People keep asking me "are you excited to play this bad Florida team?", "at least Brantley's not 100%", "if you cant beat them this year"...so on and so forth. My answer is "please stop talking". It's Florida. My lifetime record against the Gators is 6 and 19, and three of these occurred before I received my first red and black Hutch uniform. I feel like this game has been the bane of my existence for as long as I've lived.
Let me put this curse into perspective. My father was a Georgia grad, and our family made the annual pilgrimage to Jax every year to stay with family friends and attend the game. Of course no sensible father wold let his son actually head into that God forsaken stadium until he was a reasonable age. For me, my first chance where a proud papa would let his son attend the game was 1993, and I couldn't have been a more excited 7 year old. As we prepared to leave for the stadium some sort of out of nowhere monsoon poured into northern Florida. As we looked outside the porch screen in Jacksonville, sheets of continuous water poured off and made the backyard of our friends a 3 foot baby pool, and the unrelenting sideways rain would not subsist. The call was made that we would not attend the game. In some sort of ominous reminder from the man upstairs the course of events that day were supposed to tell me to just stay away from this game forever. It's sad that my first memories of replay or split screen television consist of a Florida defender calling timeout as a winning UGA touchdown sails over his head. Of course those who know the story know that the Gators had a way too late timeout validated which simultaneously erased a UGA touchdown to put them in position to win the game. Unfortunately, despite these horrible events, I had no clue as to the misery that the next 18-20 years would hold.
Steve Spurrier has single handedly ruined college football dreams for me. Florida was not a very good team before him. My dad used to tell me how beating Florida by 40 was a common occurrence. Not so since Mr. Spurrier's arrival. He turned an entire program around into a national power. First there was the beatdown era, where we we'd watch an unrelenting aerial assault bear down on our poor defense. There was "half a hundred" in Sanford. Future NFL quarterbacks came and went. Receivers emerged as scoring machines. Then this man decides to leave Florida....only to return a few years later and ruin our season even earlier in the year at South Carolina. Think losses like 2007. Talk about just ruining your journey from the get go. This soft spoken, sadistic, Evil Genius in about 15 given years has ruined my programs chances of doing anything amazing.
Even in the years where we had good teams, Florida single handedly ruined our season. 2002 - my junior year as a high schooler. Sure we won the SEC, but there was just one blemish on the slate. Terrence Edwards' most famous play unfortunately. Undefeated in 2005, of course DJ Shockley goes down the game before, and despite Joe T's efforts to immortalize himself in Georgia lore, we lose a heartbreaker. 2008 - we've had a tough loss, but still own the rights to the SECCG if we can beat Florida. Another loss in that permanently imbeds that hazy, steel infested, bridge filled city watching Gator fans imitate Trinton's dance all the way back to the bus into my mind. I still can't look at a bridge to this day with out having Jacksonville nightmares. This is the way things have gone.
Sure I've had great experiences. St. Simon's Island trips that started on Monday. A huge win in 1997 learning who Robert Edwards was. Winning my freshman year and lighting up that first victory cigar. The year we ripped seats out of the stadium in 2007 in pure jubilation as we danced in the endzone and threw endless fly routes to MoMass and Mikey Henderson. Merely just glimpses of what could happen if we put good games together. I will say that because of the time I was born, I've learned to relish certain victories purely because of the Florida game. I've come to the mindset that this is not a game we're supposed to win. You go down to Florida, you encounter a different culture that is the Florida fan, and you walk out of that stadium dejected. My last two encounters featured us coming out in black helmets only to realize 3 seconds later that this is a terrible, terrible idea. Last year Murray and the Dawgs played their absolute hearts out, only to realize that it seems we're always going to fall about one score short.
So when you ask me how I feel about my confidence entering the game, I find it's best to give no answer. It's best to pourmouth some sort of expectation that Florida is going to do something ridiculous to win a game we should have, and realize you're going to drive back in 5-6 hours of pure disappointment and second guessing. This is what I've come to. Now we face another set of intimidating circumstances. The man who has been my coach for the greater part of my life faces a must win game to save his career, and prove that he can get the job done. The Florida team is down, and in many eyes within the SEC this is a game again "should" win. I'm hoping that the corner has not only turned for the last three years, but for the last 25 years of my life. Georgia is going to learn how to win this game, with their backs against the wall, and right the ship that is the bane of my fall existence for the past quarter century. I've purchased my cigar, but to those who ask, please don't for a moment think I've lit it. I've seen too much to do this yet. I've suffered long enough, and I'm praying that once again in the most important game of the year, some sort of redemption that is owed me will come to pass. GATA Dawgs. Beat Florida.