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Georgia’s current team reminds Vince Dooley of another one he coached
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Georgia’s current team reminds Vince Dooley of another one he coached

Georgia’s current team reminds Vince Dooley of another one he coached

Georgia’s current team reminds Vince Dooley of another one he coached

ATHENS – Vince Dooley likes everything he has seen about the 2017 Georgia Bulldogs. But he wouldn’t compare them to his 1980 team, which went undefeated and won Georgia’s last national championship.

That’s not necessarily because he doesn’t think this bunch is as not as good as that one was.

“No, not really,” Dooley said of the comparison. “You know, 1980, if you look back at it, it was challenged so many times.”

That’s true. While this latest team has had one narrow escape, 20-19 at Notre Dame, Georgia’s last national champion was pulling a Houdini act seemingly every week. That season opened with a 16-15 at Tennessee, then followed with close contests of every sort after that.

Best remembered from 1980 was the Buck Belue-to-Lindsay Scott 93-yard touchdown pass that allowed the Bulldogs to escape Jacksonville and the Florida Gators with a 26-20 victory. But there was also the narrow escape against Clemson at Sanford Stadium and the 13-7 win over South Carolina that required a late fumble recovery and two 50-plus yard Rex Robinson field goals to secure. Few probably recall that Georgia managed to beat only 28-21 that year as Herschel Walker missed much of the game with an injury.

Even the national championship-clinching victory over Notre Dame was a one-score affair in which the Fighting Irish actually doubled-up Georgia in offensive production. The Bulldogs took advantage of five Notre Dame turnovers to win 17-10.

“In fact, I found out recently that Notre Dame didn’t take us very seriously when we played them that year,” said Dooley, who went to South Bend and threw out the first pitch at Chicago Cubs’ game when the Bulldogs played up there on Sept. 9. “When they studied our films, they were looking at the Tennessee game, which was just barely won, the Clemson game in which they knocked us all over the place and we had two big plays. Then you take the Florida game, where it looked like we were beaten, and before that, South Carolina. So just looking at us, they weren’t intimidated. But they underestimated us.”

And, of course, Georgia had to win at Auburn. As always, any championship the Bulldogs ever win has to go through Auburn. UGA has played it western cousin in mid-November pretty much every year going back to the 1920s. It is, after all, the “Deep South’s” oldest rivalry.

The truth is, the Dogs have had their hearts broken on The Plains as much as they’ve left victorious while in the championship hunt. The contest in 1980 was a typically hard-fought. The Bulldogs pulled away at the end behind Walker for a 31-21 win.

No, while this 2017 team doesn’t look much like that ’80 squad, Dooley said it does resemble quite a bit the 1982 bunch. And that’s fitting, seeing how Kirby Smart’s current Bulldogs are the first ones to start out 9-0 since that Dooley team did it 35 years ago.

“It was much more dominant, offensively particularly,” Dooley said. “They were just better than everybody we played that year.”

Well, pretty much everybody until they got to the biggest game. No. 1-ranked Georgia lost to No. 2-ranked Penn State 27-23 in the Sugar Bowl.

But after a slow start, it was a fun a ride during the regular season. It was Walker’s Heisman Trophy season – a couple years too late, many believe – and the Bulldogs for the most part ran over and around opponents.

John Lastinger, starting quarterback in 1982, did not realize Georgia was 9-0 for the first time since then until his daughter, Lindsay, “put it out on a tweet.”

“I had no idea until then,” said Lastinger, today a financial analyst in Valdosta. “One similarity that sticks out right away is both teams love to run the football. It was obviously a different era then and we had a guy named Herschel Walker. But the cohesion of the offensive line and the way they came together is similar. We stepped it up to another level against Florida and a lot of that was our offensive line.”

Of course, that team had to get through Auburn, too, and that was no easy task. The Bulldogs squeaked out the Plains with a 19-14 victory that required everything they could muster.

“I remember it was a cool day, an early-afternoon kickoff,” Lastinger recalled. “It was a remarkably quiet day over there, then on the last play of third quarter they pitched it out to Lionel James on the last play and he went 80 yards for a TD and that place was rocking. It was a battle in the fourth quarter and we had a great drive to win it. Just a typical Georgia-Auburn war.”

That’s when Larry Munson ushered forth his famous call, “look at the sugar falling from the sky; look at the sugar falling from the sky!”

Of course, there will be no such finality to anything that happens on Saturday. Georgia is going to be in the SEC championship game regardless of the outcome against Auburn. And the Bulldogs will have no idea where they’re going to be in the postseason until they play out the string currently ahead of them and faces whomever they shall in the title game.

Whatever happens, Dooley is enjoying the ride, too. As long as he’s in town, the Bulldogs’ Hall of Fame coach comes over to the Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall football complex every Monday and picks up the SEC statistics and Georgia game notes from UGA sports communications director Claude Felton. Dooley studies all the numbers and trends carefully, not unlike he used to do when he was coaching the team himself.

While he enjoys comparing these teams of old to the ones currently going to battle under the UGA flag, Dooley acknowledged that the game is significantly different now than it was.

But one thing that never changes, he said, is the need for a good, strong defense. And if there’s one aspect Dooley likes about Georgia’s 2017 team, it’s the defense.

“The defense is just so fast,” Dooley said. “That’s what makes them so good, in my opinion. Team speed.”

Some things never change.

The post Georgia’s current team reminds Vince Dooley of another one he coached appeared first on DawgNation.

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  • RUTLEDGE, Ga. — Driving East out of Atlanta, keep going on until there’s no evidence of civilization, exit onto Newborn Road and head south into the middle of nowhere. Turn left onto Centenniel Road, drive about a mile, then hang a right onto the gravel road known as Keencheefoonee. Proceed through the wooden gate, turn left at the horse stables pull into a dirt parking lot. Then walk downhill along an asphalt path through a shady white oak forest and emerge into sunlight and arrive at the happiest place on Earth. No, you’re not at Disney World. This place is better. You’ve arrived at Camp Twin Lakes, which for this one day at least is known as Camp Sunshine. Georgia coach Kirby Smart puts his arms around linemen Kendall Baker and Lamont Gaillard as the Bulldogs listen to a presentation by a nurse at the infirmary at Lake Twin Lakes on Wednesday. (Chip Towers/DawgNation) Longtime Georgia Bulldogs’ fans know the drill. UGA’s football team has been making this trek an hour and change south of Athens annually for most of the last 35 years. Vince Dooley, along with wife Barbara, was appointed to the Camp Twin Lakes board of directors in 1983 and the Bulldogs have been making a midsummer visit here every year since (well, every year accept for those under coach Jim Donnan, according to camp administrators). For the unenlightened, Camp Twin Lakes is a retreat in which children with cancer and their families can get away to enjoy outdoor recreational activities for the summer. It has air-conditioned cabins for “glamping,” swimming pools, lakes, a farm (complete with miniature cows and alpacas), sports playing fields, a zipline, a gymnasium and much more. All of the available activities are retrofitted to accommodate children battling different forms of cancer. And, of course, there’s an infirmary to attend to any children who might get sick — or just scrape a knee raising their buddy on one of the many trails snaking the expansive property. It’s here that one sees a whole different side of Georgia coach Kirby Smart. He completely drops his guard and relaxes. He back-slaps and jokes with his players. He peels off at the sight of any of the campers or there families. During the hour-long tour, he seems to know somebody personally at every corner and stops to chat, falling behind the tour and then double-timing it catch back up. The familiarity is because Smart has been coming to Camp Twin Lakes a very long time. He first started coming when his older brother Karl was diagnosed with leukemia in the 1990s. His brother has long since been well, but Kirby has kept coming. He came when he was an assistant coach at Valdosta State and when he was the Miami Dolphins and Alabama. “It’s convenient because I have a lake home that’s 30-45 minutes from here (on Lake Oconee),” Smart said Wednesday. “So through the years, when I was with the Dolphins or Alabama, I’d stop by. A couple of those years Karl was still here as a counselor, so being able to stop in here to see him and everybody was good. Now that he’s head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs, he brings his whole team with him, including wife Mary Beth, twins Julia and Weston and little Andrew. Wednesday they had a good time posing with a cardboard cut-out of Kirby and Karl on display in the camp’s courtyard. Andrew kept asking everybody when the dodge-ball game would start, and was front and center and in the middle of everything when it did. “He needs to get smacked around a little bit,” Smart said with a chuckle. “He’s a little too brave for his own good out there. The players are scared to bean him because they know he’s mine.” “Nobody’s like Kirby,” said Mo Thrash, one of the original founders of Camp Sunshine who serves as the Bulldogs’ tour guide and taskmaster each year. “He’s come every year since he’s been out of college. He’d always call me and say, ‘Mo, can I come to camp?’ He show up, spend an hour, hour-and-a-half with me walking around the camp saying hey to kids. No press, nobody around, just being himself. Then he’d leave. He did it every year. Then he became Georgia’s head coach. He’s just very special.” Wednesday was the first of two trips that the Bulldogs will make to Camp Sunshine. In all, Smart said about 70 players signed up to participate. About the other half will come next Wednesday. The first group seemed to include a lot of freshmen and first-year players. Notre Dame transfer Jay Hayes, wearing his new number 97 Georgia jersey, was front-and-center for many of the activities. So was long and tall true freshman Tommy Bush, until they went to alpaca pin. The nearly 6-foot-6 tall receiver, wearing the No. 12, eased to the back of the pack when the group was asked to pet the odd-looking creatures. The many interactions with the campers and staff were entertaining to observe. The players were split into two groups and toured opposite ends of the complex. When being shown the cabins where the campers stay, the girls of Cabin 10 came pouring out and high-fived every player. “Oh my  God, they’re all so tall,” one of the young teens shouted. The residents are not all Georgia fans, either. At the intersection of two paths, a young man named William yelled, “go Gators.” To that the jersey-wearing group responded with a collective, “boo!”, then just laughed it off. In the cafeteria, Smart made a beeline to a young man wearing Alabama gear, including a crimson-and-white cast on his right leg. Colton, who’s 14, said he first met Smart when he was an assistant for the Crimson Tide. “Now he tries to talk me into being a Georgia fan, but he knows I won’t convert,” Colton said. Thrash showed the team the lake and pointed to the zipline and ropes course far across on the other side. “What’s the weight capacity on that?” Smart asked loud enough for everyone to hear. “We’ve got some people here we think can break it “Be sure to keep Fernando off it,” he added, referring to support staffer and former Georgia and NFL offensive lineman Fernando Velasco. At the heart of it all, though, is a serious message. “You guys are heroes to these kids; you’re heroes to me,” Thrash said when he huddled up the team at the outset of the tour. “So go in here, look around the place, see what we do, say hello to the kids, get to know them a little bit and have a good time.” Said Smart: “I want them to appreciated what they have. You look at some of these kids and see how they have to struggle and go through things. Some of them are well now and they come back because they’re the hope for so many other kids who are going through what they did.” For the team, it was a well-earned reprieve. They’ve been working out and doing conditioning every morning for the last two weeks. That includes Wednesday when the players signed up for the trip had to report to the Butts-Mehre football complex at 5:30 a.m. “I don’t know if everybody slept the whole way down because I was asleep as soon as the bus pulled out,” junior tight end Isaac Nauta said. Participants range from players like Nauta and senior center Lamont Gaillard, who have been every year since they arrived on campus, to junior running back Elijah Holyfield, who was making his first trip Wednesday. “My freshman and sophomore years I was kind of trying to do too much,” Holyfield said. “Finally I said I’ve got to go this year because everybody was talking about how much fun it is. I knew I had to do it before I left Georgia and I loved it, so I’ll be back next week as well.” It was especially re-energizing for the freshmen, who have known nothing but regimen and brutal intensity since they arrived on campus May 31. “I think they can finally see that there’s a human side to everybody and you can go out and have fun,” Smart quipped. Camp Sunshine unique to the University of Georgia. Located 51 miles east of downtown Atlanta, the camp is located in the heart of Bulldog Country. No other teams make the pilgrimage to the East Georgia outback. Just the Bulldogs. “It’s only a Georgia thing,” Thrash said. “We’d love for other teams to come in. But it’s always special when the Georgia Bulldogs come in. They’re part of Camp Sunshine.” A happy place indeed. The post Camp Sunshine is strictly a Bulldogs’ thing, and something Kirby Smart loves appeared first on DawgNation.
  • TORONTO (AP) - The better J.A. Happ pitches for the Toronto Blue Jays, the better the chance he finishes the season with another team. Happ pitched a season-high 8 1/3 innings to win his fifth straight decision, Kendrys Morales hit a two-run home run and the Blue Jays beat the Atlanta Braves 5-4 Wednesday for Toronto's seventh win in eight home games. Happ (9-3) allowed four runs and six hits, walked none and struck out eight. The veteran left-hander is the first big league pitcher to record four starts this season with at least eight strikeouts and no walks. 'He's got good life on his fastball,' Atlanta's Nick Markakis said. 'He's always been a thorn in the side.' With Toronto well behind in both the AL East and the wild card standings, Happ could be a candidate for a midseason trade to a contender. 'I know he's in demand and I can see why,' Toronto manager John Gibbons said. 'If we were on the other end of it, I'd want him, too.' Happ is in the final season of a three-year, $36 million contract. 'I signed to play here and try to help this team get to the playoffs,' Happ said. 'I know there may be rumors out there, but I like it here and my focus is here.' Happ improved 4-0 with a 2.72 ERA in nine career starts against the Braves. 'We knew going in it was going to be a tough ride,' Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. Happ had retired 18 of 19 before Freddie Freeman and Markakis hit back-to-back singles with one out in the ninth. Ryan Tepera came on and gave up an RBI single to Kurt Suzuki, struck out Charlie Culberson, then allowed an RBI single to Ender Inciarte, putting the tying run at second. Tepera finished it by getting Johan Camargo to fly out, earning his fifth save in eight opportunities Morales, who turned 35 Wednesday, went 2 for 3 and scored twice. He homered in the first, walked and scored in the fourth, singled in the fifth, and flied out in the eighth. Suzuki and Peter Bourjos hit solo home runs for the Braves, who lost for the second time in eight games. Atlanta began the day with an NL-best record of 43-29. Braves right-hander Anibal Sanchez (3-1) allowed four runs and five hits in five innings. 'It wasn't bad, wasn't great,' Snitker said. 'He kept us in the game, gave us a chance.' Sanchez is 0-2 with a 9.19 ERA in his past three starts against the Blue Jays. After Morales hit a two-out drive off Sanchez, his sixth homer of the season, Suzuki connected in the second, his eighth, and Bourjos tied it in the third with his first homer of the season. Toronto broke the deadlock in the fourth when Randal Grichuk hit an RBI double and Aledmys Diaz followed with a sacrifice fly. Blue Jays infielder Yangervis Solarte made it 5-2 with a two-out RBI single off A.J. Minter in the seventh. WALK THIS WAY Blue Jays C Russell Martin has walked at least once in eight straight games, matching a career-long stretch. Martin, who walked twice Wednesday, also walked in eight straight in 2013. BIRTHDAY BLASTS Morales has four home runs and eight RBIs in eight career games on his birthday. THRIVING WITH FIVE Toronto is 28-1 when scoring five or more runs. TRAINER'S ROOM Braves: Markakis started at designated hitter, the first time this season he hasn't played one of the corner outfield spots. Blue Jays: RHP Marcus Stroman (shoulder) will be activated off the disabled list to start at the Angels on Saturday, Gibbons said. Stroman is 0-5 with a 7.71 ERA in seven starts. ... 3B Josh Donaldson (left calf) left the team Wednesday and will continue working out at Toronto's spring training facility in Florida. Donaldson will not begin a rehab assignment until he is able to run the bases at full speed. UP NEXT Braves: Atlanta is off Thursday before opening a three-game home series against Baltimore on Friday. LHP Sean Newcomb (8-2, 2.70 ERA) starts for the Braves. Newcomb has won eight of his past nine decisions. The Orioles have not named a starter. Blue Jays: RHP Aaron Sanchez (3-5, 4.35) starts the opener of a four-game series against the Angels. Sanchez is 1-0 with a 2.95 ERA in three June starts. LHP Tyler Skaggs (6-4, 2.81) starts for Los Angeles. ___ More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball
  • Georgia may get one more win from its incredible Rose Bowl victory over Oklahoma in Pasadena, Calif. on New Year’s Day. Georgia’s epic comeback 54-48 win in double-overtime win over Oklahoma and Heisman Trophy-winner and eventual first-overall pick Baker Mayfield is one of the three nominees for Best Game at the annual sports awards. The other two nominees are the wild World Series Game 5 between the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers and the 2018 Winter Olympics Women’s Hockey Gold Medal Game between the United States and Canada. Georgia trailed Oklahoma by 17 points before an end-of-half and Rose Bowl record 55-yard field goal by Rodrigo Blankenship brought the Bulldogs within an even two touchdowns. They looked like a different team in the second half, putting all kinds of pressure on Mayfield while Nick Chubb and Sony Michel wore down and gashed the Sooners’ defense. A late fumble from Michel that was returned for a touchdown almost made the comeback all for naught, but Jake Fromm led the Bulldogs down the field in the final minutes, converting a third down pass to Terry Godwin near the red zone before Chubb scored again to send the game to overtime. The teams traded field goals in the first overtime, and then Lorenzo Carter used every bit of his long arms to block OU’s attempt in double overtime. Then, on the second play of Georgia’s possession, Sony Michel took the direct snap to the left and found himself wide open into the end zone, and the Rose party was on. It’s arguable the best Rose Bowl ever but definitely can go no lower than second. Vince Young defeating USC for the national championship has to receive its due. But it’s a tough argument that this ESPY should go anywhere other than Athens. You can view all of the award nominees and vote on them here. The post Georgia’s epic Rose Bowl win nominated for ESPY Award for Best Game appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Georgia football is the No. 1 topic every day on DawgNation Daily — the daily podcast for Georgia Bulldogs fans. Catch up on everything happening with UGA athletics with host Brandon Adams and the cast of DawgNation experts as they break down the latest Georgia football recruiting news and discuss UGA coach Kirby Smart’s quest to keep the Bulldogs on top of the SEC. On episode No. 725 (June 20, 2018) of the podcast, Georgia fans can hear a discussion about Georgia freshman quarterback Justin Fields. Georgia football podcast: Despite loads of attention, Justin Fields might be underrated Beginning of the show: Georgia incoming freshman quarterback Justin Fields is among the most talked about players in the country, but based on one recent evaluation he might still be underrated. I’ll talk on today’s show about how Fields’ presence impacts how UGA’s quarterback situation should be viewed. 12-minute mark: I share audio of DawgNation recruiting insider Jeff Sentell’s list of the top 2019 defensive line priorities for UGA. 15-minute mark: SEC Country’s Mike Johnson joins the show. Some of the topics covered include… Mike’s thoughts on Fields Reaction to 4-star offensive tackle Xavier Truss’ commitment An assessment of the pressure on UGA defensive line coach Tray Scott to pull together an elite collection of defensive linemen for the 2019 class And an opinion about current UGA commits taking visits to other schools 30-minute mark: I take a look at some other SEC headlines including Les Miles being asked about the LSU athletic director’s job, a preview of 5-star cornerback Derek Stingley’s commitment announcement scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, and a challenge from ESPN to some former top recruits to finally live up to the hype this season. 35-minute mark: I share another Dawg Day Q&A. End of show: I update the Gator Hater Countdown. For the Tuesday (June 19) show, click here. For the video version of the Wednesday show, click here. For older episodes of DawgNation Daily, click here. The post Georgia football podcast: Despite loads of attention, Justin Fields might be underrated appeared first on DawgNation.