Kirby Smart – 2017 Season Photo Rewind – Mississippi State

Kirby Smart

 

 

1,785 word Georgia football history, Han Vance reporting from Heartbreak City, Atlanta. My beloved city suddenly became a wretched place to live after the Benz bust Monday night, which now goes down as the single worst loss in school history.

 

I will explain. As an in-town Atlantan, alumnus of UGA, Georgia football writing media person and, more than anything, a top-tier in rabidity Dawgs fan, I can’t just go home again. I know myself well enough at age 47 to know: I won’t be able to put that loss behind me. Coming in such similar fashion to the agony of 1982 and the 2012 four-yards out so close, so far game only makes it worse.

 

Should Georgia go on to win say two of three national titles – which nothing based in hard realist reality should indicate to you that we are the type of football program that would suddenly achieve such lofty status, other than Kirby’s personal successes coaching defenses and recruiting, masterminded by the unequivocal greatest coach ever, Nick Saban – I’d be only somewhat okay with what went down here.

 

I don’t see it easily aligning like that right now, as UGA had not reached a national title game since 1982. Thirty-five long years ago the optimistic and overconfident fans also said, “We will be back!” Didn’t happen.

 

Don’t talk to me about high school kids or current freshmen coming in to save us, because we’ve all heard that talk and it so rarely registers quickly in reality. Though, Kirby has passed Richt’s UGA career record for winning percentage 75% to 74%. It was a great season.

 

Georgia is losing the key players on the most experienced defense in school history, which had returned 10-of-11 starters and 14-of-15 tacklers, almost all leaving now. Roquan rhymes with gone. Smith is not just by far our best football player on roster. He is perhaps the best at-position Mark Richt recruit (Stafford, AJ, Gurley, Chubb, Moreno) and, I feel, actually not just our best linebacker ever. He is the single best defensive football player in our long school history, playing a good bit better than even the awesome magic of the man who is acclaimed as such, David Pollack. Pollack has one edge, he played his senior year. Roquan is too good.

 

The number one running back duo in NCAA history is matriculating, to be replaced by players who have not consistently proven it on the field in college. Swift looks good. Holyfield looks good, young Cook looks good. Huge shoes. Wims is gone.

 

For all our success this year as SEC champs, I’m sad to say we aren’t the best team in the SEC at season’s end. The Smart era, which I have cross-compared with the Richt era, to the dismay of some of the Pollyanna faithful, did not in fact quite live up to the success of the first two years of that early 2000 run. Inheriting an annual four-loss team from the suspect character Jim Donnan, Richt started 8-4, beating rivals Tech and Tennessee on the road in historic upsets but dropping a tight bowl game. Kirby got a consistent ten-win program from Richt, roster with Chubb, Sony and Roquan. Kirby started 8-5, losing Homecoming to little Vandy and dropping games to rivals Tech, Florida and Tennessee but escaping too much shame by winning 4-of-5 late. He won 4-of-6 late in the 2017 campaign – actually finishing this season off on a worse stretch, by in essence winning two out of three twice. Two out of three is good, in baseball. In football, it can get you canned.

 

Finishing #2 in the nation…again. Bridesmaids. Same old Georgia: the first year I covered Georgia football, as a writer, was 2007. We finished #2 and would have been the Vegas favorite to win the playoff, if one existed. Here we are again, the first year I blawg for Bulldawg Illustrated. “We’re Number Two!” sucks as a chant, folks. In 2002, I was there in Florida when we were edged in our only close loss. We’d have made the playoff that year, too, an actually more successful year than this one in total. We dropped two games and were blown out this season. Please don’t be like Auburn fool-fans and stake the claim that making the national championship game is a great accomplishment. I’d way rather go out winning. But, the SEC title is legit.

 

The playoff system is better than the BCS, and the second year such a sweet spot for coaches at traditional football powers under a renaissance. Urban Meyer won it all his second year at Florida, Jim Tressel at Ohio State, Bob Stoops at Oklahoma. Richt’s best year was his second. Is the best yet to come for Kirby at Georgia?

 

Getting a rematch in your home state with the only team to beat you and having the final played in the same building. Getting Chokelahoma with a rookie head coach in the first round of the CFP. Having the #1 ranked defending national champs eliminated, the four seed getting through, them having to switch quarterbacks to a freshman at halftime. Stars all aligned perfectly for this to even top 1980, as our greatest moment in history.

 

Saban alone shone when the dust settled, Kirby a dull, distant also-ran in the end of the run, his team with the fourth-best record in the country (UCF, Bama, Wisconsin, UGA). Saban won it all his third year coaching at Bama, but he inherited a garbage has-been of a program and single-handedly built this. He has won five-of-nine national titles and tied Bear Bryant for six rings total. I’d love to see him retire…after he wins it all again next year.

 

We will need a little rebuild after so much heartache and personnel changes. The schedule softens with Notre Dame rolling off for a third cupcake and our only truly tough test on paper at this point a road game at LSU. I like us to win the SEC East but not the SEC in 2018. Our next window appears to me 2019.

 

Worst five losses in school history:

 

  1. Trailing Georgia until near the end of regulation and leading only after the final play of overtime, Alabama won their 17th national title, after botching the would-be winning field goal. Georgia led 13-0 at half, 20-7 in the 3rd and 20-10 in the 4th. The offensive play calling was ultraconservative late, while Georgia managed only 36 yards of rushing in the second half. We got one long pass but were handled like we handled Oklahoma. One offensive touchdown in the second half and three total points in overtime, it just isn’t good enough to reach overtime two games in a row and kick field goals. We started in the red zone and had a chance to win it all. We fell to 2-1 this postseason. Like the SEC’s all-time leading rusher before, Chubb, second on the list, was bottled up in his final game at UGA. Loyalty to a fault, Sony Michel deserved more carries throughout his career and in the College Football Playoff final. Our best offensive weapon used far too sparingly once Richt got fired.

 

  1. 1982 to Penn State. We had won it all in 1980, so we weren’t too hungry. Herschel left school after and we would not be back; he was lured to the USFL by a bucket of lies from team owner Donald Trump, according to Herschel.

 

  1. Four yards from glory in Atlanta in 2012 we think we would have beaten Notre Dame. Maybe, we would have beaten Notre Dame. We’re no BAMA.

 

  1. The 1942 split (in three) national champions lost to old Auburn.

 

  1. Jacksonville in 2002, SEC Player of the Year David Pollack was falsely accused of a forward lateral and our greatest statistical receiver ever – at one point the SEC’s all-time leader – Edwards dropped the high Greene pass.

 

Of note: 1946 UGA was the only unblemished team but did not win it all.

 

Georgia moved into second in the nation in bowl appearances, with all CFP games counting as bowls. Bama 67, GEORGIA 54, Texas 54, Nebraska 53, Tennessee 52. By winning the Rose Bowl and advancing, UGA tied Texas for the second-most bowl games of all college football programs. Fools gold, though, because to have that much general consistency of success with so little ultimate success (really 1980 ONLY) just makes me even more saddened.

 

Not only did our league champion Georgia Bulldogs tie the Tennessee Volunteers for second-most SEC titles (13), UGA passed UT in bowl appearances by qualifying for the Rose, the Vols disqualified due to their record. Georgia is all alone at second in the SEC in bowl appearances.

 

Most bowl wins nationally: Bama 39, USC 34, GEORGIA 31, Oklahoma 29, Penn State 29, Texas 28, Tennessee 28, Nebraska 26. Consider how much more ultimate success the teams at 1, 2 and 4 have had, we are third.

 

Behind only VATech, Georgia technically has the second-longest bowl appearances streak going. It’s fair to note that FSU had actually played in more consecutive than either, prior and continuing, but eligibility problems caused them to have vacated bowls. Vacated means it does not favorably count for said school, according to the rules of NCAA records. Ohio State suffered a similar fate to their long bowl streak due to cheating.

 

These three listings looked at cumulatively do show the high quality of our program and in the bowl appearance streaks category, otherwise mighty Bama is not there. This proves that we are easily one of the – if not actually the single most – consistent programs in the entirety of the college football bowl era. But with our national titles back in 1942 (split in three) and 1980 (unanimous), it’s been so rare and such a long time since we dominated and shined at the highest level. Bama has 17 Nattys (several split/disputed).

 

31-20-3 overall in bowls, the University of Georgia extended the longest active bowl streak in the SEC at a time it was generally considered the toughest football conference in America almost every year. We’ve made bowls for over two decades straight now, and nobody else in-league has.

 

Recently, Georgia won 5-of-7. The Dawgs have celebrated 9-of-13, with a running total going of 16-of-23. Seven losses in twenty-three bowls played (over twenty-two seasons) is a good clip.

 

Donnan was 4-0 in bowl games. Mark Richt had the best bowl record of any SEC coach in his 15-year tenure, not coaching in the bowl following the 2015 season when an interim head coach was allowed to get the win. Kirby Smart is 2-1 at Georgia and lifetime as a head coach, blowing his biggest game.

 

 

 


 

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Han Vance