My college football itch has really been starting to flare up over the past few days, and since I don't have a VineyardBlawg (whoa, I think I just came up with the name if I ever do start my own Georgia blog), I'm going to post a few fan posts here over the next couple of weeks. :-)
A post I just read over at the AJC's Junkyard Blawg got me to thinking: What is the best Georgia play you've ever seen in person? We can all name a litany of "best Georgia plays ever," with two or three from the 1980 season, the Alabama flea-flicker play in 1965, Appleby to Washington, P-44 Haynes (The "hobnail boot" play) or others... but most of us weren't there for any of those.
So, here's the question... simple, unambiguous. What's the best Georgia play you have seen in person?
The question is simple, but the answer is very, very difficult for me. I've been attending Georgia home games since I was literally 5 years old, and almost every Florida game since 1992 (not including, alas, 1997). All of the following plays qualify as "top plays" in my book... I'm just not sure if I can pick between them.
- Georgia @ Alabama 2007 - "One and done, baby!": This play makes the list because of the drama, the clutch performance of both Matthew Stafford and Mikey Henderson, but most importantly, because the 90,000+ crowd in Bryant-Denny Stadium went from roughly the decibel level of a jet engine to deathly quiet (other than the screaming Georgia fans) in a fraction of a second. I just love being in the visiting crowd and hearing that.
- Georgia vs. Arkansas 2002 SEC Championship Game - Blocked punt: If I rank the plays by importance in a championship season, Decory Bryant's block of Arkansas' punt after their first offensive drive is the hands-down winner. It was Georgia's first trip to the SEC Championship Game, most fans (like me) were still a little amazed just to be there and still a little starry-eyed. And then, the special teams squad performed what I now call "the punt block play." (It has since resulted in a block every time it has been run, except one. It has been run sparingly, though... only 4 times by my count.) Bryant came rushing in on a well-timed motion move, was untouched, and absolutely destroyed Arkansas punter Richie Butler, setting up a 2-yard Musa Smith TD run on the next play. (And, by the way, the noise from the crowd blew the roof off the Dome when that happened. They were able to repair it, though, apparently.) Georgia then scored on its next offensive drive, pushing the lead to 14-0, and effectively icing the game, since that Arkansas team was not a "come from behind" team, and had never done so in any game that year.
- Georgia vs. Florida 2007 - The Dance: Technically, the play was an incredible, gutsy run by Knowshon Rockwell Moreno which included a huge stretch over the goal line for the first score of the game. Simply scoring first was a major milestone, of course, but we all know the events leading to the celebration that occurred next. I admit that I didn't see the team running out on the field because I was celebrating with my own crowd. I did see the tail end of the celebration and the run back to the sidelines, though. The change in atmosphere at that time was major... almost physically palpable. Florida felt stunned, knocked onto their back foot. When they tried to pull off their own "dance" on the sideline during the commercial break, it was clear that they were trying to "save face," and the passion wasn't as fierce as the Georgia team had that day. That was a good day to be a Dawg.
That's the clear top 3. Yes, they're all during the Mark Richt era, but what can I say? The Goff and Donnan eras were largely forgettable in terms of great plays against good teams, and I don't have memories of the Herschel era, though I was technically physically present at some of the games. I was also present at the 1986 "Between the Hoses" game at Auburn, but don't recall any specific plays from that game.
I would be hard-pressed to choose between my top 3, but if pressed in the aforementioned hard way, I would probably choose the 2002 blocked punt in the SEC Championship Game. It gave the Dawgs the huge early momentum, which was what they needed to get their foot on Arkansas' throat and just lean for the rest of the game. The resulting win "knocked the lid off" the Georgia program (in CMR's words) and earned them their first SEC title in 20 years.
The Honorable Mentions:
- Georgia vs. Central Michigan 2007 - Knowshon's leap over (nameless Central Michigan linebacker)
- Georgia @ South Carolina 2002 - David Pollack's "Did that really just happen?" interception/touchdown
- Georgia vs. LSU 2004 - The kick returner for the defending national champions downs the ball at the 1-yard line. You know we're in their heads, and that we've won the game already. Technically not a Georgia play, though.
- Georgia vs. Auburn 2007 - The Lundquist/Danielson dance at the original blackout: I was there, but of course I didn't actually see it until checking my Tivo at home. Technically not a Georgia play, either.
Wow, that's really a lot of 2007 plays... I guess I can see why we were ranked #1 in the 2008 preseason now.