Since the departure of Kyle Weblog, I have been going through Georgia football history withdrawal. I figured I would attempt to take Dawg Sports readers on an excursion throughout the glorious history of our program, but with a bit of a twist. I plan on launching a series where we will go through the 2013 football schedule with yours truly selecting a past memorable game against each foe, provided there has been one.
Without further ado, I present you with Georgia's most monumental showdown with the LSU Tigers.
December 3, 2005 (SEC Championship Game)
Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
Georgia: 34, LSU: 14
The Georgia Bulldogs have only faced the LSU TIgers 29 times since the teams' first meeting in 1928 and currently own a 12-16-1 record against the Bayou Bengals. Despite sharing such a limited history, these teams have provided fans with some on-field fireworks over the course of the past decade. Some of these fireworks have burned the Dawgs' paws: the two losses in 2003 and the 2011 SEC Championship Game, for example. However, some of these fireworks have illuminated the glorious skies of the Bulldog Nation: 2004's revenge-fueled humiliation of the defending champion Tigers, the smackdown heard 'round the Bayou in 2008 and the instant classic about to be examined in further detail, the 2005 SEC Championship Game.
Third-ranked LSU entered this contest as overwhelming favorites over No. 13 Georgia. After kickoff, the casual fan would never have known it as the Dawgs made winning their second conference crown in four years look surprisingly easy.
Georgia scored on their second possession of the game on a 45-yard scoring pass from redshirt senior QB D.J. Shockley to WR Sean Bailey. On the ensuing LSU drive, QB JaMarcus Russell was intercepted by Georgia CB DeMario Minter and the Dawgs would score on yet another touchdown pass from Shockley to Bailey. Just like that, it was 14-0.
The Tigers answered in the second quarter on a JaMarcus Russell rushing TD, but it was in vain. Shockley responded with a rushing TD of his own. On third-and-two at the LSU seven, Shockley had the pocket collapse around him. Rather than taking the hit from oncoming LSU safety LaRon Landry, #3 took off for the end zone, leaving two other LSU defenders on the turf on his way there. This TD run made the score 21-7, Georgia. As the teams broke for intermission, the rout was already on.
Brandon Coutu added a Georgia field goal in the third for a 24-7 lead going into the final quarter of play. Coutu split the uprights yet again for a 27-7 lead early in the fourth. Tim Jennings then picked off a Matt Flynn pass and ran it in for a TD on LSU's next possession for a 34-7 lead. LSU would add a TD later in the fourth, but the game had already been decided since the end of the first quarter.
The Georgia Bulldogs were 2005 SEC Champions.
Although kudos go to the Georgia defense for holding explosive LSU to only 74 rushing yards, my game ball for this one goes to D.J. Shockley for so many reasons beyond the fact that he led the 2005 SEC Champs in this game with 112 passing yards, two passing TDs and one on the ground. Shockley spent most of his Georgia career in the not-so-envious position of backing up David Greene, who left Athens in 2004 as the NCAA's all-time winningest QB. Although Shockley contemplated a transfer after his redshirt freshman year, he stuck with his commitment and was rewarded greatly in the Georgia Dome that fine December evening.
This game differs from the last two nail-biters that I chose in that it was a convincing victory, but its significance cannot be denied. First of all, 2005 marked Georgia's last SEC championship in football. The Dawgs have since won an SEC (tournament) championship in basketball. Second, winning two league titles in his first five years, in my opinion, solidified Coach Mark Richt's status as one of the greatest coaches in Georgia football history. Finally, I am a true believer in the value of patience and perspective, especially in today's world of instant gratification and "what have you done for me lately." Watching Shockley that whole 2005 season make good on the opportunity for which he had waited since 2001 restored my faith in humanity and in the value of perseverance.
Coach Richt had this to say about Shockley, the player generally regarded his first recruit at Georgia, "Guys like D.J. make this coaching profession worthwhile." Just look at that smile on Richt's face in the picture below and tell me that he wasn't telling the truth.
Shockley had this to say about his remarkable 2005 campaign, "This whole year has been reassuring that I did the right thing by staying here. I wouldn't change anything about what I went through."
Shockley received his degree in education from UGA and made the SEC Academic Honor Roll. He was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the seventh round of the 2006 Draft, the first Dawg to be selected by the local NFL club since 1994. After an injury-plagued tenure with the Falcons, Shockley ended up playing for the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL in 2010. He currently works in sports broadcasting. You can find D.J. doing high school football color commentary and co-hosting The Dawg Report for Channel 2, co-hosting SEC Football Tonight for CSS and the Falcons post-game show for 790 The Zone. He and his wife Portia live in Georgia and have a young daughter and son. Shockley continues to exert a positive influence on local youth today with his participation in sports camps and in the Georgia Special Olympics. Shockley remains a visible and vocal ambassador for, and supporter of, UGA athletics.
Shockley's Athens legacy remains in the "person" of D.J. the black bear at Bear Hollow Zoo. When the orphaned two-year-old bear arrived in Athens in 2006, local grade schoolers, charged with choosing a name, decided to name him after their gridiron hero. How many other Georgia greats have bears named after them?
Please join me in raising a paw to D.J. Shockley and the 2005 Georgia Bulldogs for delivering an epic performance in a crucial game on December 3, 2005, a game I consider the best ever played against the LSU Tigers.
What are some of your favorite contests against LSU? What do you remember about Georgia's latest SEC championship? Have you had to practice Shockley-esque patience in an area of your life recently? Was your faith rewarded? If you're still waiting, do you believe it ultimately will be?
Next stop: The Tennessee Volunteers, against whom Mark Richt is 8-4, but against whom Georgia has a losing record (19-21-2) overall. If you have a favorite contest against the Vols, please feel free to share. I have a few ideas already, but would appreciate any feedback or suggestions you may have.