ATLANTA | As the red and black aficionados turn their attention to Rose Bowl nostalgia – Sinkwich, Trippi, train ride across the country, movie stars and World War II — tickets, hotel reservations, West Coast traditions and savvy things like Hollywood spelled out on the mountain, the Pacific Ocean and the mixed cultures that make LA a fascinating melting pot, there is the reminder of how this all came about.
Kirby Smart and his football team have brought this to pass. Looking ahead is in order. Logistics have to be dealt with and there is nothing more prominent on the minds of the Bulldog nation than enjoying the anticipated good times in southern California.
If you reflect back to the end of the regular season, and you have any interest in swooning to statistics, you find glory in the maturation of the Georgia team, which found a way to win critical games. As disappointed as the Auburn game a few weeks ago at Auburn was, it wasn’t the end of the world as many suggested. We may have well reached the time when no team is likely to go undefeated in a 12-game season. The trick is to lose with time to recover as happened to Georgia this past season.
As you wrap your presents, plan your trip to the city of angels and take time to reflect on some of those who brought glory to ole Georgia — The defense, the special teams, the offensive line, quarterback efficiency, punting and kicking, and time of the essence running of D’Andre Swift, an appropriately named running back. His 64-yard run through the Auburn defense at the most critical time in the fourth quarter brought closure to a championship still in doubt.
You can start wherever you like, but why not begin with the QB efficiency of Jake Fromm. In a championship game when the leader of the offense comes with 16 completions in 22 attempts for two touchdowns and no interceptions, high fives are in order. Then there is the bonus of his leadership impact. Fromm he has been a godsend to the Georgia football team.
The offensive line has performed admirably and cogently, even though it is made up of one senior, two juniors and two freshmen. No group of lineman has ever been coached up better than these Sam Pitman devotees. They don’t pass out coach-of-the-year awards to assistant coaches. If they did, the first trophy would have to go to Pitman.
How about that D’Andre Walker from Fairburn? Under the radar except to the coaches with two tackles for loss, a sack and four tackles. It was a blue collar busting type of performance. Let’s not forget that Roquan Smith performed as expected on the big stage and the folks who pass out the annual Butkus Award took notice.
While the general consensus pregame was that Auburn had the most critical of challenges — playing a peak game two weekends in a row — the Tigers had enough in the tank to keep it close for a half and into the third quarter. Getting the lead at the half and the ball in the third quarter were big. Rodrigo Blankenship had to attempt his 27-yard field goal from the right hash mark at the end of the second quarter. That was key. The Bulldogs led 10-7 at the half.
The third quarter was a stalemate for the most part, but there was a big play newcomer in the third quarter whose play warranted a helmet sicker. DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle, who makes it tough on announcers, blocked an Auburn field goal attempt.
Georgia now playoff worthy without any doubt, has begun planning for the high-powered Oklahoma Sooners. Folks are taking note that the defenses give up a lot of points in Big 12 competition. In regard to that, Georgia’s defense is peaking at the right time. Bulldog defenders have given up only seven points in the second half, total, against Kentucky, Georgia Tech and Auburn.
Ever on guard, the head coach has this to say about that: “Those statistics don’t mean anything when you get to the playoffs.”