Monday, August 27, 2018

"Well, I'm not usually one for speeches, so goodbye." - Ron Swanson

It's not you, it's me.
The only Van Halen that truly matters y'all...

Historically, I've long hated change. It has been my standard operating procedure since even before Van Halen transformed into Van Hagar and also well before something called New Coke hit grocery shelves.

Yes, whoever coined the phrase, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" is one of my favorite philosophers.

Sure there were signs of cracks in my exterior; small instances that one could point to and say, "Hey, you're not so scared of doing things differently after all." For instance, as I grew up I liked to rearrange my room at times, move furniture around and see what space opened up. In adulthood I also once had a brief, uneventful, and sublimely lacking affair with something called "decaf" coffee.

But for the most part, I've long enjoyed living each day in comfortable and familiar environs. That said, as I age I've noticed a need developing; a need to appreciate opportunities to stretch my horizon, challenge my own status quo, and take different paths through this jungle of Life.

A large part of that is why this blog has throttled down to a virtual halt. When my girls were young they would be in bed and asleep by 8:00pm most nights. I'm not much for mainstream television, so that left me the better part of two hours to write about my Alma Mater, her athletic developments in particular.

I got a real charge out of prepping a couple posts, scheduling them to publish about the time the ol' woke up, and then seeing the stats climb. There's some of you that have had this little blog bookmarked just about since its inception. Others have joined up along the way, some of those have even stuck around. I truly appreciate your visits, your comments, the emails, the criticisms, the laughs, the lows endured together that have made us stronger, and just the camaraderie along what will have been a ten year journey next month.

No, today is not the very end of Bernie's Dawg Blawg. But today is the start of something new for me that will mean...yes, somehow...even less posts here.

You see, one change I've been working on for some time (really ever since this post a few years back when I expected to go on a little hiatus) is broadening my writing into other avenues. And while some of those topics may have been broached here, it just seems a better idea to pivot rather than force content that doesn't always fit into what we've built here.

So no Ron Swanson, this isn't a good bye so much as a chance to introduce you to a new venture. It's something I guess I'd knew I'd always get around of these days...

Monday, April 23, 2018

GDay - what I saw

You win some. You lose some. But only in a spring game can you do both in one afternoon. Here are my casual observations from the Red vs Black scrimmage.

Gameday feeling. Great crowd is what Kirby wants and that is what he gets. The energy gives the young players a taste on what fall Saturdays are like when the games count. And it gives the recruits something more to think about for sure.

Justin Fields is a large dude. I don’t put much weight in spring performances, especially at quarterback. But Fromm sure gets a lot of tipped and batted down balls at the line of scrimmage. Or maybe I’m still just sore over the one that bounced off a Bama’s player’s helmet in Atlanta back in January. 

Mainly it was nice to see what Fields can eventually bring to the game when he does earn snaps. Lot of zip on the ball and such a fluid runner.

As for Fromm he had a few really nice deep balls. Ridley had one of them ripped out by McGhee on what would’ve been a very nice touchdown. But on a day that saw about 90% of the plays as passes, I thought the best pass came from Fields off his back foot when he lifted a beautiful ball to Landers in the corner of the end zone.

GDay 2018 definitely lived up to Kirby saying it would be a game for the quarterbacks. And since there were so many passes we didn’t get to see much of Holyfield. But I thought he and Herrien looked good in pass protect when they were needed.

Speaking of pass protect, how about Keyon Brown and Brenton Cox showing off that a simple tight end ain’t gonna be able to ward them off. Scary fast dudes with a nose for the quarterback!

Monty Rice definitely eased some of my concerns about losing Roquan. He was adding pressure up the middle and chasing down ball carriers all day.

Ahkil Crumpton had some nice catches, especially the one he caught across the middle in traffic but still snuck around the edge for some more yardage.

That’s some of what I saw. Hope you enjoyed some spring ballin’ as much as we did. Go Dawgs!

Friday, April 20, 2018

GDay - what I'm looking for tomorrow

First of all it will be interesting to see how many folks get turned away. With only 78,ooo seats available tomorrow and record crowds for this event thus far under Kirby’s watch, ain’t everybody gonna get a first hand look at Justin Fields arm and Holyfield’s legs.

Regardless of seating arrangements and availability, I think the first thing I want to see is how well the middle of the field is covered by our defense on passing downs.
You see, one does not just replace a player like Roquan Smith. It’s impossible. But I have great confidence that the coaches have recruited talent behind him. So I’m confident that we have someone that can blitz through the heart of the offensive protection. Afterall, the name Natrez Patrick comes to mind. And I’m confident we may have someone that can defend the field laterally from sideline to sideline.

But what made Roquan so very special was how well he defended the middle of the field in passing situations. He could cover a tight end. He could take away a slot receiver’s crossing route. And there was nary a team that would dare to throw a middle screen in front of Roquan Smith.

In other words, opposing quarterbacks had a lot to process at the line of scrimmage when they looked across and saw Roquan staring at them. Were Monty Rice and Nate McBride paying close attention? I hope so. And again, I have full confidence that the coaches have recruited the right players.

Because it’s been since before the disgraceful John Jancek linebacker coached era that we could defend that area of the field on any down that effectively. I miss Roquan a lot already. I’ll miss him a lot more if we see a lot of successful seam routes and crossing patterns.

Elijah Holyfield should have himself a day. The fans aren’t the only ones I suspect that want to see how he manages 20 or so touches in a game(like) situation.

Pass protection. Kirby says it is structured to be a quarterback’s game. As nice as it is to have a true sophomore quarterback that lead us within a breath of a National Championship, I think everyone would be thrilled if Justin Fields made some plays. Still, in a spring game it’s hard to gauge things like pass protection. However it will still be something to keep a close eye on.

And not just for the obvious reasons of seeing how the coaches rotate tackles and guards. We lost two absolutely amazing pass protection runnings backs in Chubb and Michel. Holyfield and Herrien have big shoes to fill as (probably) the only scholarship backs available tomorrow. We know Fromm can hurt teams with his arm as well as his legs if need be. And we suspect Fields will eventually be able to do the same to opposing teams’ defense. But we’ll need to have solid pass protection, and that sometimes means a small running back stepping up into the path of a blitzing monster.

Special teams are typically hard to truly evaluate, but Kirby had this to say yesterday:

“Our special teams, we think we’ve got some good competition going on, so we’ll be coming after punts, we’re going to do everything real on kickoff and kickoff return, we’re just not going to tackle live,” he said. “But everything is going to be as real as possible other than that. Same thing with punt and punt return, so we’ll be rushing them and we’ll have punt returners back there trying to return them. We’ve got great competition at punter, great competition at returner. I’d love to see some guys have some pressure on them and have to make kicks and catches.”

So perhaps we can at least see some of these punters under rushed conditions. And those are a few things I’m watching for, in addition to seeing some new guys that have supposedly stepped up big thus far, like Brenton Cox and Cade Mays. What’re you ready to see from some football in April?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Jake Fromm - sophomore slump??...not likely.

Whoever holds the number one quarterback position at Georgia is often under the spotlight, but Jake Fromm may be under more pressure than most in 2018. After beginning last season as a backup, he was thrown into action and stood up tall to serve his team and take them to the Championship game. Despite losing that game, Fromm has earned huge recognition from scouts, coaches, and fellow players for the way he embraced his situation last year.
And this time around there could be a lot more to come from him.

Fromm came from out of the blue after an injury to Jacob Eason, and since then he has never looked back. Coming in with nothing to prove last season, he will face a very different proposition this season when the games get underway. The decision to play Fromm last September when Eason went out in the opener was an easy one. Now, many expect newcomer Justin Fields to challenge for playing time sooner rather than later.
That adds some pressure for the incumbent sophomore signal caller in Fromm. Plus, the expectation will be that Fromm will not only replicate last season’s play, but build on it thanks to that experience, as well as show himself off as being one of the better young quarterbacks in the conference and the nation.
Fromm has shown a penchant for handling the pressure, both on the field and off of it. And all indications are that he’s embracing the role of “seasoned starter” well thus far.
The pressure is on Fromm already, because many people are looking at him as a possible Heisman Trophy winner. The latest betting shows he is 12/1 to lift the Heisman. One reason Fromm is such a big price is that some people still believe that last season was a fluke, and he hasn’t improved enough to be a starting quarterback. Should Fromm go out and throw brilliantly in his opening two or three games of the 2018 season, then he will become a genuine Heisman contender, his price will certainly fall.
The road to where he is now has been a strange one for Jake Fromm, but no one can argue that he has taken advantage of the opportunities given to him. He now heads into a new season where he is being talked about as a potential Heisman Trophy winner, so has a bit of pressure on his shoulders. However, we know from watching him mature so quickly last season that he has a good head on him, and is more than capable of handling that pressure.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Dawgs' NFL Draft talent preview - one on hold, but ten with eyes on Sundays

Deandre Baker Was All Set for the NFL - Then This Happened
For Deandre Baker, it’s hard to forget: his University of Georgia team came within an inch of winning a national championship. In his head, he continues to recall how the game against Alabama came to an end. Georgia got behind the line to take down Alabama passer Tua Tagovailoa in overtime and take his team out of field goal range. Georgia believed that they were about to secure the University’s first national championship since 1980.

Then it happened. Tagovailoa threw a 41-yard TD bomb to DeVonta Smith to rewrite the Bulldogs’ story.

Baker could only watch as that play unfolded. That his team fell just one game shy of winning a championship was motivation enough to ignore the NFL draft and return to the program. Another factor in Baker’s decision was that he was watching ESPN on the very day of the deadline for players to make a decision on whether or not to declare. Then they replayed the TD. If there was any chance that Baker would change his mind, it had just been blown to smithereens.

In the lead up to the early entry deadline for the draft, Baker said that he had heard that he would be taken anywhere within rounds one to three. Both DC Mel Tucker and HC Kirby Smart had expressed their surprise in his decision to return to the Bulldogs.

Lockdown corner
Throughout last season, Baker, who recorded nine pass breakups and three interceptions, saw a limited number of balls thrown in his direction. Pro Football Focus revealed that the DB went 272 defensive snaps in a row without giving up a touchdown.

When Baker was given a national audience, he appeared to play some of his best football. While the Bulldogs were given a lesson in passing the football by Oklahoma in the first half of the Rose Bowl, he went on to make one of the game’s biggest plays.

On 3-and-12 in double overtime and making his way through traffic, Baker saw that Oklahoma was executing a misdirection play. He avoided any receiver looking to divert his angle and forced Marquise Brown out of bounds and shy of the first down.

This set up a Lorenzo Carter blocked field goal attempt, before a Sony Michel walk-off touchdown put them into the national championship.

In the title game, while Calvin Ridley scored a late TD, Baker held him to just 23 yards on 4 catches.
Baker first came to the fore as a sophomore. He started 2016 as a backup, with Juwuan Briscoe and Malkom Parrish on the outside. After week four’s 45-14 loss to Mississippi, however, Georgia decided to give Baker a chance to start.

It soon became clear that the move was a good one.

With safety Dominick Sanders, DB Aaron Davis, and CB Malkom Parrish all graduating, Baker is now the secondary’s only seasoned veteran.

Bulldogs could make draft history
This year’s draft, however, could prove to be a historic one for Georgia. Some 10 Bulldogs took part in the recent NFL combine. Should nine of those players be picked, it would be UGA’s largest-ever draft class.

The quality of Georgia’s class, however, isn’t just about depth. UGA can refer to a handful of their players as some of the best in the draft and could see up to three players taken in round one: a program record. Two UGA players have been selected in the first round of a draft seven times in the past.

In an mock draft, Chad Reuter predicted that three Bulldogs would be selected in the first round: Roquan Smith to the San Diego Chargers (pick 23), Sony Michel to the Pittsburgh Steelers (pick 28) and Isaiah Wynn to the Jacksonville Jaguars (pick 29).

Reuter named six Bulldogs in total that he believes will be selected within the first four rounds of the draft. He predicts that RB Nick Chubb will be selected by the 49ers with the 59th pick, Lorenzo Carter by the Browns with the 84th pick, and Trenton Thompson picked up in the fourth round by the Chargers. If Reuter’s prediction comes true, the Bulldogs would only need to see three of its four players who were at the combine selected to set a single draft record.

According to many betting sites, how these draft departures will affect the 2018-19 Bulldogs remains to be seen. For a team that was three points away from a national championship, they are only fourth in the betting to win it, with Oddschecker listing bookies that place them at 10/1. On the one hand, Bulldogs fans may feel insulted but, on the other, they may be tempted to take advantage of the free bets available, with such favorable odds on offer. The champions, Alabama Crimson Tide, are favorites to retain their title at 11/4. The Clemson Tigers and Ohio State Buckeyes are both favored above the Bulldogs, at 8/1 and 9/1, respectively.

Different paths
When it comes to two of these players (Smith and Thompson), their paths may have begun in similar fashion, but they’ve since taken very different routes along the way. Both were juniors last year and had one year remaining of eligibility when they make the decision to turn pro in January. Smith, however, is believed to have had a difficult time in making the decision, whereas Thompson supposedly had no doubts at all.

As each sit and wait, with the draft less than a month away, it’s Smith alone who seems to be destined for stardom in the NFL. It’s uncertain as to what will become of Thompson. He’s almost certain to be drafted, but it’s open to debate as to how long he will have to wait until his name is called.

The talk at Georgia’s Pro Day was that the best Thompson can hope for is the third or fourth round. Smith, however, looks likely to be a top-15 pick. He was told as much in December when he completed his underclassman evaluation application form. He claims his decision to enter the draft this year, however, was not the no-brainer that many assumed it to be. Smith, who led the entire SEC in both sacks and tackles for loss, said that he struggled in letting go of his Bulldogs family.

Sony Michel, Davin Bellamy, Nick Chubb, and Lorenzo Carter each returned for their senior seasons last year for largely the same reason. Not one of them, however, was given the same kind of high praise that went to Smith. Instead, they were given similar feedback to that of Thompson.
Such decisions are rarely based on contract potential and draft grades, however. There can be extenuating factors.

Tough time for once top prospect
The 6-foot-4 Thompson has suffered with injuries throughout his collegiate career. He underwent shoulder surgery last year, in addition to struggling with knee injuries. He also suffered a medical episode that led to him being hospitalized and forced to withdraw from school.

While it created health worries for Thompson, it also caused him further trouble, academically. It’s unclear as to whether he would have been eligible for another season, but most felt that it was the right time for him to make the leap to the NFL.

When Thompson arrived in Georgia from Westover High School, he was the top prospect in the country, according to 247Sports composite rankings.

At times, he lived up to his reputation, with 56 total stops in his sophomore year. Between recovering from shoulder surgery and suffering from a knee sprain, however, he saw fewer snaps in 2017. He missed a pair of games and finished with 38 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss.

Thompson seemed to struggle at Georgia’s recent Pro Day, appearing to be favoring his right leg during step-overs and timed runs. Smith’s workout was almost flawless, even though his status indicated that he wasn’t obligated to participate. Only time will tell how each of these players progress from here. For now, at least, it appears that their careers are destined to take very different paths.

Friday, March 2, 2018


Selflessness. (n) - devoted to others' welfare or interest and not one's own. 

With a dream season in the balance, not to mention a spot in the National Championship game, Nick Chubb knew what his friend and his team needed.
“In the second half Sony Michel, he gets popped right on the ball, fumbles, the guy picks it up and runs it back for a touchdown,” Smart said. “Nick comes over to me on the sideline and gets right in my ear and says, ‘Coach, put Sony back in. I want him to touch it first.’ Well, it wasn’t really his turn. It was Nick’s turn to carry it. Nick wanted Sony to go back in to prove that we had confidence because we knew weren’t going to win the game unless he got back in rhythm, unless he got his confidence back. Sure enough, that next drive, we actually gave it to Nick first but Sony came back and made the run that’ll define that game -- the last run.”
Is it too late to petition for a fifth year of eligibility? With the way the coaches are stocking the talent in Athens, we may not miss their yards and touchdowns. But God, I'm gonna miss their hearts and their passion for UGA.


Thursday, February 22, 2018

When JazzHands turn to pen... gets a little dusty up in here.

Sony Michel asks for our forgiveness and gives humble thanks. And all I can say is, "Same here Sony. Same here."

Mostly, though, I’m going to miss you all. My people. Dawg Nation. You all mean the world to me, and it’s been like that since Day One.
I often think back to when I took my official visit to UGA. Being there for that game against South Carolina, between the hedges? I mean….
I just knew.
I immediately got this feeling that Georgia was the place for me. And it wasn’t even about, you know, Ohhh, these facilities are the best I’ve ever seen. (They were!) Or Wow, this gear is the best-looking college stuff out there. (It is!) It just came down to all the amazing and kind people I met. Georgia fans, and everyone associated with UGA, are just the coolest, most supportive people in the world. You’ve been there for me every step of the way during my four years in Athens.
And now it’s time for me to pay back some of that love you’ve shown me by doing big things in the NFL and making you all proud.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Super Bowl Dawgs

Malcolm Mitchell hasn't played for the Patriots this season as he has been nursing a knee injury. The former Georgia star receiver has been in the NFL for just two seasons. But if New England wins tomorrow night against the Philadelphia Eagles Mitchell could have just as many Super Bowl rings! Regardless, there's no doubt Mitchell wishes he was on the field to help Tom Brady out and everyone back in Valdosta GA wishes the same thing.

Boss Andrews' best 75 meter sprint.
One former Bulldog and now Patriot that will be playing is David Andrews. "Boss" wasn't drafted in 2015, but signed on with Belichick's team and eventually earned the starting spot to start their 2016 season. Like Mitchell, Andrews is a homegrown Georgia boy having graduated from Wesleyan High School. Dawg fans remember Andrews as a consistent starter having played in 50 games as a Bulldog. There's no doubt that Tom Brady and the New England coaches appreciate that consistency as well.

The lone Dawg on the Eagles' side is Dannell Ellerbe. Philadelphia is Ellerbe's fourth NFL team, and this will be his second Super Bowl having won one with the Ravens in 2013. Unfortunately, the former two sport star out of Richmond Senior High School in Rockingham NC has played sparingly this season. But when he does enter the game both Georgia fans and Ravens fans will look for him around the ball. Ellerbe has a knack for creating and recovering turnovers. In fact, his interception of Brady in the 2013 AFC Championship game helped the Ravens slip past the Patriots into SB XLVII.

NetBet Sport currently has the Patriots as a 4.5 point favorite. As an NFL agnostic, I only have those three former Dawgs in the fight. It's even more popular to root against the Patriots in the NFL as it is to root against Auburn in the SEC. And Belichick's team usually enjoys the role so much they simply keep on winning.

Still, I think the Eagles could run away with this one, much like the Falcons last year for the first 45 minutes. But I think Philadelphia closes the deal. Most importantly, I hope my smoked wings turn out as good as last year.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Two initial Tuesday thoughts

First, as well as officiated as the Rose Bowl was, last night was about the opposite. The Tyler Simmons offside call on the block punt missed the fact that he was drawn. Still, in real time that was probably forgivable.

However, when Swift gets dragged down by his face mask and collar right in front of the head official, that’s more than a head scratcher. 

Second, we’ve relied on halftime adjustments all season. Last night we went into the locker room thirty minutes away from a National Championship with a 13-0 lead. Chaney had Pruitt on the ropes after that Hardman touchdown run. And clearly Tucker was having a relatively easy time of making Hurts use his head and his arm more often that his feet. 

But somewhere along the way our offense neglected itself of Sony Michel. He was clearly the player that needed the ball most often and yet we didn’t give him the reins. That’s something that I know will haunt me for a long time. Surely the same goes for Jim Chaney. 

And that Tua kid, you’ve got to give him credit, stepped into the biggest game and delivered. They’d been working Parrish’s side all along. Somehow we failed to close that window. 

Feel bad for you and I. Feel bad for the coaches that had worked so hard and came so close. 

But I’m heartbroken for that team, especially those seniors that deserved that stage and everything that comes with it. 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

the Sunday Misery is moonlight through the pines

"Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers..."

Love me some Skynard. But this week, like no other, I prefer just an old sweet song.

My tell-tale Dawg heart
In elementary school, teachers invited us to the front of the room to either show or tell. You had an option to show the class something that was important to you, or tell them something that was important to you.

Can you guess what I usually chose?

In 1972 my parents moved to Athens GA. I was two and a half years old. I didn't move away until I went off to college.

In my grade school years I remember passing the railroad tracks on the east side of Sanford and seeing it full of empty beer and whiskey bottles plus the occasional worn-down recliner on the way to Sunday School.

After the National Championship in the 1981 Sugar Bowl, I remember all of the billboards around Athens featuring the Junkyard Dawgs and the phrase "Hunker Down"!

Somewhere around 1983, I remember the house that was built adjacent to the Dooley's home near the intersection of West Lake Dr and Milledge Cir. The joke was that Coach was building it for Herschel. I was almost young enough to believe it.

Later, I went to Cedar Shoals High School. I was a couple years behind Athens Good Samaritan Bryant Gantt. He's the guy you've seen on the Georgia sideline probably since the Donnan years. As a lifelong fan turned employee of the University, he's on his way to becoming the only contemporary I know that is on a trajectory that legends like Coach Dooley and, dare I say, Coach Magill were on decades ago.

In 1988 I graduated high school at Stegeman Coliseum. The same Steg I used to (occasionally) skip Wednesday night choir practice with Chip to see Durham's Hoop Dawgs play.

In the Fall of 1989 I completed my transfer from LaGrange College and enrolled at UGA. ("Still in peaceful dreams I see, the road leads back to you.) It was what I have sometimes affectionately referred to here on the blog as my "first sophomore year" of college. It was also Goff's first year as head coach.

In 1990 Coach Webber's Diamond Dawgs won the College World Series. At this point I had been to (at least) twice as many baseball games on campus as I had football games. I bet a majority of today's freshman don't even know what or where Foley Field is.

Also in 1990 I went from being on Academic probation to Honor Roll. A feat Coach Goff, unfortunately, could not replicate. I eventually graduated in 1993. He was fired in 1995. After the similar up and down trajectories of our UGA careers, I got a diploma and he got Zaxby's. Since it was Guthrie's that got me through all those years, I still say I got the better separation package.

In 1996, at Coach Donnan's debut they gave out t-shirts. But we lost to Southern Miss 11-7 and I saw a dude take our a lighter and burn his new souvenir before he even left Sanford. Sidenote - I think Kirby was a sophomore on that team.

In 1997 I married Jenn, the biggest, most badass Dawg fan I know. Our first dance was to a little tune called Georgia, by Ray Charles.

Also in 1997 I cried after a football game for the first time when Donnan's Dawgs beat Florida. Well, they didn't beat them so much as they whooped their ass until the rules stated that they had to stop.

In 2000 I went back to UGA to become what we affectionately refer to as a "Double Dawg", so I had a student ID for both Donnan's final season as well as Richt's first.

In 2002 Jenn and I began our lil Dawg family. Nothing cuter than a girl in pigtails wearing Georgia red!

I documented most of the remaining years in this post-Richt firing post. I don't want to bore you down an already beaten path, but I would like emphasize that all the way through the Richt era I strengthened friendships with friends like Nama, Fred, Joe Waterloo, Cord, and their wives and families around Georgia football.
Undefeated Tailgate Crew

Like you I've also made many friends around tailgates like Tanner, Hillary, the Wrangler, Dustin, Doherty, Matt, and their wives and families. Saturdays in the fall just aren't the same without them.

Thanks to social media I got to meet Robert and Kerri plus her husband Barry out in Boulder in '09. I also met Tony on that trip, on a bourbon aisle of a local liquor store of course. On the concourse right before Ralphie ran onto Folsom Field, Ben screamed at me and we yelled "Go Dawgs!" together for the first time.

On other trips, UGA events, and the occasional Drive By Truckers concert I've met other Damn Good Dawg fans like Mackie, Krisi, Jen from La Jolla, Buddy, the Thinking Bulldog, Groo, Kit, Jake & April & Bryan, Sorrow & Trevin, DentalDawg, Chase, Andrew, Brad, Sandy, Angie, Scott from the Boro, Paul Westerdawg, John aka the Oconee River Rat, Tony & Russ, Jason, and of course the Eternal Redcoat Brett.

I've shared a ride to Columbia SC with Salty to share some beers with Ben, only to suffer through the worst beat down I've seen our Dawgs take.

After the Dawgs' win in Jacksonville Derrick, Colby, and Eddie helped me sacrifice my car. Next year we're going to find a different way to celebrate a WLOCP win.

Even through all the ups and downs, the relationships have held me true.

OUR tell-tale Dawg heart
That's a really, really long way of pointing out that we all have a story. It's moments like this, before your team plays its biggest game in decades, that we as fans tend to reflect on how we, personally, got here.

As the old saying goes, it's not the destination but the journey that's important. Today, here on the eve of the 2018 College Football National Championship, I respectfully disagree. It's both the journey and the destination.

It's the moonlight through those Georgia pines. It's the old sweet song that keeps bringing us back each and every August.

We've all worked through our own moments of fear and trepidation to get here. We've all hugged perfect strangers in the stands of Sanford and other stadiums in the Southeast and beyond when some player wearing that most magnificently beautiful helmet made a play. We've all buried our heads in our hands more often than we've raised them to the Heavens.

And here we are. It started in our veins, it coursed through our heart, and brought us to our feet!

Tweet Champs!
We've stood together in agony. We've put our arms around each other in desperation. We've traveled the nation and drank towns dry. We've suffered through coaching searches and injuries and dropped passes and also getting passed on by the national narrative.

But Kirby's team has punched its own ticket. It's been a fabulous ride...

2017's Final stanza
...but it ain't over. This magical season just had to end with Alabama. Like no other the Tide have stood between us and greatness the most often and the most resolute. They held us five yards short. They've beat us down twice in our own stadium in the last nine years.

And you may have heard recently that our coach is their former assistant. While the national media lazily tries to draw similarities, we need to remember that Kirby is quick to point out the differences. Tucker's defense is more like Junkyard Dawgs than Saban Crimson clones.

After all, sheep are for Tenersee "farmers".

Yes, this season has to end with Alabama. And come Monday night (or very early Tuesday morning) there's no reason the winner can't be Georgia. After all, the Tide had to fight their way in. They are still trying to prove they belong. The national analysts keep saying "It's an all SEC final!". But only one of us is the conference champion. They may like the cut of the Tide's jib, but Saban failed to win his own damn division.

Meanwhile some keep saying "well goshdarn whatever happens happens and beyond a Rose Bowl berth this season is just gravy".

Is that you? Are you satisfied? Is that defeatist attitude something our coaches and players would endorse? Is that why Fromm set the edge for Sony last Monday night so that you could post your #RoseBowl excitement on bookface and scream with glee just so he and Chubb and Zo and Bellamy and Dominick could have the chance to friggin' lose their final game of their Georgia Bulldog career? Is that why Lorenzo Carter finally came back down to Earth earlier this week after hovering endlessly over the Rose Bowl turf to block that damn kick?

Dude, your sadness makes Alanis Morisette want to make another starving dog commercial. Get a gotdamn grip!

We're Georgia and we belong right where we are. They're the ones that need to prove they belong. They're the ones that're bringing their cousins to dates. They're the ones that have a complacent fan base. They're the ones with a coach that's spent 20 years on AARP benefits.

Let's bring this home. Let's complete this journey! Our destination has been the same since we became Dawg fans! Our goal hasn't wavered since Bellamy stripped sacked that Domer in South Bend! Our focus has been steadfast since the blood coursed through the veins into our heart and brought us to our feet!

Truly, I don't know if we'll win tomorrow, but I can't think of one reason why we can't. We've come this far, we've followed our own paths. For 37 years we've turned our heads towards the Southwest corner for the Battle Hymn until we've developed a crick in our neck. We've joined hands and raised our four fingers and most recently a phone's flashlight to beckon our own inner Glory Glory!

I don't know what the future holds, but I know it's bright and I only want it brighter. Like, NOW! I want the confetti to drench and nearly drown Nick Chubb. I want to see Sony make #JazzHands and snow angels on the Mercedes-Benz floor. I want to see that gap in Zo's smile as he hoists the trophy.  I want to see Bellamy holding the ball he stripped from Hurts with two minutes left on the stage as he accepts the MVP award.

I want to hug my kids with a championship hug. I want my wife to know the joy that she's been been screaming and longing for all these years. I want my friends to feel the joy that I know they've all earned ten times over. I want you, my loyal and eager Reader, to enjoy the long and joyous smile of a truly satisfied Georgia Buldog fan.

Glory Glory, let us bow our thankful heads y'all....dear Lord, we thank you for the opportunity to play in Atlanta one more time. Please let Roquan find many a ball carrier and Wynn raise Chubb to your Heavens at least one more time! In the name of Herschel's Separated Shoulder and Munson's Metal Steel Chair, Amen! Go Dawgs!


Saturday, January 6, 2018

Georgia vs. Alabama - could special teams tilt the balance?

Like many, I expect a pretty even matchup Monday night between Georgia and Alabama. Two complete teams with elite talent going head to head should make for an exciting game.

Not exciting like the Rose Bowl was, where dudes were scoring every time you managed a breath. But exciting as in close, and hard fought. Every yard inch will  matter. So could this one come down to special teams play?

In a word, absolutely.

The teams are pretty even in punting and place kicking, although Rodrigo puts it in the endzone more proficiently. But there is a decided Georgia advantage in both kickoff and punt return. (via

Mecole Hardman, who has been so, so close to breaking a return all season, averages 11 yards per punt return and 27 yards per kick return. Alabama's top punt returner is Trevon Diggs who averages nearly nine yards a return and their top kick returner is Henry Ruggs who averages 18 yards.

If this evolves into a plodding game of field position, there are two things that can turn things - turnovers and punt returns. I glad we have 4 on our side. Even if he doesn't break one - and good God is Mecole overdue for that one last block!! - a nice return from inside the 20 to their side of the 50 can be a HUGE play for us.

Two more days! Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing...Go Dawgs!

Georgia vs. Alabama, a deep look at X's and O's

If you haven't already I think you'd really enjoy this National Championship preview podcast from Solid Verbal. Dan chats with Chris Brown of Smart Football, who always has a certain depth to his analysis. He has some interesting thoughts on how Chaney specifically could impact the game. And I particularly appreciated how he breaks down the relationship between Kirby and Saban and the role it could play in terms of each others' understanding and game planning going into Monday night.

Suffice it to say, Brown isn't just giving the the relationship cute lip service like many national analysts. Add it to your podcast feed...soon!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Georgia vs. Alabama, the rushing game

One thing is clear, whichever team has the ball Monday night will be trying to establish the run. The Dawgs and the Tide, respectively, are one and two in the conference in rushing the football.

But how they go about achieving that goal are two vastly different animals.

Georgia uses a variety of sets and looks to get Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, college football's most prolific backfield tandem, into space. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney wants to have the opponent's defense sufficiently worn down in the fourth quarter when he can even insert D'Andre Swift into the huddle with fresh legs.

For a great reference to that point, make sure you've thoroughly vetted this post by The Senator where he specifically points out how Oklahoma's secondary grew tired of being blocked the deeper into the game they got.

By contrast, Alabama uses multiple looks as well, but they rely heavily on the legs of Jalen Hurts, not to mention his ability to make the correct reads in the read-option and run-pass-option.

So when someone tries to tell you that this is just the same ol' Bama, take that with a grain of salt. Because they don't have that heavy bruiser of a tailback that they use to tote the rock 20-25 times a game.

Damien Harris is a strong runner and likes to get downhill. He's also athletic, something usually attributed more to his colleague Bo Scarbrough. But together they really handle most of the handoffs, albeit to the tune of just 19 carries/game combined (via

And that's because this is Jalen Hurts' show. He doesn't have as many yards as Harris, but he has the most carries. For the most part he does a good job of reading the defense and determining which run option is best.

However, he ain't perfect. This video of Sugar Bowl highlights gives you an idea of how they utilize the running backs mentioned, but also shows you that Hurts can get flustered. For instance, pay particular attention to the moderate pressure (at best) up the middle Clemson throws at him at about the 2:30 mark when they are able to force a fumble off a bad read and exchange.

That's something, as we discussed yesterday, that could play into Coach Tucker's hands. The Tiger linebacker is really just making a read and playing off of Hurts' eyes. I wouldn't even call it a blitz. Plug Roquan in there on a favorable down and distance and it could definitely lead to a positive result.

That's all well and good. But no matter what anyone (myself included) writes or what any expert on the television tells you this week, we all know from past meetings that this game will come down to which team controls the line of scrimmage best.

In the 2012 SECCG it was practically a draw at the line of scrimmage until late when we had used pretty much the same defensive front the entire game. John Jenkins was gassed and we couldn't stop Eddie Lacy or TJ Yeldon.

Tucker's defense is much more versatile than Grantham's 2012 version. And the point of this post is to highlight the possibility that Alabama's offense is less versatile today than it was then. In other words, stop Hurts and you stop the Tide. They just don't have that one running back that can wear on you from down to down.

Well, to be honest, I think Harris especially fits the bill. It's just that they don't use him that way. Perhaps I just haven't watched enough of them to know that they just don't need him or Scarbrough as much as Hurts. In Harris' best game against Vandy he had 12 carries for 151 yards. In the close game against Mississippi State thogh he was averaging over 11 yards a carry but only touched it eight times. Meanwhile Hurts had 19 carries for two yards a clip (sack yardage included).

Have they been saving 34 and 9's legs just for this game Monday?

In the end I'm going to give Georgia the edge in the rushing game, all while hoping I'm not just seeing what I want to see. Because admittedly, I've watched a lot more of Georgia than Alabama. I just see our rushing attack as much more versatile.

Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing...Go Dawgs!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

First thought on Alabama

I know. It's so hard not to keep re-living those memories of the Rose Bowl. What an epic win! But we didn't do all that work just to rest on laurels, right?

The halftime adjustments by Tucker and Smart were what we've seen all season, just on a grander stage. My initial reflection was that Tucker got away from trying to contain Mayfield and squeeze the pocket, and used more stunts and blitzes, especially up the middle.

Well, I was partially right, as this video will show best. It's the back to back sacks on Mayfield in the third quarter that really started prove that the Sooners were going to have a tougher row to hoe in the second half.

The first sack is a coverage sack in my opinion. Tucker again uses four rushers to squeeze the pocket and by the time Mayfield tries to use his legs because there's no where to throw, Ledbetter is in his face with an easy sack.

And then...well, Tucker lets the boys loose!

Those two plays prove that, even though it may not have played out that way in the first half, Georgia had the defense to go up against this high-powered offense.

Okay, but aren't we supposed to be talking about Alabama? Yes, and that's my next point.

Jalen Hurts has a high of 16 completions in one game this season. And that was in the Sugar Bowl. We know he can hurt you with his arm, but only if you don't manage to stop the run.

Both of these defenses Monday night are going to be trying to do the same thing - stop each other's run game. And I think both are built just for that.

But I think Tucker will use similar schemes in containing Hurts that he did in the Rose Bowl's second half. He wants to contain Hurts as much as he can and force him to throw when he's uncomfortable. Stopping Harris and Scarbrough is a topic for later, because that is surely Tucker's biggest headache this week. Alabama has gained nearly a thousand more yards rushing this season than they have passing.

But games like this tend to come down to quarterback play. Hurts is a true winner, for sure. I like his style and leadership. Plus he comes up big in big moments.

But I like our guy. I think Fromm complements his offense in ways Hurts can only dream of. I just hope Tucker and those Savages can minimize Hurts' impact on the game.

Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing...Go Dawgs!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Even the little things are The Main Thing

It's taken a while to digest exactly what happened. It's so much more than the game itself. It's the experience and the sheer joy you feel when you see your team come out on top on that kind of stage. After a day of thinking and reflecting I still can't come up with the words. But I highly recommend you read this Tommy Tomlinson piece on his experience and why moments like what happened Monday night are so important.

As for the game itself, it was truly an instant classic. Reminiscent of game like the 2006 Rose Bowl which served as the National Championship game between Texas and USC. But this one was our own Georgia Bulldogs! Two amazing teams with amazing talent, both who clearly wanted to be there and wanted to win.

It was a game full of huge swings in momentum from sideline to sideline, as each big play seemed to be one that would finally turn the tide for good. But then there was another, and then another. And then there was another!

I had wondered a few weeks ago if time of possession would be the key factor in stopping the Oklahoma offense and giving us our best shot. I was right about being able to run the ball effectively, I just didn't take into account how effectively we would run it. Something like three drives that took less than a minute. It was the game we knew Sony and Chubb could and should have. So glad Sony got the chance to atone for that fumble and seal the deal himself. And more on that in a minute...

But there were a couple of smaller things that also became the Main Thing. I'll leave the argument of whether the decision to squib kick it to end the first half up to the Sooner fans. But the heads up play by a former reserve running back turned reserve linebacker in Tae Crowder to instinctively snag that kick and lay on it, was amazing.

Think about how easy it would be to just go out there as a kick return specialist and simply go through the motions. Special Teams coordinator Shane Beamer mostly gives credit where it is due, to Crowder, but I'm sure they had been warned to watch for an "nontraditional" kick off. Still, to be ready to go back to your days as a Harris County HS shortstop and snag that ball ended up being a game changer. It was. We had to have it!

Because with just a few ticks on the clock (and with our offensive coordinator in an elevator on the way to the locker room), we were able to call a quick out to Godwin and grab another nine yards and stop the clock with just a second left.

At this point I'm thinking, "Well, that makes Fromm's heave to the endzone a little shorter." But the coaches had another bold idea and Rodrigo took it from there. And there was never a doubt.

Another small thing I noticed that was huge was not just the blocking on that Sony Michel 27 yard touchdown trot, but actually who was blocking - reserve wide receivers and Nauta. Of course, Fromm gave his man on the outside all he could handle to give Sony the room to run. But to send out guys like Crumpton and Simmons and Blount, all with fresh legs and bodies in the second over time to lay some wood was a great call, and refreshing to see.

And now it's on to Alabama in the biggest game our Dawgs have been in since 1982. We've had games where we were playing for this chance. It just wasn't until Kirby preached to Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing that we actually succeeded in getting it done.

Go Dawgs!