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Post Curating a day of classic Georgia football

Wednesday June 10, 2020

Our sports networks are digging into the archives for content, and for that we’re grateful. It’s just about all we have for now in the way of sports programming. The Georgia Bulldogs Radio Network even got into the act during the month of May with radio calls featuring Larry Munson on Saturday afternoons.

The thing is that when the TV networks do a classic Georgia game, it’s often from the same pool of 4 or 5 games. I love the Rose Bowl win like a family member, but by now I can recite it by heart. So let’s create a day of wall-to-wall Georgia football viewing with some memorable games from the past 30 years that aren’t in heavy rotation.

(Most of these are on YouTube – links included where possible.)

Midnight-3am: 2000 Tennessee. It wasn’t a particularly thrilling game (Georgia won completing 8 of 18 passes for 134 yards,) but it was a significant win. Georgia ended the decade-long losing streak to the Vols. It took a fourth down stand by, as Larry Munson called them, the “beautiful defense.” It featured the ground game and arguably launched the fan-favorite status of Musa Smith. Then there was the bizarre ending with Georgia fans rushing the field with time left on the clock…

3am-6am: 2009 Georgia Tech. “We Run This State” has been in the Georgia fan’s lexicon for over a decade now. See the game that started it. It’s not often that Georgia Tech and Georgia are in a position for a Bulldog win to be a big upset, but this outcome surprised even me.

6am-9am: 1997 Florida. Let’s end another streak. Georgia entered as 20-point underdogs to the defending champs, but Georgia came out firing and built a 14-3 halftime lead. This wasn’t the cakewalk indicated by the 37-17 final score. Florida came back and took the lead in the third quarter. It wasn’t over until Robert Edwards tightroped down the sideline with less than six minutes remaining. Olandis Gary put the cherry on top minutes later. It was an entertaining back-and-forth game with great performances by Edwards, Bobo, Ward, and you even get to watch Kirby Smart notch two interceptions.

9am-noon: 2002 Alabama. Are you man enough to watch this game? The start of the 2002 season featured several close calls. Four of Georgia’s first six wins had a margin of no more than six points. We could feature the Clemson game with the Tiger field goal that came up just short. There’s the “Pollack game” at South Carolina. But for the 2002 team to prove its worth, it had to win in Tuscaloosa. Pat Dye didn’t think they had it in them. Georgia fans who made the trip remember this game for the heat, but from the comforts of home it was an extremely entertaining watch. Enjoy some spectacular Fred Gibson catches, tense up during the Alabama comeback, wince at the pick six that put Bama on top, and exult as Billy Bennett’s game-winning field goal established Georgia as an SEC and national contender.

Noon-3pm: 1991 Clemson. Take the charged atmosphere of the 2013 LSU game. Make it at night. Add the excitement of the worst-to-first Braves clinching the division (yes, fans of both teams joined in the tomahawk chop during pregame.) Top it off with a convincing upset of a rival who happened to be the #6 team in the nation. A deep pass and score just before halftime put Georgia out in front, and things only got better in the second half. Eric Zeier put an end to the quarterback controversy of the early 1991 season, and we began to see the shape of the team that would have a pretty nice run from 1991-1992. Bonus: you get the classic ’90s broadcasting duo of Franklin and Gottfried.

3pm-6pm: 2007 Florida. A genuninely fun game in which Georgia’s offense outperformed the eventual Heisman winner. It started strong with Georgia’s bench-emptying celebration, but this game had four quarters of high-scoring action. Florida even led in the second quarter, and Georgia managed to claw back on top by halftime. The second half was back-and-forth with Georgia extending its lead and Florida fighting back to stay within a score. It wasn’t over until a late Tebow fumble within striking distance of Georgia’s endzone allowed Georgia’s fans to enjoy their second win of the Mark Richt era over Florida. Knowshon Moreno was brilliant, Stafford threw two long touchdown passes, and the 2007 team that seemed dead in the water turned the corner to become a national title contender.

6pm-9pm: 1998 LSU. Ease into the evening with a great game from Baton Rouge. Georgia and its “freshman” quarterback faced a night game in Death Valley against #6 LSU. It looked as if we were headed for a shootout: the teams traded blows en route to a 21-21 halftime tie. Georgia broke the tie in the third quarter and held on for dear life as LSU inched closer and closer with a pair of field goals. They sealed the win with a perfect over-the-shoulder catch by Champ Bailey on a risky third down pass. The Dawgs were able to run out the clock and earn the upset win that set up the program’s first visit by ESPN Gameday a week later.

9pm-midnight: 2002 Auburn. As important as this game is in the history of Georgia football, you don’t see it very often – if at all. Without this win and the miracle Greene-to-Johnson pass, there is no breakthrough SEC championship for Mark Richt. 2002 becomes just another nice 10-2 season. How we look at that entire early-2000s run changes. Greene and Pollack are never champions. Georgia, without some of its top receivers, had to find a way to manufacture offense against a good Auburn team. The Dawgs trailed throughout the game and only managed a field goal in the first half. The offense came to life in the third quarter sparked by a long run by Musa Smith after Georgia found itself pinned against its own goal line. Georgia pulled to within four points, and the teams traded fourth quarter possessions as the clock ran down. A deep sideline pass to Fred Gibson set Georgia up in Auburn territory, and you know how this one ends.

Honorable Mention / Day Two: 2007 Auburn, 2002 Arkansas, 1997 Tech, 1999/2000 Purdue, 2006 Auburn, 2006 Virginia Tech, 2016 UNC, 2017 Mississippi State, 1992/3 Ohio State

Post Testing, safety protocols welcome Dawgs back to Athens

Monday June 8, 2020

Georgia’s players and staffers have made their way back to Athens in time to begin voluntary workouts on June 8th. Before the workouts, everyone received a SARS-CoV-2 test regardless of symptoms. There’s a protocol for positive tests, and players will be divided into smaller groups during workouts to minimize exposure. There’s always a risk in any group activity during a pandemic, but Georgia’s staff and administrators have clearly put thought and effort into minimizing the risk.

Georgia’s policy to test everyone is in line with many programs seeking to resume activity, but there is no universal policy or requirement to test across college football. Conferences will try to establish some loose frameworks, but member schools are still governed by state and local orders.

It shouldn’t be alarming or surprising to discover that some players test positive. We’ve seen confirmed cases in just about every sport that has resumed activity. European soccer teams, MLS teams, and Japanese baseball teams have all reported positive tests. We shouldn’t expect college football to be different, and it would be no surprise to learn that Georgia’s testing discovered a couple of cases.

Several college teams (Marshall, Oklahoma State, Arkansas State, and Alabama) have already identified new cases through their initial testing. Tellingly, the majority of these cases are described as asymptomatic. It’s possible that the infections would have gone undetected had the players remained at home. It’s also realistic that these hidden infections would have been unknowingly transmitted to teammates had all players not been tested. Programs that only test symptomatic individuals risk that scenario.

Another consideration for universal testing is the communities to which these players are returning.

Clarke County has had just over 300 confirmed cases, and there have only been two COVID-19 deaths reported since April 16. With the University largely shuttered and the students sent home, Athens is smaller and more isolated than we’re used to. Athens isn’t a waypoint on major trade and travel routes; the closest interstate highway is 20 miles away. You have to want to go to Athens. Ordinarily that’s not an issue. Now the events, concerts, and culture that draw us to Athens are canceled or limited in capacity.

That isolation left Athens to serve primarily its full-time residents as well as the surrounding counties. The healthcare system in Athens is the hub of a 17-county system, and several of those counties don’t even have a hospital bed. The concern early in the pandemic was that outbreaks in those counties would overwhelm the hospital capacity in Athens, but that hasn’t happened. Larger northeast Georgia outbreaks in Hall and Habersham counties were handled within other systems, and the Athens area has dodged, for now, the fate of southwest Georgia.

Now student-athletes from across the state (and out of state) will descend on Athens. Isolating any who test positive right away will help prevent the possibility of a larger outbreak in an area that has avoided them. The positive cases can be isolated, monitored, and safely returned to activity without risk to teammates, staffers, or others out in the community with whom they’ll come in contact. These cases can be cleared or treated now – three months before the season is scheduled to start.

Of course a positive or negative test this week is just a snapshot in time. Players will begin to interact with each other, staff, and people around Athens – each with their own contact history. If the University reopens for on-campus instruction, you’ll have the same issue of importing cases on a much larger scale. It’s not realistic for a similar testing protocol to cover the entire UGA community. Players will need to continue to be tested throughout the summer. As the season approaches there will need to be more formal standards as teams begin to travel and compete. A positive test at any time brings the same risks as it does now. That volume and frequency of testing is necessary but expensive.

Summer workouts aren’t practice, and policies for that phase are still to be determined. Certainly the experiences of schools during this first phase will inform what comes next. The preseason period might even be lengthened to allow for re-acclimation after the long downtime. For now, the Dawgs are all back on campus and doing a modified form of what they’d usually be doing this time of year. It’s a necessary and positive small step towards a season this fall, and we’re glad to see this milestone.