Wednesday’s Gator Bowl game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers ranked right up there alongside the Georgia Bulldogs’ loss to the Vanderbilt Commodores in Nashville as the most frustrating game of a genuinely maddening 2013 season. On January 1, 2014, 25 years to the day after Vince Dooley concluded his 25-year head coaching career with a win in the Gator Bowl, the Red and Black were back in Jacksonville, playing yet another thrilling game---the five-point outcome was settled on a fourth-down play in the red zone in the final 30 seconds---to suffer yet another infuriating setback in what amounted to the autumn in microcosm.
On an afternoon on which the Bulldogs’ three most impressive victims---the North Texas Mean Green (9-4), the LSU Tigers (10-3), and the South Carolina Gamecocks (11-2)---all carded bowl wins, Georgia fell just short of posting its tenth season of at least nine wins in a twelve-year span. The offense generated 416 total yards and 22 first downs while holding the ball for more than 33 minutes, but Hutson Mason threw as many interceptions as touchdown passes, and eight of the Red and Black’s drives ended either in field goals or in punts.
Likewise, the defense limited the ‘Huskers to 307 total yards and 14 first downs, forced seven punts, and allowed Nebraska to move the chains only four times on 13 third-down plays. However, the ‘Dawgs drew a pass interference penalty on third and five, conceded 24 yards on third and 12, and surrendered on third and 14 the 99-yard touchdown pass that yet again raised the questions, "What, precisely, does Scott Lakatos tell his players during time outs?" and "Is the glaringly obvious consistent confusion of the Georgia secondary really explicable as a result of youth in the thirteenth game of the season?"
In as star-crossed a campaign as we have seen in a while, even Mother Nature conspired against the Bulldogs, as it rained throughout the game, making the fans in the stands miserable and changing the outcome of the contest: Nebraska’s first touchdown resulted from a Reggie Davis fumble of a wet football on a punt return, while Todd Gurley (whose 86 rushing yards and 97 receiving yards led the Athenians’ effort in both categories) saw his production dramatically decreased by the uncertain footing caused by the untoward climatic conditions.
The rain followed my son and me (who began the fall with a trip to Clemson, S.C.) all the way from Rochelle to Jacksonville yesterday morning, and pelted us during all 60 minutes of play, and traveled with us during much of the six-hour drive home afterward. Here, after the fashion of my recap of a recent Georgia basketball game, is my report on Thomas’s and my trip to the Gateway City, in tweets and pictures:
Tickets. pic.twitter.com/WkeuggnP76— T. Kyle King (@TKyleKing) January 1, 2014
Stadium. pic.twitter.com/ykzQ0j80nm— T. Kyle King (@TKyleKing) January 1, 2014
Seats. pic.twitter.com/OtvZzdFwsC— T. Kyle King (@TKyleKing) January 1, 2014
Here come the Bulldogs! pic.twitter.com/IAGF3aBunI— T. Kyle King (@TKyleKing) January 1, 2014
When I ordered a Coke, the lady at the concession stand in Everbank Field asked if Pepsi was all right. Ma'am, I'm from Georgia. It isn't.— T. Kyle King (@TKyleKing) January 1, 2014
Temperature isn't bad; probably mid-fifties. Light drizzle, which followed us the entire drive down, just started.— T. Kyle King (@TKyleKing) January 1, 2014
Redcoats are outside the stadium and I'm inside it. Weird. Got to be the first time that's ever happened.— T. Kyle King (@TKyleKing) January 1, 2014
The gang's all here! pic.twitter.com/ZaTdEXqKh4— T. Kyle King (@TKyleKing) January 1, 2014
Georgia fans are discussing the route they drove to Jacksonville, echoing the conversation I had with my father last night. I love our fans.— T. Kyle King (@TKyleKing) January 1, 2014
Happy New Year! Go 'Dawgs! pic.twitter.com/BwDmD0U6fI— T. Kyle King (@TKyleKing) January 1, 2014
Pregame show underway. Rain coming down harder now.— T. Kyle King (@TKyleKing) January 1, 2014
Got my rain poncho on; now it feels like game day in Jacksonville!— T. Kyle King (@TKyleKing) January 1, 2014
Let's get this show on the road! pic.twitter.com/bnttX2GsLe— T. Kyle King (@TKyleKing) January 1, 2014
@TKyleKing Enjoy the game sir!— Salt Creek & Stadium (@tamattes) January 1, 2014
'Huskers lead, 10-9, at the break. The weather is the difference, as a wet ball produced the turnover that led to the lone Nebraska TD.— T. Kyle King (@TKyleKing) January 1, 2014
"Sunshine State", my ass!— T. Kyle King (@TKyleKing) January 1, 2014
Saw Vince Dooley on the way out of the stadium. Said "Hey, Coach" and pointed him out to Thomas. The individual highlight of the day.— T. Kyle King (@TKyleKing) January 1, 2014
Still think the 1993 Florida game is the wettest I've ever been in Jacksonville, but this was close.— T. Kyle King (@TKyleKing) January 1, 2014
@TKyleKing Today was nothing compared to 1993 & 1994. Those games were awful!— Kathleen (@GirlNAthens) January 1, 2014
I don't disagree about 1993 and 1994, @GirlNAthens. I still believe 1993 was the worst. I'm just saying yesterday came pretty close.— T. Kyle King (@TKyleKing) January 2, 2014
@TKyleKing Maybe it didn't seem as bad b/c I wasn't wearing a polyester band uniform and moldy raincoat. Oh the sacrifices Redcoats make :)— Kathleen (@GirlNAthens) January 3, 2014
The 2013 season is now behind us, and I am inclined to dismiss this forgettable campaign with a gruff, "Good riddance." 2014 did not get off to the good start for which we had hoped, but, in an effort to end this posting, and begin the new year, on a more positive note, I am pleased to report (as I noted in a fanshot earlier today) that the .pdf supplement to Fighting Like Cats and Dogs, which covers the series games from 1897 to 1976, is available for download at the Clemson University Digital Press website. This has been a (nominal) public service announcement. Happy New Year!