(Ed. Note: Please bear with us on the performance issues the website has been experiencing yesterday and today. It is an SBNation-wide issue, and the support teams are working as diligently as they can to resolve it. Thank you for your patience.)
Well, folks, we're almost to the wasteland of summer. Our spring sports are winding down (and baseball season will mercifully end after this weekend, since we're not even going to make the SEC tournament), and it's now time to focus our full, unbridled attention back onto Georgia football. Starting today, the Dawg Sports staff will be reviewing the 2012 season game-by-game, with one game per day, and only after that task is completed will we turn our eyes to the 2013 season. After all, to know where we're going, we have to know where we've been, right?
And so we start at the logical place: the beginning.
Coming into the 2012 season, expectations were, shall we say, reasonably high. The Bulldogs were ranked #6 in the major preseason polls, and since most "experts" agreed that we had an cloud-like, pillow-soft schedule (not like Alabama in any way at all, though, clearly...), we were the favorites to win the SEC East.
In week one, in rolled the Buffalo Bulls, with dreams of MACtion grandeur dancing in their heads. Of course, we had the usual gaggle of players suspended for the first two games (most notably Alec Ogletree, Bacarri Rambo, and Sanders Commings), Steve Spurrier bitchin' about how he couldn't play a weakened Georgia squad like he usually does, and to top it all off a true-freshman offensive lineman to break in, the
indomitable John Theus. Fortunately, Buffalo was coming into town with a major suspension of their own, Khalil Mack, who was called "the heart and soul" of their defense by more than one sportswriter with a gift for hyperbole, but not creativity.
I could attempt to sum up the game as eloquently as our then-Mayor (and now Mayor Emeritus For Life) did, but I would fail. Here is what T. Kyle King had to say about the effort we saw from the Dawgs that day:
I am always amazed when I get home from a football game, look at the stat sheet, and see spelled out quantitatively a contest very different from the one I witnessed qualitatively in Sanford Stadium. Today’s outing between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Buffalo Bulls was just such a showdown.
What am I to think, after all, of a game in which the Red and Black converted 50 per cent of their third downs, did not turn the ball over, lost just 22 yards to penalties, generated 485 yards of total offense, averaged almost six yards per carry and nearly ten yards per pass, never trailed, and scored 45 points before ending the game in possession of the pigskin on the opposition’s 17 yard line? It sounds like the ‘Dawgs had a pretty good day, right?
Some of the ‘Dawgs did have pretty good days, of course. Damian Swann, whose leadership was needed in a depleted secondary, did a good job in the defensive backfield. Tavarres King overcame Aaron Murray’s early overthrows to lead all Georgia receivers with six catches for 117 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown reception. John Theus looked good as a first-time first-teamer before he left the game with a worrisome ankle injury. (Fortunately, Theus says he’s all right.) Todd Gurley dazzled in his debut, tallying a trio of touchdowns in the course of racking up 100 rushing yards on eight carries and another 127 yards on a pair of kickoff returns, one of which went the distance. Taken as a series of discrete elements, there were a lot of things to like about this afternoon’s game.
Indeed, Mr. Mayor, there were a lot of things to like about this game. Not many of them were in the first half, though. We stopped the Bulls on their first drive, then covered 53 yards in 7 plays to take a 7-0 lead. But then we immediately let Buffalo march down the field and respond with a touchdown. MACtion kicked in early, however, and the UB kicker missed the PAT, leaving Georgia with a slim 7-6 lead.
(cue UGA video announcer voice from the 1980 season highlight video)
Todd Gurley thundered onto the Sanford Stadium field, putting an exclamation mark at the beginning of his tenure by returning the ensuing Buffalo kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. It was only the 3rd time he had ever even touched the ball as a Georgia Bulldog, and he immediately put his name in the record books by tying the longest kickoff return in Georgia history. Georgia, 14-6.
We did build up a 24-6 lead, but then we stumbled around, let the Bulls score a couple more times, and only led 24-16 at the half.
Fortunately, this Georgia squad was determined not to fall victim to the trap of playing down to your lesser opponents, as so many Bulldogs teams have done in the past. We came out focused and determined in the second half, showing the drive, grit, and determination that would be our hallmark in 13 of the 14 games we would play that season. By the middle of the 4th quarter, we were leading 45-16, Todd Gurley had 100 rushing yards on only 8 carries, and we put in the 2nd and 3rd stringers to get some experience.
One of the drawbacks of putting in your backups when the other team still has its starters on the field is that they'll get inspired by the insult and score on you, which Buffalo did, closing the gap to 45-23. The issue was never really in doubt, however, and when the game ended, the Boboffense had used up the last 4:08 on the clock by running the ball on 8 consecutive plays, ending up at the Buffalo 17 yard line. (In other words, the score could have been worse if we'd wanted it to be.)
If you'd like to watch the game in its entirely because you're just too starved for some Georgia football action... well, don't say I never gave you anything!
At the end of the day, Georgia beat down the Bulls by an appropriately large 45-23 margin. We all probably would have liked to see a bigger blowout, but hey, if we felt even the slightest smidgin of angst at our margin of victory, we could just look southward and laugh. After all, on that same afternoon, the Florida Gators had struggled far more mightily with the Bowling Green Falcons, remaining tied 14-14 with them throughout most of the 3rd quarter, and only carrying a 3-point lead into the 4th quarter. (I hate Florida.)
So, all's well that ends well. The Dawgs put up a solid first effort of the season, got that first "W" onto the ledger, and continued onto their first big test of the season: an away game at night to welcome the SEC's newest team, the Missouri Tigers.
We'll be covering that game against Mizzou tomorrow. Until then...