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Monday, December 22, 2008

Looking Back No. 10: Go West Young Dawgs

From the preseason Sports Illustrated cover boys to the final devastating blow against its in-state rival, it has been a dizzying ride for Georgia this season. Before the Bulldogs kick off their final game of the season, however, we wanted to take a look back. So, each day leading up to Georgia's date with Michigan State at the Capital One Bowl, we'll be counting down the top moments that thrilled, haunted and downright perplexed Bulldog Nation in 2008.

No. 10: Go West, Young Dogs

The last time Georgia played a regular-season game west of the Rocky Mountains, Dwight Eisenhower was president, Cal Ripken Sr. was celebrating the birth of his son, Cal Jr., and a young boxer by the name of Cassius Clay had just won his first professional fight. So it goes without saying there was plenty of interest in the Bulldogs' Sept. 20 date with Arizona State, which topped many fans' fall travel itineraries.

The Sun Devils were a preseason top-15 team, and the game was circled on the calendars of football fans around the country. Georgia's game plan, however, was to play it cool. The Bulldogs didn't even change their normal travel plans -- simply flying out to Arizona the day before the game, leaving little time to get acclimated to the new surroundings out in the desert.

"I don't think there's a ton of concern," quarterback Matthew Stafford said just days before traveling to Tempe. "Football's football. We've played in some hot games and they've played hot games. We understand what it's going to be like, and we're just excited about the opportunity to go out there and play."

That's exactly what Georgia did.

With a crowd of Bulldogs fans rumored to have numbered near 20,000, Stafford led Georgia to perhaps its most complete performance of the season. The game marked the coming-of-age moment for A.J. Green, who had seven catches for 150 yards and a touchdown in the first half.

By season's end, Green would rack up 39 more catches, six more touchdowns and is now just 49 yards shy of becoming Georgia's second 1,000-yard receiver in school history, but it all started at Arizona State. Green had had his moments in Georgia's first three games of the season, but this was the point at which his immense potential was first translated to on-field heroics.

"I was excited. I turned into a fan watching almost," wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi said of Green's performance. "The guy oozes talent. When you have a player like that, he's young but at the same time, he's a competitor. He wants to go out there and win, and he has special abilities."

The offense racked up 461 total yards, while Georgia's defense played havoc with an overmatched Arizona State front. The Bulldogs rolled out of town on a late-night flight, returning to Athens at 7 a.m. Sunday looking every bit the part of the preseason No. 1.

On the flight back, Georgia's seniors plotted their next big move -- a blackout for the next week's game against Alabama. While the plan would eventually be lamented by fans following a lackluster performance that spelled the end of Georgia's national-title hopes, head coach Mark Richt would later say he thought the team's grueling travel itinerary the preceding week was the biggest culprit in the Bulldogs' unpleasant follow-up to what was likely their best game of the season.


Anonymous said...

I guess we will look back on this as "The Season of Never-Ending Excuses."

So the travel was the reason we made idotic penalty after idiotic penalty and made a mediocre Alabama QB look like Joe Montana the following week?


Ben said...

That's funny. I thought it was the season of never-ending bitching and moaning.

Anonymous said...

Favorite play?

Gamble's first int for a TD at Baton Rogue.

SRQDawgs15 said...

Thank you Ben. This stuff is getting so old. We are 9-3, about to be 10-3. Things aren't that bad. I would have loved the Dawgs to win every game and be National Champs this year, but it didn't happen. Oh well, it happens. We can either sit around complaining or move on to the bowl game and next season, I know what I'm doing. Get a grip people, its not like we're Michigan or Auburn or Tennessee get the picture!

Anonymous said...

"about to be 10-3". watch it SRQ - you sound like a cocky Florida fan.

AuditDawg said...

I'll always look back on this game and think that this was the high point of the season. We went on the road cross-country and made an emphatic statement. Hopefully we can take that attitude from this game and turn into a swagger for next year.