I extended my annual fall trip up to Athens by a day and my intention was to pen something on Monday, but that ended up being my travel day. What a weekend.
1. My Fitbit logged 9.7 miles of walking on Saturday. I invited my nephew-in-law to the game (thanks for the tix, dad!) and we parked at an apartment complex on Cloverhurst Drive and proceeded to walk up to a tailgate on Milledge Avenue where some college buddies were to meet us. Afterwards, we WALKED to The Roadhouse for a few pre-game beers, then walked down to the Stadium and pretty much stood the entire game (Fitbit also said I had 113 floors).
2. After the game, we WALKED back to downtown and got a pizza at Ted’s, then WALKED back to our car at Cloverhurst as the traffic pretty much had thinned out by then.
Every leg muscle and bone beneath my hip was barking louder than any one of the 97,000+ fans in attendance. Now, I walk 3 miles a day in south Florida. Flat south Florida. But I had forgotten how damn wonderfully hilly Athens is. This is why I only weighed 130 lbs. in college. Just walking to classes everyday kept me svelte. I haven’t been svelte since 1997.
2a. Fact: If you drink more than 4 Tropicalia’s in an hour you will walk in a circle for two.
3. By Sunday, I recovered and visited family, flying back on Monday. As I was waiting to board my Delta flight down to FLL, I started getting that oh-so-familiar tickling, sickly feeling when you know either a cold or the flu is coming on. Sure enough, by the time I landed I had a low-grade fever. And to top it all off, couldn’t sleep a wink last night because we’ve got a gawl-dammed Frankenstorm hurricane (Nicole) threatening the east coast of Florida, so I had to drag my bones into work, give a briefing on what to expect for our staff and actually do some work. Can you believe it? It’s November 8th and the most bizarre western Atlantic November storm I can remember at this latitude is about to harsh my mellow. One day, the Swamps of Broward will be in my rear-view and I’m moving back up to the red clay hills of NE Georgia. That’ll be a wonderful day.
So, forgive the long winded first 3 points, but despite everything the last few days have been awesome. As bad as I was feeling yesterday, I was walking proudly through Atlanta-Hartsfield Airport rockin’ my brightest, boldest red Georgia Bulldogs t-shirt and making eye contact with anyone who dare question our rightful place as The #1 Team in the Land. I saw one or 2 Tennessee fans that seemed to avoid me. It’s Great to be a Georgia Bulldog. Truly.
4. So, I have been attending games at ‘ol Sanford since we moved to Watkinsville in the late summer of 1973 as a rising 6th-grader when my pop took a position at UGA Bio-Sciences, having moved from Texas in August of that year. I’ve been to many games of varying magnitude, including 1976 Alabama. It was loud. No ticket, but my Boy Scout uniform deceivingly allowed me to walk right in as an “usher.” I’ve been to the ‘82 Clemson Labor Day inaugural night game. It was loud, too. The ‘85 Bama game when we blocked a late punt to seemingly win it was probably the single loudest moment I can personally recall. Afterwards I graduated and pretty much took the ‘90’s off as I built my career (and sanity, according to those who actually attended Georgia games in the ‘90’s). Then, I started coming back regularly in the mid 2000’s.
What I experienced on Saturday was incredible. That stadium was LOUD. Actually, loud doesn’t do it justice. It was sitting in the front row of a mid 1970’s rock concert in the old Omni in Atlanta by a stack of Marshall Amps loud. That stadium probably should have a building inspector check it for acoustic damage, just in case. The crowd brought it. Not just a few times, but every damn play Tennessee had the ball. I would like to personally take credit for 3 Tennessee pre-snap penalties, thank you very much. And you’re welcome. Kirby owes me a cheeseburger or a bottle of Ensure.
5. The rain, as has been noted often, kept this game from becoming a scoreboard embarrassment for the Vols. We were about to start scoring and our running attack was about to start grinding the Hillbillies down to a fine powder. That was the only thing that worried me because weather can be the great equalizer and it came to pass when they fumbled and we fumbled right back. But, what a joy it was to watch our defense.
6. I focused on our secondary all day. Those guys were physical and the whole defensive unit was up to the task when Tennessee would snap the ball after only 9 or 10 seconds after each play. Honestly, I think Tennessee may have worn down their own linemen by the 4th quarter, despite the cooling raindrops. I saw some dudes on their side of the ball with some hands on hips. All that summer conditioning and preparation during the season specifically for this team was huge. Our guys are not only strong, but in pretty awesome shape, too.
7. When Jalen Carter is healthy, he’s pretty much unstoppable. Word has it that #88 is about 90-95% healed up. He’s the straw that stirs the defense; that commands the double-team and frees up at least one guy and probably 2 to roam, spy, cheat, whatever. The other down linemen had a fine day, too.
8. My biggest concern was really affecting Hendon Hooker, but after their first series only resulted in a field goal when we fumbled our first possession, the physicality and plan to affect their very good QB was obvious. Their receivers were jammed or simply crowded in their routes, and Hooker never got comfortable. There’s nothing better than a coverage sack (except, perhaps, a blindside corner blitz) and we had more than a few. I was hoping we’d get 3, maybe 4 sacks. Really, a pipe dream. We ended up with 6. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.
9. I was critical of Kelee Ringo a few weeks ago after the Vandy game when he mis-timed a jump - rightly or wrongly. I’m sure the kid doesn’t give a flip what I write about him but I’ve always loved his game and his hustle. He was having fun out there and after this 2nd quarter interception - just beautifully played - whatever issues he may have had were certainly corrected.
Kelee Ringo has a knack for making big plays in big games. pic.twitter.com/85PLnmrrYT— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 5, 2022
10. Malaki Starks had 10 tackles. Six solo tackles. He’s playing like an All-American. Not just a freshman All-American. Javon Bullard: Seven tackles, 2 sacks. That kid is super physical and brings it. Christopher Smith, Tykee Smith, and Kamari Lassiter’s contributions have made this unit elite.
11. And the communication throughout the game with everyone on defense was on-point. The hand signals on every level of defense and the experience...from a bunch of young guns...is simply outstanding.
12. Stetson Bennett was his awesome, confident self and has become such a luxury that whatever misgivings about his physical stature should never be mentioned by anyone again. Damn, I can’t believe I just mentioned it. The kid is a damn good, dare I say elite, SEC quarterback. He should be in New York in December. He should be drafted by someone in the NFL. At the minimum, he should be Postmaster General.
STETSON GOING DEEP. pic.twitter.com/QyXMzQ2Uvj— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 5, 2022
13. Ladd The Impaler seems to be back. I suppose his toe injury must be better than it was to start the season. That’s a damned painful thing if you’ve ever had turf toe. I had it so bad one time, playing on the old Astro-Turf practice fields back when they were open on the weekends during the off-season right on Lumpkin Street & Smith Street, they had to call me a toe-truck. Tip your waiter.
14. If the referee crew were just 1⁄4 competent, Tennessee would have had as many holding penalties as they did pre-snap infractions. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yadda, yadda, yadda...did it matter? No, but I honestly think the Conference doesn’t really pay attention to whatever grades these dudes get after each game. The non-safety call still burns, although we scored immediately afterwards. But one of these days a non-call is going to bite us when it matters. Or, maybe not. This team is good enough, obviously, to overcome a lot.
STETSON. UNREAL.— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 5, 2022
What a run to find the end zone. pic.twitter.com/4t2wxaAGc1
This was a touchdown. It should have been a touchdown with targeting. How do you not call that?
15. The tight ends were effective when called upon, but had it not rained the entire 3rd quarter and part of the 4th I believe we would’ve gotten a few more balls to Brock Bowers and Darnell Washington. Watching Big “0” do his thing every week is pure joy, to wit:
DARNELL WASHINGTON !! pic.twitter.com/lvyKdPWIcJ— Caleb Figgures (@CalebFiggures) November 6, 2022
I’ve got to give a shoutout to the Brett Thorson. I guess his 75 yard punt is a Georgia record? He did have a short punt afterwards, but everyone should get a Mulligan. Jack Podlesny was pretty much perfect all game, too.
Okay, folks. That’s a wrap. Time to get your mind right as we have a challenge on Saturday night vs. Mississippi State. We should out-talent them and the Bizarro Bulldogs really struggles at times against better offenses although they can put up some points, too. Mike Leach is a Pirate and Pirates do not play fair, so keep that in mind. Plus, just getting to Starkvegas almost requires your own Gulfstream IV. That place is remote.
It’s business trip. Let’s take care of it. Less cowbell.