You could look at 2007 and think “we had one helluva season,” “we were only one loss away from a MNC,” or even “man if we don’t dance in that endzone, this season would’ve been horrible.” The truth is this season for the Dawgs was absolutely riddled (in the good way) with various “turning points.” Times where if a certain move WASN’T made, it could’ve destroyed our entire year. So, this week’s List is about the 10 Turning Points the Dawgs had this year that lead to another 10-win season.
The 10 “Turning Points” that Led the Dawgs to Another 10-Win Season:
10. One and done baby! – This play was the evolution of Mike Bobo as an offensive play caller. He called a great game the first few of the season, lulled in the middle, and was superb at the end, but I think this call was the one that gave him the confidence he needed to put together a great gameplan for Florida. He methodically stuck with the run the entire game just to set up one big play and Stafford made the throw when it needed to be made. The rest, isn’t history, but a dog pile that is still going on in the corner of Bryant-Denny Stadium.
9. Opening the season at night on ESPN – Well, technically ESPN2, but still a nationally televised game against two teams poised as dark horses in their respective conferences. OSU ended up not being the spread-happy, couldn’t-stop-them-if-we-paid-them offense that many expected, but they were still a formidable opponent. The big win here showed that the Dawg Offense had some bite and that our Defense was like a Walmart Radio (i.e. doesn’t play). The game against USC loomed large and I think we got a bit overconfident (obviously), but we knew after the OSU game we could win and be physical while doing it.
8. Thomas Brown goes for 200+ vs. Ole Miss – The significance may be lost on many, and by no means am I totally right on this one, but I believe his performance against Ole Miss brought a dimension to TB and our running game that we haven’t seen before. Kregg was still out with his thumb injury and Knowshon hadn’t quite emerged as “the guy” yet. I’ll be honest, I really didn’t think it was a good idea to play TB a year removed from his knee injury, but he proved me (and a lot of people) completely wrong. He also used that game as a reference point for defenses that now had to account for two running backs with two completely different styles of running.
7. The fumble against Vandy – Some people view this as the play that started our hot streak. I don’t see how many people could argue with that. Vandy drove the ball down the field for what seemed to be a sure score, but they just ran too much, exhausted their RB, and when our guys went for the ball, he coughed it up. The Offense and Bobo used the momentum to drive down the field to set up Coutu’s game winner. The logo incident followed shortly thereafter and the media made more out of that than the good game they just witnessed.
6. The debacle against UT – How can a loss be a turning point? Well, when you hit rock bottom, the only way you can go is up. UT went through us like Rosie O’Donnell through a pack of Ho Ho’s and we had no chance from the moment we stepped into Neyland. Say what you want, I don’t know if there was a team in the country that could’ve beat UT on THAT day. We were flat out embarrassed up there and many people (including myself) didn’t know if there was another game on the schedule that we could definitely beat. Our team had to decide if they were going to be poor, mediocre, or great and they unanimously chose great. What followed was dominating performances over Florida, Auburn, Kentucky, and Georgia Tech and led to the Dawgs being mentioned for a MNC shot.
5. The hiring of Stacy Searels – Is there a bigger hire since Mark Richt became the head coach? I seriously considered “the leaving of Neil Calloway” as the turning point since we were so inconsistent it would’ve been tough to find someone who WASN’T better, but the decision to go with Searels was huge. The guy coached up one of the greenest O-lines in the nation and turned them into grown men. Because of his superb effort, we have young players ready to play for years to come, have recruited well this season, and have an offense that allowed some of the fewest sacks and highest rushing yards in the entire conference. In my opinion, there is no way Stafford stays healthy enough to play the entire season if he takes the kind of beating that Greene took in 2003. Stacy Searels deserves a raise among raises and I’m REALLY looking forward to 2008 and 2009 with the line we’re building now. Those guys are going to dominate up front.
4. “Crank Dat” debuts versus Ole Miss – The popular Soulja Boy tune was blared over the PA system during the Ole Miss game while an official review was taking place. Very few in the stadium knew what was going on, but the players were right on top of it. The sideline began to move a little bit, the defense on the field began to shake it some more, and then Knowshon started doing his thing. What followed was the crowd starting to get jacked up over what they were seeing and the team getting jacked up over what they were hearing from the stands. Sure, we dominated Ole Miss during that game, but the Athletic Association found something else that could be done on their end to fire up the Dawgs. The song was later played during the Blackout game and fired up the Dawgs and the crowd in a way I’ve never heard before. After the Georgia Tech game, the Redcoats played their version of it since everyone knew Georgia Tech surely wasn’t going to; regardless of who they’re trying to market to nowadays. The Crank Dat Phenomenon played in integral role in one of the most fun seasons on record for the Dawgs.
3. Do you Knowshon? – The hottest thing to come out of NJ since The Sopranos kicked off his freshman year with a bang. From the very first snap in the OSU game, people have fallen in love with the kid who runs hard, gets skinny, and hauls ass back to the huddle after getting tackled. His true emergence came in the first drive against Florida where he ran the ball every single down and then accounted for the six points scored at the end. Since then, his unselfish play, team first attitude, and sideline dance moves have launched him into the Bulldog Nation’s heart while his statistics, raw talent, and uncanny ability to make people miss have rocketed him into Heisman hype. Defenses have to gameplan for him and even when they do, they still can’t stop him. Last year he was the next big thing. This year he lived up to the hype and then some. The next few years with this kid is going to be amazing for sure.
2. The Blackout – The game plan was perfect. In the summer, the seniors approached Mark Richt and asked for black jerseys. He ordered them but everyone in the know stayed quiet about it. The seniors were told if they practiced hard, led well, and played like their brain was on fire, they'd get to wear them later on in the season. Richt had the Auburn game circled from day one. He was coy in the interviews after he announced the Blackout on the call-in show. He never lied...and this new "fun Richt" was quietly putting into motion one of the most electric ideas in the history of the program. The buzz around the black jerseys was non-stop from photoshopped photos to people "in the know" promising that boxes were delivered to the UGAA on Wednesday. Come Saturday, the crowd could not have been more decked out in the dark color and could not have been more amped up in their demeanor. Auburn never had a chance...and this was before the team even ran out. Once they did, it was over. It was all about playing football, hitting people in the mouth, and having fun while doing it. Some people go an entire lifetime and not experience something like that. I'm very fortunate that I got to.
Whoever recorded this, thank you. You made my point.
1. Dance Dance Revolution versus Florida -- Seriously, was there ever any doubt? Evil Richt's decision to send the team out sent a message to our team, our fans, the Gators, and the nation that this Dawg team was here to play football. We ran the ball until we scored and then we boogied-the-f*ck-down. It is what it is. People say if we lose that game then the whole move seems idiotic. I tend to disagree. I think the message and NOT the outcome of the game is the most important part. Richt's handing over the play calling duties allowed him to be the motivator and great leader that he really is. His calm demeanor is gone and he's now here to win football games, damn it. The dancing in and of itself sent confusion to the Gator sideline and from there on out it was a game of "How big a boy are you? When we score, we f*cking dance!" Sure, it caused the same officiating crew to try and screw us twice in one season, but f*ck them too. We won. Penn Wagers can eat sh*t. Anyway, when we became "Lord of the Dance" it sent a message to everyone, including future opponents, that this team has fun playing football, this team wants to win, and this team will not quit until AFTER you do...and if you don't like us dancing, then go ahead. Shut us up. We DARE you.
So there you have it. I know there can only technically be one "turning point" but I figured the debate about this season will go on for a while and I wanted to throw my $.02 in. Besides, you can't point to one thing and say that was the reason we went 10-2 this year.
Well, check that. You can point to one thing and say "that's the reason."
But it only works when you're pointing at the team.
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