The most important game of the season

I had lunch with a good friend yesterday and at one point the conversation turned to Will Muschamp and the Cocktail Party.  My thoughts were that, sure, he wants to win the game because of what’s at stake, but he doesn’t seem to approach it with the same arrogance that Corch and Spurrier did (before you ask, I have no label for Zooker’s approach).  Muschamp doesn’t seem to have the chip on the shoulder that possessed Meyer and the OBC.  Both took Georgia personally.

Will is a Georgia grad and even if he’s loyal to his employer, he’s not ever going to be consumed in the same way as his predecessors were.  I don’t see him calling time outs in the fourth quarter to rub a massive lead in or calling junk plays late in the game to set a new scoring record in Sanford Stadium.  He’s fiery, sure, but he’s not a dick.

That’s why you get the tepid stuff reported above.  It’ll make for some nice locker room material, I’m sure, but it comes across as rote.

And that’s why I think there’s a real opportunity this year to change the psychology of the series.  I know there are many of you who think Florida’s dominance is about the locale, the bye week, the weather or the plane trip, but for me, it’s much more basic than those.  The Gators have been in Georgia’s head ever since Spurrier managed to plant them there.  Richt’s got to exorcise that demon this October.  It won’t be easy – the Dawgs haven’t won back to back games against Florida since 1989 – but it’s doable.

One reason it’s doable is because of Muschamp.  I believe that.  Another reason is the way the Dawgs won last year.  Despite a horrible special teams performance and an Aaron Murray who disappeared for much of the second half, they managed to overcome a large first half deficit and control the game down the stretch.  And they capped it with a gutsy call that for me stands as the kind of play you must have the balls to call in a series like this.  (Dial ‘er up to the 1:19:03 mark.)

It was a win with meat on it.  It was the kind of win that should help get Georgia – the players and the coaches – out of the old mindset.  This time, it’s not a game they should go to merely hoping to win.  It’s a game they should believe they can win.  But I don’t think you cement that attitude unless you can win again this fall.

And that’s why it’s Georgia’s biggest game of the year.

True, South Carolina is the bigger short-term threat to a defense of the East title.  However, Florida has too many resources at its disposal not to return eventually to the place it’s occupied over the past two decades.  But if Georgia is ready to quit getting out of the Gators’ way, that doesn’t mean Florida will dominate the East.  It’s time to flip the series.  The Party starts now.

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80 Comments

Filed under Gators, Gators..., Georgia Football

80 responses to “The most important game of the season

  1. Hogbody Spradlin

    Muschamp seems to be a one liner type of guy. That quote is similar to the College Station crack.

    • Jim

      Clearly neither of them are very big fans if they scheduled their wedding day the day of GA/FLA. Back when my wife and i had friends getting married i used to hate the couples that did not consult the SEC football schedule before picking their date.

      • Puffdawg

        I love it when they schedule weddings on a UGA away game, like that makes a difference. Here is your cyanide smoothie, but at least it’s berry flavored!

  2. Lrgk9

    Plus – Muschamp has supplanted Richt as the target of the SEC Refs. Richt has served his time and paid his dues for the ‘End Zone Party.’ Muschamp ingratiated himself last year and it will take at least two years and probably three for him to recover from the founded bias the Refs are going to carry against him & his team.

  3. TennesseeDawg

    Muschamp covered his butt with that quote. He didn’t say who would lose.

  4. Uglydawg

    Florida is Georgia’s greatest rival. I know it for sure now. Just reading this piece made me anxious. This year will be pivotal in the series. Georgia can actually establish a short but huge winning steak, or Florida may start a winning streak, OR, and I think this is probable…the series will become one of much like the GA-AU series..basically even with only short streaks by either school.

    • Puffdawg

      “…the series will become one of much like the GA-AU series..basically even with only short streaks by either school.”

      Does our current streak of winning 5 of the last 6 against Auburn count, considering Auburn has only been ranked in 4 of those 6 games? Or even broader, is Richt’s 7 wins in 11 tries against Auburn really even all that impressive considering Auburn was only ranked 8 times in those 11 years?

      • Uglydawg

        A streak, to me, is uninteruppted. I’m saying I don’t believe there will be a decade long total dominance by either team. I agree the Ga-AU thing has gone our way recently, and in an impressive fashion. The historical series is about as close as possible, but Georgia has not dominated Auburn the way Georgia dominated Florida during VD’s tenure or the way Florida has dominated Georgia since VD’s exit. I do get a sense that the Dawgs are gaining the upper hand,(agianst both of those programs), but not by the huge expanse that I long for.

        • Uglydawg

          Please pardon my bad spelling in the above post. I don’t proof read but obviously need to.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      If UGA wins the series would be 3-3 for the last 6 and the Dawgs would be 2-0 for the last 2. The worm will have turned then.

  5. Haywood Jablome

    Would have loved to see some of that aggressive play calling at the end of regulation in the bowl to get one first down.

    • Otto

      CMR knew he needed to win the WLOCP to end hot seat talks. The trend has been predictable play calling majority of the time. http://georgiasports.blogspot.com/2012/04/mark-richt-poker-player.html

      If Muschamp doesn’t start winning the WLOCP he won’t see the end of his contract. UF has turned into a Bama type program, they’ll fire a good coach at the risk of getting a bad coach until they find someone that can win titles.

    • MinnesotaDawg

      +1. If Richt brought this must win, aggressive, don’t-just-settle-for-the-FG (attempt) attitude to every big game, he’d be a far better game day coach. Thought he finally turned the corner with the Florida game–which is why the Bowl game fiasco still bothers me.

  6. Bobby Fenton

    Let’s not get carried away. It was a win over the worst Florida team in almost 25 years, barely, after they played like shit. And if Georgia wins again, it will again be because Florida is still talent-deficient.

    • Gee, thanks for the reality check. I guess it won’t really matter if Georgia wins in Jax this year.

      Seriously, I don’t get the attitude from some of you. Any win against your biggest rival is a good one. Especially when you routinely shit the bed against it.

      Tell me, before Bennett caught the TD pass, how confident were you that Georgia was going to beat the worst Florida team in almost 25 years?

      • Cojones

        Damn confident. This series turned before last year’s game. Their attitude of “stick it to’em” and “take the ball away” was shown in the game when they squared their jaw, caught the tough passes and ran up the middle with confidence in themselves.

        Many fail to see the struggle that FU put on. It was titanic for this game. Their QB ate us up over the middle (they emulated Boise) in the 3rd qtr., they fought like hell to free up Rainey and others. Jarvis was the leader of the confidence juice in the 2nd half and it brought us back on track. UGA players knew we were better

        I agree that this will be the toughest test we will have this year. The SC game accounted for my last year’s confidence because they showed that they have what it takes in that game; they just have to smooth it out.

      • Bobby Fenton

        Just to be fair and forthright, I am a Florida fan. So my attitude is not coming from the place of a Georgia fan. I just think it’s overrating the win a bit when you consider how bad the Gators were.

        As for your points about Muschamp,I like him but I actually agree with much of that, and it does concern me a little bit.

        And I read this website daily not to troll you but because it’s an excellent resource for people who love college football and want to read about it every day. That’s the truth.

        • ‘Preciate that, sir. But looking at the flip side of the coin, I sure saw a lot of very happy Gators strolling around Jax after the ’10 game. As well as throughout much of the nineties. None of those Georgia teams were particularly good.

          I don’t think the quality of the opponent takes away from the win if the rivalry is fierce enough. And I do think that two wins in a row by Georgia when it hasn’t done that in almost 25 years would be a significant development in the series.

          Your mileage may vary, though. ;)

        • Puffdawg

          How sad is it that we take the trash talking of a rival fan – which is completely normal and healthy – and attribute it to a fellow Dawg fan, not knowing ahead of time which side he was on. Is that the point we’ve gotten to? We have so many of our own constantly bashing our team, we now expect the trash talking to have come from one of our own. I don’t know whether to be mad or depressed.

    • Bubs

      Bobby lacks tact, but he’s right.

      That 2011 UF team was not good. We beat them by 4 and we needed some lucky breaks to do it (ex: that 3rd down pass interference call early in the 4th against UF probably shouldn’t have been called, but it was). We also scored those two 4th down TDs which was a 1 in a million thing for us to accomplish in the UF series.

      I was as excited as anyone that we won, but it in no way turned the tide of the series or makes me any more confident about this year’s game. UF will better by mid-season this year once Driskell gets more experience and by that time we will hopefully be at full strength, so that’s kind of a wash.

      A few things are going our way for 2012 though. Neither team gets a BYE, though we travel to play UK the week before UF and they have to get punched in the mouth by Lattimore and SC that same week. That works in our favor, slightly.

      They will also have played tougher SEC games earlier in the season, so they may already have a couple of SEC losses by the time Jax rolls around. If we have taken care of business early in the season then we will have less losses (possibly zero) and know that putting away UF gets us that much closer to the title game. This isn’t anything new, but it gives us something extra to play for.

      It should be a good game when it’s all said and done. We’ll have to see how the first half of the season shakes out before we can make any kind of predictions for the UF game that doesn’t involve a UGA loss.

      • We also scored those two 4th down TDs which was a 1 in a million thing for us to accomplish in the UF series.

        Georgia scored three fourth quarter touchdowns in the 2010 game.

        • Puffdawg

          Facts, FTW!

        • Garageflowers

          4th down, not 4th quarter.

          My .02, this game has been very close since Richt has been at UGA except for the revenge game. We killed ourselves in 2009. UF should be worried if we string a few together. I remember when we couldn’t beat UT for much the same reasons.

          • My bad, you’re right.

            But UF pulled off one of those that was even more improbable (4th and 19). So the “luck” kind of evened out.

            • D.N. Nation

              Both of Georgia’s 4th down TDs were lobs to playmaker WRs. Great catches, very timely, very exciting, but it’s not like this was completely out of the norm for Georgia’s offense. Murray tossed 35 teeders last season for a reason.

          • Nate Dawg

            To Mr. Bubs up there, one of fla’s TD’s was on 4th down too…but I suppose they do that all the time, where as it’s just good ol’ silly luck for us, right? And no luck at all involved in a 100 yard kickoff return. Skill for certain…but any luck at all?? Nah…

            • Bubs

              I don’t quite see your point. There wasn’t much luck involved in the kickoff return because UF didn’t need any; our special teams was terrible last year and they had very good returners.

              One of UF’s TDs was on 4th down, true enough; our coverage (maybe it was CRob?) was busted and they scored. Our luck came in that CMR didn’t call on Blair to go out there and miss another kick. It came because he went for it and we actually made it…twice. Considering Murray’s off-and-on passing that day having him throw two 4th down TDs when we were already down by 14 to a rival that has destroyed us for nearly 25 years is indeed lucky.

        • Bubs

          That’s a good point, Senator. I had forgotten about those TDs late in the 2010 game that we won….oh, wait.

          We’ve had a lot of almost comebacks and great plays during the UF series. Very few of them have led to wins, and that’s what counts. Few will remember those 4th quarter TDs from 2010 because we did not win the game. Most folks will remember the “ballsy” 4th down TD passes to King and Bennett that kept us in the game after we got down early.

    • JN

      On the other hand, one could argue the same exact argument against you in that you shouldn’t get carried away yourself. At one point in time UGA dominated the series for a heck of a lot longer than UF has. Whose to say when it’s going to turn again? Sour-puss fans for UF in the late 80’s sure as heck didn’t, because when they started winning it was definitely against 6 or 7 “LOADED…AND I MEAN LOADED RAY GOFF TEAMS”. Nobody ever knows when it’s going to change.

      Besides, it’s the same as breaking out of slump in baseball. As a friend of mine told me in the dugout one time, “Hey man, forget about hitting the ball hard, just try to hit weak ground balls. Everybody always breaks out of that $%*& w/ a feakin seeing eye texas leaguer off of the other teams #5…reliever”. You never come out of slumps w/ a 3 for 5 night w/ 2 doubles to the gap and a jack. You break out w/ shitty confidence builders.

    • Ginny

      Talent-deficient? I don’t buy it. Weren’t they one year removed from a consensus number one recruiting class that many considered to be the best in recruiting history? I’m sorry, but a school like UF is never hurting for talent.

    • D.N. Nation

      Florida was talent-deficient in 2002, 2003, and 2005, too.

      • Sanford222View

        I would say they were more coaching deficient those years. Urbs won a title in 2006 with that talent.

    • Will (the other one)

      I’d say that FL team was better than the 2004 and 2010 teams.

  7. AlphaDawg

    UF is our biggest game every year. Year in Year out, to win the East we have to beat UF. USC is a blip. After Lattimore leaves they will return to the middle of the pack in the East.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      USCe has beaten the Dawgs 2 years in a row. Like it or not the Dicks…er…Cocks are not a “blip.” And when Lattimore leaves they will just sign another Lattimore. The best backs want to play for teams that win and right now USCe is winning and likely will keep on winning until SOS retires. THEN they will fall back to earth.

  8. RocketDawg

    I agree with the Senator on this one, I am old enough to remember the annual ass whippings that the Dawgs gave the Gators during the 80’s. It was a game that UGA expected to win every year even if they weren’t the more talented team.

    Flash forward to the early 90’s where you get a Steve Spurrier with a personal vendetta against Georgia, a weak head coach at UGA in Ray Goff with a talent depleted roster and Spurrier “good ole boy-ing” the SEC office into giving the Gators a bye week every year before the WLOCP. We were playing against a stacked deck for years. By all rights we should have gone on a streak of our own from 02-05 (20-13 (L), 16-13(L),31-24 (W), 14-10 (L),) when we clearly had the better team. Since 2002 the series record is 3-7 with 5 of the 7 losses by a TD or less.

    The game this year will set the tone for years to come in this series, if Muschamp starts 0-2 vs the Dawgs then I think that the evil spirits of Darth Visor and Coarch will have been exercised. I am not one that buys into the “it’s a home game for the Gators” crap, we have won there many times before and will again.

    To those of you who dismiss last year’s win as “well you beat one of the worst Gator teams in the last 25 years”, what do you say about all those games Spurrier won against us in the ’90’s? I don’t think anyone (save ’92/’97) would call that decade the “Golden Age of Georgia Football”. There were some downright embarassing teams put on the field during those years.

    • Will (the other one)

      Winning would be nice. Beating the hell out of them would be nicer. If we’re up by 35 by the end of the 3rd? And they lay down and we add to the lead (via running, like last year’s game against the Barn)? Then we’ve really turned a corner.

  9. Faulkner

    The bye week is a big bonus if you can get it. Florida doesn’t win in 2010 without it. I’d like to have 10-15 years of a bye weeks before the cocktail party and see how things shake out.

  10. Turkey Tacos

    Fact of the matter is, in 1991 a Gainesville curse was visited upon the Classic City. Domination ensued. In 2011, that cursed returned back to its rightful home in the swamp.

  11. Mike

    The good Senator writes

    “(before you ask, I have no label for Zooker’s approach).”

    Zook was the master of the bubble screen, which inexplicably Martinez never figured out. And he was the master of running to the wrong sidelines.

    (As an aside, I would love to learn the HTML code for quotes, embedding youtubes and the such. Is there a primer available?”

  12. Nate

    Having re-watched the second half of last year’s game courtesy of the good Senator, I have to say the only facet of the game I don’t see us improving in is kicking. The defense as a whole should be better. Murray should be better. The running game almost has to be by default. The O-line could arguably be worse, but Murray was running for his life a lot of the time against Fla, so I could see us improving there. If Richt really is focusing on Special Teams then our coverage teams should be better as well. So the question becomes, has Florida gotten that much better?

    • Nate

      Let me amend that: Samuel ran very hard in the 4th quarter. But up until then we hadn’t be doing much on the ground.

    • Smitty

      Murray should be better in 2011 than 2010. LOL. Yeah, he was SO much better in pick 6’s, interceptions, fumbles, under 60% pass accuracy…..

      LOL.

    • Smitty

      If Murray could read a defense and hit an outlet rec, he wouldn’t ever get sacked. Instead, 30x a season, kurplunk,

      down goes Murray.

    • JunkYard Dawg '00

      Thank you Nate for showing some damn confidence for what is building in Athens. Barring an early season collapse on our part, I believe the Gators will be the ones needing to prove they can win. In other words, I’d be very surprised if we weren’t the favorites going into the game. I know that doesn’t guarantee a victory, but I give a lot of credence to last year’s victory and what I saw in that game was a young team refusing to lose, despite some opportunities to do so. It all to often seems that our fanbase views our teams and football seasons as static entities, incapable of progression. i.e.- the meme about not beating a ranked team or Murray just doesn’t have what it takes, or Richt is too much of a God fearing man. Well, I don’t subscribe to that point of view particularly this year where I believe all of us Bulldawg fanatics will reap the rewards of a gutsy 2011 season!

      believe that our team

      Our Defense should be very stout. The Offense will be battle

      have to prove

      You are hitting on a point that I think is key for this series- there is way too much focus on UF and not enough on our young team.

      All the neysayers can call me a Disney Dawg, I don’t care…

    • Nate

      Wow, didn’t realize I was putting out such potent troll bait. Oh well. I challenge anyone to watch that youtube video and tell me that game doesn’t have a completely different atmosphere than anything we’ve seen since maybe 2005. Even 2007 had the faint stench of fake juice. There’s been a sea change in this series, and didn’t happen last year. It happened when the worst Georgia team I’ve seen in my adult life took Florida to overtime. I’m not saying we’ll be world beaters this year. I’m not even saying we’ll beat the Gators again. All I’m saying is that I suspect the days of rolling over on the banks of the St. Johns River are over.

      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        Nate, I hope you are right about the “sea change” but the ’10 Dawgs were not the worst UGA team in your or anyone else’s adult life. That team was the worst-achieving team in everyone’s adult life because of incredible coaching blunders that were made on a weekly basis. The personnel were fine. In fact quite a number from that team are now in the NFL. The coaches, particularly on offense, routinely f#cked up at the end of games turning wins into losses. The following games were lost by bonehead calls by the coaching staff, particularly (although not always) at the end, that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory: Arkansas, Colorado, Mississippi State, Florida, Central Florida. That’s 5 games bro. Win those and it’s an 11 win season.

        • JunkYard Dawg '00

          Dang Mayor, I can’t let you off with this little short sided comment of yours. I’m not going to say that there weren’t some coaching mistakes made by our coaching staff in those games… off the top of my head, I can think of a bad 4th down call in the Ark game which contributed to a sack, and the 4 and 1 FG decision in the bowl game with Central Fla but try and be a little fair about it… Did the coaches tell the players not to show up for the Central Fla game? Or to fumble the ball late in the game at Colo? If so, then you forgot about the SC game and Ealey’s late fumble there?
          This goes to the point that many of us on this thread are trying to point out about our fanbase… If you are a true UGA Fan and not just some jackoff that just wants to bash the coaching staff because said staff is going through a rough patch then you might be able to also admit that the 2010 team was the weakest team at UGA in quite some time and it can’t all be laid at the feet of the coaches. The players had zero mental toughness and no confidence in themselves. Is there any way that the losses might have a little something to do with a freshman at QB, the superstar WR being suspended for the first four games, a couple of cancers at RB, breaking in a 3-4 defense without all the needed personnel? If you can’t retract most of what you just typed Mayor, then you are much better suited for office down on the flats!

          • Mayor of Dawgtown

            At least you acknowledge the f#ckups in the Arkansas game and in the Central Florida game. That’s 2 out of the way. I’ll respond by discussing some others in a little more detail. In the Colorado game, despite having played badly overall the Dawgs were still in position to still win the game with a relatively short field goal. The clock was running down and the O was trying to position the ball in the center of the field for an easier field goal attempt. The playcall–a draw, which is essentially a fake pass and a late handoff to the RB that works only if the D thinks the QB will pass and runs to tackle him, not the RB. Trouble is every person in the stands and watching on TV as well as the Colorado D-linemen all knew that it was going to be a run. It had to be in that situation. So all the D-linemen and LBs ignored the fake and simultaneously hit the RB (King, a generally sure-handed back) and he fumbled. When asked after the game the Colorado D-linemen all confirmed this. Idiotic call by either Bobo or CMR that exposed the RB and caused exactly what happened–a game losing fumble on UGA’s last play. That’s 3 more wins and a 9 win season right there without even talking about the others. I could gone on about all the mistakes made in the Florida game (hell, CMR going for 2 prematurely almost cost the team getting into overtime but the team bailed him out getting the 2 points on the next TD) but what’s the point. How much mental toughness and confidence would you have if, week after week, you play your guts out and are about to win and an idiotic decision from the sidelines causes you to lose instead, time after time? I suspect that the cancers on the team wouldn’t have become cancers if we were winning instead of losing. As for your stupid “flats” comment, GFY.

            • Mayor of Dawgtown

              P.S. You think I am being a bad supporter of the team? I suggest you read what you said about our players in the last paragraph you wrote above, asshole.

              • JunkYard Dawg '00

                No retraction from your over the top statements huh? In fact, you double down with idiotic statements such as GFY and Asshole? Yeah I do think you are a bad/sad supporter of the team, and I hearby dub you the Mayor of Buzztown. You sure as hell aren’t my Mayor. That is the type of colorful language one would expect to hear when down at GA Tech.
                Congrats, you must be so delightful to be around during the games, always bitching and complaning about the mistakes made by the coaches after the fact. Hey, can you believe those idiot coaches called a pass play in overtime at Fla? I mean, they must be the only ones who didn’t know that the receiver would stumble on the play and Murray would get picked off?! Should of called a run play…

        • Nate

          To be clear I meant that from top to bottom, 2010 was the worst Georgia team I’ve see in my adult life. From the water boy to the head coach. Coaches couldn’t get the players in a position to win, players didn’t execute when they did, locker room cancers, etc, etc. We lost to Central Florida. That’s really all that needs to be said about that team. Blame whoever you want. The point is, as dysfunctional as that team was, we still took the Gators to overtime and were in a position to win. The year after that, we played a hard game and came out on top. That hasn’t happened in a while. Especially not two hard fought games in a row. Anyone remember 2008?

  13. Smitty

    2 wins over UF in a row? Has happened 1in 25 years.

    Bout a 4% chance, tops.

    96% chance it’s another Loss.

  14. Rebar

    I’m hoping for a win against the Gators this year, but they are going to have one of the best defenses we will face this year. I still think we take them!

  15. Smitty

    On the other hand, there is good news.

    We havn’t lost 3 in a row to South Carolina in 64 games (ever).

    Guaranteed win over Gamecocks.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      I hope you are right Smitty but we kicked away the win that we normally would have had last year with 24 gift points to the ‘Cocks so……

  16. JAX

    I just can’t let this topic go by without responding. Florida fans are not just saying they won’t compete for the SEC this year, they are saying they will “suck”. Now, this is all relative since a Florida team that sucks usually wins 8-9 games so take their pessimism with a grain of salt. And since I’m in the Gators largest market, I will tell you that the sports talk guys here are high on the defense and bearish on the offense. The same problems experienced by the offense in 2011 still exist only this time their starting QB is gone and yet they still don’t have proven WR’s or RB’s. Still, the Defense is going to be stout and will be a test for any team. Perhaps Jeff Driscoll or Brissett is an upgrade from Brantley – who knows?

    Philosophically, it feels like 2008 all over again although this time the Gators are nowhere near the Tebow/Spikes team that won the NC and the real battle for the East will take place in Columbia, not Jax. As opposed to most years where I feel we will either win by a slim margin or lose by a fairly wide margin, this year has the possibility of Georgia running away with this if we get up early and wear them down, break their spirits, etc. I’ve seen it happen, not often though – ’82, ’85, 97, 07. Talk to Pete Anderson about ’85 if you want a good laugh. Most Gator fans believe that Mushcamp is not the solution and the next mutiple SEC winner is around the corner. Maybe, but we have the opportunity to role the momo our way and we have to take advantage of it.

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  19. truedawg

    Gotta beat the gators. My wifes family is from Florida and all UF fans. He dad tells me of the great teams that were ranked in the 70’s and 80’s that were beaten and I mean BEATEN! by the Dawgs. Then the switch. 2 of CMR’s teams could have played for a national title perhaps if they could have beaten UF. Beat UF. Beat them at all costs. Samuel had that attitude last year. I see the change coming, its been slowly, but coming. Games have gotten closer, UF is still expecting to win, but now UGA is refusing to loose.
    And USC? great defense, good running game. But our D is better, and we have the better QB…by far! If the Dawgs control the game and don’t turn it over, we should win that one as well. Steve hates UGA becuase as a player he couldn’t beat UGA, and he is still upset! see his recent rant about div games. hey steve..why couldn’t you beat AU? The Dawgs sure did! GATA!!!