Nashville – I’m going to say something, and you’re going to laugh. You’re going to laugh so hard you’ll make like Chipper Jones and pull an oblique muscle. And that’s OK. I’ll feel you’re laughing with me, not at me. (Sort of.) So here goes:
Georgia has the mighty Gators where they want them.
I know, I know. It sounds like the dumbest line I’ve ever written, which would make it the dumbest line in the history of lines. But the Bulldogs will play in Jacksonville on Halloween with nobody expecting them to do anything but lose by six touchdowns, and that’s not a bad way to approach such an opponent.
“We having nothing to lose,” A.J. Green said Saturday. “We know we have a chance [against Florida]. We’re going to go down there and play hard and play fast and play physical.”
I know, I know. You’re saying: What evidence exists to suggest Georgia is capable of doing any of the above, let alone all of it? Saturday’s game? Hey, that was against Vandy. And I hear that, too. The Bulldogs led by just seven points after 40 minutes and outgained the SEC’s worst offense by only 103 yards. But it was, I submit, better than losing.
And let’s be honest: After what happened last week in this state, we weren’t sure Georgia would win again this season. But they won 34-10 Saturday and got incrementally better. Said quarterback Joe Cox: “All three phases [offense, defense and special teams] played well. We really needed a game where we all played well.”
Georgia ran the ball harder and better, at least in the second half. The defense didn’t allow Vandy quarterback Larry Smith to turn into Joe Montana, or even Jonathan Crompton. The great Green made another great play, turning a sideline hitch into a 65-yard touchdown. It wasn’t the greatest performance in the history of football, but it was the best Georgia has looked in 2009.
I know, I know. It was still just Vandy, and this Vanderbilt team is a shadow of the past few. But with all the negativity swirling around Georgia, it was a heartening first step.
Said linebacker Rennie Curran: “Coach kept telling us we have to represent the guys who’ve worn the jersey before, the guys who had the ‘G’ on their helmet and who might not have appreciated the way we’ve been playing. Now the weight’s been lifted. We know we’ve still got an opportunity to do great things this season.”
Like give regal Florida a royal run? “Yeah, why not?” said freshman Orson Charles, a Florida native. “We had an edge today. We’d heard our coaches were going to get fired, but we listened to them. We had a team meeting [Tuesday] and just talked. We broke everything down and said we had to put it in the past.”
Said Mike Bobo, the offensive coordinator who worked from the sideline this day: “A lot of people don’t give this team a lot of credit, and I’m talking about Vanderbilt. But they’re a tough team, and to get something going gave us some confidence. I hope that can carry over against Florida.”
I know, I know. It sounds silly. But it sounded pretty silly two years ago to think that a Georgia team that had been blown out in Knoxville and needed a late Vandy fumble to survive here would go to Jacksonville after a bye week and unhorse the reigning national champ. And remind me again: How’d that one turn out?