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UGA/David Weikel
Kirby Smart celebrates with Georgia fans after their win at Notre Dame on Sept. 9, one of the top moments of the 2017 season.

Top 10 moments of 2017 Georgia football season

Cy Brown

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The top 10 moments of the 2017 Georgia football season

We could spend hours nitpicking every bad call and missed opportunity in the National Championship Game. And I’m sure folks at this site and others will do just that in the coming days, if that’s what you’re looking for. But as I work to process this loss and put the 2017 season into perspective along with the rest of you, I’m trying to focus on the positives.

This was a remarkable season. It was the most fun I’ve ever had watching the Dawgs. So in an effort to properly memorialize one of the greatest UGA football’s greatest seasons before we move into the offseason, here are my 10 favorite moments of the 2017, listed chronologically. Let me know your favorite moments of the year down in the comments.

Jake Fromm’s first TD drive — There was a brief moment following Jacob Eason’s injury in the opener against Appalachian State when we all considered the possibility of the season going up in flames. Then Fromm stepped in and put our fears to rest. On his first full drive after subbing in for Eason, Fromm completed 2 passes for 41 yards while driving the Dawgs to their first touchdown of the season, and he hasn’t looked back since.

The Notre Dame celebration — So much has happened since last offseason that it’s easy to forget the hype leading into the trip to South Bend. At the time, we thought the season hinged on the game, and it turned out we were probably right. So the celebration after Davin Bellamy’s strip-sack was one of the biggest I’ve seen from Dawgs fans in years at the time, only to be eclipsed by the bigger moments to come in 2017. But this was really the moment that won me over to Kirby Smart. For the first time since showing up in Athens, he dropped the Saban clone schtick and showed some emotion.

The flea-flicker vs. Mississippi State — A lot of moments ended up more memorable than this one, but it might actually be my favorite. As I wrote at the time, it was the moment I realized Georgia football had changed for the better.

Shutting out Tennessee — The 41-0 victory over the Vols at Neyland was one of the most satisfying games I’ve ever watched. Georgia got revenge for the Hail Mary at Sanford the year before and then some. It was a statement game and signal to the rest of the SEC East that they were in big, big trouble.

Jacksonville, Georgia — OK, so maybe the 42-7 beatdown of Florida was every bit as satisfying as the shutout of Tennessee. After three straight losses to the Gators, the Dawgs finally got one back in the WLOCP, and they did it in resounding fashion. Watching Florida fans trickle out until half of EverBank Field was empty was every bit as much fun as watching the game itself.

Clinching the SEC East — It’s strange to say in the wake of the disappointment from losing the National Championship Game, but there was a time not six months ago when Georgia fans had set an SEC East crown as the ultimate goal of this team. It’s a moment that wasn’t dwelled on at the time because of the higher aspirations that came with Georgia unbeaten run, but beating South Carolina and clinching the East for the first time since 2012 felt damn good.

Senior Day at Sanford Stadium — After the gut-wrenching loss to Auburn in early November, it was nice to get back to Sanford Stadium and recognize the senior class. The Dawgs beat Kentucky 42-13 and the seniors stood out, as Nick Chubb and Sony Michel split 5 rushing touchdown between them. It was a fine farewell to one of the most beloved senior classes in program history.

The second half of the SEC Championship Game — There was a moment early in the SEC Championship Game when I and many other thought we were in for a repeat loss to Auburn. But the Dawgs fought back in the first half and put the game away in the second. The time between DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle’s blocked field goal and D’Andre Swift’s 64-yard touchdown run was some of the most fun I’ve ever had watching a game. Georgia got it’s revenge and an SEC title to boot.

Rodrigo Blankenship’s Rose Bowl record — The whole stretch leading to Blankenship’s Rose Bowl record 55-yard field goal was incredible. With Oklahoma on the verge of running away with the game, Smart hunkered down and the players kept grinding. The Sooners scored a touchdown, but a heads up play from Tae Crowder to snag a squib kick put Georgia in a spot to score with six seconds remaining in the half. Fromm and Terry Godwin gained 9 yards before Blankenship buried the kick of his life.

Overtime at the Rose Bowl — From the moment Lorenzo Carter got a hand on Oklahoma’s attempted field goal in the second overtime, you knew Georgia was going to win the Rose Bowl. Then Michel went out there and promptly finished it off. Of all the moments I’ll remember from the season, the pure joy that was felt after Michel scampered into the end zone is what will stay with me longest.

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Just getting started

If you’re still feeling down about the National Championship Game, this post by Will Leitch at Sports On Earth should help you see the bright side. It helped me.

I know that to have that game end like that, with Tagovailoa pulling off a head fake that so few NFL quarterbacks can be trusted to make that you can count them on one hand, feels like the end of the story. You will hear the naysayers, the malcontents, the fatalists: Same old Georgia. Breaking our hearts in the big one again.

But it wasn’t the same old Georgia, and don’t pretend you don’t know it. This was not a team falling short in the big game. This was just a fantastic game between two fantastic teams that only one of them could win. This was still a Dream Season. It is the prologue.

If you need more to you get over the loss, check out this post from Senator Blutarksy of Get The Picture. I also tried to take stock of the silver linings in this post for Flagpole.

Bottom line: This ain’t an end. It’s a beginning.

Jacob Eason reportedly mulling transfer to Washington

Although nothing has been officially announced as of Tuesday night, Jacob Eason is reportedly expected to transfer to Washington, according to Adam Jude of the Seattle Times.

This move would be far from unexpected. Fans and pundits have speculated about Eason’s future in Athens since early this fall, when it became clear that Fromm would not be giving up the starting job he took from an injured Eason. And Washington is an  ideal spot for Eason to land. He’s from the area and will be slotted to start in 2019 once Jake Browning graduates and Eason sits out a season. Washington is a team with the talent to win the Pac-12 and make the CFP every season. Eason has the talent to be a phenomenal success.

With a QB situation like the one Georgia had this year, which was created through the fault of no one, it’s easy to envision things going south in the locker room. But that never happened. Eason kept his head down and kept working, knowing that no one could justify brining him back in considering how well Fromm was playing and the wins he was racking up. I firmly believe Georgia would have been in the same spot it was in had Eason never went down, and it sucks that we’ll never know. Because of factors out of anyone’s control, Eason never got the chance he deserved in Athens.

But I’m happy to say he’ll get that chance somewhere and that he’ll part amicably. You can’t fault a guy of his talent for going home to get some playing time, especially Eason, who has NFL written all over him. He handled this situation with class and dignity. If he does end up at Washington, I think the Huskies just gained a lot of new fans in the Peach State. Eason may not wear red anymore, but he’ll still be a Damn Good Dawg.

Georgia’s top remaining recruiting targets

The shift to the offseason also means a shift to recruiting season, but that’ll be a little bit different this year. After the new early signing day, Georgia already has most of its Class of 2018 signed, leaving only a few top names for Smart and his staff to recruit between now and the traditional early-February signing day. Here are some names at the top of Georgia’s board, according to Jeff Sentell of DawgNation. Check here for more info on each player.

1. Tyson Campbell/5-star CB/American Heritage (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)/nation’s No. 3 CB prospect and the No. 27 overall recrui

2. Isaac Taylor-Stuart/5-star CB/Helix High (San Diego)/nation’s No. 2 CB prospect and the No. 26 overall recruit

3. Quay Walker/4-star LB/Crisp County HS (Cordele, Ga.)/nation’s No. 3 OLB and No. 65 overall

4. Tommy Bush Jr./4-star WR/Samuel Clemens HS (Schertz, Texas)/nation’s No. 37 WR and No. 193 overall

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