000 Georgia fans were out there last week patronizing the fine local businesses. That's approaching Democratic National Convention-type numbers, and I wonder if, somewhere — maybe in Berkeley, maybe in Provo, maybe even in Los Angeles — there might be a Chamber of Commerce bigwig looking up the number of his local university's athletic department so that he can put a bug in someone's ear about inviting the Dawgs for a game.
At least we'll get excited about it, even if the locals won't.
And if they get that invite, whether it's to Berkeley or Provo or L.A., we'd better accept it, 'cause after this past weekend, I wanna go. No, in spite of the condescension of folks like Heismanpundit and others who seem to think a game's difficulty and prestige is determined mainly by how many SkyMiles you racked up getting there, we don't need to play games like this; there are more than enough top-drawer opponents within a single day's drive of Athens, thanks very much, and clearly we'd been doing pretty well just sticking with those for the last 40 years. But we should be playing games like this anyway, for a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with our fans getting an excuse to take a semi-exotic vacation. First and foremost, it's just something we should be man enough (yeah, I said it) to do. Second, it's more media exposure, not just in terms of the prime-time ABC cameras being trained on us but in terms of the West Coast journalists who may never have had the inclination to pay attention to Georgia before but who may now be inclined to throw us some more benefit of the doubt in their AP ballots because they've just watched the Dawgs take down one of the local teams. And finally, partly as a result of that, I've got to think that this raises our national recruiting profile at least a little. I have no idea if this will actually pay any tangible benefits in future recruiting classes, but maybe there's a blue-chipper at a high school somewhere in Phoenix or Sedona or Flagstaff who saw Georgia whup the Sun Devils — and, heck, who witnessed the streets of his hometown getting swarmed by sundress-clad Georgia coeds — and is now thinking of calling the registrar's office in Athens and asking for a brochure. I'm probably betraying my complete ignorance of the recruiting process by even mentioning that, but . . . who knows?
So yeah, it was a great weekend, one of those weekends where I got to go home swelling with pride not only in our team but in our fans. If you'd like to hear more about it from the horses' own mouths, I invite you to go to DAve's joint and check out the Week 4 SEC podcast, recorded at the house we (and by “we” I mean “Meimi Hartman,” the MVP of the weekend off the field) rented in Tempe. The “after dark” part perhaps merits some explanation: Our house was a very nice 3-br, 2.5-bath patio home in a gated community right off Guadelupe, with a pool and a hot tub right around the corner. It was a great place, with more than enough room to keep the seven of us from tripping over each other all weekend, but something about the wide-open interior spaces and the spare decorating kind of reminded us of . . . well, Meimi was the first one who mentioned it to me: “This is kind of a porn house.” Oh, and if only I'd had the wherewithal to bring a handful of ASU coeds back there; I hear some of them are into that kind of thing. Anyway, we toyed with the idea of recording the podcast from the hot tub, but we didn't want to run the risk of harming the equipment; Scott's audio recorder, incidentally, is the first one I've ever encountered that didn't make my voice sound totally ghey. Go take a listen.
A whole lotta Dawgs at the "private party" at Crave on Mill Avenue.
Finally, I have to humbly give thanks to the numerous people (I can call them “numerous,” right?) who chatted me up at the Crave Lounge on Mill Avenue and told me they liked my blog. That really, sincerely means a lot to me, y'all, and all the more so since it happened a couple thousand miles away from home. It really reminded me how small the world is when I was chatting with one of them about his flight out to Arizona, and he was describing how the plane had been turned into a veritable “party plane” full of Bulldog fans (who, he told me, caused the flight attendants to run out of little bottles of liquor). And then he mentioned overhearing the conversation of some Dawg fans sitting behind him, “and they said they talked to this one girl who'd come all the way from Sierra Leone . . . “
Bulldog Nation, for these reasons and so very many more, you are officially the greatest. And don't let anybody tell you different.
I finally get my picture taken with überfan Mike "Big Dawg" Woods, and it's in Tempe, Arizona. Life's funny sometimes.
Now that I'm awake, sobered up, and rehydrated, here are my observations on everybody else's weekend:
· So there's Tennessee, now sporting two losses before the month of September is even over, clicking on one side of the ball but sputtering embarrassingly on the other, and after another humiliating loss to the Gators, Phil Fulmer's job security is once again in question. This remind you of anything? Exactly one year ago about this time, perhaps? I submit this for your consideration, Bulldog fans, as a reminder of the folly of counting chickens in pre-hatch mode.
· Attending UGA-ASU live and in person meant I didn't get to see anything of the titanic LSU-Auburn tilt except highlights, but my immediate take is that that crushing Auburn defense has to be scratching its collective head that they somehow allowed untested sophomore QB Jarrett Lee turn into a hero, and after throwing one of the most hideous pick-sixes in mankind's history, no less. There's two ways they could go from here: Either they go in a shell and cough up an upset this week, or they decide to take their frustrations out on the Vols. If I was a betting man — check that: If I had money to bet — I'd bet that Auburn's front seven is already Googling Jonathan Crompton's injury history to see if he has any bones that might shatter more easily than others.
Bill Stewart: Not actually a football coach, but he did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.
· I did, however, catch the wondrous five-car pileup that was West Virginia-Colorado on Thursday night, otherwise known as When Bad Things Happen To Good People Who Are Not Necessarily Good Football Coaches. I have no reason to think that Bill Stewart is anything other than a sterling human being, and I was hoping as hard as anybody that WVU might throw him some sort of bone after leading the Mountaineers to their improbable Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma, but it's time to face up and 'fess up — since then, the man has given no indication that he has any idea what to do on a football field. When even Erin Andrews is down there reporting that your sideline is displaying all the calmness and organization of a Zimbabwean election, you're in deep ka-ka. And while I think WVU will give Stewart one more year even if they continue their implosion — for appearance's sake if nothing else — Stewart isn't even going to have Pat White in '09, so what good's a last-chance second year going to do? Other than to give the rest of us 12 more months to snicker about the fact that West Virginia, in the words of Brian Cook, married their rebound.
· As if to give the nozzle another squeeze and top off WVU's misery tank, East Carolina went and handed N.C. State their court-mandated inexplicable home win over a ranked opponent, thereby making the Mountaineers' not-even-remotely-competitive loss to the Pirates look that much worse, not to mention leaving one presumptive BCS-buster without a chair as the music stopped. Nothing against Skip Holtz, but thank goodness; the Orange Bowl already has to suffer the ignominy of hosting an ACC team, they don't need Conference USA on top of that. A Wake Forest-ECU matchup would be the kind of thing that'd earn a “Do Not Watch While Operating Heavy Machinery, Or At All” tag; I think Fox Sports might even pass it on down to Raycom if given half the chance.
· Then again, Wake did complete the hat trick against Flawda State . . . who could've predicted such a thing? Oh, that's right, I did. At this point, I don't think it's too risky to assume Joe Paterno will take over the all-time career wins record from Bobby Bowden for good; the only question now is whether FSU will start carrying Bowden's cryogenically frozen head around on the sidelines in a desperate effort to give him credit for any future wins.
They'll probably stash it next to Corso's.
· About thirty minutes south of Sedona on I-17, we passed something called Dry Beaver Creek. I only mention this now because I had to get it out there, and I didn't know where else to put it.
· UAB Blazers watch: Boom, motherfucker — UAB cockpunches Alabama State 45-10 for their first victory of the season. For the purposes of this post, the presiding judge has declared evidence of Alabama State's D-IAA status inadmissible. Whatever — both Georgia and UAB can lay claim to having destroyed ASU this week (and having crushed their running game, too, as the Blazers held the Hornets to only 17 net yards on the ground). Where are our "Bring on South Carolina" signs, Chick-fil-A?
· Wofford Terriers watch: Speaking of South Carolina, Wofford chased the Gamecocks right down to the last couple minutes of the game before finally falling 23-13 in Columbia. You have my permission to count that as a mark in the “moral victory” column, Terriers, and if any South Carolina fans give you shit over it, just remind them that they've been counting it as a moral victory for the past 50 years if the 'Cocks so much as cover a spread against Georgia.
· Cheerleader Curse watch: The Ohio Bobcats fought off the Curse as best they could, but in the end the bad juju of cheerleader Kristine (above) doomed them to a weird 16-8 loss to Northwestern. The Curse finally puts a mark in the “teams successfully rurnt” column, and given that the whole Cheerleader of the Week Curse began with SI.com's spotlighting of Alabama's Jody Reeves two summers ago, I think it would be a fine idea for SI to pay a tribute to grand history by selecting one of these fine young people this week.
· And since there's an Arizona connection here, why not do a Washington Redskins Watch, as my 'Skins got past a tricky Arizona Cardinals team on Sunday in Landover. That's their second win of the season, and their second straight sparkling performance from Jason Campbell. Could the Redskins actually be good without Joe Gibbs for the first time since I was sleeping in a crib? I'm just now getting over jet lag and a hangover; I don't know that I'm prepared for this.