LOS ANGELES — Sunday was a little less hectic for the Georgia Bulldogs than the previous five days have been in Los Angeles.
The day was highlighted with a bus ride out to Pasadena where the Bulldogs were able to get their first look at Rose Bowl Stadium and pose for their team picture made under the iconic sign at the main entrance at the 95-year-old stadium. The team was greeted by hundreds of Georgia fans, who continued to pour into the Southern California area in droves over the weekend.
Earlier in the day Sunday, Smart and Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley held a joint head coaches’ news conference at the L.A. Hotel Downtown, where they posed with the Rose Bowl trophy and answered questions about Monday’s matchup for a fifth day in a row.
Once again, Smart credited a veteran group of 31 seniors for helping him get the Bulldogs to where they are now.
“This senior group has been very special to me,” Smart said. “A lot of them I knew through recruiting, but this is the second year with them, and I’ve seen a little bit of a metamorphosis of leadership, of taking ownership and doing the right things. There is a good group of them. I think a lot of the investment that last year’s seniors made has helped with this group as well.”
After getting the official team photo made, the Bulldogs headed back to the Hotel Intercontinental Downtown in Los Angeles for meetings, dinner and an early curfew. Local time for Monday’s kickoff is 2:10 p.m., and they’re due back at Rose Bowl Stadium by noon.
The actual competition can’t get here fast enough for the Bulldogs, who will be participating in the Rose Bowl for the first time in 75 years.
“There’s been a lot of build-up for this game; it’s time to go play,” Smart said. “One of the hardest things to do as a coach is to manage that emotion and anxiety building into such a great game like this. We’re excited and ready to go play.”
For fans, there was the Rose Bowl Bash going on all day at The Bloc downtown and Old Pasadena’s stores and restaurants were jam-packed with visitors. Rose Bowl fans who hadn’t already made New Year’s Eve reservations were out of luck as the sun set Sunday.
Stuart Saussy and his son Hunter bellied up to the counter at The Original Pantry Cafe downtown, and it was a tight squeeze. Like the other 100 people queued up outside and down both 9th Street and South Figueroa Avenue, they had waited 45 minutes to get seated.
It was worth it.
“I’m gonna have a to take a nap after this,” said Saussy, who was wolfing down a ham-and-cheese omelette along with a plate of the Original Pantry’s famous sourdough French Toast.
Saussy and his son were among dozens of Georgia fans who made their way to this famous eatery on Sunday. The Original Cafe has been in the same general spot in downtown L.A. since 1924 and it has been designated as Historic-Cultural Monument No. 255 in the city. It has been featured in books and movies and ranks as the most famous restaurant in Los Angeles.
But if you’re going to eat breakfast there, plan on standing in line a while. Two lines form outside the corner door, one for counter service and the other for table seating. Plan on waiting more than an hour for the table seating.
Saussy and his son were among hundreds of Georgia fans staying at the Hotel Intercontinental Downtown just down the street from the Pantry Cafe. The Intercontinental is where the Bulldogs are staying this week and, with 889 rooms and 73 floors, is able to accommodate a lot of people.
Saussy is a former walkon punter for the Bulldogs who played for both Vince Dooley and Ray Goff. He lettered in 1991, the year he graduated, and now works for the Braswell Food Company in Statesboro.
“It’s been great,” Saussy said of their stay, which began on Friday. “We went to the coast (Friday) and checked out Venice Beach and the Santa Monica Pier. Now we just need the Dawgs to take care of business.”
DawgNation out in force
It will be hard to tell until everybody packs into sold-out Rose Bowl Stadium on Monday, but once it again it appears that Georgia fans have won the day when it comes to support of their team. Red-and-black clad Bulldogs fans could be spotted at locations from the Santa Monica Pier up to Malibu and all over downtown Los Angeles on Sunday.
UGA fans appeared to have completely taken over Big Dean’s Ocean Front Cafe in Santa Monica. If that wasn’t evident from all the red-and-black, Georgia-logo attire, it definitely was when the Atlanta Falcons scored their first touchdown of the game against the Carolina Panthers. Showing on the main screen of the multiple-TV beach bar, the whole place erupted when Devonta Freeman dove across the goal-line for an early 7-0 lead.
Among the many Bulldogs in the crowd were Georgia football lettermen Will Colley, Matt McCormick and Jack Swan and former Georgia gymnasts Heather Stepp McCormick, Chris Rodis Burleigh and Christy Bedelle Morrell.
Carla Williams makes good on promise
Among the many spectators crowded around a hard-rocking family band known as Lilac performing on the Santa Monica Pier was Carla Green Williams.
Williams, you may recall, left her job as Georgia’s deputy athletics director in early December to start her new job as athletics director at Virginia. But there she was Sunday, inconspicuous in her black, non-logo’d warmup among hundreds of UGA fans taking in the sights and sounds around pier and Pacific Park.
Williams said she’d just gotten into town for the game.
“I told several of the players that I was going to stay with them all the way through the season and I intend to do that,” said Williams, whose duties at UGA included serving as sport administrator for football. “So here I am.”
Not so different after all
Smart doesn’t buy that Georgia versus Oklahoma represents one brand of football versus another.
“When you watch both conferences, the SEC has slowly morphed closer in more spread elements,” Smart said. “When you look at what Missouri does, what Kentucky does and Auburn, you start watching all these other teams, what is spread? We always have that debate. What is a team that can run the ball physically? Oklahoma runs the ball, they run the ball and they’re physical at running the ball. So do a lot of teams in our conference. They throw the ball really well. They spread you out and make you defend all areas of the field.
“I think all offenses are trying to do that now. I just don’t see the old traditional I-formation, which I think you may be making that synonymous with the SEC, which I don’t think the SEC is that way. I think it’s slowly grown to be more of a spread-out conference. Probably not the same offensive numbers, obviously, as the Big 12 is. But it’s not as big a disparity as you think.”