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Georgia 42, Florida 30

"Winds shift. Curses lift. Trends end. Every dog---or every 'Dawg---has its day.

Georgia's time will come again. The closeness of recent contests in Jacksonville attests to the fact that the Bulldogs' day is coming 'round once more.

That is why I take issue with the part of Paul Westerdawg's posting that makes reference to 15 out of 17 and counting.

There ain't no 'and counting' to it. The pendulum is swinging back to the side of all that is right and just. You heard it here first: Matthew Stafford will conclude his University of Georgia career with a 3-1 record against Florida.

It's still the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party and, this time next year, we'll all know what it's like to be a Bulldog on Saturday night after beating Florida."

T. Kyle King (October 30, 2006)

"[D]efending national champions are 1-5 against the 'Dawgs over the course of the last 43 seasons.

Accordingly, my heartfelt congratulations go out to the Florida Gators on their 2006 national championship.

We'll look forward to seeing y'all in Jacksonville in 2007."

T. Kyle King (January 9, 2007)

"I was glad to see Coach Richt lose his cool. Mark Richt's preternatural calm unquestionably has won us a lot of football games, dating back to the 2001 'hobnailed boot' game in Neyland Stadium, but it's good to see him exhibit some justified outrage from time to time. Even during the closing seconds of a close game, Coach Richt has the resting heart rate of a marathon runner, a jewel thief, or Hannibal Lecter, so, when he blows up, it means something . . . and his players have to know that.

Since the debacle in Knoxville, Bulldog Nation has been in a bad mood. We've been critical, irritable, and just plain mad, and not without good reason. It's good to see the coaches getting angry . . . not lashing out blindly and wildly, but pointedly, expressing righteous indignation about the things that matter, getting fired up about such fundamental issues as where to line up on the field and how to behave after a victory on the road.

I'm glad Willie Martinez is passionate about his defense getting its act together, because the Georgia defense does need to get its act together. I'm glad Mark Richt blew up when his players acted like a Southeastern Conference road win was something unusual, because, during Coach Richt's tenure, S.E.C. road victories haven't been unusual.

In short, the best part of this game was the fact that the coaches not only weren't satisfied after the win, they were ticked off after it. That's a good thing. The coaches getting irked may be the first step toward the coaches coaching like Erk.

We enter the open date with much the same mission as Scott Bakula's character in 'Quantum Leap': the need to set right that which once went wrong. Physically battered, emotionally drained, and plagued by errors and inconsistencies, the 'Dawgs desperately need to heal up in more ways than one during their bye week.

While they do so, though, they may take solace in the knowledge that a cascading series of close wins in tight games is apt to work strongly in Georgia's favor. On October 6, L.S.U. scored a huge victory on the bayou by coming back to beat Florida. The significance of that win set the Fighting Tigers up for a letdown, and, on October 13, Louisiana State fell to Kentucky in triple overtime.

Following their remarkable victory yesterday, the Wildcats are likely to head into their October 20 date with the Gators riding much the same emotional roller coaster. This very well could result in a Florida win, inasmuch as Urban Meyer's squad is coming off of an open date in need of a victory in a big game to restore some lost confidence and stay alive in the S.E.C. East race.

A win in Lexington next weekend would be huge for the reeling Gators, who will head into their next game on the same emotional high that cost L.S.U., and could cost Kentucky, so dearly. What will await the Orange and Blue in Jacksonville is a rested, reinvigorated Bulldog squad. . . .

The state of affairs in Bulldog Nation is far from perfect. It would even be fair to say that matters are far from well. Nevertheless, it is great to be a Georgia Bulldog. . . . [I]f events play out along the course they now seem likely to take, there will be good reason to celebrate at the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Man, will there be some property destroyed that night."

T. Kyle King (October 14, 2007)

"Have faith in the ability of Mark Richt and the 'Dawgs to turn the inconceivable dream into an accomplished fact. . . .

My Prediction: Georgia 35, Florida 14."

T. Kyle King (October 26, 2007)

"Dawg Sports is arguably the best blog out there for Georgia sports...but, Kyle...if Georgia beats Florida by two touchdowns or more (and I sincerely hope your right)...I'll buy you dinner."

Jason Pye (October 26, 2007)

As noted by the Blogger Who Came In From the Cold, a touchdown is worth six points, so two touchdowns equals 12 points. Jason, shoot me an e-mail and we'll make arrangements to break bread together at the restaurant of your choice in Henry County.

I could break down the numbers, but you've seen the box score and you can quote the stats as well as I can.

What you need to know is that the Red and Black led in all five significant statistical categories: character, emotion, guts, heart, and tenacity. The extra week mattered a great deal, allowing the Bulldogs to rest up, heal up, and prepare to implement a game plan suited to matching the mighty Gators, but Georgia fans should not doubt that the attitude of their head coach won this game.

The calmest coach in the Southeastern Conference knows that passion is a good servant but a bad master, so he lit a fire under his student-athletes and put their youthful exuberance to good use. A team that wandered around in a daze while sleepwalking through four quarters in Knoxville finally shook off the psychological aftereffects of the Steve Spurrier era in Gainesville and played like what history says they are: the better team in the Georgia-Florida rivalry.

It was one thing when superior Saurian squads were hammering the Classic City Canines by such lopsided final margins as 38-7 (1990 and 1998), 45-13 (1991), 52-14 (1994), 52-17 (1995), and 47-7 (1996); it was when the Red and Black began losing tight ballgames by scores like 20-13 (2002), 16-13 (2003), 14-10 (2005), and 21-14 (2006) that it began truly to sink in that, every time Georgia took a punch in the mouth from Florida, a "here we go again" mentality took over and the wind went out of the Bulldogs' sails.

That simply didn't happen this time. The 'Dawgs threw the first punch, took the best shot the Orange and Blue had to offer, and hit back again and again and again. This time, when the Gators took a lead on the Bulldogs, there wasn't a sense of impending doom; instead, in place of that gnawing empty feeling of dread the Georgia faithful have come to know so well, there was steely resolve, gritty determination, the conviction not that the Red and Black could come back, but that they would come back, as often as necessary, until the game was won.

This win did more than put an exclamation point at the end of the Bulldogs' recently-snapped string of futility against S.E.C. East opponents. It did more than give Georgia new life in the race for the division crown. It did more than confirm that, given time, young players will mature into seasoned veterans and capable coaches will find a way to correct problems and put their team in a position to win.

This victory did all those things, but, more than that, it let us know that the head coach who has attained so much of his success by maintaining an unflappable demeanor recognized that what his team was lacking was an emotional leader. Last year, Mark Richt's smartest move was to fire his offensive coordinator, Mark Richt. This year, Mark Richt's smartest move was to fill the void left by the departure of his energetic assistant, Brian VanGorder, by turning that responsibility over to . . . Mark Richt.

With his team's fortunes fading and his program seemingly on the wane, the master disciplinarian who never loses his cool made the tactical decision to get emotional. Since the game-winning field goal to end the contest in Nashville, Mark Richt has raised his voice, shoved his players, greeted unsportsmanlike conduct with applause and a grin, announced in a live interview that he would have been angry with his players if they hadn't drawn a penalty in a crucial game situation, and put a great big televised smooch on his wife for good measure.

It has never been difficult to look at Mark Richt and see in him the best attributes we saw in Vince Dooley. This win, though, showed us something quite different. What we saw in Mark Richt in Jacksonville on Saturday was a little less Vince and a lot more Erk. That can't be anything but a good thing.

Under Mark Richt, Georgia has been the best program in the S.E.C. Despite the Bulldogs' recent struggles, that remains the case still today. I have great faith in the future of this program, but, right now, I'm not much interested in the future of this program.

The past was glorious, but it's history. The future is bright, but it's speculative. Right now, there's an S.E.C. title sitting on the table waiting to be won . . . and Mark Richt is just the coach to go win it.

Go 'Dawgs!