Win over #16 Clemson, 45-21 (2014)
Two years removed from the 2012 heartbreaker vs. Bama, there was still a glimmer of hope for Dawg Nation under Mark Richt. Todd Grantham--the consolation prize after Kirby Smart declined Georgia’s defensive coordinator offer--bolted for Louisville before the season, opening the door for Richt to make one of his smartest moves in signing Jeremy Pruitt. The now-Tennessee head coach got his first chance to impress against Clemson, Mike Williams, and a wide-eyed, not-yet-starting true freshman Deshaun Watson. Pruitt’s unit held the Tigers under 300 yards of total offense while Todd Gurley ran for nearly 200 yards against a defense that featured Vic Beasley, Grady Jarrett, and Stephone Anthony. Chubb showed flashes in reserve duty, scoring his first touchdown as a Dawg with one shoe on. This game was an example of winning in spite of your quarterback, as the Dawgs pulled away despite Hutson Mason averaging just five yards per attempt. They wouldn't be as lucky the next week.
Loss to South Carolina 35-38 (2014)
For most of the late aughts, the Gamecocks have given Georgia a crash course on trap games. The four-point loss in 2007 likely cost the Dawgs the chance for a national championship, but 2014’s loss felt more personal. A weird intentional grounding call in the red zone and a bad spot cost Georgia the game and essentially, the SEC East. The 2007 game was Matt Stafford’s eighth career start. He finished 19-for-44 with 213 yards and an interception. In 2014, Hutson Mason finished 16-for-22 with 191 yards and two touchdowns. It’s easier to forgive a true sophomore--with a less-than-stellar rushing attack, at that time--asked to throw the ball 44 times for a 15.5 QBR than a fifth-year senior--who had Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb, and Sony Michel at his disposal--for a 57.9. Takeaways: Todd Gurley, good at football. Sony Michel jumped off the screen for the first time. In a four-wide set, Michel caught a perfectly executed screen pass for Georgia’s opening score. It was one of just five touches he’d get that day.
Win over #23 Missouri 34-0 (2014)
Games like this were rare for Georgia under the Richt regime. After a major suspension or injury, the wheels usually fell off in the following weeks--a testament to the team’s mental fortitude. The hopes we had for Playoff--and Heisman--contention in 2014 were no more after Gurley was suspended for four games. In 2010, as AJ Green received the same sentence for the same crime, Georgia lost four straight games, finishing with a 6-7 record. In 2013, Georgia lost five top offensive contributors to injury (the first, Malcolm Mitchell, tore his ACL celebrating a Gurley touchdown in the season opener, three more went down in the same game) In 2014, though, Chubb stepped in and the Dawgs went 3-1 before Gurley got back. Though that one loss was to Florida, there was no chance of reaching a title with Hutson Mason at the helm, but this game showed we’d do just fine after Gurley was gone
Win over #9 Auburn - 34-7
Somewhere, in an alternate timeline, Ryne Rankin doesn’t get flagged for a hold, Todd Gurley takes the opening kickoff back for a touchdown, and walks out of Sanford Stadium for the last time under his own power.
Loss to #16 Tech 30-24
This loss all but ensured that Mark Richt would have to win the conference to save his job in 2015. The NCAA did away with what could’ve been a Heisman for Gurley, losses to South Carolina and Florida gave Mizzou the SEC East crown, and to top it off, the Dawgs couldn’t even beat Tech. Though UGA’s athletic department didn’t do him many favors, Richt had lost a step in the post-Saban SEC.
Win over #21 Louisville 37-14
The Missouri game got the SEC looking at Nick Chubb. The Belk Bowl vs. Louisville got draft scouts watching. Georgia got revenge on embattled former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, as well as the man who left the Falcons halfway through the repast for the Michael Vick experience.
Loss to Florida 28-3 (2015)
Literally everyone saw this coming. My first trip to a regular season Georgia game was the Missouri game two weeks before, a 9-6 slopfest that was the ugliest game Richt had been involved with since the 2010 Liberty Bowl. That game marked the end of Aaron Murray’s freshman year. After signing Murray, Mark Richt and Mike Bobo had a lapse in both recruiting and development, missing on Deshaun Watson, not developing the talent they had on campus, and as a result, settling for Greyson Lambert as a graduate transfer. In full reshuffling-seats-on-Titanic mode, Richt decided to give Faton Bauta, a Tebow-esque redshirt sophomore, his first start. What’s worse, Richt didn’t modify his game plan, only letting him carry the ball three times. The five-game win streak to close out the season was just a proper send-off for the Dream Team class.
Loss to Alabama 38-10 (2015)
In the cosmic sense, the remnants of Hurricane Joaquin hitting Athens was an omen from the football gods--you're flirting with disaster. In the context of the season, this one was probably over after Bama lost an emotional game to Ole Miss two weeks earlier. In the grand scheme of things, this beatdown was a confirmation of Dawg fans’ worst fears. Three years went by since Mark Richt almost proved he’d Got It Together. At one point in the CBS broadcast, After the Tide went up 17-3 with five minutes left in the first half, effectively ending the game, CBS’ Allie LaForce reported that Alabama equipment managers were circling the sidelines, digging clods of grass and mud out of Tide players’ cleats while Georgia’s staff sat idly by. Completely outworked, outhustled, and outclassed. In retrospect, this beating was a blessing in disguise.
Losses to Tennessee 38-31, 34-31 (2015, 2016)
Like virtually every game in this series, UGA-Tennessee in 2015 was a roller coaster ride. Two years before in Knoxville, the Dawgs clinched the most Pyrrhic victory of all time, as Keith Marshall, Justin Scott-Wesley, and Michael Bennett all suffered knee injuries before the Dawgs eked out a victory. In this edition, after getting flattened by Alabama the week before: Nick Chubb blew his knee out in the first play from scrimmage. Sony Michel made five defenders miss on a 66-yard run. Leonard Floyd returned a fumble 96 yards. Reggie Davis ran a punt back 70 yards. This was just the first half. Tennessee rallied behind Josh Dobbs’ 430 total yards to come back from 21 points down to earn Butch Jones’ first signature win as a Volunteer.
We all know the story of this game by now. By the time Kirby’s Revenge Tour made it to Knoxville, the city was already up in flames. Why waste any words?