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After greatest game ever, there remains only one destiny for these Dawgs
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After greatest game ever, there remains only one destiny for these Dawgs

After greatest game ever, there remains only one destiny for these Dawgs

After greatest game ever, there remains only one destiny for these Dawgs

LOS ANGELES — It was the best game I’ve ever covered.

I’m just going to start right there today because so many people have asked me that in the hours following Georgia’s 54-48 double-overtime win over Oklahoma here in the Rose Bowl. It might’ve been THE greatest game ever played in 104 Rose Bowls, except that one between USC and Texas in 2005 decided the national championship. So, that one will continue to get the nod, or so I’m told by the veterans in covering Granddaddy of Them All.

It’s a shame this Rose Bowl was NOT for the national championship, because it was a classic. Many in the Oklahoma press corps were saying afterward they thought Georgia and Oklahoma had to be the two best teams in the land. We’ll see how the actual title game against Alabama goes next Monday in Atlanta.

Comparatively, the Crimson Tide (12-1) played a yawner in the other semifinal. They defeated No. 1 Clemson 24-6 in the Sugar Bowl to punch their ticket to Atlanta. And so you’ll have for the next week an endless stream of mentor-protege stories on coaches Nick Saban and Kirby Smart. Rightly so.

But for me, the Rose Bowl was the best game I’ve ever witnessed involving Georgia, a team I’ve covered off and on for the better part of 35 years and followed longer than that. Being honest, I might not say the same thing if the Bulldogs hadn’t won. But they did. I’ve seen a lot wild ones and a lot of sad ones and chronicled a lot of joyous moments. This one took the cake, though.

You saw it. It was the kind of game where, as a journalist, you wish you could just kick back and enjoy it instead of feverishly trying come up with words for what you’re watching so you can hit “publish” as quick as possible after the game ends. The first thing I post after games is something called “Instant Analysis.” But there was no way to analyze this one instantly, or even quickly.

In the end, it again came down to those seniors. That will forever be the storyline for this magical season, all those seniors that came back instead of going pro. All of them seemingly left their mark on the Rose Bowl.

  • There was Sony Michel, the offensive player of the game, who finished with 181 yards rushing and 41 receiving and scored four touchdowns, including the 27-yard game-winner.
  • There was his roomie Nick Chubb, who went for 145 himself and scored twice, including the one that sent the game into overtime.
  • There was Lorenzo Carter, collecting 10 tackles and a sack and getting that long right arm up in the air to block a field goal and etch his name on one of the signature plays in UGA history.
  • There was Dominick Sanders, the senior safety, hauling in a crucial interception and returning it 39 yards to set up a fourth-quarter score.

That was just the Rose Bowl. Pick out a game from this season and go back see how those seniors fit in. Regardless of what happens in this next game, this team will forever be remembered for its leadership, 31 seniors in all and that Core Four of Davis Bellamy, Carter, Chubb and Michel.

Well, those guys and a certain freshman quarterback.

“It’s just crazy that we’re in this situation, to play in front of this crowd in the Granddaddy of Them All, is just incredible,” said Jake Fromm, who had quite the night himself (20-for-29 passing for 210 yards and 2 TDs). “You couldn’t have written it any better, the way the game went.”

Fromm and junior Terry Godwin combined for one of the game’s most meaningful plays. Their 16-yard completion on third-and-10 at the Oklahoma 23 is what put Georgia in position to score the game-tying touchdown at the end of regulation.

But for Fromm, too, 2017 has been about those seniors.

“I’m just thankful to be on the same field as those guys,” Fromm said. “They’ve played a lot of football. They just always seem to come out and make a big play when we need it. That’s just incredible. I’m glad they’re on my team.”

We’re living in the playoff era, so now there’s one more to play. And it will come against the greatest college football team and coach of the modern era.

Alabama opened as a 4.5-point favorite, according to odds posted Tuesday morning at Bovada. Everybody will be talking about how Saban has never lost to one of his assistants and how the Tide is the team that’s going to be more comfortable in these brightly-lit surroundings. But at this point, I see it as foolhardy to against the Bulldogs and all those seniors.

I’ve resisted the urge to invoke the D-word when it comes to this Georgia team, but I don’t know how you can’t now. With respect to my close friend and former colleague Mark Schlabach, who assigned the moniker “Destiny Dawgs” to the 2002 team and wrote a book about that season, destiny belongs to the 2017 Bulldogs.

They’ve already given us one of the greatest games in UGA annals. There’s only one way now for this magical ride to end.

The post After greatest game ever, there remains only one destiny for these Dawgs appeared first on DawgNation.

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Georgia Sports News

  • ATHENS — New Georgia basketball coach Tom Crean has finally pulled the trigger on naming a second assistant basketball coach. Joe Scott, most recently an assistant coach at Holy Cross, sports 16 seasons of head coaching experience at three Division I schools. He joins Chad Dollar on the Bulldogs’ staff. “I’m excited to welcome Joe, Leah, Ben and Jack to our Georgia Basketball family and the entire UGA community,” Crean said in a statement released by the school. “Joe is known nationally as someone who excels at coaching, teaching and competing. He has tremendous respect of his peers who have gone against him and those who have worked along side him. He will bring many different elements to our program, but overall and he will help our young men get better every day.” Said Scott, also in a statement: “My family and I are extremely excited to be joining the Georgia family. The University of Georgia is a special place. This is a tremendous opportunity to help Coach Crean implement his vision and make Georgia Basketball special. I cannot wait to get started coaching our players to develop and get better every day.” Scott was tabbed one of the nation’s top-20 “Xs & Os” coaches in a survey of his peers by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman in 2013. He was head coach at Air Force for four seasons, Princeton for three campaigns and Denver for nine seasons. He also has served as an assistant coach at Monmouth, Princeton and Holy Cross. All told, Scott sports 27 years of collegiate coaching experience. Before breaking into the head coaching ranks, Scott was an assistant coach at Monmouth during the 1991-92 season and at Princeton from 1992-2000. While at Princeton, Scott helped the Tigers to five consecutive postseason appearances, with trips to the 1996, 1997 and 1998 NCAA Tournaments and the 1999 and 2000 NITs. The Tigers won three Ivy League titles from 1996-98, including perfect 14-0 records in the final two seasons. Princeton upset defending national champion UCLA in the 1996 NCAA Tournament and ranked as high as No. 7 nationally in 1998 en route to earning a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the highest ever for an Ivy League team. The post Georgia’s Tom Crean finally settles on a second assistant coach appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Georgia basketball and Tom Crean have hired a second assisstant coach, this time in former Princeton head coach Joe Scott. The school released a statement on the hiring, with a statement from Crean. “I’m excited to welcome Joe, Leah, Ben and Jack to our Georgia Basketball family and the entire UGA community,” Crean said. “Joe is known nationally as someone who excels at coaching, teaching and competing. He has tremendous respect of his peers who have gone against him and those who have worked along side him. He will bring many different elements to our program, but overall and he will help our young men get better every day.” In addition to serving as the head coach at Air Force, Scott also has head coaching experience at Princeton and Denver. As an assistant Scott has worked at Monmouth, Princeton and Holy Cross, where he spent the past two seasons. Scott is a Princeton alum. “My family and I are extremely excited to be joining the Georgia family,” Scott said. “The University of Georgia is a special place. This is a tremendous opportunity to help Coach Crean implement his vision and make Georgia Basketball special. I cannot wait to get started coaching our players to develop and get better every day.” Scott will join assistant Chad Dollar in helping Crean. Dollar’s hire was announced earlier in April. Crean replaced Mark Fox, who had been the coach at Georgia since the 2008-09 season. The post Georgia basketball announces hiring of assistant coach Joe Scott appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia held their final actual practice of the spring at the Woodruff Practice Complex on Thursday. Under clear skies and relatively cool temperatures, the Bulldogs were working out in shorts and helmets and were scheduled to for about two hours. The next time they get together and play as a team will be during G-Day Saturday at Sanford Stadium (4 p.m., ESPN, News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB). Actually, it will as two teams. UGA on Thursday released its split rosters for the Red and Black squads for Saturday’s intrasquad game. This year, Georgia’s No. 1 offense, led by quarterback Jake Fromm, will be the Red team. The Black Squad will be led by the Bulldogs’ No. 1 defensive unit — and freshman quarterback Justin Fields, of course. Fromm’s Red squad will be protected by the first-string offensive line — which included both Solomon Kindley and Kendall Baker to play left guard. It will also feature juniors Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien at tailback and Terry Godwin, Riley Ridley and Mecole Hardman at wideout and Isaac Nauta and Charlie Woerner at tight end. Fields’ No. 2 offensive unit will have walkons Prather Hudson and Ian Donald-McIntyre in the backfield and will feature a receiving corps of Ahkil Crumpton, J.J. Holloman, Kearis Jackson, Matt Landers and Tyler Simmons. Of course, the Black team will be hanging its hat on a defensive team led by Tyler Clark, DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle, Jonathan Ledbetter, Julian Rochester and Malik Herring and inside linebackers Juwan Taylor, Tae Crowder and Nate McBride. D’Andre Walker, Robert Beal and Walter Grant will man the outside linebacker positions. The secondary for the Black squad has Deandre Baker and Tyrique McGhee at the corners, William Poole at star and J.R. Reed and Richard LeCounte III at the safeties. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs appeared to be going through normal drill work and play-polish in the early portions of practice on Thursday. Following are a few observations: Senior Terry Godwin was going through regular drill work with the receivers but appeared to be a bit gimpy in doing so. He had a reinforced brace on one knee and a regular sleeve on the other. Cornerback Mark Webb was not practicing after suffering a knee injury of undisclosed severity on Tuesday. Indications are it’s not a “major” injury. D’Andre Swift was going through bag drills with the running backs and did not exhibit noticeable limitations. He is dealing with a groin injury, according to coach Kirby Smart. Defensive tackle Michael Barnett (knee) was not at practice again, assuring that he’ll miss G-Day. Justin Young, who missed practices last week due to a minor knee sprain, has been able to practice and might be able to play. One area lacking depth that has not been much discussed is deep snapper for special teams. The Bulldogs technically have just one on the roster in redshirt freshman Oren Morgan of Toombs County. But senior fullback Nick Moore also snaps to the kickers. Former tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel were watching Thursday’s practice from the sideline and having a good time commenting on what they say. Asked which tailback they expected to be the leading rusher for the G-Day Game on Saturday, they simultaneously said “Prather Hudson.” Hudson is a redshirt sophomore walkon from Columbus. Recently-matriculated receiver Javon Wims was also at practice watching his position group. All of them plan to attend on Saturday, with Chubb conducting an autograph-signing at the bookstore.   The post Practice report: Jake Fromm to lead Red against Justin Field’s Black squad on G-Day appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Don’t be surprised if you see players being shuffled around a lot and playing in somewhat unfamiliar positions Saturday, especially on defense. Spring practice is a highly experimental time as it is, but injuries have forced Georgia’s hand in some key areas on the football field. As a result, you’re likely to see some defensive ends playing tackle, some tackles playing nose guard and some safeties playing cornerback when the Bulldogs conduct their annual G-Day spring intrasquad game at Sanford Stadium (4 p.m. Saturday, ESPN, News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB). Georgia has been hit with injuries along the defensive line and in the secondary this spring. Defensive end Justin Young and tackle Michael Barnett have been out for most of the spring with what coach Kirby Smart calls “minor” knee injuries. This Tuesday, cornerback Mark Webb suffered what’s characterized as a non-serious knee injury, but he won’t be available for game simulation on Saturday. He’ll be joined on the sideline by senior safety Jarvis Wilson, who has a sprained foot. As a result, Georgia will have to do some mixing and matching in order to keep a competitive 22 players on the field at all times. The Bulldogs have 111 players on their spring roster, but that includes six kicking specialists or holders and 36 walk-ons, including three quarterbacks not named Stetson Bennett. The point is, not all of those players are going to play and many won’t get significant amounts of time. Junior David Marshall, who played in 14 games at defensive end last season and started three, has been playing inside at tackle. Likewise, defensive tackle Julian Rochester has been cross-training at nose guard. Just a week ago, the Bulldogs moved redshirt sophomore Chris Barnes from offensive guard to the defensive line to shore up depth. “We’re just a little short,” said Marshall, who logged 52 tackles and 3 1/2 quarterback sacks last season. “But it’s next man up around here, so we’ve got to tough it out.” Smart hasn’t been thrilled with the end result. At different times this spring he has complained about the defense not being “stout enough” against the run. “We’ve certainly got to get better at defending [the run], especially against big, physical people like our offense,” Smart said. “But the way to do that is you’ve got to have big people to combat big people with, and we don’t have a lot of big guys. So, we’re looking to recruit. We’re trying to find 290-[pound]-plus guys that can help us become more stout. For us to play the way we want to play we’ve got to have physical guys in there.” In terms of interior defensive linemen that are on scholarship, Georgia has just eight. Freshman signees Jordan Davis and Tramel Walthour won’t join the team until this summer. Smart said he’d like to sign four in the Class of 2019. Georgia also is missing Deangelo Gibbs and is down to 10 scholarship players in the secondary for the scrimmage. By specialty, it breaks down to five corners and five safeties. As always, some from both groups work at the “star” or nickel back positions. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker also could pluck a linebacker to play in the back third. That has required proven veterans such as junior safety J.R. Reed and senior cornerback Deandre Baker to do a lot of on-field coaching when they’re facing off against Georgia’s high-octane offense. “It’s always good to see these young guys grow,” said Reed, who started all 15 games at strong safety last season. “My goal is to really mold these young guys and really get them up to almost be where I’m at and to get these guys that don’t know a lot to learn more.” While Georgia is expected to receive an infusion of talent when elite signees Tyson Campbell, Nadab Joseph and Otis Reese enroll in June, G-Day will be especially important for their predecessors. Sophomores Ameer Speed, Eric Stokes and William Poole and redshirt freshmen Tray Bishop and Latavious Brini have much to prove. “It’s their time,” Smart said, “and they have to step up or they’ll be replaced by the people coming in.” Low numbers overall are not unusual for spring games. After all, the majority of the incoming recruiting class hasn’t joined the team yet. In Georgia’s case, it has 17 more players on the way. In the meantime, the players that are present and accounted for aim to give the expected crowd of 78,000 a show of some sort. “We like to see all the fans come out and support us,” Marshall said. “We’re going to come out and show great effort hopefully we’ll see how the season will go this year.” The post Injuries have left Bulldogs a little light on defense heading into G-Day appeared first on DawgNation.