Sometimes it is not bad to be wrong and January 1, 2018 was one of those times. I had predicted for the past couple of weeks that UGA could not let Oklahoma jump out to a lead of more than 14 points in the Rose Bowl game. Needless to say, when the Sooners’ lead reached 17 points, I was concerned that Georgia’s season would end far from home with a bitter defeat. My reasoning being that Georgia is a run first, wear down the opponent type of team that would be hard-pressed to mount a big come-back. Boy was that an incorrect assessment.
Georgia rallied from a 17 point deficit to drop the Oklahoma Sooners, but more importantly, the current Bulldogs added another level of accomplishment to the football culture they are building in Athens. Young players are being taught how to win and the lessons will serve the team well as new Dawgs, more talented than these, have these cultural imperatives imparted. Losing is not a concept that these guys accept. They will not win every game in future seasons, but this culture dictates maximum effort and forbids quitting – ever.
Even as Oklahoma went ahead and built their lead, the Bulldogs continued to play spirited football. At no time could I detect any notion of accepting defeat – no head hanging, no negative body language – no shrinking from the moment. In fact, the opposite was true, Georgia stepped up with some great blocking and stifling defense in the big moments. Don’t forget that OU is a very good football team with a seasoned, Heisman-winning quarterback and quality players throughout the roster. Football games between quality teams usually are decided by who wants it more. In Pasadena, Georgia wanted it more.
My colleague, Murray Poole, said to me after the game that this Georgia team “may be a team of destiny.” Murray was kidding me when he said it because he knows that I hate that term. If a team is ‘destined’ to win, then maximum effort is not necessary – the win will come regardless. Georgia’s success is destined in one sense, however. If Kirby’s message to his team about focus and effort producing victory, then a team that buys into the program and trusts the coaching staff to give them the tools needed might just be destined to win. Relentless effort, driven by laser focus and trust in the staff have gotten them to this point. Now comes Alabama.
Alabama presents a problem for Georgia. Nick Saban is Kirby’s mentor and the source of much of Kirby’s philosophy. So Bama and the Dawgs will meet sharing lessons of focus and effort. It will be a massive battle. Two teams whose players have the same football education will clash in Atlanta. This one should be a slobber knocker. Don’t bet against these Dawgs.
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