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Year 2 of the Smart era yields an SEC Championship. This is only the beginning

NCAA Football: SEC Championship-Georgia vs Auburn
How can anyone be “the man” when Roquan is “the man?”

I have never been prouder of the effort displayed yesterday by this Georgia team. What a day. What a game! From the players to the coaches, everyone stuck to the plan and “played with physicality and composure.” We beat two teams yesterday: Auburn and John McDaid’s merry band of near-sighted, flag throwing imbeciles. No matter, Dawgs On Top!

If we win the Natty, this play may have been the catalyst for the whole thing...

1. Georgia finds itself with a New Year’s Day date in Pasadena against Oklahoma. There will be plenty of time to dissect our next opponent. To get there, we had to get through yesterday. This game turned at approximately the 13:04 mark in the 2nd quarter when Davin Bellamy strip-sacked Jarrett Stidham when Auburn looked like they were about to make things very uncomfortable for us. That momentum flip was never flipped back to Auburn and when Georgia scored 8 plays later on a Jake Fromm to Isaac Nauta TE delay route (brilliant call by Chaney) faking a toss sweep (which was used to set this play several times earlier), Georgia was on track to win.

NCAA Football: SEC Championship-Georgia vs Auburn
On the board and in the game

2. Auburn’s next possession was a 3 and out. We promptly drove back down the field and once again Jake Fromm threw a touchdown pass, this time to Terry Godwin. Trouble was, the refs called one of many horrific calls that could have changed the outcome of this game and certainly affected the score. An illegal pick on Javon Wims was no pick at all. Subsequently, we had to settle for a Rodrigo Blankenship field goal, and took a 10-7 lead. We never looked back.

3. The officiating was so infuriating that there was a point in the game that every single positive play we made was seemingly wiped out by a flag. Deandre Baker’s interception? That was nullified by a ticky-tack call when he was running stride for stride with Auburn’s receiver. I’ve seen that “ignored” more often than not as defender and receiver jockey for position. Baker was in perfect position regardless. Elijah Holyfield’s “chop block” was nearly as bad as Wims’ so-called “pick.” If that play is illegal, then Georgia Tech would have to disband their pigskin program tomorrow.

4. Yeah, we won but the SEC’s cadre of officials is about as bad as it gets. Almost makes you pine for Penn Wagers. Almost.

5. Back on point - the great thing (and there were many great things) about this game is the redemption and the fact that we will not have to hear about the November 11 loss ever again. Ever. Yeah, we might get to see a highlight whenever someone features Auburn in the future. But that game was nothing but a bad memory that has been instantly erased. We had the last laugh and they don’t get a mulligan. That must burn.

6. C’mon, Gary D. Seriously. His biggest issue with any of infractions we were flagged on was towards the end of the game when we held the ball for over 8 minutes in the 4th quarter (after D’Andre Swift’s run to glory) when Mecole Hardman was roughed out of bounds and CBS’s color guy decided it was all Isaac Nauta’s fault and Auburn should have not been flagged. Nauta barely had a hand on the back of the Auburn defender who latched on to Mecole and tackled him well out of bounds. That was the most egregious thing you could find, Gary? Really? Whatever petition is going around to replace this guy, I’ll sign it. Of course, the devil you know and all that.

7. Speaking of Swift, did anyone stay in their chair when this happened? The kid is a player...and still a freshman.

Our offensive line, once they got their bearings, did an amazing job yesterday. Ben Cleveland is rapidly becoming the monster pancake maker we all thought he would.

7a. I hope I never see a Hot Rodrigo Blankenship interview without his helmet on.

8. So, Carrion Kerryon “My Wayward” Johnson was banged up. Worst kept secret in the world. Gus Malzahn did this kid no favors by running him as much as he did (credit Johnson...he is a gamer and was in obvious pain), especially late when he fumbled. But, like Paul Johnson, ‘ol Gus is a genius. Lorenzo Carter’s strip was perfectly timed at the perfect time. Hey, we had guys dinged, too. It’s football.

9. There isn’t a better defender in America than Roquan Smith, and I think he might be the best linebacker I’ve ever seen play for us. I don’t make that statement lightly because I’ve been watching a lot of ‘backers since we moved to the greater Watkinsville metropolitan area back in the late summer of ‘73. Anyway, he’s going to take home some hardware this year and deserves an invite to the Heisman party. He has been incredible. Consistently incredible. Roll him up in bubble wrap until January 1, please.

10. I am hoping for the best regarding Sony Michel. I love Sony and it would be heartbreaking if his knee injury (extent of damage not yet known pending an MRI) keeps him out of the postseason. Prayers, #1. Prayers.

11. Jake Fromm is no ordinary kid. He’s just wired differently. He’s unfazed by the big stage, by the pressure (both mental and physical) and seems to be about as well-grounded as anyone. Perhaps that Little League World Series attention prepared him for the here and now; certainly great parenting and his faith. The only mistake this kid made was missing a wide-open Isaac Nauta when the game was decided late. The decisions Fromm made throughout, by hitting his check downs and screens when primary options were covered, were consistently fantastic.

12. Jim Chaney is, once again, a sexy beast. He called a near perfect game. What a challenge it was to alter things against a defense that probably felt, certainly after the 1st quarter, that they didn’t have to change their philosophy. So, we changed ours. Incredibly refreshing to have a coach adapt like this.

They flipped the script on us from the last game. - Gus Malzahn

Coach, don’t forget to take your shoes off when you get home. There’s a little dog poop on your soul sole. - Gus’ bus driver

13. If you would have told me before the game that Javon Wims would not have a single reception, I would have thought it was 11/11 all over again. He nearly had that catch at the very end, too. I loved the call. Anyway, Terry Godwin, Hardman and Nauta stepped up and Godwin is still as sure-handed as any receiver we’ve got. Good to see him really involved.

14. What was the difference? Ultimately, it was execution, but here is where Kirby and Co. answered the bell: Motivation. By all accounts, Gus Malzahn’s post-game comments were embraced and whenever and wherever they could be heard: gym room sessions, practice sessions, and film/class room sessions. I love Kirby’s fire and, ultimately, his character. He could have said something just as disparaging at the end of the game (and I’m sure he said a few things in private with his players), but why go there? Lesson to you, Gus. Learn from a guy who is already a better coach than you are.

15. There are simply not enough “thoughts” to cover everything that was great about yesterday. The fans, by all accounts, were loud ‘n proud. All of our coaches prepped this team for this moment. Kirby’s plan is way, way ahead of schedule.

It really hasn’t sunk in quite yet, but getting redemption and beating everyone on your schedule is a very, very special thing. There are a lot of kids that want to become part of this and the future has never been brighter.

I once said, upon Mark Richt’s ouster, that at that time Mark Richt was the perfect man at the perfect time for the job...and I still believe that. Today, Kirby Smart is the perfect man at the perfect time for his tenure in Athens.

We are in the playoffs. We are a very dangerous team.

BONUS THOUGHTS:

  • The fact that Auburn beat Alabama and Georgia, but are “relegated” to the Chik-Fil-A bowl against a very, very dangerous UCF team make my cold heart warm and happy.
  • Suck it, Ohio State. You’ve got no argument whatsoever and if you played anyone in the Final Four, you’d get crushed. Of course, there will be repercussions.
  • Next men up, I guess. You make your bed every day. You lie in it.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, congratulations, Nick Chubb.
  • Did losing to Auburn refocus us for yesterday’s championship and perhaps greater glory next month? Thanks, Auburn! Appreciate the rematch and the redemption.
  • I wish there was a way to award the jersey numbers of #1, #7, #17 and #27 and even Brice Ramsey’s #12 to any player that comes back to Athens for that last, special year when the chance to be a part of something great is on the line, and when senior leadership is needed.
  • With all the craptacular coaching changes (and whatever you want to call what’s going on up in Knoxville), it was glorious getting back to watching football that matters yesterday. We are in such a great, great place right now.
  • I guess no one outside of our Conference was much interested in the game yesterday...;-)

That’s all I’ve got. As Always,

IT’S GREAT TO BE A GEORGIA BULLDOG!

Your 2017 SEC Champions. There’s more to do. Keep choppin’...