How Bout Them Dawgs!
This was one for the ages. As long as college football is played, they will be talking about this game. It has now supplanted Georgia-Florida-Miracle-on-Duval-Run-Lindsay-I-Broke-my Chair as the most exciting Georgia football game I have ever seen. And let me tell you something—I have seen a lot of Georgia football games.
I knew it was going to be epic—so epic that I brought my lovely wife, Lisa, my three children and their spouses along for the show—and what a show we saw.
We were in South Bend in September and watched the Bulldog Nation paint that town, as well as Chicago, Dawg red. That was small potatoes compared to this trip west. Los Angeles is a sprawling giant of a municipality and to get from one point of interest to another takes about an hour by car, always through heavy traffic.
We went to Pasadena to watch them build the Rose Bowl floats. Red everywhere. We went to Santa Anita to watch the horse races. They had signs set up all over the venerable old race track pointing Georgia fans to a certain area—and there were legions of us there, betting on races as if we knew exactly what we were doing,.
At the Chinese Theater in Hollywood there were thousands and thousands of Georgia people matching their handprints with Humphrey Bogart’s and Marilyn Monroe’s and looking for Elvis’s star on the walk of fame. Same on Rodeo Drive. Same at the Santa Monica pier. It was the same all over town.
Dawg fans lined Colorado and Orange Grove Boulevards and marveled at the beautiful Rose Parade floats and cheered lustily for the Georgia band—and for anything else that struck their fancies. One side of the street would yell Georgia and the other Bulldogs all along the parade route. Once or twice a badly outnumbered Oklahoma fan would shout “Boomer” and if anyone actually responded with a “Sooner” it was drowned out by all the barking that ensued.
I had estimated that maybe 50,000 Georgia faithful would make the trip. That was low. That was really, really low. At the end of the third quarter, as night fell over the stadium and the Band formerly known as Dixie Recoats played Krypton, Dawg people from Hahira to Splitsilk and from Waycross to Hiram and points in between and beyond held up their lighted phones it was obvious that we had engulfed at least 75% of the 92,000 Tournament of Roses Stadium seats. At least.
But we had come for the game and what a game we saw.
Honesty compels me to admit that I wasn’t expecting to be impressed with Baker Mayfield or, quite frankly, the Oklahoma Sooner team. I had bought into the myth that since they were in that all-offense league and Georgia operates out of the SEC that we would simply stymie their offense and run all over their defense. I was wrong—sort of—on both counts.
Baker Mayfield can play. He can run it, throw it, and he runs his team. He is a brash cocky punk and his parents haven’t done a very good job teaching him humility and class, but the boy can play football—much better than I anticipated. He’s not a one man, team, either. Oklahoma is fast, has a great running back and good receivers. They were a worthy opponent. Almost too worthy.
When it was 31—14 with a minute or so to go in the first half I was trying to reconcile myself to the fact that we would have a long trip home and that in a couple more years we might finally have the team that could go all the way. Then the Sooner’s young coach made a colossal mistake and OK squibbed the kickoff, right into the hands of our player. We had a short field and a minute left and parlayed that into a Rose Bowl record 56-yard field goal. We were two scores down at half instead of three.
The Bulldog defense got off the bus the second half. Three and out. Punt. Georgia score. Three or four sacks in the third quarter. A couple of long runs. Some key Jake Fromm passes—primarily to Mr. Weems--and the game was tied. And then we were ahead. And then it was tied again, and then they ran in a rare Sony Michel fumble and we were behind with only minutes left. But we came back and the Chubb Train rolled into End Zone Station right on time and it was overtime.
Two swapped field goals later and we were in a second OT. The defense hunkered. Lorenzo blocked a kick. We handed the second ball of the second overtime to Sony Michel and suddenly, the Rose Bowl came apart. If I live to be 100, which isn’t likely, I will never forget the pure joy of the group hug I experienced with my family. We were jumping up and down and crying and barking and wetting our pants, all at the same time.
We partied afterward like it was 1980.
But the season ain’t over. There is a little more wood to chop and in the words of the immortal Erk Russell, Let’s do it again—“one more time.”
Look for me at the Benz Monday night. I’ll be the good-looking guy in the red snowsuit, standing outside holding up two fingers.
Darrell Huckaby is an author, educator and syndicated newspaper columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.