As a long time Georgia fan, I’ve seen my share of memorable wins. From milestone triumphs to those for bragging rights alone, from streak breakers to momemtum shifters; I’ve witnessed nearly every type of win imaginable.
In order to take my fellow fans’ minds off the misery of the past couple of weeks, I’ve compiled a list of the most memorable wins of the Mark Richt era. From nail biters to blow outs, here they are, in ascending order:
10. 2007 – Georgia 26 Alabama 23 (OT): 2007 turned out to be a big year for the Dawgs, but without this win over Nick Saban’s Tide, it would have been just another season. #22 Georgia upset #16 Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Matthew Stafford’s 25 yard touchdown pass to Mikey Henderson on Georgia’s first offensive play of overtime, and the Dawgs went on to finish the season 11-2 and ranked #2 in the final AP poll.
9. 2009 – Georgia 30 Georgia Tech 24: After defeating the Yellow Jackets seven consecutive times, Georgia had lost to Tech in crushing fashion in 2008. Heading into the 2009 contest, the Jackets were ranked #7, while the Dawgs were unranked. A certain second straight win for Georgia Tech, right? Well, not quite. Washaun Ealey and Caleb King took the field with the slogan "I run this state" written on their arms and under their eyes, and the Bulldog duo made good on the statement by combining for 349 yards and two touchdowns. Georgia’s success running the ball, along with a late drop by star Tech receiver Demarius Thomas, led to a huge upset win. The Dawgs haven’t lost to the Jackets since.
8. 2013 – Georgia 44 LSU 41: In a showdown between former teamates, Aaron Murray got the last laugh with a twenty-five yard touchdown pass (his fourth of the day) to Justin Scott-Wesley with under two minutes to play. The Georgia defense, which struggled all day, finally came up with a stop to seal the win for the Dawgs.
7. 2012 – Georgia 17 Florida 9: Georgia’s struggles in Jacksonville over the last two decades have been well documented, but after beating Florida 24-20 in 2011, the Dawgs were able to post back to back wins in the series for the first time since winning three straight from 1987 to 1989. Challenged by safety Shawn Williams to play up to their potential, the Georgia defense forced six Florida turnovers. Aaron Murray’s fourth quarter touchdown pass to Malcolm Mitchell sealed the win over the #2 ranked Gators. Bulldog nation rejoice!
6. 2007 – Georgia 45 Auburn 20: While the final score makes this game seem like your run of the mill snooze fest, in reality it was anything but. To the delight of the black clad crowd in Sanford Stadium, the Dawgs took the field in black jerseys for the first time ever. Riding the electricity that was evident in the stadium, Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno led Georgia to a huge second half surge to beat Auburn for the second consecutive year. While there have been much more dramatic home games for the Dawgs, it will be hard for anything to ever top "The Blackout."
5. 2005 - Georgia 34 LSU 14 (SEC Championship Game): Entering this contest, #13 Georgia was a heavy underdog to #3 LSU. Led by future first overall NFL draft pick Jamarcus Russel, the Tigers were expected to handle Georgia on their way to bigger things. Fortunately for Bulldog nation, DJ Shockley had other plans. The fifth year senior passed for two touchdowns and ran for another to lead the Dawgs to a second SEC title under Mark Richt and cement his place in the hearts of Georgia fans everywhere.
4. 2007 – Georgia 42 Florida 30: Georgia set the tone for this contest when, after Knowshon Moreno’s first quarter touchdown, the entire team took the field to celebrate in the end zone. The Dawgs were penalized heavily for the celebration, but it didn’t seem to matter. Moreno was the star of Georgia’s win, rushing for 188 yards and three touchdowns. Matthew Stafford added three touchdown passes and the defense sacked Florida quarterback Tim Tebow six times. I can neither confirm nor deny whether any property was destroyed that night.
3. 2002 - Georgia 30 Arkansas 3 (SEC Championship Game): It is difficult to know where to rank this win. While it wasn’t a close game by any means, it did give the Dawgs their first SEC Championship since 1982. From Decory Bryant’s first quarter punt block, to Musa Smith’s 106 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, it was total Bulldog domination.
2. 2001 – Georgia 26 Tennessee 24: Mark Richt took over as Georgia’s head coach to start the 2001 season. It wouldn’t take long for him to record his first signature win. The bulldogs traveled to Knoxville and upset the #6 Volunteers behind the late game heroics of quarterback David Greene, who led the Dawgs on a last ditch drive in the closing seconds. With Georgia at the Tennesse five yard line, Greene found fullback Verron Haynes on a pass play forever immortalized as "P-44 Haynes," for the win. Larry Munson’s legendary "hobnail boot" call of the play ranks with his best calls of all time.
1. 2002 – Georgia 24 Auburn 21: Georgia’s pursuit of an SEC Eatern Division championship came down to the final conference game of 2002; a road game in Auburn, Alabama. After being dominated in the first half by the Tigers and tailback Ronnie Brown, the Dawgs came back in the second half. It seemed the rally would come up short though. Trailing 21-17, and facing fourth down and fifteen at the Auburn nineteen yard line, quarterback David Greene lofted a pass into the back of the end zone to wide receiver Michael Johnson. Johnson leaped high over an Auburn defender and came away with the catch, and the rest, as they say, is history.
There you have it; my personal favorite wins of the Mark Richt era. For those of you who disagree with my choices, feel free to post your own top ten in the comments section. After all, any list of Georgia wins is by definition a good list. Go Dawgs!