Looking back on the past decade of Georgia football brings to mind the old introduction to ABC’s “Wide World of Sports,” with its touting of “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat … the human drama of athletic competition.”
Yeah, Dawgs fans experienced all of that during 2010-2019: 10 years of incredible highs, heartbreaking lows and some mediocre days not worth mentioning.
Reading over the Blawgs I wrote in that decade has brought back some extremely fond memories — and a few that still make me shudder. Or wince (should-have-spiked the ball with 15 seconds left … the Prayer-at-Jordan Hare … and second-and-26 being three prime examples).
Wallowing in misery isn’t what I’m undertaking today, however. This is a look at the best of the decade for the Dawgs.
I have to admit, compiling the most memorable players, games, plays and moments of that decade was easy on some counts, and much more difficult on others, particularly when it came to deciding who should make an all-decade team at certain positions where the Dawgs have enjoyed a bounty of top-notch talent. (Can you easily choose between Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel?)
Other choices were clear-cut (at least, to me), especially the quarterback position, about which I wrote a couple of weeks ago.
Perhaps you’ll agree with my choices, or maybe you’ll think I’m way off-base on some of them. That’s the fun of this sort of exercise; feel free to share your own thoughts on the best of UGA football in the 2010s.
Now, first up, my All-Decade Dawgs:
Center: David Andrews. Runnerup: Ben Jones.
Tackles: Andrew Thomas, Isaiah Wynn. Honorable mention: John Theus.
Guards: Cordy Glenn, Lamont Gaillard (who also played center).
Tight ends: Orson Charles, Jeb Blazevich.
Wide receivers: Malcolm Mitchell, Javon Wims, Tavarres King, A.J. Green. * Honorable mention: Chris Conley, Terry Godwin.
QB: Aaron Murray. Runnerup: Jake Fromm.
Tailbacks: Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb, Sony Michel (a tossup, but a fully healthy Gurley gets the starting nod).
Fullbacks: Christian Payne, Quavon Hicks. (What the heck, Georgia had fullbacks for most of the decade and, unlike Kirby Smart, I’m a fullback guy. The toss would be more effective with a FB leading the way, I believe.)
Defensive line: John Atkins, Jonathan Ledbetter, John Jenkins.
Linebackers: Roquan Smith, Jarvis Jones, Justin Houston*
Alec Ogletree. Honorable mention: Davin Bellamy, Leonard Floyd.
Cornerbacks: Deandre Baker, Sanders Commings. Runnersup: Damian Swann, Maurice Smith, Aaron Davis (the latter two both played nickel back).
Safeties: Baccari Rambo, J.R. Reed. Runnerup: Dominick Sanders.
Punter: Drew Butler. Runnerup: Cameron Nizialek.*
Placekicker: Rodrigo Blankenship. Runnerup: Marshall Morgan.
Returner: Isaiah McKenzie. Runnersup: Mecole Hardman, Brandon Boykin.
*Green, Houston and Nizialek only played one season each for Georgia during the decade, but they deserve their spots.
And now on to other highlights of the decade …
Most memorable games
2012: Georgia 17, Florida 9. A terrific Malcolm Mitchell run after catching a fourth quarter pass from Aaron Murray and breaking a tackle put Georgia ahead. However, the game against the No. 2-ranked Gators was dominated by a Georgia defense that forced six turnovers, including a gamesaver by Jarvis Jones at the end.
2013: Georgia 44, LSU 41. With ESPN’s “College GameDay” in town and the eyes of the nation on the quarterback showdown between former roomies Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger, the resulting “Redout” game was one of the most thrilling I’ve ever seen, and, to date, still the absolutely loudest I’ve ever heard Sanford Stadium from the first kickoff to the final whistle.
2014: Georgia 45, Clemson 21. Todd Gurley gained 293 all-purpose yards, scoring 4 touchdowns, and Nick Chubb literally ran out of one of his shoes in his freshman debut, as Georgia pulled away in the second half to beat Dabo Swinney’s Tigers, who in the second half were held to only one first down, 15 yards passing and no yards on the ground.
2017: Georgia 20, Notre Dame 19. The first big road test for Jake Fromm, it wasn’t a pretty game, as the two teams combined to punt the ball 17 times, eight by Georgia, in a largely defensive struggle. But, the Dawgs persevered, and finally won it on a Rod Blankenship field goal. The first of quite a few thrilling moments during that magical season.
New Year’s Day, 2018: Georgia 54, Oklahoma 48. The Dawgs’ double-overtime Rose Bowl win over the Sooners in the College Football Playoff propelled them to the National Championship game against Alabama a week later. It’s the highest scoring game ever in the history of the granddaddy of bowl games and, for me, ranks second only to the Sugar Bowl win over Notre Dame in January, 1981.
Honorable mention: The SEC Championship “revenge” win over Auburn in 2017 … the absolute domination of Florida in Jacksonville during that same season … and the Dawgs’ tough win over Notre Dame Between the Hedges in 2019.
Most memorable plays
2011, Florida: A tie between the two fourth-down touchdown passes against the Gators in 2011 to Michael Bennett and Tavarres King. Both admittedly were great catches, but Aaron Murray put the ball exactly where it needed to be.
2012, Florida: Jarvis Jones stripping the ball away from Florida’s Jordan Reed as he was about to score, preserving the most important win of the season for Georgia.
2013, LSU: Trailing the No. 6 Tigers 41-37 with 4:14 left, Aaron Murray threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Justin Scott Wesley with 1:47 on the clock.
2014: Clemson: Todd Gurley’s 100-yard-plus kickoff return was a thing of beauty, showing off his deceptive speed.
2017, Notre Dame: Terry Godwin’s acrobatic one-handed, falling-backward third-and-goal touchdown catch was one of the best plays in a season of great plays. NBC Sports labeled it “catch of the year.”
Honorable mention: The flea-flicker play involving Jake Fromm, Nick Chubb and Terry Godwin that opened the 2017 game against a surging Mississippi State team; and Lorenzo Carter’s block of an Oklahoma field goal attempt on the second overtime of the Rose Bowl game.
Play of the decade
Rose Bowl, against Oklahoma: Sony Michel takes a direct snap in the shotgun and, picking up a key block from quarterback Jake Fromm, streaks 27 yards down the left side for the winning score in the second overtime, sending the Dawgs on to the National Championship game.
Jarvis Jones, with five solo tackles and four sacks in Georgia’s 2011 come-from-behind win over Florida.
Leonard Floyd, with eight tackles, a sack and two tackles for loss in Georgia’s 2013 win over LSU.
Nick Chubb, returning from knee surgery to run for 222 yards and 2 touchdowns in Georgia’s 2016 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game win over North Carolina.
Roquan Smith, with 13 tackles, 10 of them solo and two of them for losses, plus two fumble recoveries and a sack in the 2017 SEC Championship win over Auburn. He rightly was named the game’s MVP.
George Pickens, tying a Georgia bowl record with 12 catches for 175 yards and a touchdown against Baylor in the Jan. 1, 2020 Sugar Bowl.
2013, South Carolina: Georgia grinds out a 14-play drive to eat up the final 8:28 of a big win over the Top 10-ranked Gamecocks, and, midway through the drive, USC head coach Steve Spurrier throws in the towel by removing his headset and declining to call a timeout. Sweet.
2017, Notre Dame: Bulldog Nation taking over the Fighting Irish stadium, with NBC analyst Doug Flutie noting at one point, “This is almost a 50/50 crowd.” At the start of the fourth quarter, you would have thought it was Sanford Stadium as Dawgs fans lit up the place with their cellphones, bringing with them a then-new tradition from Between the Hedges.
Runnerup: Kicker Rod Blankenship being mobbed by his teammates in the locker room after the 2017 win over Notre Dame as Kirby Smart had the former walk-on announce that he was now on scholarship.
MVP of the decade
This is tough. Aaron Murray was a quarterback capable of putting the team on his back and somehow finding a way to win. Todd Gurley was the most talented running back at Georgia since Herschel Walker and probably would have won a Heisman if not for injuries and a suspension. Sony Michel spent his career at UGA in tandem with Nick Chubb and, by the end of their senior year, was the more versatile of the two backs. But Chubb was awesome on a consistent basis, and came back from a devastating left knee injury to run for a career total 4,769 rushing yards, trailing only Walker in SEC history. He recorded his 24th career game running for 100 yards or more against Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl. So, Nick Chubb is my MVP of the decade.
Damn good Dawgs, all of them.
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