Dawgs on Top—of Everything
You couldn’t have asked for a better day to observe Homecoming on a Southern college football campus. Well, you might could ask for a better day, but you couldn’t get one—because Saturday was perfect. I made a rare Friday afternoon trip to campus just to observe the hoopla. There was “Pawl” Finebaum in front of the special collections library and half-a-mile away the ESPN crew, with what looked like an erector set for giant aliens was building the Gameday set—for the second time in three weeks.
I was disappointed that there were no coeds along Milledge Avenue building giant displays out of chicken wire and tissue paper. Not even a single banner with a big hungry Bulldog eating out of a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket. I guess students are too sophisticated for such these days.
But they apparently aren’t too sophisticated to recognize the fact that they are living through a special season in their football lives because they showed up to the stadium early and they showed up loud and they stayed long after the affair was settled. So good for them.
It was Saturday in Athens and Brook Whitmire took particularly relish—hesitating deliciously and tantalizingly before proudly introducing “The Number One team in the Land.”
And Georgia wore the Number One mantle well. They were a much better team than I was a fan, that’s for sure.
I was, inexplicably, a bundle of nerves Saturday. I guess I have just lived with so much disappointment in the recent and distant past to be comfortable at a game or to be satisfied. I keep expecting another 2019 South Carolina moment. Know what I mean. At night I go to sleep sometimes and see Jake Fromm floating that ball out in the flats, right in front of me—and the South Carolina defender taking it to the house. In my dream his head swivels, like he’s Linda Blair in The Exorcist, smiling a demonic smile and taunting me with evil eyes.
This is what I kept thinking about throughout the first half Saturday as we played through a scoreless first quarter and the Wildcats kept things close and we carried a slim 14-7 lead into halftime. I’ll tell you another thing that bothered me. The officiating crew was bad. I don’t just mean the calls they made or didn’t make. I mean they were not cohesive, took way too much time to administer penalties, were unsure of themselves throughout—and the White Hat spent wanted, too badly, to be the center of attention. You don’t want a close game with a crew that is functioning like those guys were functioning.
Now that’s just my opinion, but mine is the only one I got.
Case in point. Kentucky QB fumbles the ball when it was 14-0 and we are about to have it around their 40 with a chance to go 21-0 and stick the dagger in their hearts. Instead, the call is overturned, and we give up a rare touchdown and now it’s a one-possession game. And we just seemed a little off. We had muffed a couple of punts—the wind was swirling and the sun was tough and we didn’t turn the ball over, but we had muffed a couple—and we had uncharacteristically kicked off out of bounds and we seemed to be playing really close to the vest offensively—so, yes, I’ll admit that I was a bundle of nerves by halftime.
But then the second half happened and we opened up the playbook a little and pretty soon it was 21-7, and then 24-7 and then 31—7—no, wait—we MISSED an extra point. Haven’t seen that in a long, long time. So it was 30-7 and the stadium was still pretty full and we were still rocking and rolling and I allowed myself to relax and enjoy the fact that we were dismantling an undefeated, 11th ranked team.
So those are my true confessions, from the heart of a fan.
But the game. The defense gave up 51 yards rushing to a team that lives with the run. The much heralded Chris Rodriguez, Jr., who came into the game as the SEC’s leading rusher, gained 7 yards on 7 carries. That is worth repeating. The SEC’s number one rusher rushed for 7 yards in 7 carries against our defense. The Kentucky team netted 51.
Speaking of Brook Whitmire, which I was earlier—he called out the name of Quay Walker over and over and over Saturday. He mentioned Jalen Carter and Nakobe Dean and Travon Walker a right smart, too. And there was big Jordon Davis in the middle of things, doing what Jordon Davis does. I know we gave up a couple of scores, including one coming off a 22-play 11 minute drive in garbage time, but our defense. Just damn. Those guys are good.
The offense? Well, we ran the ball when we wanted to and just when you thought we would be content to try and run out the clock we started throwing it around. How ‘bout Number 19? How ‘bout Brock Bowers? How ‘bout THAT Dawg! And I can’t wait to see Darnell Washington fully grown.
I do wonder about that one play on the goal line when we had Bowers AND Washington deployed on the right side and chose to hand it off up the middle, leading to a field goal instead of six, but we aren’t perfect and hopefully won’t need to be.
And I’m like everybody else, sitting in the stands or watching on TV and wondering if Stetson is the best option to lead us to the promise land all he is doing is making plays with his legs AND completing 14 of 20 passes for 250 yards an 3 TDs.
What I do know is that the Georgia Bulldogs are 7-0 and Number One in every single college football poll and will be 7-0 and ranked number one when we crank up the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in two weeks.
Don’t look for me this week. I’ll be resting up at an undisclosed location—dreaming of Indianapolis while I let Kirby worry about how to best get us there.
Darrell Huckaby is an author, educator and syndicated newspaper columnist. Contact him at email@example.com.