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Throwback Dawg Day: The Other Time Georgia Played A Depleted FSU

Nokia Sugar Bowl Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

A marquee bowl game for Georgia and the opponent is Florida State.

The Dawgs go into the matchup with one loss against a Seminoles team digging deep to find a quarterback that’ll have little experience.

To quote Marty McFly in “Back To The Future,” - ‘hey, I’ve seen this one!”

Back in 2002, Georgia fans could not have been more euphoric. In two just seasons, Mark Richt had done one thing that Dawg fans had hoped for - win the SEC title, Georgia’s first since 1982.

Just one spot in the BCS Standings kept Georgia from playing for a national title, but given all the shortcomings in the 1990s to Tennessee and Florida, the fact that Georgia now had those teams looking up at it more than made up for that level of letdown.

This was still the era where the SEC champ and Sugar Bowl were intertwined. Fans like me who grew up in the 1980s and had heard stories of trips to the SuperDome in the early part of that decade had a generational moment. Finally, the fans who lived through the nineties had their own golden era.

And here came Florida State, an ACC Champion but also with three other losses out of conference. For Georgia fans in South Georgia who first-hand saw the FSU bandwagon get rolling, this had a bit more edge to it. If you judged the popularity of logos you’d see being worn, FSU, Miami and Florida were near the top, and a win over Florida State would mean much to Georgia fans, notably near Thomasville.

Oh, and there was the student vs. pupil storyline of Mark Richt against his mentor, Bobby Bowden. The Seminoles had a graduate assistant that year named Kirby Smart who went on to have a bit of success later.

Georgia, having beaten Arkansas for the SEC title, was off and rolling going to the Big Easy.

The Noles were without starting quarterback Chris Rix who overslept and missed a final exam with his backup, Adrian McPherson having been kicked off the team in November. That handed the ball to Anquan Boldin who had only attempted eight passes in his college career.

Georgia, as expected, made things tough for Walker who was 7-of-12 with two interceptions, one a 71-yard pick six by Bruce Thornton that put Georgia up 10-7 in the second quarter. He was also stripped of the ball on FSU’s first drive of the second half by Will Thompson, and Ken Veal’s recovery of the fumble gave Georgia a 20-7 lead, allowing Musa Smith to take over in the second half on the way to winning 26-13 as he rushed for 145 yards. Thompson had three tackles for a loss and two sacks against the Seminoles. Wherever then-Georgia defensive ends coach Jon Fabris is today, he still will probably argue that point that Thompson should have gotten the game’s MVP honors.

How bad did things get offensively for FSU? At one point, receiver Anquan Boldin moved to QB.

“Our offense was not very structured,” Bowden said. “The split-second timing definitely wasn’t there. We were just kind of hoping someone could make some plays.”

It was not an explosive night for Georgia against Florida State, but with the Seminoles depleted, the Bulldogs did what was needed offensively. Did Georgia dial it back in the second half due to Richt going against his mentor? We’ll never know.

“I’m thankful for the victory,” Richt said. “I’m just thankful to Bobby Bowden still. He’s still the teacher. I love him dearly, but I love Georgia and I’m real proud of these guys.”

What is known is that Georgia went into a major bowl game and took care of business. That’s exactly what they’ll need to do Saturday in Miami.

Go Dawgs!