As far back as I can remember I have always been a Georgia Bulldog. But it wasn’t until my Freshman year at the University of Georgia that I became a Georgia Dawg. It was that magical year of 1980. It was Herschel Walker’s Freshman year as well, and in a large part because of him, it was that glorious undefeated National Championship season. Unbeaten, Untied and Unbelievable was the headline on the front page of The Atlanta Journal on January 2, 1981, the day after the 17-10 Sugar Bowl victory over Notre Dame for the National Championship. It was truly a magical and unbelievably amazing season, and one that made me believe in the underdog, in the impossible and in the fact that I would bleed Red and Black for the rest of my life.
It has now been 37 years since Georgia won that national title. Win or lose, I love my Dawgs, but at times it has felt like we were the college football poster children for thwarted ambitions and broken dreams. Oh, we’ve flirted with greatness a few times. In the 1983 Sugar Bowl we were ranked number one and lost a heartbreaker to second-ranked Penn State 27–23. The 2002 team, Coach Mark Richt’s second one, went 13-1 and finished the season ranked third. The 2007 team finished the season ranked second. And the 2012 team, which finished 12-2, lost the SEC Championship Game by a hair to the eventual National Champion, Alabama. The hopes of manifesting the magic and returning to the level of the glory days of the early eighties always seemed to be pushed to the next year.
But then, Coach Sonny Smart’s favorite son Kirby arrived. From day one hope seemed to creep back in and everything seemed much brighter.
Georgia came into this year’s football season as a slight favorite to win the SEC Eastern Division. The expectation was that Georgia was at least a year away from truly competing for an SEC conference championship. But this year’s Dawgs had something else in mind. The magical feelings of the glory days began to grow with each game. They beat a solid Notre Dame team in South Bend with Jake Fromm, a true Freshman at quarterback, due to an injury to starting QB Jacob Eason. Then they badly beat a solid Mississippi State team at home and completely destroyed both Tennessee and Florida. Rising in the rankings, the Dawgs climbed all the way to a No. 1 ranking in the Playoff Poll.
Undefeated Georgia ran into a buzz saw in Auburn. The home crowd was electric, Georgia looked unprepared and they were shellacked by a 40-17 margin. The loss dropped them from No. 1 to No. 7 in the rankings. However, the Dawgs got a chance at redemption when Auburn defeated Alabama in the Iron Bowl two weeks later and that win cemented the SEC Championship Game as a rematch between Georgia and Auburn.
In that game once beaten Georgia crushed Auburn 28-7, winning the school’s first SEC title since 2005 and clinching a spot in the national playoffs.
The national semifinal 54-48 double overtime victory over Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl was a surreal, marvelous, historic and a glorious experience. The win propelled the Bulldogs into the January 8 National Championship title game against the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide.
Because of everything that has happened in this unforgettable season it is clear to me that the magic is back on the Georgia Bulldog sideline. No matter what happens Monday night in Atlanta, win or lose, that magic and the glory days it creates have arrived. Go Dawgs!
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