– This game was 20 years in the making. Plenty of years prior, the Dawgs had teams that were capable of winning an SEC Championship, but none that had. After a heartbreaking loss to Heisman Candidate Rex Grossman and the Florida Gators in Ron Zook’s first year, the Dawgs had played themselves into a must-win situation. Florida held the tie-breaker in the three-way dance between the Dawgs, Gators, and Vols for the SEC East crown and a ticket to Atlanta for the Championship game.
The "must-win" game on the horizon was against Auburn, who the previous year had stole one from us after Mark Richt made his first mistake as the Bulldog head coach. With only about 13 seconds left and sitting around the 2 yard line, he called Jasper Sanks up the middle with no timeouts left. Jasper was stopped at the one, the clock expired, and we died on the field.Richt practicing his "It's Bobo's fault" pose.
However, in 2002, we had nothing but business on our minds and the only thing standing in our way was a very good Auburn team. The game was a battle and Auburn seemed to have the upper hand getting towards the end. To say the Dawgs were painted in a corner would be an understatement as Jason Campbell had been scrambling and throwing us into exhaustion.
Thankfully, a late 4th quarter stop and a subsequent "all heart" punt return by Sean Jones put us in a position where even though we were in 4 down territory, we were across the 50 and that was a big help. David Greene brought us down the field in UT 2001 fashion, but we stalled just inside the 20. Three plays later and we’re looking at one last shot for the endzone.
The “Money Shot Memory" for this begins in the stands. The Redcoats were down and the mood was as ominous as it could get. We didn’t want to play…hell, we didn’t even want to breathe. We must’ve played Krypton (aka Superman) about 10 times already. I'm sure we played it so much that the fans were tired of holding their arms up. Finally, as the team broke from the sideline to head to the field, Willi@m 0wens held up a sign that said “I still believe.” The Redcoats livened up and the crowd followed suit.What's that? It's the sound of victory.
We were here to win this game and no one in Red and Black believed differently. I saw the snap, the pump fake, and then the throw. I never saw the catch. All I saw was a wave, literally a wave,
just like at a baseball or football game, of UGA fans standing up and cheering one after another. The news was trickling down the stadium and at the end of the day there was a referee in the corner with both arms up. That was the day I saw Michael Johnson crushed at the bottom of a Dawg pile and lifted up in Bulldog lore.What "heart" looks like.
What "heart" sounds like.
I could never forget how Glory sounded right after the call. I just sat and listened. There was no way I could play. Instruments were dropped and accidentally stomped to pieces while Redcoats hugged each other and screamed in victory. It was the most excited at any given point in time in life that I have ever been.
We held on for the win and lived that evening like we had won something bigger than the Superbowl. It was a day for our players and fans to never forget. It was the day the second coming of UGA went from being a rumor to being the truth.
That one game and one play has literally inspired me to write half the emotional pieces I write about UGA and athletics in general. In fact, that game coupled with the sheer class of D.J. Shockley, was the reason I wrote this, which I still consider one of my best posts to date.
It was a coming of age for a team that was headed in a new direction. It was a real-life flashback for folks that have loved UGA since the early 80's. It was a Lewis Grizzard piece that was unfortunately never published. It was perfect in every sense of the word.
And that it is why it is my favorite away game (and quite possibly my favorite game) of all time. May its reign at the top be long, but eventually dropped to second place by our upcoming National Title victory.
Until next time kids.
Labels: College Football, Photo Hunt, UGA Football