The sad poetry of “one game away”

This Will Leitch piece about Georgia on the precipice tomorrow has gotten a lot of praise, and deservedly so.  I urge you to take a few minutes to read it.  There’s one section in particular that resonates with me.  It’s this:

The closest Georgia came to that elusive national championship was in 2012. The Bulldogs played Alabama, of course, in the SEC championship game, and led most of the way. But with less than a minute left, they trailed by four, and Aaron Murray, one of the best quarterbacks in Georgia history, drove them down the field to try to become a legend in Athens. The winner of the game would play an undefeated but not well-regarded Notre Dame team in the national championship game. This was Georgia on the precipice.

I know that reciting the details of this play will make Georgia fans scream, but: Georgia had the ball at the Alabama eight with 16 seconds, no timeouts and the clock running down. Rather than spike the ball — potentially giving the Bulldogs two shots at the end zone — Murray ran a play, tossing a pass to current Kansas City Chief and truly dedicated Star Wars enthusiast Chris Conley, who, as he was falling down, caught the pass, almost out of instinct. With no timeouts, the clock ran out. Alabama had won another SEC championship (and would go on to destroy Notre Dame in the BCS championship game). Georgia was left on the outside looking in again.

Mentioning this game — let alone watching highlights of it — will cause any Georgia fan’s eye to begin twitching. I lived in Brooklyn with my wife and infant son at the time, on the 22nd floor of a high-rise apartment complex just across the Manhattan Bridge. When the clock ran out, I had to stop her from tearing the television off the wall and throwing it out the window onto innocent pedestrians below. It still hurts people here to even think about it.

But watch the play again, or, more specifically, watch the Alabama players and coaches celebrating directly afterward.

Look at that crazy Alabama coach jumping on top of his players after they’ve made the tackle of Conley. At Georgia’s darkest moment, look at the happiest guy on the field.

That man is Kirby Smart, then defensive coordinator of the Alabama Crimson Tide. He is now the head coach of Georgia. He’s the guy they fired Mark Richt for, the guy Georgia brass caused the whole rift to get here. He’s now the one who has them one game away.

I’ve already blogged about the key factors Georgia has to overcome to get a win tomorrow.  On paper, my biggest concern is whether the Dawgs can improve their line play enough to change the results from three weeks ago.

If I’m honest about it, though, line play isn’t really what makes me skeptical about a Georgia win.  Tomorrow’s game being exactly the kind of game that Georgia always comes up short in ever since New Year’s Day, 1981, is what makes me doubt.  Sure, there have been signature wins and conference titles, even a BCS game here and there, since then.  But inevitably, when Georgia’s faced that opportunity to win a game that would vault it into national prominence, it’s failed to seize the moment.

Dooley had them the next two seasons.  Goff’s 1992 outrageously talented team came up five points short against its two main divisional rivals to blow that season’s opportunity.  Jim Donnan’s 1997 squad beat Florida, only to face plant the next week against Auburn.

And then there’s 2012.  That one stung the most not just because there was so much at stake, but also because the Dawgs showed up and traded blows all game with Alabama, only to have a tipped pass go the wrong way.  That’s what Georgia football’s done for all these years and we’ve become inured to that.  It’s like the football gods looked at the program and said, “you got Herschel and that’s all you’re getting”.

So now there’s Kirby, Kirby Dancin’ Smart, who’s been on both sides of Georgia heartbreak, as the Alabama assistant in 2012 and the Georgia safety in 1997.  He’s the guy we’re asking to erase this feeling of inevitably falling just short at precisely the worst time.  Maybe he can, but he’s sure got a lot to overcome to get there.

It’s not about the Process tomorrow.  The Process is about building a program for the long haul.  That’s on track.  What the SECCG is about is finding out if those same football gods have been placated.  Have we served enough time wandering in the desert is the question and my heart doesn’t hold an answer for that as I type this.  I’ll watch the game consumed by equal parts of hope and dread.  That’s my birthright as a fan of Georgia football.

I will say this about beating Auburn.  If Georgia is crowned SEC champ tomorrow, it’ll feel like the Dawgs will play the rest of this season on house money.  For me, for once, defying the pessimistic expectations and seeing the team included in the ultimate consideration, to finally reach that seemingly unreachable stage, will be its own reward for sticking around and loving Georgia football for almost forty years.  Sure, if they get over the hump, I’d like a national title as much as anyone.  Who wouldn’t?  But for once, the trip itself, along with prospects for the future, would be enough of a reward for carrying this black cloud around for almost four decades.  Lord knows I’m ready to put it down.

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82 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

82 responses to “The sad poetry of “one game away”

  1. Scott

    I’m with you. I’d love a Natty but I’ll take the SEC title and play with house money.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. HahiraDawg

    Excellent post Senator. Probably my favorite one in nine years of being here. Well said.
    Thanks for all you do.

    Like

  3. Epic post, Senator. You captured my sentiments on the game (and the season) perfectly. GATA.

    Like

  4. Navin Johnson

    Amen. Preach it, Brother B.

    Like

  5. LC

    This is so damn good and echo my feelings exactly. I’m a 14 year season ticket holder and a proud alumnus of the Class of ’99.
    I got my ticket last night and am as excited as I’ve ever been. I’ve been able to get over what happened 3 weeks ago simply because, to me, the biggest thing Kirby has been able to do is get our guys mentally ready. We have looked prepared in 11 games (the obvious shell shock being our opponent tomorrow). You know and I know he’s pushed the right buttons this week and we’re going to see if our big boys up front, on both sides of the ball, are ready to go to war. Win or lose, we are on a glorious path to eradicating some demons.
    Go Dawgs.

    Like

  6. anon

    Sums it up perfectly

    Like

  7. truck

    Senator, I love you. Not in a gay way (not that there’s anything wrong with that) but in that beer commercial way. You summed up the feelings of an entire fanbase. Based on my level of education I know I’m not supposed to believe in curses and superstition, but every football season I become convinced that they not only exist, but have bought homes and raised families in Athens.

    Like

  8. Graham Floyd

    Eloquent as always, Senator.

    My sentiments exactly. I’ll be there, with equal parts fear and hope creating a knot in my stomach.

    Like

  9. Greg

    Never really ever see this talked about…but at the end of the game, Saban admitted that CJ Mosley should have been playing pass rather than coming in and tipping the ball. May have been a different outcome if he played pass (dropped) instead of rushing, looks like Conley could have took it in imo…Nonetheless, what y’all think?

    Like

    • The Dawg abides

      Richt, Bobo, and Murray have all said the pass was going to Mitchell in the back corner. And Malcom has stated he had his man beat.

      Like

    • Chris

      The pass was intended for Mitchell, for what looked to be a back shoulder throw, in the endzone.

      On Mosely, it’s interesting to imagine Saban and Dancing Kirby’s reaction/ass chewing of Mosely had that ball ended up in Malcom’s hands.

      It’s time for some regression of the mean in the karma department, oh football gods.

      Like

    • Soccer Dawg

      I agree the pass was for Marshal on Murray’s best pass the back shoulder throw.

      Like

  10. Bigshot

    The mantra of UGA football. ” No matter how good it gets, something will go wrong.”

    Like

  11. Athens Dog

    Please oh please oh please. I’ll be in my seats early. Let’s be loud and witness something epic. Please. 🙂

    Like

  12. Greg

    My biggest concern tomorrow, is that can we handle the misdirection plays better than last game. My guess is, we do…..coming off the GT game will help imo. Thinks we win in a tight one, can buy the 25-26 score prediction I read.

    Like

  13. Rocketdawg

    The winner of tomorrow’s game will win the playoff. Clemson is the only team that can match either team on defense.

    This is it boys. Bring the trophy home to Athens.

    Like

    • Russ

      I think that’s right. Auburn is probably the best team in CFB right now. If we somehow get by them, then look out!

      Like

      • Tim in Sav

        Awburn is NOT the best team in college football IMHO…..They played out of their heads the last two games. I doubt that will happen three weeks in a row.

        Like

  14. Jack Klompus

    Tomorrow evening will be dawn in Dawgnation! Fuck the past! More so Fuck Auburn!

    Go Dawgs!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Tronan

    Excellent post, Senator. I expect the Dawgs will put up a good fight tomorrow but don’t feel particularly optimistic that we’ll finally break through. We’ve been so thoroughly conditioned to expect disappointment that I honestly find it impossible to envision even reaching the summit, much less the peak. But, if we do pull it off, we’re going to experience some very unusual emotions, that’s for sure.

    Like

  16. CPark58

    About as poignant of post as I remember on this blog.

    With that said, lets beat Auburn and root like hell for Clemson so we can play them because the only thing more Georgia than losing a another heart breaker in the SECCG would be whipping Auburn then turning around to play a Miami team lead by our old coach in either the semi final or MNC game. Losing to Mark Richt after the way he lead the team for 15 years and the way things ended would be miserable and embarassing but aside from the thrill of making the national championship there would be no joy in directly denying Mark Richt again.

    Like

  17. Got Cowdog

    “I’ll watch this game consumed by hope and dread”
    I’m going to consume the required number of Old Fashions made with Old Forrester (Good stuff and reasonably priced!) to handle whatever the outcome is. Mrs. Cowdog has stated her intention to “Fran Tarkenton” my drunk ass, meaning she has no problem locking me half naked, cursing OR cheering, in the theater room to keep the presence of local constabulary from being required. It’s the SEC championship, by Dawg, and these don’t happen every day. Enjoy the day, be Dawgs, Dawgs!

    Like

  18. We were close when 14 heaved the ball toward 8 in Jax in 2003 too.

    Eliminate the mental mistakes and simply play even along the lines and we’ll be fine. We have the better skill position players. If we can just play even along the lines, it’ll be our night.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. SemperFiDawg

    In my humble we’ve been playing on house money since Miss. St. Going into the season I had my doubts, based on last season, that Kirby was the ONE. There’s no doubt in my mind now. We are ahead of where anyone expected us to be. No one put us at one loss headed into the SECCG. The Process has rooted, matured and is blooming ahead of schedule. That’s House Money. Regardless of what happens tomorrow, the next years look very promising and whether tomorrow or next year the “always falling short” stigma will die.

    Like

  20. Russ

    That was a great article, and excellent post by you as well, Senator. However, I already feel like we’re playing with house money. The way Auburn’s been playing, it will be tough tomorrow but I think we have a good shot at it. Like Rocketdawg said up above, beat Auburn and suddenly the CFB playoff seems much easier.

    Like

    • Mayor

      FWIW I agree with you on this Russ. This year the Dawgs are way ahead of where any of us thought they’d be. Of course I want them to win tomorrow and be SEC Champions but if they don’t I will be happy for the accomplishments the team has achieved this season and confident for the future of the program.

      Like

      • Russ

        Yep, Mayor. That’s the big thing. I think Kirby has us set up for several years to come with the talent coming in, and how the team seems to play to his process. I’m very optimistic, rather than just hopeful.

        Like

  21. Biggus Rickus

    I don’t really get this mentality that Georgia is snakebit. It’s not magic, and it’s rarely been luck. For whatever reasons, Georgia has not taken advantage of, well, its many natural advantages over the years. After this season, it’s not a matter of if but when for Smart. If they don’t get it done tomorrow – though I think they will – they’ll get it done in one of the seasons to come when the talent level is even better than it is right now.

    Like

    • BMan

      I’m similarly inclined, Biggus. I’m not sure about tomorrow, but I feel so much better about the future. We will get one eventually. Whether we get it this year via a string of knockouts starting tomorrow, or through a slower, grinding chokeout from the Process over the next couple of years, it will happen.

      Truly a great post Senator.

      Like

    • Hunkering Hank

      I’m with you BR!

      Like

    • The fact that you see a strategic/personnel lean toward UGa is reassuring, as I trust your football instincts. But I got me a special Hat just the same. Sic ‘Em good, Dawgs.

      Like

      • Biggus Rickus

        Wow. Thanks. I don’t know that there is much of a personnel advantage in this one. I think if it exists for either team, it’s extremely slight. I just don’t think the game a few weeks ago was representative of how this game should play out. I also trust that whatever adjustments Smart and the staff have made will pay off. I only have the offseason changes made by Smart to go on, but he was money on those, and I see no reason to doubt adjustments made in-season will work about as well. Auburn’s hot streak aside, I don’t think the basic dynamics of the game have changed. Auburn’s very good, but I thought Georgia would beat them three weeks ago if they played well, and I think the same still. My biggest concern going into this is that the thumping on November 11th will be in Georgia’s heads. If things don’t start great, will they stay calm and fight back or fall apart?

        Like

  22. Rocksalt

    If we win, then this post deserves one of those cheesy framing jobs, to be subsequently sold in bookstores and UGA accouterments shops everywhere for eternity.

    Like

  23. ” I’ll watch the game consumed by equal parts of hope and dread. That’s my birthright as a fan of Georgia football.” Quite possibly the most succinct and accurate description of all of Dawg nation.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. HamDawg11

    I feel you, Bluto. You’re heart’s on your sleeve. We all want this one, want it bad. The sting of 2012 will never go away, only fuel the fanbase’s hunger. I think I want it more for these seniors more than myself. The same way I wanted a natty for Mark.
    I’ll appreciate every snap tomorrow. I know this team is prepared. I’m hoping they execute and play with everything within them. I think they will. I’m ready to see them lift that trophy. We’ll deal with the rest after the game. Right now it’s all about tomorrow.

    Like

    • Already I have visions of Chubb banging the ball in from off Wynn’s outside hip late in the fourth quarter to provide the difference. This will be the game that flips the Georgia rep and creates the Hunter mindset.

      Like

  25. TMC DAWG

    Senator, I believe your best post ever! We play Georgia Football no stupid penalties and play to whatsWORKING then we will win. Time for them to have a bad game.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. 3rdandGrantham

    “If Georgia is crowned SEC champ tomorrow, it’ll feel like the Dawgs will play the rest of this season on house money. ”

    Damn, that last paragraph was absolutely killer. Agree about the house money part – if UGA wins tomorrow, I don’t give a rip if they get throttled in the semi-final, as I’ll know we are now firmly entrenched as a power again. Besides, winning the SEC, in my book, is almost as great of an accomplishment as winning the natty.

    Like

  27. Mary Kate Danaher

    The Senator and Will Leich are a great team. Excellent job, men!

    Like

  28. Jared S.

    GO DAWGS

    Like

  29. Tatum

    In my opinion this is the post of a lifetime.

    Like

  30. Hogbody Spradlin

    I know it’s anal, but Murray didn’t really toss the pass to Conley. But S**T anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Rusty

    I loved your comments better than the other guys. Truly spoken from the heart.

    Like

  32. Rebar

    No matter what happens the rest of this season, I feel it has been a roaring success for Coach Smart; winning in fine fashion has taken a lot of the sting from last year’s season and the foul up of the transition to the new staff. The way we have beat Auburn in the past was the defensive line penetration that destroys Auburn’s misdirection and sweeps. I hope our defensive is able to do it again. I don’t remember hearing Thompson’s name being called during our loss to Auburn this year and I hope that makes Trent mad enough to ruin Auburn’s timing come Saturday, but either way, its been a great season and builds confidence for the future.

    Like

  33. John Denver is full of shit...

    Thankful for words as I’m disregarding the instruction to WATCH the last play.

    Like

  34. Doggoned

    Ended hard, but still one of the best college football games I’ve ever watched. One play away from being THE best.

    Like

    • Tim in Sav

      I looked at my wife after the 2012 SECCG and said…” That was the best college football I have ever watched”, truly an epic game.

      Like

  35. BeardDawg

    I don’t believe I’ve EVER read anything that sums up my feelings about Georgia football better than this. Spot on. This is the reason we all frequent this page daily.
    If/when we pull it off tomorrow(after I return to my home from running through my neighborhood barking like a damn fool) I can’t wait to jump on GTP to rejoice!

    Like

  36. Charlottedawg

    Dawgs may win tomorrow (Although probably not, you don’t just magically stop getting physically manhandled on the lines of scrimmage) but they won’t win the playoff and probably won’t for the forseeable future and the reason is simple: they’re from the state of Georgia. Teams from Georgia don’t win championships, the best they can hope for is get close then choke. It’s the reason braves won all those division titles only to win one world series (largely because we were playing Cleveland, one of the few places the sports gods like fucking more than Georgia) and in case you haven’t forgotten the falcons literally made history by blowing a 28-3 lead. Also during said superbowl fox was kind enough to highlight this for anyone who didn’t know by pointing out that boston sports teams had won 37 championships to Atlanta’s measly 1.The bulldogs do their part to uphold this sad tradition winning enough games that don’t matter so that they can be a well ranked sacrificial lamb to teams that actually win championships. (We get to be the sacrificial lamb twice this year, to the same team! Yippee!!!). Sorry to be so jaded but I’ve seen this movie enough times to know how it ends. Sports fans from Georgia don’t get nice things, that’s just something the gods have decreed.

    Like

  37. I don’t know if we were going to win tomorrow. If I did, I would already have mortgaged everything I know and placed it on the Dawgs. What I want to see is a team that fights like mad for 60 minutes and let’s the chips fall where they may.

    My head tells me we can’t handle their defensive line for 60 minutes and that will be the difference. My heart tells me this game is going to be different. I have to follow my heart … Dawgs in a close one, 24-21, and the kid with the rec specs wins it.

    Like

    • The Truth

      I’ve seen a similar future. In mine, Rod puts his foot on the ball on the 33-yard line with 0:02 on the clock and splits the upright for a 24-23 Dawgs win.

      If this happens, I will be able to cancel by stress test next week. I’ll know.

      Liked by 2 people

  38. Minnesota Dawg

    Excellent article…even better post. Thank you for capturing in words what most of us are feeling on this championship eve.

    As always, Go Dawgs!

    Like

  39. dlm80

    “But inevitably, when Georgia’s faced that opportunity to win a game that would vault it into national prominence, it’s failed to seize the moment.”

    ^^THIS^^

    Like

  40. bigdawg

    well written sir…you speak for alot of us out here

    Like

  41. Justin Perez

    Thanks Senator. Your clear emotion is why I’ve been coming back to this blog for over a decade.

    Not going to lie, teared up during that last paragraph.

    Like

  42. 92 grad

    It’s fun to be inspired. I hope as many fans and players read this as possible.

    Like

  43. MDDawg

    Being in the dome, watching that last play, I couldn’t even tell that the ball had been tipped. I spent my walk out of the dome wondering what the hell was supposed to have happened? Was Conley meant to catch the ball and then get out of bounds? Then my brother called me and explained what had happened, and I was simultaneously relieved and torn up all over again. Relieved that we had called a better play than what I’d initially thought, but heartbroken that it hadn’t worked out as planned. Still, I’ll always remember the excitement of that game.

    As an aside, I remember watching Aaron Murray on Gruden’s QB show a few years ago and I believe Gruden actually pointed out that Todd Gurley should’ve blocked Mosley better and that would’ve prevented him from being in position to tip the pass. Not that I blame Gurley, he had an outstanding performance that day, I just thought it was interesting.

    Like

  44. Rusdawg

    I will always remember that 2012 SEC Championship Game for the ridiculous, unnecessary hit on Aaron Murray after he threw the pick at the end of the first half. The hit that wasn’t called. (BTW, has there ever been a player abused by opposing defenses with as many unnecessary, and yet, uncalled hits as Aaron Murray?) The 15 yards from the spot that was just enough for the Tide to get in field goal range. The three points they got. The four point difference in the game where UGA ended in field goal range…..

    Liked by 1 person

  45. rchris

    The Israelites spent 40 years in the desert. Let’s hope the Big Guy let’s us off early for good behavior at 37.

    Liked by 1 person

  46. Ozam

    The Senator’s magnum opus…..

    Like

  47. PTC DAWG

    I need a new hat….Kirby is on it.

    Like

  48. Natty would be the ultimate this year and to get a new National Championship shirt as my old one no longer fits me 🙂

    Like

  49. Hal

    Kirby knows how starved we are …..he wants to bring it….I think he will

    Like