Yesterday was a good day. The weather was pleasant, the homecoming crowd was on hand, I crossed paths with a few old friends, Dad and I went to the game together, and the Bulldogs won.
Although the inevitability of the latter occurrence never truly appeared to be in doubt, the Trojans gave the 'Dawgs a better game than any of us had wanted but as good a game as we reasonably ought to have expected. You never want to give up 34 points at homecoming, but doing so is less worrisome when it happens in a "sandwich" game against a team that arrived in Athens averaging 34.5 points per contest, particularly when that opponent has put some much more serious scares into other B.C.S. conference opponents and when the visitors' last touchdown came with five seconds left on the clock.
As we had hoped would not happen but feared would, the offense came out flat and that lackluster attitude produced a pair of early fumbles, which the defense did not allow the opposition to turn into more than three total points. At various junctures thereafter, the Red and Black appeared as though they were on the verge of turning the contest into the rout we all craved.
After five minutes' worth of fiddling around in the first quarter, the Bulldogs finally looked like they were getting it going when Knowshon Moreno went 80 yards on a one-play touchdown drive to get underway a 26-carry, 196-yard day on which the young running back scored three touchdowns and became just the second freshman tailback in school history to rush for over 1,000 yards in his rookie campaign. Before the quarter was concluded, though, Omar Haugabook had guided Troy on a four-play drive to retake the lead.
With the score knotted at ten points apiece late in the first half, the 'Dawgs capitalized on a pair of scoring opportunities in the final two minutes before the break, tacking on two touchdowns in the final 45 seconds to build a 24-10 halftime lead. The Trojans, however, scored twice in the third quarter to cut the Bulldogs' advantage to a mere four points.
Before the start of the final stanza, Georgia had gone back in front by two touchdowns, but, barely over two minutes into the fourth frame, Haugabook had added another score to bring Troy back within striking distance of the home team. The Classic City Canines would not trail after the fifteenth second of the second quarter, but the game was not genuinely salted away until Moreno scored his final touchdown of the afternoon with a little over six and a half minutes remaining in the game.
In truth, the contest wasn't as close as the score indicated. Matthew Stafford threw only one interception, but it was particularly ill-placed and ill-timed. A would-be Georgia touchdown in the third quarter was turned into a Troy touchback and the Trojans responded by mounting a scoring drive. Had Stafford not thrown the pick, a Bulldog score would have put the game out of reach.
Asher Allen and Reshad Jones each had one interception, but both of them came close to corralling two picks, which likewise would have changed the complexion of the game. At least a couple of good-sized Bulldog plays also were called back on penalties, while more than a couple of Trojan holds went unnoticed by the officials.
Finally, Troy coach Larry Blakeney's decision to call three timeouts in the final 34 seconds in order to allow his team to score a trash touchdown against the Georgia backups closed the final gap without having the potential even incrementally to affect the outcome . . . and, really, what do you expect from an Auburn alumnus? (I hate Auburn.)
Defensively, the play of the game was Marcus Howard's sack, strip, scoop, and very nearly score, which resulted in first and goal for Georgia from the Troy one yard line, which Moreno quickly converted into a touchdown. The most noteworthy special teams highlight was Thomas Flowers's 59-yard punt return to the Troy two yard line, which set up a Moreno T.D., as well.
Despite playing sloppily against a homecoming opponent whom the Bulldogs likely took too lightly, Georgia put up 44 points and won a game in which the Classic City Canines almost certainly were not as focused as they will be for next Saturday's showdown against Auburn. To be perfectly honest, the crowd wasn't as fired up as we will be next Saturday, either.
The primary goal of a homecoming game is to put a win in the books. That goal was achieved. It wasn't as pretty, painless, or injury-free as any of us would have liked, but it was a W . . . and, unlike the wins over Oklahoma State and Florida, it was a victory the 'Dawgs will be able to shake off, put behind them, and move past swiftly on the way to getting ready for next weekend's opponent.