My God. That was beautiful.
A Georgia football team that played one of its worst games of the season when things mattered against Auburn on November 11th played perhaps its best when it mattered more tonight, smothering the potent Plainsman offense and establishing its own running game to secure a 28-7 victory and in all likelihood the program's first trip to the college football playoff.
I said before the game that Georgia would have to rely on Jake Fromm at least a little to open things up. They (the coaches) did and they (the rushing attempts) eventually did. Fromm finished the night 16 of 22 for 183 yards and two touchdowns. More than anything else, Fromm didn't give it away early and kept the Red and Black in it long enough for the defense to get its footing and make some critical stops.
Speaking of which, the Bulldogs repeatedly harassed Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who started out just as hot as Fromm but cooled to finish 16 of 32 for 145 yards. Kerryon Johnson, he of the most watched shoulder in the South, suited up but clearly wasn't himself, tallying 44 yards on 13 carries.
Nick Chubb also had 13 carries, but he was definitely himself. The big man from Cedartown finished with 77 tough yards. D'Andre Swift led the 'Dawgs with 88, 64 of them on a fourth quarter touchdown scamper that drove the Mercedes Benz Stadium staff to congratulate the Athenians on their SEC Championship . . . with 10 minutes left in the game.
At that point it really was over, even if it was a bit impolite to point it out.
And that was the moment. The moment in the Georgia Bulldogs' vengeful defeat of the Auburn Tigers when I walked out into the cool December night, and I looked into the clear Georgia sky. And I just smiled.
I smiled because I remembered Georgia upsetting LSU in the 2005 SEC Championship Game. It was the second SEC title in four seasons for Mark Richt. I was young and foolish. I thought that was how it would be, if not forever, for the foreseeable future. That was a dozen years ago. For perspective, Georgia went twenty years between league titles in 1982 and 2002. That drought seemed so much longer. Because for me twenty years was, then, a lifetime. Now it goes by a lot quicker.
Now I savor these moments. On this night I thought about my grandmother, who I lost in 2012 and who raised a houseful of Georgia fans and in front of whose old rolling RCA television I became a Bulldog fan. And about my three year old daughter who watched the game with me, woofing along (she's currently looking at me and frowning as she asks "Why did the Georgia Bulldogs go off the TV?").
I thought about the staff here at Dawg Sports who have lived and died with this team, and come back to write about it the next week. And I thought about all of you reading the site who have dared not even hope for this moment.
Almost exactly five years ago I crumpled to the ground as I watched Georgia come up just short in the Georgia Dome. And I wondered when we would ever have that kind of shot again. I emailed the Dawg Sports staff that night and told them frankly that I didn't see us being in that kind of position again until at least 2016. I think I underestimated all that would happen between there and here. I thought about that moment tonight. I probably won't think about it as often from now on.
Now, we wait. Georgia will most assuredly be in the college football playoff. It remains to be seen against whom. Today, as on all others, it was a good day to be a Georgia Bulldog.
Tonight was good.
Tonight was fun.
Tomorrow is another one.