Georgia’s “Road Dawgs” try and make their mark again, this time against the high octane Missouri Tigers in Columbia. With an early 11 a.m. Central kickoff.
Last season, as the Bulldogs were checking off boxes en route to one of the most successful seasons in school history, Georgia ventured near and far, accompanied by a massive sea of red and black, to secure a slew of unforgettable victories. It began with the 20-19 victory in South Bend when half of Notre Dame stadium had been overtaken by the Bulldog nation. There would be no upsets on back-to-back trips to Tennessee and Vanderbilt, as the Dogs rolled past Tennessee 41-0 and pummeled Vanderbilt 45-14. A 38-7 trouncing of Tech, Georgia’s ninth straight win at Grant Field and 13th in the last 14 meetings with the heinous Jasper Sanks fumble call game the exception, featured a typical half red setting. Following the Southeastern Conference Championship Game victory over Auburn, the Georgia people invaded Pasadena, with an estimated 55,000 fans on hand to witness the epic 54-48 overtime Rose Bowl triumph over Oklahoma.
Saturday is the second Columbia test for the Bulldogs of 2018. Georgia put forth an impressive performance, this Bulldog squad checking its first box, with a 41-17 smoking of South Carolina. The scene was starkly similar to Knoxville a year ago. A rocking and rolling, raucous crowd, keen on being the 12th man in an upset of the highly ranked Bulldogs, was largely homeward bound by the fourth quarter and outnumbered by the Georgia faithful.
This is empowering to a program, and you can bet your favorite shirt from the UGA Bookstore, the sidelines love looking into the seats and seeing more Georgia fans than the other guys, who just a couple of hours prior were at a fever pitch.
Now comes CoMo, and the Tigers trying to make their mark against the defending SEC champions.
Georgia is making its fourth trip to Mizzou, and the Dogs have posted three impressive wins over the Tigers.
Back in 2012, it was the first ever SEC game for Missouri, and the Tigers jumped to a 17-9 first half lead. Missouri would lead until the final minute of the third quarter, when Georgia moved in front 24-20. All-American Jarvis Jones dominated the fourth quarter with an interception that he nearly returned for a touchdown and a forced fumble that delivered the knock out blow in a 41-20 Bulldogs win.
Two years later, on the heels of the awful news that incredible tailback Todd Gurley had been suspended, Georgia came up with five turnovers, and freshman tailback Nick Chubb had an outstanding starting debut in a 34-0 Bulldogs win in Columbia. That Georgia team underachieved and lost three times. That 11 a.m. Central kickoff was a highlight of the season.
Kirby Smart came home prior to the 2016 season. His charge, lead his alma mater to greatness. There were some bumps on the road that first year, as expected with any first year head coach implementing his system and way of doing things.
His first SEC game as the Bulldogs head coach came at Missouri two years ago. Georgia was coming off the most narrow of escapes, edging Nicholls State 26-24 in Athens. As a near 50 point favorite. That margin of victory would be cut in half the following week.
The Bulldogs fell behind, threw an interception that gave the Tigers the ball on the Georgia six, missed a short kick, dropped a touchdown and were in trouble. Quincy Mauger had a tremendous interception in the corner of the end zone to keep the deficit at six. Georgia put together a drive, but faced fourth down from the Missouri 20. Jacob Eason hit Isaiah McKenzie for a 20-yard touchdown with 1:31 to play to tie it, and William Ham, who was ahead of Rodrigo Blankenship on the depth chart, made the Point After. Mizzou’s Drew Lock hit J’Mon Moore for a big gainer up to mid field, but the Dogs stripped the ball loose and recovered the fumble to hang on for a terrific win.
Lock is still the trigger man for Mizzou. He has thrown for a ton of yards in his career, including the last two seasons against Georgia. These Tigers will pose a challenge for the Dogs.
But make no mistake, this Georgia program has taken off since that visit.
Smart and his staff have gone gangbusters in recruiting, and the development of the program under his watch has grown exponentially.
Angst has turned to confidence. Hoping to win has morphed into expecting to win for Smart’s Bulldogs. As for the Georgia faithful, these are the days all the sons and daughters of the red and black have been waiting for. After suffering through “Beaten Fan Syndrome,” a term coined by a Bulldog backer Matt on Twitter, these early days of a burgeoning Golden Era for Kirby’s Canines are a lot of fun getting used to.
But as the head man is quick to point out, “humility is a week away.”