This is the seventh time I have been down to Jacksonville for the annual Georgia-Florida game, and second as a UGA student. It is easily one of my favorite trips that I look forward to every year. The first year I went was in 2013, and Georgia won that game 23-20 in a nail-biter. The next two years were the downfall of Mark Richt’s career as Georgia lost in 2014 and 2015. But in 2016, head coach Kirby Smart took over, but the Bulldogs still lost that game. In 2017, the tables turned as Georgia whopped up on the Gators 42-7. Last year Georgia pulled away in the second half behind Jake Fromm and won 36-17. Saturday’s game proved that Smart still owns Dan Mullen as Georgia won 24-17 to keep their college football playoff hopes alive.
Every year I have a routine that I follow, but this year was a little different. Every GA/FL my dad and his friends rent a house in St. Simons Island, and I usually travel with them. Sometimes I travel with friends, and we stay with them. This year was a little different because on Thursday we stayed in SSI, but then Friday afternoon we traveled to Jacksonville to experience the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party first hand. I’ll get back to Jacksonville later though.
Some buddies and I loaded up the car and left on Thursday morning to travel down to St. Simons Island to stay with my dad and his friends. We arrived at about 6 p.m. and went through the yearly ritual of getting dinner at Brogen’s South in the square, and then walking along the pier. After that, we went to Nora’s bar in the square and got a drink. Next, we bar hopped like I usually do back to Brogen’s, Rafters and this little pub called Murphy’s. We called it a night around midnight because we knew we had a long day ahead on Friday.
Friday morning, we woke, and I went with my dad to eat breakfast at The Sand Castle which serves the best breakfast on the island. After that, we took another pier walk to see the large ship that crashed in the St. Simon’s bay back in July. An estimated 4,500 cars were lost in the shipwreck. Luckily no one was injured or died. Next, it was time to attend UGA’s annual Frat Beach. Every year UGA students flock to the island’s East Beach to participate in festivities. It’s a tradition, but I had been too many times. It was fun to be there though and see all the interesting costumes that students dressed up in. I definitely saw my fair share of interesting situations.
Around 5 p.m. we were all pushed off the beach, and then my friends and I headed to Jacksonville. We had plans to attend the first annual UGA vs. UF exhibition baseball game but it was sold out, so we ended up going barhopping around TIAA Bank field. This was the first time I had really been out and about in Jacksonville, and safe to stay it’s an interesting place with a lot of characters. You could tell the hype was ready for the game though as many fans of both sides were downtown.
Saturday finally came and after catching an expensive Uber we finally made it to our tailgate. The one thing I love about Jacksonville on gameday is the environment. There are so many impressive tailgates with great food, awesome drinks, and endless entertainment. If you were to come for the first time you would be amazed and would understand why it’s one of the best rivalry games in all of college football. There are Georgia fans yelling “Go Dawgs!” at you and “Gators’ wear jorts!”. It’s great. It’s always fun to people watch at tailgates because some Florida fans actually meet the stereotype you might’ve heard.
Around 2:00 p.m. I made my way to the stadium and found my seat in the upper level of the west endzone. I was sitting in the student section alone but made friends with those around me. Midway through the first quarter, I made a ticket swap so this girl behind could sit with her boyfriend. I was in section 348, and he was in 148. He came up and took my seat, and I went down to his which turned out to be in the 16th row. I was so close to the field, but still in the same endzone. The game was absolutely electric. The best part of the game was when Jake Fromm hit Lawrence Cager on that long pass, and he ran for a touchdown. That was right in front of me.
After Eli Wolf caught that third-down pass the entire Florida side of the stadium started to leave. I joined in with the rest of Georgia fans and sang Steam’s classic “Na Na Hey Hey” as they exited the stadium. When the Georgia players started to run onto the field, I got to witness Monty Rice, Richard LeCounte, and another player show off their summer-salt abilities towards my endzone. I found some of my friends and we all took pictures. I got a great picture of myself holding up a “3” in the air noting the 3rd signature win against Florida in a row by Smart’s team. After that, we exited the stadium and all chanted the “Drunk, Obnoxious Georgia fan” chant.
This year’s Georgia-Florida trip was unique because it was the first time I stayed in Jacksonville, and I had a great time. It’s always better when you’re not riding six hours back to Athens playing “Every Dawg” by Corey Smith. For Georgia, their playoff hopes are still alive, and for Florida, I hope they enjoy another trip to the TaxSlayer.com Bowl. Leaving Jacksonville on the way back to Athens we, of course, stopped at the UGA Barn Sign, and then ate at Dairy Lane in Sandersville. It’s a great day to be a Georgia Bulldog