[su_spacer size=”20″] With Steve Spurrier and South Carolina in the rear-view mirror, and Nick Saban and Alabama coming up, Georgia gets what should be a breather Saturday afternoon against the Southern University Jaguars of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
Riding high after a 52-20 pounding of the Gamecocks — 20 years after Spurrier’s powerful Florida Gators beat Georgia 52-17 between the hedges, becoming the first ever foe to hit “half a hundred” between the hedges — the red and black are heavy favorites to make it a perfect 4-0 in 2015. Greyson Lambert set an NCAA mark by completing 24 of 25 passes for a record 96 percent, while Nick Chubb and Sony Michel continue to play like the best tailback duo in the Southeastern Conference. Malcolm Mitchell went over the century mark receiving, and Rob Sale’s offensive line is playing great. Georgia’s stop unit is playing well, with defensive tackle Chris Mayes, defensive back Dominick Sanders and an outstanding corps of outside linebackers/defensive ends leading the way. The Bulldogs kicking game still has several areas to shore up.
[su_spacer size=”40″] But it is all smiles in Athens as the Jaguars come to town.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Southern U. is smiling too. A 50-31 win over rival Jackson State pushed the Jaguars to 2-1 on the year and 1-0 in SWAC play.
[su_spacer size=”40″] This is a game that the Bulldogs should clearly, and relatively easily, win, perhaps by a margin around the 51-14 season-opening trouncing of Louisiana-Monroe. The Jaguars won the SWAC in 2013 and advanced to the conference title game a year ago. Their goal is to get back there, win it, and find their way into the Division I-AA (Football Championship Series) Playoffs. They’ve got nothing to lose in Athens. The Bulldogs meanwhile could use an easy win with what’s in the rearview mirror, and with what is on deck in a brutally tough month of October: Alabama, at Tennessee, Missouri, and then Florida in Jacksonville after an open date.
Return Game[su_spacer size=”20″] The return game could be a big part of this one, and obviously the kicking game is a big time avenue for an underdog to have a shot at a potential upset. Georgia has one of the top big play threats on punt and kickoff returns in Isaiah “Joystick Izzy” McKenzie. Southern University has an outstanding return man of their own to counter the Bulldogs shifty speedster. Willie Quinn, standing at just 5-5, is one of the most entertaining players in the country to watch.
[su_spacer size=”40″] He is hard to size up, can hide behind those bigger blockers and turn on the jets. Quinn has seven career returns for touchdowns. Georgia will have to be on its “A-game” with its coverage units. South Carolina’s kicking game did a great job winning several “hidden yardage” battles a week ago, and this remains an area the Dogs seek sound consistency. This is a good test to get ready for the Bulldogs to get ready for the following Saturday when the special teams will be oh so important against defending Southeastern Conference champion Alabama.
Defense[su_spacer size=”20″] Georgia’s defense had some problems defending the option when South Carolina went to Lorenzo Nunez. This is something the Bulldogs must be able to handle. Obviously, in last season’s regular season finale, the option was a killer. The last two teams on the schedule this season are both from the state and they run the triple option as well as any two teams in college football. The meetings with Georgia Southern and Tech are a ways down the road, but expect other teams to try and exploit the Bulldogs defense with at least some version of it. Saturday will represent a golden opportunity to get some valuable snaps for Georgia’s highly touted freshmen defensive linemen. Trenton Thompson and Jonathan Ledbetter headline the troupe. Their play will become increasingly valuable as the campaign continues.
History[su_spacer size=”20″] This is the first ever meeting for the Bulldogs with Southern University or any team from the SWAC for that matter. One of the great September non-conference wins for the Bulldogs, one of the biggest victories ever for the program in fact, came in 1982 when Georgia edged Brigham Young 17-14. It was the second half of the greatest week in Georgia football annals.
[su_spacer size=”40″] On Labor Day night, the 1980 national champion Bulldogs defeated 1981 national champion Clemson 13-7 under the lights of Sanford Stadium. To add to the intrigue, Herschel Walker, the eventual Heisman Trophy winner had his arm in a cast due to a broken thumb. Walker played sparingly against the Tigers, as a blocked punt, gritty defense and a pair of All-American Kevin Butler field goals.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Five days — essentially four and a half — later, the Bull-dogs pulled off the big win against the Cougars. Record-setting All-American Jim McMahon (a future Super Bowl champion teammate of Butler’s) had graduated the year prior. But my oh my, did the Gamecocks have an heir apparent.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Steve Young would go on to become one of the most decorated quarterbacks in the history of the sport. But in just his second career start, Young was intercepted six times by the Bulldogs sterling defense. Ronnie Harris had the game-clincher following butler’s go ahead field goal in the closing minutes. Walker played a gritty game, scoring a touchdown and quickly re-emerging as a Heisman Trophy front-runner along with John Elway, Eric Dickerson, Dan Marino and Anthony Carter.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Georgia would go on to a perfect 11-0 regular season re-cord and third consecutive SEC championship. This season would be remembered for a slew of comeback wins, triumphs over the big three rivals Florida, Auburn and Tech for a third straight season and Herschel’s Heisman. This incredibly special season began with the greatest week in bulldog history — two wins over top notch foes in incredible Sanford Stadium victories