The road to Pasadena, Calif., (and, hopefully, back to Atlanta) has been one of the most enjoyable football seasons I can recall in a lifetime of pulling for the Dawgs.
With Georgia having its first actual shot at playing for a national championship since the top-ranked Bulldogs met No. 2 Penn State in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day 1983, UGA fans still may have bigger and better moments to savor.
But, regardless of what happens, it has been a special year full of great fan memories.
For many, those moments translate into one of the season’s biggest plays, like Terry Godwin’s one-handed, acrobatic third-and-goal touchdown reception at Notre Dame, which NBC Sports labeled “catch of the year.” Without it, the Dawgs likely wouldn’t have won that game, which is when they first caught the attention of the football nation this year.
Perhaps your favorite memory might be watching Kirby Smart dropping his normally dyspeptic on-field demeanor and dancing around like a kid as the final seconds ticked off in the SEC Championship Game.
Or it could be a heart-tugging moment, like kicker Rod Blankenship being hugged by jubilant teammates after announcing after the win over Notre Dame that he’d been put on scholarship.
Maybe you still are reveling in some schadenfreude (which is a fancy German way of saying you get to gloat) resulting from Georgia successfully completing its SEC Revenge Tour 2017.
If so, the entire Florida game probably is on your favorite moments list, but especially the first quarter, which saw the Dawgs jump all over the Gators in a way that rarely has happened in that series, even when the Bulldogs have won.
For me, the favorite moment of this season is a toss-up between Godwin’s catch at Notre Dame; the flea flicker for a 59-yard touchdown pass on Georgia’s first play from scrimmage against a then red-hot Mississippi State team; and running back D’Andre Swift putting the nail in the coffin with a 64-yard touchdown run against Auburn in the league title game.
Actually, that championship game was full of unforgettable Bulldogs moments, including the key play 2 minutes into the second quarter when Davin Bellamy stripped the ball out of Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham’s hands at the Dawgs 14, with Roquan Smith recovering the fumble, which set up a Georgia scoring drive. Plus, the first play of the fourth quarter, when Lorenzo Carter pulled the ball away from the Tigers’ Kerryon Johnson, and Smith was Roquan-on-the-spot again with the recovery, leading to another scoring drive.
Other favorite memories from this championship season: late in the Notre Dame game, when Bellamy sacked Irish QB Brandon Wimbush, forcing a fumble that Carter recovered to allow Georgia to kill the clock and seal the win … Swift’s Herschel Walker-like leap over the pile for a touchdown against in-state rival Georgia Tech … Sony Michel’s streaking 74-yard touchdown run against the Gators … Michel turning what should have been a loss into a third-quarter touchdown against Tech … Nick Chubb bouncing outside and tight-roping along the sideline for a 55-yard TD run in the Kentucky game that put him over 1,000 yards rushing for the season … Javon Wims going high and stretching out backward for a 17-yard TD catch against Florida … Freshman QB Jake Fromm’s keepers on zone-read, run-pass options against Tennessee, especially on the drive that put Georgia up 17-0 when he took it in himself on a 9-yard, third-and-goal scamper … Blankenship’s game-winning field goal against Notre Dame, and all of Hot Rod’s 60 program-record touchbacks on kickoffs, as he routinely boomed the ball deep into (or through) the end zone — something I’d just about given up hope of ever seeing again from a Bulldogs kicker!
Still, when it comes to a single favorite memory from the season, it’s hard to argue with my brother Tim, whose No. 1 goose-bump moment was seeing Smart and his Dawgs standing on the platform at Mercedes-Benz Stadium amid the falling confetti, accepting the SEC championship trophy.
It was a sweet moment, made even sweeter by the knowledge that it put Georgia into the College Football Playoff for the first time.
That means the final chapter hasn’t been written yet on this season for the Bulldogs. There could be more favorite moments to come.
In the meantime, feel free to share your own favorite 2017 Dawgs moments so far …