D.J. Shockley couldn’t help but chuckle at the question.
“Yeah, I think I may remember that Boise game just a little bit,” he said sarcastically. “I think I might be able to recall a few things that happened that day. I don’t know. Let me think about it.”
Shockley was being asked about the last time Georgia and Boise State played. It was Sept. 3, 2005, and Shockley was a fifth-year senior making his debut as the starting quarterback for the Bulldogs. And there’s good reason he might be able remember a thing or two about that game.
Shockley accounted for six touchdowns that steamy afternoon in Athens. He ran for a 14-yard touchdown on Georgia’s first possession of the game, then passed for five more TDs as the Bulldogs rolled to a 48-13 victory.
Shockley finished as Georgia’s leading passer (16-24, 289 yards) and rusher (5-85) and the Bulldogs went on to win the SEC Championship that season. But he said his most profound memory came from the days leading up to the game.
The Bulldogs, ranked 13th and coming off a 10-win season, were the vogue pick to go down to 18th-ranked Boise in an upset that day.
“That was a big part of that game,” Shockley said. “Out of every college game that weekend, we were the only ones everyone was picking to be upset that day. They were calling it the ‘upset special.’ We were like, ‘why us? We’re a good team. We’re playing at home.’ We didn’t get it. That fired us up.”
Georgia certainly played as if it was motivated. Tony Taylor intercepted Jared Zabransky’s first pass of the game – the Boise quarterback would throw three more picks and fumbled twice before being benched at halftime – as the Bulldogs bolted out to a 24-0 first-half lead.
“You couldn’t have drawn it up any better,” said Shockley, who is currently playing quarterback for the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL. “That got the jitters out for everybody. I know it did for me.”
It was a nightmarish day for the Broncos, then led by head coach Dan Hawkins. They had just begun to forge their reputation as the little BCS Buster from out west. They had come to Georgia determined and confident they could record their first victory over an SEC opponent.
“I knew how that position needed to play that day and it just didn’t happen,” Zabransky told the Idaho Statesman this week. “I felt like I needed to almost have an out-of-body experience and be some unbelievable quarterback and make every play. . . . You’re tryng to make birdie when you should be thinking about hitting the next shot.”
Exactly exactly six years later, Georgia and Boise are set to do battle again and the the roles are practically inversed this time. The Broncos – who are 61-5 in the six seasons since – are coming in ranked No. 5 to Georgia’s 19 and a lot of national analysts are saying the Bulldogs have a decent shot at pulling off an upset.
“It sounds weird to hear Georgia called the underdog in this game,” Shockley said. “Georgia is one of the most prestigious programs in the country. I mean, I know they’re 5 and we’re 19. But Georgia is still Georgia.”
While that may be true, Boise is a vastly different team. The Broncos have won their last four against BCS opponents, knocking off Oklahoma, Oregon twice and Virginia Tech last year.
They also have one of the best quarterbacks in college football history. Fifth-year senior Kellen Moore, who has a career completion percentage of 68, needs eight victories to become the winningest college quarterback of all time.
“Nothing happens fast,” said Boise State head coach Chris Petersen, who was offensive coordinator when the broncos came to Athens. “I think slowly but surely we have just continued to build. And we’ve had good continuity on our staff, and maybe the recruiting has upgraded a little bit. Nothing seems dramatic. It just seems like it’s been going on for a while, and each year we’ve maybe made a little bit of progress.”
“Don’t expect the 2005 Boise State team to show up,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said during a Bulldog Club Tour stop this year. “They did not have the physical ability to hang with us on that day. They’re different. They’re bigger, they’re stronger, they’re faster, they’re more physical, they’re more confident, they’re tougher. What they do, they do extremely well on both sides of the ball.”
That will have to prove sufficient motivation for Georgia.