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Post Seniors are ultimately winners

Tuesday November 28, 2006

In a season that will be remembered for the contrast of losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky and wins over Auburn and Georgia Tech, it makes perfect sense that Saturday’s game went as it did and that seniors were at the center of some of the game’s most brilliant and most boneheaded plays. Take three examples from this weekend:

  • Tony Taylor has been born again hard in the second half of this season. He has simply played lights-out and for a while was one of the few bright spots on a defense that was hanging its head. He became a turnover machine – at one point intercepting a pass in four consecutive games. Against Tech, Taylor showed the presence of mind and sheer strength to wrest a loose ball away from a pile of players when everyone else in the stadium was sure that the play would be blown dead. Forgetting a lesson from the Auburn game, Taylor plunged over the goal line and was called for excessive celebration. Tech got right back in the game as a result of the shortened field on the ensuing kickoff.
  • Quentin Moses had two of Saturday’s biggest individual defensive plays. He deflected a Reggie Ball pass in the third quarter that led to an interception and set Georgia up with their best field position of the game. On Tech’s final drive, he was able to reach a hand around an offensive lineman on third-and-two and disrupt Ball again leading to a sack which put Tech in fourth-and-long. Yet seconds later – on a dead ball – Moses got suckered into a shoving match and was flagged for a hit to the head.
  • Dan Inman, everyone’s favorite whipping boy, was again called for a couple of penalties. Yet when the offense needed a final game-winning drive, the offensive line with its three seniors was right there opening holes for Ware and giving Stafford all the time he needed against a steady Tech blitz to lead the team down the field.

We’ve struggled all year to get a handle on this senior class. Coach Richt wondered aloud in the preseason about the leadership in this group. There weren’t the obvious superstars of recent seasons; Moses was one of the few identified as potential first-rounders. Others (namely Taylor and Gant) who might have stood out were fighting injuries. The advantage of a senior quarterback never materialized. There were even some polarizing figures – just mention the names Milner or Tereshinski or Elmore or Inman around a group of Georgia fans and see how the conversation turns. Increasingly as the season wore on, a true freshman became the public face of the team.

It was tempting all year long to point fingers at the seniors, but just as you did they would show us why they were on the field. Tra Battle was pressed into service right away as a walk-on freshman against Clemson. This tiny player, hardly from the mold of Sean Jones or Thomas Davis, went from walk-on to multi-year starter at safety. He had his ups and downs to be sure, but his three interceptions against Auburn two weeks ago and the performance of the entire secondary against Tech was as good as it gets for a defensive back. Martrez Milner probably will never escape the association with dropped passes, but he is second on the team in receptions, leads the team in receiving yards, and has as many receiving touchdowns as anyone else on the team – including the game-winner against Colorado.

The Tech game was certainly not beautiful, but it was a win. Such is the way these seniors, their senior season, and their final home game might be remembered. It wasn’t an unblemished year, but with two SEC East titles and an SEC championship to their credit and a chance in the bowl game to earn their 40th win in four years, they are ultimately winners, and they are 4-0 against Tech. I’ll take it.

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