Archive for May, 2009

Hate not too strong a word for Dogs-Jackets rivalry

The No. 15-ranked Diamond Dogs’ 7-5 win over No. 7 Georgia Tech in front of 24,665 fans Tuesday at Turner Field was big for a couple of reasons, despite being one of those late-season midweek nonconference games that don’t really affect either team’s postseason hopes. 

First, it cemented Atlanta’s seven-year-old Spring Baseball Classic for Kids charity game as one of the nation’s best-attended college games, drawing the sixth largest regular season crowd in NCAA baseball history and the second largest crowd ever for the classic.

But more importantly to UGA fans, it was a win over our most hated rival and means the Dogs have won the last five classics in a row.

Any win over the insects, no matter the sport, is a big deal just because we hate them and they hate us. Whether it’s the “clean, old-fashioned hate” of sporting legend or the decidedly muckier version practiced by North Avenue posters to this blog, it still boils down to hate. 

Too strong a word? Maybe back in my Dad’s …

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Dogs’ freshmen could have early impact

While fan talk in the wake of starting tight end Bruce Figgins’ suspension for half the season largely has centered on Orson Charles, the blue-chip receiver/tight end hybrid out of Tampa, the need to replace Figgins’ blocking skills seems to be weighing more on the Georgia coaches’ minds, as reported in the Athens Banner-Herald.

Mark Richt says both Charles and the other incoming freshman tight end, Arthur Lynch of Dartmouth, Mass., are “going to have to play. I doubt any tight end gets redshirted this year, but we’ll just have to wait and see how it unfolds.”

But Lynch, who tops 6-foot-5 and weighs 258, has the more typical tight end size and has been told by tight ends coach John Lilly to be ready to play as a “point of attack blocker and receiver” against Oklahoma State on Sept. 5. “He always said he expected me to play Oklahoma State, but now it’s even more of a reality,” Lynch told the ABH. “I know I’m the heaviest one there.”

Richt said he’s “a big, strong kid” who “I …

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Weekend highs and lows in Bulldog Nation

It was a mixed weekend in Athens.

On the positive side, many UGA families, including mine, were celebrating graduations at Sanford Stadium and Stegeman Coliseum, the men’s and women’s tennis teams both advanced to the NCAA Round of 16, and the softball team was selected as the No. 1 seed for the Chapel Hill regional. But the results at Foley Field and the confirmation of disciplinary action against two members of the football team were disappointing.

The final baseball home stand of the season got off to a dismal start with the Diamond Dogs dropping Friday and Saturday’s games to Vandy, a middling team. At least Sunday’s win over the Dores clinched an SEC Tournament birth for the Bulldogs (15-12 in SEC play with South Carolina still to go), though just making it to Hoover is a bit of a comedown for a team that led the league (and the national rankings) much of the season.

Hosting an NCAA regional seems unlikely at this point, but at least the team will keep playing past the …

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Time for rally caps, football team meeting

As the baseball Bulldogs try to pull out of a losing tailspin in the last week of the regular season, the glass-half-full view is that at least the 2009 team broke that David Perno era pattern of a great year (like 2008) always being followed by a terrible year. 

This year’s Diamond Dogs, ranked No. 1 in the nation much of the season, definitely are not terrible. 

But they’re not great, either, as evidenced by their current six-game losing streak, which derailed hopes of another regular season SEC championship. The defensive and pitching problems that have plagued the team all season have definitely gotten more serious of late. The Dogs seem incapable of holding a lead, even in the ninth inning. 

Still, with the chance of hosting an NCAA regional in Athens still within their grasp if they take this weekend’s final home series against Vandy, Perno’s Pups can’t be written off yet. 

It’s been a precipitous fall, though. Three weeks ago the No. 1-ranked Dogs, who’ve packed Foley …

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Great report card day in Bulldog Nation

There’s nothing that warms a parent’s heart like your kid acing a final, and the same should be true for fans of the student athletes at our favorite colleges. In that regard, Wednesday was a mighty good day, with my daughter getting a 91 on her biology final and UGA’s athletic program getting a fine report card from the NCAA.

Not only did all 20 of Georgia’s teams beat the minimum required 925 score in the Academic Progress Rate data covering the 2005-2005 through 2007-2008 school years (with 12 of them improving their showing over last year), but the football Bulldogs had the best score in the SEC with a 976, seven points ahead of the second-place Brainiacs at Vandy. That put the Dogs in a tie with Penn State for the best score among last season’s Top 25 teams. The women’s cross country team posted UGA’s highest APR score with a 996, earning a Public Recognition Award from the NCAA. And the basketball Lady Bulldogs also topped the SEC with a 986, again seven points ahead of …

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Talking good works and football with Matt Stinchcomb

A lot of kids dream of one day playing with the Georgia Bulldogs. Thanks to a trio of former Georgia greats, those kids don’t have to wait to grow up to do that; from 3 to 6 p.m. on July 18 they can join Jeff Owens and other current members of the Dogs in running drills, throwing passes and even playing flag football at the UGA practice fields in Athens as part of the fourth annual Countdown to Kickoff fan festival, a fund-raiser for four child-oriented charities.

That’s one of the new wrinkles cooked up for this year’s fest, says Matt Stinchcomb, who organizes Countdown to Kickoff along with brother Jon and David Greene. “The past couple of years, Jeff Owens, who’s a special guy, and some of the other players haven’t just signed autographs, they’ve actually played with the kids for three hours, with them following Jeff around like the Pied Piper,” Stinchcomb said when we talked today. “So this year we’re going to give Jeff a chunk of field where he and the other players can …

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Dogs fans want top teams in Athens

While scheduler Arthur Johnson confirmed to the Athens Banner-Herald that UGA has been approached about playing a nonconference game in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome in 2010, it’s apparently still not a done deal. Johnson said the Dogs, who travel to Colorado that season, still have two schedule spots to fill for 2010, “preferably at home.” Sounds like Georgia’s not going to jump on that dome offer unless it’s really sweet.

In the meantime, Johnson told the ABH, the New Mexico State Aggies have accepted an eye-opening payday of $925,000 to come to Athens for a Nov. 5 game in 2011, between the Florida and Auburn games. That’s the most UGA has ever bribed, er, paid a visiting team, but that’s apparently what schedule fodder costs these days. This will be the Aggies’ fourth trip to Athens, with the Dogs having posted big wins over them in 2002, 2000 and 1995. 

That will make for a less than compelling schedule in 2011, when the Dogs’ nonconference slate also will include Louisville and …

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Stafford’s new life: Lions and lint brushes

Former Bulldog (I still don’t like having to say that) Matthew Stafford’s pro career was to begin today with the opening of the Lions’ three-day minicamp, largely an orientation at which the team’s draft picks and undrafted free agents get familiar with Detroit’s operation so they’ll be ready when they return for the off-season program on May 18. The Lions, by the way, open their exhibition schedule Aug. 15 against the Falcons at Ford Field.

Meanwhile, if you missed Stafford’s “extreme” makeover by glam tennis star Maria Sharapova on ESPN’s “E:60″ program earlier this week, you can see it here.

Stafford comes across in the piece as a still-unspoiled college kid with a good sense of humor about himself. Describing himself as “a jeans guy,” he jokes that his style is casual, not casual-chic. “There’s no chic with me.”

Sharapova warns “the poor boy is not going to know what’s gonna hit him.” 

Asked what his hair styling routine is, Stafford draws laughs when he says, “Towel, …

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Munson: ‘Yeah yeah yeah yeah!’

I remember when Larry Munson, who’d spent a season as part of the newly arrived Braves’ original broadcast team, first took over from Ed Thilenius as the voice of the Georgia Bulldogs. 

Even as a ninth grader, I was already a Bulldog traditionalist, and like many fans, I found the gravelly, staccato bark of Munson took some getting used to after the smooth, mellow tones of Thilenius.

I didn’t dislike Munson. In fact, I felt he’d been wronged when he got crowded out of the Braves booth by the tremendous ego of Milo the Mouth. Still, I remember feeling that Munson came across on his early UGA broadcasts as something of an outsider. 

For some reason, I recall the moment when Munson won me over and I finally considered him one of “us.” It was the 1968 game matching No. 5 Georgia with No. 12 Auburn for the SEC Championship. It wasn’t so much any specific call or turn of phrase; he just sounded so into the game, like it really mattered to him whether the Bulldogs won. From that time …

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