“Life ain’t nothing but a blending up of all the ups and downs.”
—- Drive-by Truckers, “Carl Perkins’ Cadillac”
For the readers of this site who are not likewise fans of the Drive-by Truckers (yes, both of you), “Carl Perkins’ Cadillac” is the story of a contest run by Sun Records founder Sam Phillips, who guaranteed a brand new Cadillac to the first of his artists to sell a million records. The odds on favorite of course was icon Elvis Presley, though you could have gotten decent odds on his label mates Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash.
None of them got the car. It was the enigmatic, under-appreciated, sort of goofy country singer Carl Perkins, who won the car for his recording of “Blue Suede Shoes.”
The DBTs’ telling of the story is one of my favorite songs for a variety of reasons. For one, Phillips’ nephew was actually a mentor of mine as a young lawyer. I have no trouble imagining his uncle doing folks “about as good as they deserve” and being the “only man that Jerry Lee still would call ‘Sir.’” For another, it speaks to a certain entrepreneurial spirit that I admire. And finally, the guitar break is so, so incredibly awesome.
I thought of that first line as the time wound down on the Red and Black’s incredible upset of #9 Auburn. It was a microcosm of the 2016 season. Moments of pure brilliance. Moments of mind-numbing stupidity. Potential. All the potential.
In the end Georgia was just good enough to win the prize against an opponent they had no business beating. They won this game by doing exactly what Kirby Smart’s been saying he was gonna do: be tougher, more aggressive, and hungrier than the opponent. I challenge anyone to say that the Bulldog defense that pitched six consecutive three-and-outs to seal this one isn’t worthy of being mentioned among the best units in the conference.
The Bulldog offense committed to the run once again, getting the undersized but athletic offensive line out in space and using angles to get just enough room for Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to make things happen. Chubb finished with 101 hard-fought yards on 23 gutsy carries. Michel chipped in 55 yards on 10 chances. Jacob Eason was a workmanlike 20 of 31 passing for 208 yards.
Eason had a couple of highlight reel throws. He also had a couple of freshman mistakes for which the Plainsmen failed to make him pay. Jim Chaney tried to get him a touchdown reception on an inexplicable toss from Terry Godwin on the last Bulldog drive that ended in a chip shot Blankenship field goal instead. It was the type of “they’ll never see it coming” trickeration that 2006 Mike Bobo would have loved.
But a couple of head-scratching calls aside, Chaney’s unit looked solid against a really good defense for perhaps the first time this season. They churned out 343 yards of total offense. The defense held Auburn to 164. Only 32 of those came in a second half in which the Auburn offense never crossed midfield. In fact, they never made it past the Auburn 39 yard line. That’s what dominance looks like.
Georgia currently sits inexplicably in second place in the SEC East, and will finish 4-4 in the conference in Kirby Smart’s first season at the helm. This season will always be defined to some extent by the could have beens: the Tennessee and Vanderbilt losses that frankly may send Georgia to a bowl in Nashville (fittingly) rather than a top-tier affair. A football season, like a life, is a blending of all the ups and downs. In the aggregate, this one looks kind of mediocre.
But the past couple of weeks stick out. They have looked just a little like a turning point. Only time will tell if the wins will come in sacks. But today it looked like Kirby Smart may be beginning to convince the young man in his charge that they really do need to do what he says. That the glory will come with time. Kirby Smart may not be no Johnny Cash. Or even Nick Saban for that matter. But for tonight, Smart’s riding home in the catbird seat. Until later . . .