The hype surrounding the Sept. 5 visit of the Dogs to Boone Pickens Stadium keeps getting bigger and more intense, as do the expectations of folks out in Oklahoma, who now are talking about the Pokes possibly being 11-0 by the time they meet Oklahoma in late November. They think they have a team of destiny and that the first step will be a win over Georgia. Just imagine how great it would be and what a media boost it would give the Dogs to win that game.
Kinda sends a shiver down your spine even during mid-July.
Which set me to thinking about my favorite Bulldog season-openers over the years.
And then, of course, there’s the 1980 opener against the Vols in Knoxville, replayed every home game on Sanford Stadium’s big screen: No. 34 leaving his footprints on Bill Bates. Munson: “My God, a freshman!” The beginning of a national championship season.
But there’ve been other openers almost as sweet. Like the 1971 56-25 romp over Oregon State, the first game at quarterback for my classmate, Andy Johnson. The most memorable part of the game, though, was the five punt returns for 202 yards by Buzy Rosenberg, including returns of 79 and 66 yards for touchdowns.
Can’t forget the 2003 30-0 shellacking of Clemson at Death Valley, either. Georgia came into that game shorthanded due to two defensive starters being injured and eight other players being suspended. But the defense came up big and four Dogs, including backup QB D.J. Shockley, ran for more yards than the Tigers did as a team.
And what about the 2005 opener, when another heavily hyped offensive machine from out west invaded Sanford Stadium. With D.J. taking over the reins, the Dogs began another SEC championship season with a 48-13 win over Boise State that was remarkable chiefly because it was so easy.
Lastly, there was the first half of the home-and-home with Okie State in 2007. The Cowpokes had the national media buzz and played a decent game against the Dogs, but despite having 12 first-time starters Georgia won 35-14, with a third-string redshirt freshman tailback from New Jersey turning a lot of heads with his shake-and-bake moves and sprints back to the huddle.
Will the 2009 opener rank with those? Let’s hope so. If there are other opening games that are among your favorites, share them in the comments. And vote in the poll for the greatest of my two top favorites.