Shreveport, La. –- Hello from Shreveport, where Georgia’s not-so-hot season will have a cold ending on Monday (mid-40s at kickoff, dropping into the 30s in the second half).
Georgia doesn’t expect a large contingent of fans at the game. About 7,000 tickets were sold from UGA’s 12,000-seat allotment, some of those to Texas A&M fans who were scrounging for seats after the Aggies sold out their inventory. But I did start to see some Georgia fans around town on Sunday.
Overall, the bowl expects a good crowd. Other than Georgia’s unsold seats, all of 49,000-seat Independence Stadium is accounted for. Texas A&M sold out its 12,000-seat allotment, and the bowl sold all of its 25,000. Texas A&M’s proximity to Shreveport helped sales. College Station is about a four-hour drive away, and closer than that are pockets of Aggies fans in east Texas.
The game is what it is, a 7-5 team vs. a 6-6 team, but there are some compelling storylines:
– Gonna be interesting to see how the Georgia defense responds to an awkward challenge, facing an explosive Aggies offense with grad assistants Todd Hartley and Mitch Doolittle handling many of the duties of three fired defensive coaches.
Mark Richt seemed comfortable Sunday that the defense has prepared well.
“Guys like Jeffrey [Owens] and a lot of our leaders really took the responsibility to make this thing work,” Richt said. “And certainly Coach [Rodney] Garner and Mitch Doolittle and Todd Hartley put in a lot of hours to put the plan together.
“I was very pleased with our players’ attitude towards the whole thing. I never once had to try to grab a guy and say, ‘Hey, let’s show [a grad assistant] the respect he deserves in this situation.’ Our guys have been fantastic in that regard, and I’m just proud of all of them.”
– This could well be Rennie Curran’s last game as a Bulldog. He’s strongly considering the NFL draft, and while he says he hasn’t made a decision, players more often go than stay when in doubt.
The Aggies are impressed with what they’ve seen of Curran on film. “One of the best linebackers in college football”, said Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman, a former coach/general manager of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers.
If he goes, Curran has had an outstanding three years in Athens, capped by recently being named this season’s team MVP.
– Late-season stability on a reconfigured offensive line fueled drastic improvement in Georgia’s running game. But Josh Davis, who started the final six regular-season games at right tackle, is iffy at best for Monday’s bowl because of a sprained ankle. “He’s available to play, but he’s not as far along as we hoped he was,” Richt said Sunday. Vince Vance figures to start at right tackle if Davis can’t.
– Texas A&M ranks 111th in the nation in pass defense, which could mean a nice farewell game for Georgia quarterback Joe Cox. If you haven’t noticed this stat, Cox is just three touchdown passes away from matching UGA’s single-season record of 25 set last year by Matthew Stafford.
Monday’s game will end Cox’s UGA career — and, for that matter, his football-playing career. “It definitely comes a lot faster than you ever think it would,” he said Sunday. “But we really don’t have time to get caught up in emotions.”
And if you missed ‘em in the paper or on-line, here are links to a few stories I’ve written on the Dogs and the bowl in the past few days: