While it has been over a week since the loss of our Dawgs to Alabama in the SEC Championship. Still heartbroken, I’m coping with it by putting things into perspective.
Back in the summer, when conversations with friends would inevitably shift to what my prediction was for the 2018 Georgia football season, I was preaching caution. In my opinion, when looking at the studs that graduated in 2017, a 10-2 regular season record felt about right. In fact, I warned folks that a slip up at one of the early road trips games to the Columbias (South Carolina and Missouri) wouldn’t surprise me.
Like many, I was wrong with my prediction as Kirby Smart’s warriors on the field got better each week (other than the game at LSU) and finished with an impressive 11-1 record at the end of November. And like the year before, not only did our men in Red and Black win a slew of games, but the margin of defeat each week was always double digits. Always.
My reasoning for pointing this out is simple. Our football program is on an upward trajectory for the ages that I hope all our fans will not take for granted. Yes, losing to the Crimson Tide yet again in Shakespearean fashion was brutal, but imagine what that gut-punch was like for our players. Yet the following night, donned in tuxedos the team gathered for their annual season-ending gala to celebrate the 2018 seniors. The mood inside the Classic Center in Athens certainly wasn’t rosy, but like they do every Saturday the team rallied for the task at hand.
An interesting nugget from the gala shared by Kirby in the evenings’ closing remarks was that this senior class was like his when he played at Georgia. They came into the program with one coach and exited with another. The pride and love Kirby showed to the seniors on the stage was incredible. Despite the uncertainties of change, these guys bought in and stayed the course for back-to-back helluva seasons that everyone in the Bulldog Nation should celebrate. In fact, with a victory over Texas in the Sugar Bowl, the 2018 class would finish their careers with the second most victories in the history of Georgia football. Awesome stuff.
Alright, now for the hard part of my final column of the 2018 season. Yes, I could’ve simply chosen not to mention the fake punt at the end of the SEC Championship, but that seems odd. Particularly, when that is all folks want to talk about. And it’s not just Georgia fans. Anyone who loves college football was left wondering the rationale behind Kirby and his staff making such a gamble.
For a little help on the matter, I asked BI’s own, Greg Poole to share his thoughts. Not only is Greg a sage in his rational thinking, but he has also covered every practice and game this entire season. Here is what Greg said …
I think fans get caught up in game analysis based on spectacular successes or failures. The fact is there are bad play calls in every game, some are just more evident than others. A bad call that results in a 5-yard loss or a turnover when one is up by 30 typically gets little notice. However, in a 28-all de facto national championship game with 3:11 left and the opportunity to go up by a touchdown or run the clock down to about a minute before kicking a field goal, it is another matter entirely.
My takeaway from the SECCG is a simple one. Kirby Smart fielded his first two recruiting classes against Nick Saban’s last five. In today’s game, quality depth rules. For example, consider the late season “murder’s row” of Florida, Kentucky and Auburn. In each of those games, Georgia was playing against obviously spent teams in the fourth quarter – depth ruled. But against Alabama, UGA’s defense was comparatively closer to its “murder’s row” opponents with Bama holding the depth cards. Georgia’s fourth-quarter calls reflected the Georgia staffs’ risk/reward analysis factoring depth. Ultimately, however, if it doesn’t work, it is a bad call – it didn’t and it was.
I agree with Greg’s solid assessment, however my main problem with the fake call was that it was called against the most disciplined team in the modern era of college football.
A week after the SEC Championship, I was at the Last Resort restaurant in downtown Athens and was talking to one of their owners/partners Jaamy Zarnegar. We joked to one another about the rigors of surviving another football season and then I asked how the restaurant had fared (revenue wise). That was when Jaamy, whose passion for wine equals mine for Georgia football, brilliantly put things into perspective. He said the restaurant has been posting record numbers ever since Kirby was hired. Then he really hit the nail on the head saying, “it’s not our job to question the coach … it’s our job to support him and the team.”
So how do we support our coach and this team? That’s an easy answer … by traveling to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl on
January 1. The last time Georgia played Texas was the famous 10-9 victory in 1984 Cotton Bowl. I’m looking forward to seeing what the Longhorn fan base is all about. They better be ready because I fully expect the Bulldog Nation to once again represent in the Crescent City. It’s our last time to salute this special senior class including Deandre Baker, who just won the Jim Thorpe Award that recognizes the top defensive back in the country. Baker is the first Bulldog ever to win the award. And with the Sugar Bowl being the last game on the bowl schedule (other than the national championship), our team has the opportunity to let the nation know they deserved to be in the College Football Playoff.
I hope you enjoy our final issue of 2018. Like always, there is a lot of great reading. I would like to thank all our contributors to BI. Pulling off a weekly magazine is an awesome undertaking. Finally, I would like to end by thanking our team and their coaches. The incredible run of the last two years has been amazing and it makes the anticipation for 2019 season off the charts. We look forward to delving into that in our next print issue in early March. However, between now and then, I encourage you to keep up with Georgia athletics and fanfare on our website. Finally as our cover proudly says … you can’t spell sugar without uga. See you in New Orleans … Go Dawgs!!