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THE ROAD TO CRYSTAL GOES THROUGH ATLANTA

BACK TO BACK H o s p i t a l i t y G rro oup Athens, GA

Benson’s B enson’s H Hospitality ospitality G Group roup co ccongratulates ngratulates Coach Richt Back Coach R icht and and the the Back Back tto oB ack SEC Division Champions. SEC E Eastern Eastern D Di visio i nC hampio i ns. www.HI-Athens.com w ww..H HI-Athens.com


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From the editor : vance leavy Well the time has finally arrived as our Bulldogs find themselves one victory away from earning a spot in the national championship game. Man, I don’t know about you, but I’m still digesting that what I have dreamed and wanted for decades is within four quarters of reality. This is a great time for everyone in the Bulldog Nation, but the question now for all of us is whether our team, our coaches and fan base can avoid getting caught up in the emotion of the situation. Yes, the 2012 season has been special, but walking out of the Georgia Dome Saturday night with a victory is going to require playing flawless football in all phases. And if you go by what’s being said in the national media and the odds makers in Las Vegas there’s very few that are even giving our Bulldogs a chance. And personally, I absolutely love that. Once the Tech game was in hand this past Saturday, I was finally able to begin discussing my thoughts on whether Georgia could take down the mighty, Alabama Crimson Tide. I most certainly think it can be done and believe one of the biggest reasons why is how last year’s SEC championship ended. Despite going toe to toe with LSU in the first half, our team was blown out of the building by game’s end. Call me crazy, but I think that terrible feeling from a year ago will have our boys in red and black vowing not to leave the Georgia Dome feeling empty again. At the beginning of this season, our seniors came up with the motto “Our Team, Our Time, No Regrets.� And for 11 out of 12 games, they have lived up to their pledge. And for that, I join Knox Cleveland who is pictured on this page in saluting them for their awesome efforts this season. And now, I call on those guys to dig deeper than ever before when the ball is kicked off on Saturday. Surely by now, everyone should know that a Nick Saban led football team means discipline. The question is whether our guys are ready to match the Crimson Tide in that de-

partment. Again, I like our chances because I’m absolutely convinced that this team will not be embarrassed in the Georgia Dome this time around. Beyond playing with discipline as a team, it will take some outstanding individual efforts as well for a Georgia victory. Despite breaking record after record while in Athens, Aaron Murray’s ability to play well in big games is still in question. Well, the stakes won’t get any bigger as the winner Saturday gets their shot at the crystal trophy in Miami in January. This is a great opportunity for #11 to finally get that monkey off his back. But personally, I think a solid performance by him will be more about what he doesn’t do, than what he does do. Without question, the stellar Alabama defense will be swarming our quarterback. And when this happens, will he live to play another down or will he be careless with the football? On the other side of the ball, we in the Bulldog Nation need Jarvis Jones to have another blockbuster performance. Can you imagine what the Georgia Dome will sound like if he causes an early turnover? Kaboom ‌ Kaboom! Well I have to wrap things up now, but certainly hope you will enjoy this special extra SEC issue of BI. Jeff Dantzler did most of the writing for this one, despite being on the road with the Lady Bulldogs. And his computer was on the fritz, so he definitely deserves some accolades for digging deep for his love of the Dawgs. And please make sure you don’t miss Rob Sherrell’s one on one interview with D.J. Shockley (page 14). He was the perfect fit for this issue as he was the last Georgia quarterback to hoist the SEC Championship trophy in the Georgia Dome. And finally, after a long layoff, our guys Gruff and Grump are back with a column (page 15) that will have you ready to pack your car and head to the dome immediately. G&G thinks we do in fact have more talent than Bama and are ready to shock the world Saturday night. Let’s do this thing ‌ Go Dawgs!

SEC Championship Cha Cha Cha Publishing Inc. Editor Vance Leavy Editorial & Ad Director Cheri Leavy Sports Guru Jeff Dantzler Sales Caroline Kinney, Holly Stanfill Sports Murray Poole Travis Ragsdale Layout/Design Cheri Leavy, Vance Leavy Cover design Boyd Martin Sports Photography Rob Saye Columnists Carlton DeVooght Al Hickson Rob Sherrell Loran Smith Chad White Student Online Editor Travis Ragsdale Interns Anne Maxwell Douglass, Fan Hughes, Katherine Parke, Pierce Persons. Mary Sloane Stribling, Annie Trice Delivery Hatton Abernathy, Martin Cameron Jake Davis, Will Hayes, Frank Sinkwich IV, Champ Vance

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For the first time in the now 21 year history of the event, Alabama and Georgia square off in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game. At stake, the title of the toughest league in the land and a berth in Miami to play Notre Dame for the national championship. This is Alabamaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s eighth trip to the SEC championship Game. The Crimson Tide won the inaugural affair in Birmingham, topping Florida in a 28-21 thriller that vaulted Alabama to the Sugar Bowl, where the Crimson tide topped Miami 34-13 to win the national title. Alabama played in the first four SEC Championship Games, losing the next three to Florida, including the 1994 contest which was the first played in the Georgia Dome after a two-year stint in Birmingham. Bama would again lose to Florida in 1996. In fact, this is the first time that Alabama has played in the SEC Championship Game and not faced Florida. All seven of their previous appearances came against the Gators. Bama won three, most recently the 32-13 victory in a 2009 battle of unbeatens that catapulted the Crimson Tide to a national championship win over Texas in Pasadena. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the second consecutive year that Georgia has played in the SEC Championship Game. The Bulldogs quite frankly should have faced off with Alabama in the first one back in 1992, but a talented Georgia squad lost to inferior Tennessee and Florida teams by a total of five points. The Gators and Volunteers would prove to be two of the nationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s top four programs during the 1990s â&#x20AC;&#x201C; along with Nebraska and Florida State â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and Georgia couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t break through. The Bulldogs finally did in 2002, pounding Arkansas 30-3 to capture the programâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first SEC crown since the 1982 powerhouse led by the likes of Herschel Walker, Terry Hoage, Kevin Butler, Guy McIntyre, Jimmy Payne and Freddie Gilbert. This is the Bulldogs fifth trip to the title tilt. Georgia returned in 2003, falling to eventual national champion LSU. In 2005, the Bulldogs beat LSU in Atlanta. Last season, en route to the BCS Championship Game, where they would lose Alabama, the Fightinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Tigers roared past Georgia in the second half to win 42-10. So in the 11 previous trips for Alabama and Georgia, 10 times the opponent has been Florida and LSU. Finally, Georgia and Alabama, titans of the SEC, meet for the championship. And the winner will have the opportunity to extend the conferenceâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s incredible string of six consecutive national championships. At the helm for Alabama is Nick Saban, unquestionably the premier college football coach of the 2000s. He took over at LSU in 2000. The Tigers had posted a losing record in eight of their previous 11 seasons. In 2001, LSU won the SEC Championship. In 2003 they did it again and won the aforementioned national title, downing Georgia and then Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. It would be the first of three times in an 11 year period that Saban would kiss the crystal football. And oh year, in two of those years, he couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t, because Saban coached the Miami Dolphins in 2005 and 2006. Alabama lured him from the NFL in 2007. The following year, the Crimson Tide went 12-0, but lost to Florida in the SEC Championship Game. The Gators went on to win the national title. In â&#x20AC;&#x2122;09, it was Bamaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s turn. The Tide won it again last year, avenging the 9-6 loss at Bryant-Denny Stadium with a 21-0 domination of LSU in New Orleans. Though only in his sixth year, and with all due respect to Frank Thomas and Wallace Wade, who both led Alabama to great success, only the greatest college football coach, the Tideâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ultimate, all-time unquestioned hero shadow-caster Paul â&#x20AC;&#x153;Bearâ&#x20AC;? Bryant can be held in greater esteem by the Capstone faithful. And not even the Bear led Alabama to three national championships in four years. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the history Saban is trying to make. By the way, Alabama has a very small senior class. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a good chance they will be the preseason No. 1 in 2013. Standing in the way of Alabamaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s march to history is Georgia. At the Bulldogs helm is Mark Richt. He guided Georgia to those aforementioned conference crowns in 2002 and 2005. There were a couple of â&#x20AC;&#x153;shoulda beenâ&#x20AC;? trips to Atlanta in 2004 and 2007, the latter of which couldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve led to a national champi-

onship. But Georgia came up short. The Buldogs dipped after going 11-2 and finishing No. 2 in the land in 2007. A talented Georgia team underachieved at 10-3 in 2008, including a 41-30 Sanford Stadium blasting at the hands of Alabama and Saban. Georgia went 8-5 in 2009 and finished a woeful 6-7 in 2010. Last year, Georgia lost its first two games to Boise State and South Carolina, then reeled off 10 straight wins and returned to the championship game for the first time since 2005. A good Georgia team was beaten by a great LSU one. The Bulldogs then blew a 16-0 lead to Michigan State in Tampa and finished 104. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 16 losses in three years. Over that same stretch, Alabama lost four times and won two BCS Championships. But the Georgia program unquestionably had made big strides in 2011. The quest this season was to return from good to great. With outstanding returning talent, high expectations and a favorable schedule â&#x20AC;&#x201C; as much so as one can be in this league â&#x20AC;&#x201C; this was the minimum for 2012, a return to Atlanta with a mark better than last seasonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 10-2. Mission accomplished. After being embarrassed 35-7 at South Carolina and then eking out a 29-24 win at lowly Kentucky, the Bulldogs sat at 6-1 and a touchdown underdog at Florida. This season and the direction of the program hung in the balance in Jacksonville. Well behind Jarvis Jones, Todd Gurley, Malcolm Mitchell and a relentless defense the Bulldogs upset the Gators 17-9, marking the programâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sorely needed second straight win in Jacksonville. After that, the Bulldogs came back from a 10-0 deficit to Ole Miss to win 37-10 between the hedges. Georgia then bludgeoned Auburn 38-0 on the plains to clinch the SEC East and a berth in Atlanta. Next up were in-state foes Georgia Southern and Tech and their triple option attacks. The Bulldogs struggled through the first half against the Eagles, but led 17-7 at intermission and won 45-14. Baccarri Ramboâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s strip and return turned a likely 7-7 game into a 140 Georgia lead in the Bulldogs 42-10 rocking of Tech between the hedges. Not that they were all easy, but since that ground-breaking win over the Gators, which ended a stretch of 10 straight losses to ranked (at the end of seasons, assuming that the 10-2 Gamecocks will be ranked after their bowl), Georgia won by 27, 38, 31 and 32. With the exception of their 29-24 loss to Texas A&M and 21-17 victory at LSU â&#x20AC;&#x201C; arguably the two best games of the year in the SEC â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Alabama beat everyone else by similar counts. Of the Crimson Tideâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s other 10 victims, the closest was Ole Miss, which fell in Tuscaloosa. 33-14. Georgiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s performance against ranked teams was the Elephant in the room. The win at Florida eradicated it. Now Georgia is in a position it hasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t been in since a 38-18 victory over Tech in 1982 capped a perfect 11-0 SEC championship season that sent the top-ranked Bulldogs to New Orleans to play Penn State. If the Dogs win, Georgia will play Notre Dame for the national championship. The history of that would be as obvious as, well, an elephant in a room. Standing in the way is Alabama, whoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mascot is, of course, an elephant. With a four-team playoff â&#x20AC;&#x201C; that will likely quickly expand â&#x20AC;&#x201C; set to begin in 2014, this year and next are the last two chances to win the whole thing without having to play an extra game. For Georgia and Alabama, and everyone else, this year and next are the last chances to win without a playoff. Though the beauty of college football, lost on far too many, is that the regular season is just that â&#x20AC;&#x201C; a playoff. A win over Alabama would be Georgiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s biggest since slaying Notre Dame on January 1, 1981 to capture the national championship. It could also start Georgia back on a path to sustained greatness. Everything is in place for Georgia to do what Alabama and LSU have done, and that is to be in the conversation year after year. But it starts with this penult pant showdown with the SECâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ultimate Elephant, and the whip-wielding circus tamer, under college footballâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s big top of champions, the Georgia Dome.

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The story of how Alabama became associated with the â&#x20AC;&#x153;elephantâ&#x20AC;? goes back to the 1930 season when Coach Wallace Wade had assembled a great football team. On October 8, 1930, sports writer Everett Strupper of the Atlanta Journal wrote a story of the Alabama-Mississippi game he had witnessed in Tuscaloosa four days earlier. Strupper wrote, â&#x20AC;&#x153;That Alabama team of 1930 is a typical Wade machine, powerful, big, tough, fast, aggressive, well-schooled in fundamentals, and the best blocking team for this early in the season that I have ever seen. When those big brutes hit you I mean you go down and stay down, often for an additional two minutes. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Coach Wade started his second team that was plenty big and they went right [V[OLPYRUP[[PUNZJVYPUNH[V\JOKV^UPU[OLĂ&#x201E;YZ[X\HY[LYHNHPUZ[VULVM[OLILZ[ Ă&#x201E;NO[PUNZTHSSSPULZ[OH[0OH]LZLLU-VY6SL4PZZ^HZ[Y\S`IH[[SPUN[OLIPNIV`ZMVY every inch of ground. ¸([[OLLUKVM[OLX\HY[LY[OLLHY[OZ[HY[LK[V[YLTISL[OLYL^HZHKPZ[HU[Y\TISL that continued to grow. Some excited fan in the stands bellowed, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Hold your horses, the elephants are coming,â&#x20AC;&#x2122; and out stamped this Alabama varsity. ¸0[^HZ[OLĂ&#x201E;YZ[[PTL[OH[0OHKZLLUP[HUK[OLZPaLVM[OLLU[PYLLSL]LUULHYS` knocked me cold, men that I had seen play last year looking like they had nearly KV\ISLKPUZPaLš Strupper and other writers continued to refer to the Alabama linemen as â&#x20AC;&#x153;Red Elephants,â&#x20AC;? the color referring to the crimson jerseys.

www.georgiadogs.com Photograph by Rob Saye

4HU`VSK[PTLYZZH`.LVYNPHHJX\PYLK[OLUPJRUHTL)\SSKVNZILJH\ZLVM [OLZ[YVUN[PLZ^P[O@HSL^OVZLUPJRUHTLPZ)\SSKVNZ.LVYNPHÂťZĂ&#x201E;YZ[WYLZPKLU[ Abraham Baldwin, was a Yale man and the early buildings on campus were designed from blueprints of the same building at Yale. But on Nov. 3, 1920, Morgan Blake of the Atlanta Journal wrote about school nicknames and said â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Georgia Bulldogsâ&#x20AC;? would sound good because there is a certain dignity about a bulldog, as well as ferocity.â&#x20AC;? After a 0-0 tie with Virginia in Charlottesville on Nov. 6, 1920, Atlanta Constitution writer Cliff Wheatley used the name ¸)\SSKVNZšPUOPZZ[VY`Ă&#x201E;]L[PTLZ;OLUHTLOHZILLU\ZLKL]LYZPUJL One of the best known mascots in the country, Uga is from a line owned by -YHUR>:VUU`:LPSLYVM:H]HUUHO.(ZPUJL ;OLJ\YYLU[SPULILNHU with Uga I, a solid white English Bulldog who was the grandson of a former Georgia mascot who made the trip to the 1943 Rose Bowl. Perhaps the most famous Uga was Uga V who made appearances in the movie â&#x20AC;&#x153;Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evilâ&#x20AC;?. He also graced the cover of Sports Illustrated. Uga 0=^HZ[OLĂ&#x201E;YZ[THZJV[PU]P[LK[V[OL+V^U[V^U([OSL[PJ*S\IHUK^HZLZJVY[LK [OYV\NO[OLIHUX\L[OHSSI`[OLWYLZPKLU[VM[OL+V^U[V^U([OSL[PJ*S\IHUK was photographed with Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker. He was also [OLVUS`THZJV[[VTHRLP[[V[OL-PUHS-V\YIHZRL[IHSS[V\YUHTLU[

The 1930 team posted an overall 10-0 record. It shut out eight opponents and allowed only 13 points all season while scoring 217. The â&#x20AC;&#x153;Red Elephantsâ&#x20AC;? rolled over Washington State 24-0 in the Rose Bowl and were declared National Champions.

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5


Georgia September 1 – Athens Georgia – 45, Buffalo – 23 On a scorching Saturday in Athens, the Bulldogs were far from impressive in a 22point win over Buffalo. Georgia needed a goal line stand to lead 24-16, instead of 24-19 at the half. But the Bulldogs pulled away in the second half. The highlight of the game was the debut of sensational freshman tailback Todd Gurley, who ran for 100 yards and a touchdown and returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score that gave the Dogs a 14-7 lead.

The road to the Dome

September 8 - Columbia Georgia – 41, Missouri – 20 In the Tigers first intra-league game as a member of the Southeastern Conference, with a rocking stadium, they led the Bulldogs 3-0, 10-3, 10-9, 17-9 and 20-17. They burned the Bulldogs defense, depleted by suspension, injury and attrition, for a couple of long strikes. But in the final minute of the third quarter, Aaron Murray hit Marlon Brown for the go-ahead touchdown. Marshal Morgan hit his second big field goal to put the Dogs up 27-20. Then Gurley had a big run and the great linebacker Jarvis Jones delivered. In the first of his two dominating performances of the year, Jones put the Tigers away in the fourth quarter. He returned an interception to the oneyard line that gave the Dogs a 34-20 lead. He then forced a fumble that Georgia recovered inside the 10, which set up the finishing score. Over the final 16 minutes of this game, the Bulldogs showed they had a chance to be really good. September 15 – Athens Georgia – 56, Florida Atlantic – 20 It was 14-14 in the second quarter. Georgia’s defense was again giving up too many big plays. But Murray hit Michael Bennett for a long bomb with under two minutes remaining in the first half to give Georgia a 28-14 lead. Gurley hit the 100-yard mark again, and the Bulldogs dominated the second half to put overmatched FAU away. September 22 – Athens Georgia – 48, Vanderbilt – 3 In what is undoubtedly one of Georgia’s top performances of the year, the Dogs completely dominated the ‘Dores, racing to an eye-opening victory. The Bulldogs scored four first half touchdowns to take a 27-0 lead and held Vandy to a field goal in the red zone inside the final minute. Gurley and fellow freshman tailback Keith Marshall both had over 100 yards rushing and highlight-reel touchdowns. Jones had a monster fourth down sack which sent the crowd into a frenzy. Murray had a big night throwing, though the Bulldogs had several passes deflected or batted down, which would come back to bite Georgia in the following weeks. This Vanderbilt team went 5-3 in SEC play. The Commodores three losses were 17-13 to South Carolina, 31-17 to Florida and this blowout in Athens. Like in the final 16 minutes at Missouri, the Georgia team on display this Saturday night looked like a championship caliber one. September 29 – Athens Georgia – 51, Tennessee - 44 In one of the wild shootouts in Sanford Stadium history, in a game filled with emotional swings, the Bulldogs pulled it out to beat Tennessee for a third straight season. It was 7-0 Georgia, then Tennessee returned an interception for a tying touchdown. Marshall raced 75 yards to put the Dogs back on top. Gurley had a spectacular touchdown run and the Dogs took a 27-10 lead. Both rushed for over 100 yards. Everything then turned. Poor special teams and a myriad of turnovers were cashed in by the Big Orange and Tennessee took a 30-27 second quarter lead. Morgan hit a 51-yard field goal to end the half and tie it at 30-30. Murray and Michael Bennett connected to put the Dogs back on top. Georgia’s struggles with extra points continued, and Marlon Brown, who had a tremendous season, caught a clutch two-pointer. Tennessee got its offense cooking against that Georgia defense, which had the suspended players back, but clearly, the unit was far from complete. With the Bulldogs clinging to a seven point lead, Georgia came up with turnovers on Tennessee’s final three possessions to pull it out. It was clear that the Bulldogs were a talented team, but also an unsound one. October 6 – Columbia South Carolina – 35, Georgia – 7 A defense that got gashed on South Carolina’s first possession, an interception off a tipped pass, a defense that again got gashed and then a Gamecocks punt return for a touchdown. It was 21-0 in the first quarter. Georgia couldn’t score from the South Carolina two in the final two minutes of the first half and went to the locker room down by that same count. The Gamecocks went up 35-0 and Georgia was embarrassed on national television. It was a 10th straight loss for the program against a team that would wind up in the final national rankings (assuming that South Carolina will). It was a third straight loss to South Carolina, a series first. Steve Spurrier was grinning big. This was not the way Georgia wanted to head into its open date. October 20 – Lexington Georgia – 29, Kentucky - 24 A really bad Kentucky, a 26-point underdog, went back and forth with Georgia. It was scary for the Bulldogs. On the heels of that embarrassing performance at South Carolina, the Dogs were on the brink of one of their biggest upset losses in program history. But Murray had a big night, throwing for four scores and the Bulldogs other No. 11 – Connor Norman – recovered a Wildcats on-sides kick that saved the day. A win is a win, but this two-game stretch was far from championship level. The Georgia faithful weren’t exactly brimming with confidence heading to Jacksonville. The Gators had routed South Carolina 44-11 earlier in the day to move to No. 2 in the country with a 7-0 record. It was the Gamecocks second straight loss, as they fell at LSU the week prior. So the door was open. For a Georgia team with such talent and great expectations, any chance to have a special season depended on the following Saturday. October 27 – Jacksonville Georgia – 17, Florida – 9 It was the Bulldogs biggest win in at least five years. Georgia’s defense pulled together, forcing six turnovers, Gurley scored and topped the century mark, the electric Malcolm Mitchell – who began the year on defense – made the offensive play of the game on the Bulldogs lone third down conversion, and Jones capped off a Lawrence Taylor-esque performance by forcing a fumble that put the Gators away. Jones forced two fumbles, recovered two fumbles chalked up three sacks, five and a half tackles for loss and 13 stops. Georgia overcame three interceptions thrown by Murray and 14 penalties. Gurley’s ten yard touchdown put the Dogs on the board.

6

photo by Rob Saye

teams hit second half field goals and Georgia led 10-9 midway through the first quarter. Finally, Georgia converted a third down, and Mitchell raced to the left hash, split two defenders and struck paydirt for a 45-yard score that put the Bulldogs ahead 17-9. Florida was driving with a chance to tie with a TD and twopointer. Jordan Reed hauled in a Driskell aerial, and while pushing for extra yardage was stripped on the five. The ball rolled right to Sanders Commings in the back of the end zone. A big Gurley run and critical Florida penalty let the Dogs take that precious victory formation. It was two in a row over the Gators and suddenly Georgia had control of the SEC East race. November 3 – Athens Georgia – 37, Ole Miss – 10 There was concern over a letdown. And it showed. Ole Miss pulled ahead 10-0 and Georgia was in trouble. But Murray connected with Brown for a 66-yard touchdown on a trick play. The teams exchanged four turnovers on five plays. The Bulldogs were going backwards and chewing up clock on a two minute drill. Then Murray rolled right and hit Tavarres King for a 40-yard touchdown in the closing seconds. Somehow, Georgia led 14-10 at the half. Damian Swann and Jordan Jenkins, both of whom have given the Bulldogs defense a huge lift, both had excellent days. Swann recovered two fumbles. Brown made a great play to extend the Bulldogs second half opening drive. Murray then hit Mitchell for a touchdown. The Bulldogs would pull away with one of their halves of the season – scoring the final 37 of the game and outdistancing the Rebels 23-0 after intermission. Alec Ogletree recorded a safety. Twin brother Xander Ogletree ran for a touchdown. The downer – Brown was lost for the season with a knee injury. Georgia was a win away from a berth in the SEC Championship Game. November 10 – Auburn Georgia – 38, Auburn – 0 In this rivalry which has featured so many upsets and season-spoiling shockers, the Georgia people were leery of the Tigers, despite the Bulldogs 8-1 record and Auburn’s 2-7 record. Well Georgia put on a clinic. The Bulldogs scored on four straight long first half scoring drives, while the defense and special teams excelled. It was 28-0 at the half. Surreal. Georgia added a long third quarter field goal drive and Marshall broke off a 62-yard touchdown dash to put the finishing touches on this rout and clinch a berth in the SEC Championship Game. Gurley and Marshall both ran for over 100 yards and Murray was magnificent through the air. It was the Bulldogs sixth win in the last seven meetings with the Tigers. Over the past two seasons, Georgia has pounded the Tigers by counts of 45-7 and 380. That’s 83-7 in 2011-2012 over Auburn. As for Georgia’s defense, it had surrender 9, 10, and 0 in wins over Florida, Ole Miss and Auburn – allowing just one touchdown. But before a date in the Dome, there would be the two in-state foes to deal with. November 17 – Athens Georgia – 45, Ga. Southern – 14 This was scary for the Bulldogs in the first half. The Eagles famed triple option was cutting through Georgia’s defense. With the Dogs on top 10-7, Southern was marching deep in Georgia territory. But a chop block penalty pushed ‘em back on a converted 4th-and-1 inside the five. The Eagles would miss a tying field goal. Georgia then drove, and Murray hit Mitchell for a 29-yard touchdown with three seconds to go in the half, pushing the lead to 17-7 at intermission and allowing the Bulldogs faithful to exhale a bit. Murray tossed three more touchdowns in the third quarter as the Dogs pulled away – including one to Chris Conley, his second score in as many weeks. It was the second straight home game where the Bulldogs hit a critical touchdown with under five seconds to go in the first half. The record was now 10-1, and on deck – Tech, in the biggest game of all. November 23 - Athens Georgia - 42, Tech - 10 Make no mistake, the play of the game was Baccarri Rambo's strip and return from the Georgia two to midfield with the Bulldogs leading 7-0 in the first quarter. The Bulldogs offense kept pouring the points on, led by tremendous line play, great running from Gurley and Marshall, and a Murray and Mitchell-led passing attack. The defense gave up a bunch of yards, and Tech had seven possessions inside Georgia territory. But the Bulldogs turned the Yellow Jackets back time and time again. Rambo also had a clutch interception that led to the Bulldogs fourth score and a 28-3 halftime lead. Gurley's freshman season is the second greatest ever by a Bulldog tailback. This one goes down with the 44-7 victory on the flats in 1981 and 51-7 triumph between the hedges in 2002 as one of the most impressive Georgia victories in this series over the last 50 years. The tackling lacked at times, but there's no way to call this anything but an "A-Plus" performance. It will take that and more for the Bulldogs to topple the Crimson Tide in Atlanta.

Bulldawg Illustrated


The studs that got them there

photos by Rob Saye

Georgia #3 Todd Gurley, TB

Georgia #26 Malcolm Mitchell, WR

When Isaiah Crowell was dismissed from the Georgia team, there was a major concern that the Bulldogs wouldn’t have standout play at tailback. And therefore, wouldn’t have a special season. Well, Georgia upgraded. Big time! Gurley joins Herschel Walker as the only two freshmen in program history to rush for over 100 yards in a season. In his first game, he cracked the century mark and ran a kickoff back 100 yards for a touchdown. Gurley’s play and ability took Georgia’s expectations to another. He can score a touchdown any time the ball is in his hands. He’s physical, fast, goes forward on tackles and has a knack for the first down marker and end zone. Fellow true freshman Keith Marshall can go the distance, and has been an outstanding counter-puncher to Gurley, who is cut from the cloth of those great Bulldog tailbacks of the 1980s. Touchdown runs against Vanderbilt and Tennessee, and the toughness displayed in Georgia’s win over Florida were reminiscent of the Goal Line Stalker himself.

It was an intense recruiting battle between Georgia and Alabama for the lightning fast playmaker out of Valdosta. It was a huge win for Georgia. One of the best freshmen in America a year ago, Mitchell played corner in the Bulldogs first two games due to Georgia’s secondary suspensions to start the year. He then moved back to receiver – as well as returning some kickoffs and punts – and has been tremendous. Mitchell has made arguably the biggest play of the year offensively, with his touchdown catch-and-run that gave the Bulldogs the final score in the 17-9 victory in Jacksonville. He also hauled in major touchdown receptions in wins over Ole Miss and Georgia Southern. Despite season – ending injuries to standout receivers Michael Bennett and Marlon Brown, Georgia still has several offensive weapons. The two that worry Bama most – make no mistake – are Gurley are Mitchell. Georgia #11 Aaron Murray, QB

Georgia #29 Jarvis Jones, LB There is no defender in America who had two games this season that compare to what Jones did in Georgia’s wins over Missouri and Florida. Quite simply, without him, Georgia would likely have two more losses and most certainly wouldn’t be playing Alabama for the Southeastern Conference championship. He is the total package - sacks, interceptions, tackles for loss, forced fumbles, recovered fumbles and bone-jarring stops. Jones could be the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. He has been a great leader on the team and has been one of the key figures in the Bulldogs rejuvenation. Georgia has beaten Florida in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1988 and 1989. Jones two games against the Gators are the two best individual performances in consecutive contests against Florida since Walker’s incredible trio of showings in the victories of 1980, 1981 and 1982.

In three years as Georgia’s starting quarterback, Murray has broken numerous program passing records. He’s also an outstanding runner and is at his best, especially against fierce defenses, when on the move. The next big step for the fourth-year junior out of Tampa is to lead the Bulldogs to a title. In Georgia’s 10-game losing streak to ranked teams, Murray was behind center for all of them. He struggled in the loss, as did everyone in red and black, at South Carolina. He struggled mightily in the win over Florida, throwing three interceptions. But when the chips were down, he led Georgia on the big drive, and got the ball in Mitchell’s hands for the big play – on the Bulldogs lone third down conversion of the contest – that put the Bulldogs up 17-9. He was tremendous against Kentucky, Ole Miss, and Auburn. Now comes arguably the best defense Georgia will face this season. Records and statistics are great. Legacies are comprised of victories and championships.

— By Jeff Dantzler

www.bulldawgillustrated.com

7


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Alabama September 1 – Arlington, Texas Alabama – 41, Michigan – 14 The defending national champions left no doubt that they would be right in the thick of things again in 2012. Despite losing All-American Heisman Trophy finalist Trent Richardson and four star defenders – all five of whom were amongst the top 35 picks in the NFL Draft – Alabama didn’t miss a beat. It took just one game to show that this was a re-load, not a rebuild. It was a match-up of the defending champs against the 11-2 Sugar Bowl winning Wolverines, piloted by Heisman contender Dennard Robinson. Freshman tailback T.J. Yeldon went over 100 yards and the defense was ferocious, overwhelming Robinson and the Woverines. The signature play was an interception return by Dee Milliner, which ended with Robinson trying to make the stop and getting knocked back a couple of yards.

The road to the Dome

September 8 – Tuscaloosa Alabama – 35, Western Kentucky – 0 Nick Saban was happy with the performance against Michigan for an hour or two, then at his ensuing weekly press conference berated the media for not giving enough credit to Western Kentucky, saying it made it tougher for him to keep his players focused. Bama jumped out to a big early lead and Saban called off the troops as the Crimson Tide overwhelmed the Hilltoppers. A.J. McCarron had another strong performance, with limited passing, and the defense was once again dominant. September 15 - Fayetteville Alabama - 52, Arkansas - 0 Before the season, it looked like this would be a top match-up with major championship and top ten ramifications. But then Bobby Petrino and that tall blonde and that motorcycle thing happened. Then Arkansas lost to Louisiana-Monroe and the women with the hog on her head made that music video. You could kind of see this one coming. Right? Talk about two teams going in different directions. It was a quick strike for Alabama and they just kept pouring it on. It marked two straight shutouts for Alabama. Through three games, their defense had given up a total of 14 points, that's less than per game up to that point. The offense was showing that it was just as lethal as the defense, and there was no doubt that Alabama was amongst the very best in the nation, if not No. 1. September 22 - Tuscaloosa Alabama - 40, Florida Atlantic - 7 Well the only drama in this one was whether or not Alabama would ring up a third consecutive shutout. But the Owls from Florida Atlantic, who were beated 56-20 in Athens the week before were able to strike paydirt in the second half. The Crimson Tide's margin of victory was absolutely off the charts at this point. September 29 - Tuscaloosa Alabama - 33, Ole Miss - 14 Take note of this, and you can bet that Texas A&M, Kevin Sumlin and Johnny Manziel certainly did. Ole Miss hung in there with Alabama. In fact, prior to their instant classic at LSU, it was the fewest points they'd scored in a game and the most they'd allowed. Bama actually trailed 7-6 for less than 10 seconds, but struck for a long touchdown to quickly regain the lead. However, Ole Miss's hurry-up offense gave Bama a hard time. Saban even belly-ached about it, asking at a press conference, "is this what people want to see?" Well what Ole Miss was doing was trying to negate Alabama's superior depth and catch the Crimson Tide defense in advantageous situations. For the Tide, wide receiver Amari Cooper was showing that he could be the next Julio Jones caliber Crimson Tide wide receiver. October 13 – Columbia Alabama – 42, Missouri – 10 This was one of the more bizarre games of the year in the Southeastern Conference. The Crimson Tide were doing their usual domination thing, highlighted by a typically stingy defense and long run from Eddie Lacy. Then it started raining, and raining and raining. Then lightning. Elephants and Tigers were seen walking two by two as the walkways cascaded rainwater. The game was delayed for over an hour. When it finally started back, there were less than 1,000 people in the stands. Who could blame them? The lengthy delay came in the first half, so when the game went to intermission, the actual halftime Mlasted five minutes. Well Bama had a couple of miscues and gave up a kick return touchdown. But order was quickly restored and Alabama had chalked up yet another impressive win. Missouri sure got introduced to SEC play with Alabama and Texas A&M as their West Division foes.

photo by www.rolltide.com

November 3 – Baton Rouge Alabama – 21, LSU – 17 The history between these two over the last five years has been nothing short of incredible. There was Bama’s overtime win in Baton Rouge in ’08. LSU won by three at Tiger Stadium in 2010. Then you might have heard, last year, the Fightin’ Tigers beat Alabama 9-6 in overtime in “The Game of the Century,” pitting No. 1 vs. No. 2. You may also have heard that there was a rematch in New Orleans for the BCS Championship. Alabama dominated in the SuperDome and won 21-0. Talk about a bitter taste for the Tiger faithful. And oh yeah, then there’s that Nick Saban thing. You know, he used to coach the Tigers. LSU had been struggling offensively, lowlighted by a 14-6 loss at Florida. But the Tigers got their swagger back with a roaring 23-21 win over South Carolina in Death Valley. This would go down as one of the top five games of the year in college football’s regular season, if not No. 1. LSU had a couple of gambles backfire and the Crimson Tide took a 14-3 lead to the locker room. But the Fightin’ Tigers fought back. LSU took a 17-14 fourth quarter lead, but the Tide stuffed a Spencer Ware quarterback sneak and fourth and one and a half. The Tigers proceeded to miss a field goal that would’ve put them up six. Then came “the drive.” It will live forever in Tide lore. McCarron quickly and efficiently piloted Bama downfield, then dumped a screen pass against a blitz to Yeldon. Touchdown Bama! With under a minute to go. That was all she wrote and Bama had prevailed in one of the most physical, emotional games any fan will ever see. November 10 – Tuscaloosa Texas A&M – 29, Alabama – 24 Physically and emotionally worn from the battle in Baton Rouge, Bama was in trouble against the Aggies. Texas A&M, behind their wonder of a quarterback, redshirt freshman sensation Johnny Manziel, raced to a 20-0 first quarter lead. You just don’t see that. Manziel’s signature play came on a third down deep in Bama territory with the Aggies sporting a 7-0 lead. Alabama had him bottled up, but Manziel broke free and threw a touchdown pass. Of course Alabama came back, making it 20-14 at the half, and then 20-17. But the Aggies continued to take the fight to Alabama. They would build a 29-17 fourth quarter lead. Alabama fought back again, with McCarron throwing a long touchdown and then hitting another bomb down to the Aggies six. But the Tide didn’t score, and McCarron was intercepted on the goal line on fourth down. With the Aggies set to punt on fourth-and-one with 40 seconds to go, stunningly, Alabama jumped offsides. Yes the Crimson Tide could’ve won at the end, but A&M left a lot of points on the table with a missed extra point, failed two-point try and missed field goal. Perhaps the classic from the week prior had been topped as Game of the Year.

October 20 – Knoxville Alabama – 44, Tennessee – 13 In this longstanding, bitter rivalry, played most years on the third Saturday in October – and it was nice that this year’s game was actually played on the third Saturday in October, since tradition doesn’t seem to mean much in today’s college football landscape – there have been some long win streaks, and conversely droughts. Well Tennessee is in a drought against Alabama, and the Crimson Tide are on a roll against what was once their second biggest rival. I think it’s safe to assume that LSU has taken that mantle, at least for now. McCarron and Cooper hooked up for a wide open score, and the young freshman’s dynamic play at wide receiver had given the potent Alabama offense yet another dimension.

November 17 – Tuscaloosa Alabama – 49, Western Carolina – 0 The Catamounts came into the game at 1-9. They were one of the worst teams in Division I-AA, now known as the FCS. Bama was favored by 51.5 and could’ve doubled that. As it was, Alabama raced to a 42-0 first half lead and threw only six passes for the entire game. Then came the night of mayhem, as Oregon lost to Stanford and Kansas State fell at Baylor. When the polls came out, the defending champs were right back at No. 2, controlling their path to play for the SEC and BCS Championships. On deck, their archenemy in the midst of their worst season since going 0-10 in 1950. Only the Middle East harbors more animosity between two sides than Alabama and Auburn. To say everyone in Crimson was “licking their chops,” or “chomping at the bit,” or whatever cliché you want, would be, well, a cliché-esque understatement.

October 27 – Tuscaloosa Alabama – 38, Mississippi State – 7 In a match-up of 7-0 Southeastern Conference unbeatens, you rarely see a 23.5 point spread from the boys in the desert. Well, as almost always, they were onto it. Alabama flat out rolled Mississippi State, delivering the knockout blow in the first half and never looking back. For a State team that had its best passing game since maybe John Bond 30 years ago, they had no luck whatsoever in solving the rugged Crimson Tide defense. McCarron was again lights out, and the trio of Lacy, Yeldon and Cooper again showed that they were amongst the nation’s best. Bama couldn’t have drawn this up any better with the Titanic battle that awaited.

November 24 – Tuscaloosa Alabama – 49, Auburn – 0 This will go down as one of the great days in Alabama history when it comes to flexing the muscles against arch-enemy Auburn. It was 14-0 at the end of the first quarter. It was 35-0 at the half. The final was 49-0 – the same score as the week before. It was Alabama’s fourth shutout of the season and the biggest margin of victory in the series since it was brought back in 1948. Alabama moved to 11-1 and would play Georgia in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game for a shot at the national title. Auburn finished 3-9 and went 0-8 in the league, the Tigers first winless SEC campaign since 1980. Yes the Paul Finebaum Show has been rather one-sided for a few weeks now.

— By Jeff Dantzler


The studs that got them there

photos by www.rolltide.com

Alabama #75 Barrett Jones, C

Alabama #28 Dee Milliner, CB

The reigning Outland Trophy Award winner as the nation’s premier trench stalwart, Jones is the centerpiece of college football’s most dominant offensive line. He’s been a standout at tackle, guard and now center. Jones is very smart and a great football player. He may not even be the best player on the offensive line. Guard Chance Warmack is an absolute beast – a bulldozer and tremendous athlete who gets to the second level, creating long gainers. And Bama’s tackle duo of D.J. Fluker and Cyrus Kouandjio are incredible specimens. This offensive front is the heart and soul of Alabama’s football team. They set the tone physically and lets a superb cast of skill personnel flourish. Jones is the front-man. For a school that has produced some of the greatest offensive linemen in the history of the sport, like all-time NFL legends John Hannah and Dwight Stephenson, Jones, an integral part of two national championship teams already, has a place in Bama’s “Big Ugly” Hall of Fame.

Almost all of Alabama’s defense from last season’s national championship squad is in the National Football League. Four of the top 35 picks in the draft were Crimson Tide defenders. But half of that tremendous secondary secondary is back, with Milliner, the SEC’s top corner, and fellow All-SEC performer, Robert Lester, a stellar safety. Milliner is physical, fast, tough, agile and has a nose for the ball. One of the signature plays of the season came in the opener against Michigan, as he picked off Dennard Robinson and then when the Wolverine signal caller tried to tackle Milliner on the return, he got knocked flat backwards. There are few corners who can jam receivers on the line, make sure tackles on premier tailbacks and run down the field with the league’s burners at receiver. Just like fellow corner Dre Kirkpatrick, a first-rounder from a year ago, he’s coveted by pro scouts. Alabama #4 T.J. Yeldon, TB

Alabama #10 A.J. McCarron, QB Putting together one of the better seasons of any quarterback in Alabama annals, McCarron is the triggerman for a juggernaut offense that has put up a slew of points. As a sophomore and first year starter last season, McCarron got the ball to Trent Richardson and was charged with distributing the football and not turning the ball over. This season, Tide coach Nick Saban has been able to lean on McCarron to lead the offense. There’s a great offense line and tremendous backs to work with. Now he’s got Bama’s next great receiver to throw to, the sleek freshman blue-chipper Amari Cooper. His touchdown to interception ratio is off the charts and McCarron has proved to be a stellar big game performer. The hit-list with McCarron at quarterback over the last two years includes LSU, Auburn, Tennessee (twice each), Florida and Michigan. He was behind center for last year’s national championship game victory over the Bayou Bengals, and now eyes Georgia’s defense and an SEC crown.

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What a year it has been for freshmen tailbacks in the SEC. Todd Gurley of Georgia, LSU’s Jeremy Hill and Yeldon have established themselves as some of the elite tailbacks in college football. Yeldon and junior Eddie Lacy are one of the country’s best one-two tailback punches – if not the best. Lacy has power, breaks tackles, sniffs the goal line in the red zone and can bust the long one. Yeldon is the total package. He is shifty, breaks through arm-tacklers, has excellent speed – even through cuts, is elusive, fast and has body lean. With Bama’s bruising backs and powerful offensive line, the pile always seems to move forward when the Crimson Tide runs the football. Yeldon burst onto the scene in Alabama’s 41-14 season-opening pounding of Michigan in Dallas, topping the century mark. Bama had the premier tailback in America last year, Trent Richardson, the third pick in the draft. And the running game hasn’t missed a beat, thanks in large part to Yeldon. — By Jeff Dantzler

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The Match Up Bulldawg Illustrated’s sports writers break down Georgia-Alabama Jeff Dantzler

Murray Poole

Travis Ragsdale

When Georgia has the ball JD - Georgia's offensive line wll have its toughest test of the season, and for the

Bulldogs to win, the unit must have its best game. Georgia has game-breaking stars in Todd Gurley and Malcolm Mitchell, and other weapons that Alabama will have to account for. But this Crimson Tide defense is tremendous. Four of the top 35 picks in the NFL Draft were Alabama defenders. Rebuild right? Reload. The Crimson Tide leads the nation in scoring defense and is second in total defense. They'll will come after Aaron Murray hard. Georgia MUST get him out moving. This defense is better than South Carolina's, which held the Dogs to seven points, and Florida's, which allowed only 17 in Georgia's victory. The Dogs have to avoid the catastrophic turnover. If Georgia can do that, ride Gurley and give Mitchell a couple of shots to make plays the Bulldogs will have a chance to produce enough points to win. But it starts up front.

Murray -

photo by www.rolltide.com

When Bama has the ball JD -

Georgia's defense will have its hands full with the best offense they've seen all year. Alabama is led by the nation's most dominant offensive line, one of the country's most accurate and mistake free quarterbacks, a tremendous pair of elite tailbacks and an electric wide receiver. Since the narrow escape at Kentucky, despite giving up some yards, Georgia's defense has been exceptional. The Bulldogs have allowed 9, 10, 0, 14 and 10 over the past five games - that's 8.6 per dating back to the victory in Jacksonville. Jarvis Jones has had two of the all-time great individual defensive performances in program history for Georgia this season. He was the national player of the week at Missouri and in Jacksonville. He will be the Bulldogs unquestioned emotional leader and the Dogs need him to make the big plays. But it comes down to the trenches. If Bama can dictate with its running game, Georgia is in big trouble. If the Bulldogs can control Alabama's powerful rushing attack, Georgia will have a shot.

If the Bulldogs’ defense does its part Saturday, then it’s going to put the game in the hands of Aaron Murray and the Georgia offense to score enough points to chalk up the win. And that means freshman tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, along with sophomore bulldozer Ken Malcome, are going to have to pound the Tide defense and thereby open up the passing lanes for Murray and his capable receiving corps. And for the Bulldogs to run the ball satisfactorily, the Georgia O-line will have to achieve a stalemate against a Bama defense that ranks second overall in America and gives up only 75 yards rushing a game. The Bulldogs simply have to handle an outstanding linebacking corps that features leading tackler C.J. Mosley, Nico Johnson and Adrian Hubbard as well as safeties Robert Lester (13 picks over last three seasons) and Vinnie Sunseri.

Travis - The Alabama coaching staff is one of the best in the country; particularly on the defensive side of the ball. They know that Georgia's success on offense relies on the success of the running game. Bama will try to fill the box and stop the run. This means that when Georgia has the ball, Aaron Murray has to be on the top of his game.

Murray -

The Crimson Tide will be bringing an extremely balanced attack into the Georgia Dome as, entering the finale against Auburn this past Saturday, Alabama was averaging right at 210 yards a game on the ground and 219 per contest through the air. So Todd Grantham’s defense really can’t concentrate on one particular area in trying to slow down the Tide attack. In junior tailback Eddie Lacy, who had rumbled for 870 yards and 12 touchdowns going into the Auburn game, and freshman T.J. Yeldon, who had rushed for 809 yards and 9 scores, Alabama will throw a two-pronged ground attack at the Dogs, but stymie this running game is what the Georgia defense must do to win the SEC title. Neutralize a Bama O-line that includes Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones, slow down Lacy and Yeldon and make Tide QB AJ McCarron beat you through the air would be the Bulldogs’ best bet. Certainly, however, with McCarron having thrown for 2,291 yards and 21 TDs entering the Auburn game, Jarvis Jones and the UGA pass rushers will need to be in his face the game long.

Travis - Alabama's offense is very similar to Georgia's in that their success relies heavily on the rushing attack. If Eddie Lacy and TJ Yeldon get rolling, Georgia's defense is going to be in loads of trouble. Georgia has to force quarterback AJ McCarron to beat them.

Intangibles photo by Rob Saye

JD -

This is Georgia's biggest game since January 1, 1983 when the top-ranked undefeated Bulldogs fell to No. 2 Penn State 27-23 in the Sugar Bowl for the national championship. There are enormous stakes in this one, two precious gems on the dream wishlist, a Southeastern Conference championship and berth in the national title game. The winner is the champion of the toughest league in the land plays for the big prize. Alabama is seeking its third BCS crown in the last four years under Nick Saban's watch. Bama knows how to win the big game. Georgia had lost 10 straight to teams that wound up ranked in the final polls but beat Florida. So it's 1-0 in the last one. And since that victory in Jacksonville, the Bulldogs margin of victory has been impressive. Georgia sniffed the crystal ball in 2002 and 2007, but now it's right there for the taking. For the second time this season, I must quote the Nature Boy Ric Flair - "To be the Man, you gotta beat the Man." Perhaps it is Georgia's time. This much is clear, it will take AT LEAST Georgia's best performance of the year to hoist the SEC championship trophy.

Special teams JD - In Georgia's five wins over Florida, Ole Miss, Auburn, Georgia Southern and Tech,

the Bulldogs defense has held its own. The coverage on kickoffs has been excellent and Collin Barber has emerged as a weapon at punter - along with Adam Erickson. Mitchell is a big play threat on kickoff returns, though he has brought a couple out of the end zone that he probably should have downed. It was Mitchell's long kick return that got the Bulldogs 42-10 pounding of Tech going. Alabama is once again rock solid in the kicking game. They swarm in coverage and are dangerous on returns. It's vital for Georgia not to make the big mistake on special teams. Remember, last year in the Georgia Dome, it was Tyran Mathieu's punt return for a touchdown that ignited LSU's runaway victory.

Murray -

I mean, how much more motivated can either team be for this game, what with a berth in the BCS national championship game staring both the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide smack in the face? Yes, indeed, the emotion is going to be soaring to the roof of the Georgia Dome come Saturday afternoon. Both Georgia and Alabama, with the upset losses of then No. 1 Kansas State and No. 2 Oregon, were given new life to make it to Miami and the Jan. 7 title game so the incentive factor has to be dead even for the Dogs and Tide. That means the winner of this game will be determined by which team bests controls those emotions and executes the game plan. Yes indeed, the Dome is going to be rocking come 4 p.m. kickoff Saturday.

Travis - Shhh don't tell anyone...It's been a closely kept secret but Georgia has

been playing better football in the past month than Alabama. Momentum is on the Dawg's side. But Alabama has been there before. They know how to win championships, something that can't be over looked, especially in a game of this magnitude.

Murray -

This area is downright crucial for the Bulldogs having success in beating Alabama. There can be no hiccups in Georgia’s kicking games and kick coverage, as was the case in several games this season. Freshman Marshall Morgan is going to have to be perfect on his makeable field goals and PATs, freshman Collin Barber is going to have to keep the Crimson Tide backed up, with poor field position, with his punts, and it goes without saying Georgia’s coverage teams, on both kickoffs and punts, can’t allow Alabama’s capable returners to break anything big.

Travis - Finally, it seems like Georgia has some things straightened out on special teams after years of struggles. There aren't those huge mistakes anymore. But Alabama has a stud kicker in Jeremy Shelley. If it comes down to a last second field goal, you can count on this guy to put it through the uprights. Edge: Alabama.


.com m

WWW. WW WW W. W.

FANS OF THE WEEK

TR TRIVIA RIVIA CONTE CONTEST EST

Ryan, Lilly and Charlie Rutherfor d Rutherford from fr om Atlanta, GA

Who Whose ose interception interception sealed Georgia’s G Geor gia’s 27-25 27-2 25 win at Alabama in 2002? 200 02? Answer: Answ wer: Thomas Davis

Win nner: Ronnie Kitche ens Winner: Kitchens from m Augusta, GA from

Go to bulldawg bulldawgillustrated.com gillustrated.com Chance to win $25 gift car cards rd ds for the UGA Boo Bookstore TATE okstorre at T ATE if you answerr trivia corr correctly. rectly e y.

Ryan Rutherfor Rutherford, rd d, Randy Ruther Rutherford, rforrd d, Charlie Rutherford, Rutherforrd d, Lilly Rutherfor Rutherford rd and Cindy Rutherfor Rutherford rd

Other than Herschel, Hersche el, who is your favorite Bulldog g and why? Ryan - David Pollack because he never took a play off off and was a gr of great reat e leader.r. leader Lilly - Knowshon Moreno. Morre eno. He was a great grreat e RB that he helped elped us win the Sugar Bowl. Charlie - Brandon Boykin Bo oykin because he was a great grreat e cornerback c rn cor nerback and kick rreturner. etur e rn nerr.

What is the most memorable play you have experienced in person? Ryan R - David Greene Grreene e to Michael Michae el Johnson on 4th down on the e Plains to clinch the th East in 2002. Led to 1st SEC SE EC title since I was Charlie’s Charlie’’s age age. e. Lilly L and Charlie - Knowshon hurdling h rd hur dling a Chippewa in Athens. s. What W makes you a true Bulldog? Bulld dog?

Who is your favorite e player on the current currrent e UGA roster roster o and why? Ryan - Jarvis Jones. He H has overcome overrcome c a lot of adversity adverrsity and came back so he could try to win a title. Lill and Lilly d Charlie Ch li - Gu Gurshall. Gurshall. h ll Lilly Lill likes lik Gurley G l because b e he h runs like lik a “gurl” and Charlie likess to watch Marshall break brre eak a long ng run!

All A -W We e have all been going to w watch the Dawgs as long as we w can remember remember e and a there therre have been some great grre ea at memories. The kids go to one on ne road ro oad game a year y and we’re we’rre undefeated. They The ey went to Jacksonville and kept kep pt the streak streak str e k going! i ! What W makes your tailgating scene s so special?

Which one of our riv rivals vals do you enjoy beating the e most? Ryan - Hands down, the Gators. This was my 21st trip t to Jacksonville and I enjoyed win #5. I sure surre hope the next generation on of Dawg fans enjoy a better rrecord! e ecorrd d!

All A - love to see family and friends, friend ds, throw thrrow o the football and eat some so ome great grre eat food fo while we try to predict prredict e what wha at lies ahead between the hedges. hedg ges.

SEGO SECOC EEAST AST B BOUND D DAWGS AWGS S

Get the gear and show your y pride as we ffollow fol ll llow l the h Bulldogs B lld s to victory SHOP P IN-S IN-STORE TORE OR ONLINE ON NLINE T TODAY ODAY

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13


one on one

Getting Shocked: D.J. Shockley

By Rob Sherrell

First off tell us what one of the all-time favorites of the Bulldawg Nation, DJ Shockley, is up to now so everyone knows where to find you?

When Coach Richt hit the SEC in 2001, wins were there for the taking. I think Mike Shula was at Alabama, Loose Bolts was at South Carolina, Zook came in the next year at Florida, Chan Gailey was at Tech, and so on. Now, you've got Saban at Bama, Spurrier back, Johnson at Tech, and Urban Meyer won two BCS titles at Florida before moving on. The coaching landscape has changed and it's gotten tougher. How would you rate Coach Richt in the current class of SEC coaches?

I'm doing a couple things right now. I'm the High School Football color commentator for Channel 2. We've got playoff games coming up now. I'm also doing a couple of Georgia shows for CSS and Channel 2. The Dawg Report of CSS comes on Wednesday nights at 6:30 pm. Then I also do the SEC Football Tonight show for CSS as well. Then the last thing is doing radio for the Falcons post game show for 790 The Zone. When Mark Richt came to UGA he said his first priority was to sign DJ Shockley. He obviously wanted you pretty bad. So no matter what happens going forward, you will always be the first building block of the Mark Richt legacy. When you think about that, it's got to be pretty flattering?

It an honor to have been recruited by so many people. But then to have been recruited by Coach Richt, his track record speaks for itself as far as quarterbacks go. I tell people all the time that I was his first recruit at UGA. I take pride in that. That's awesome. And I wanted to play for a guy of his caliber. Not just on the field, but what he represents off the field. That's why we're still good friends today. So it's definitely an honor to be his first recruit and a guy he really wanted. And the feeling was mutual. Everyone knows of your athletic ability, but not many know you actually were on the SEC Academic Honor Roll. Can you tell us how hard that is to do with your schedule and how much it meant to you?

I took pride in how I represented myself on and off the field, and I took pride in my education. There are so many stereotypes of athletes, in particular football players, about how they don't do their work. So I took that personal and I wanted to make sure when people looked at me they knew this guy was a student athlete. I wanted to be thought of as a guy who not only excelled on the field but also was an intelligent guy in the classroom. So whenever I go speak to kids, I tell them the two things no one can ever take from me are my high school diploma and my college degree. I know in 2005 you obliterated Boise State accounting for six touchdowns. For you to be a Georgia Bulldog, after watching us get whipped in three phases, especially both lines, of the game in the Georgia Dome last year, was that embarrassing for you or is it something where you just say we have to learn from it, move on, and get better?

I think it's a little bit of both. At UGA, we always look at ourselves as an elite program. We felt like we could always dominate who's across from us. As a spectator and a former player, I was disappointed because I know the preparation. I know what goes into it. I know Coach Richt and those guys prepared so well for it. But at the same time, our guys did not do enough to get it done. Like you said, it all starts up front. If the big boys up front aren't getting it done, it's going to be a long day. It was definitely disappointing, but you have to learn from it. And I think the guys did learn because they ended up back in the dome for the SEC. Well speaking of embarrassing, to me the game that sticks in my craw during your time at UGA was the '05 Sugar Bowl. I still hurt from that one. That's not on you as you had a great game. If you had one game you could play over again, which one would it be?

The game I really wish I had back was the Florida game I didn't get to play in. Auburn was disappointing because it went down to the last second. West Virginia was probably the most disappointing because it was on the national stage. Then we got down 28-0. We just didn't start the way we should have, especially since it was the Sugar Bowl. But everybody fought back. It was just a new look as they did some stuff on offense and defense we weren't used to. By the time we figured it out, it was too late. I talked to Coach Rodriguez after that game, and asked him why he did the fake punt. He said there was no way I was giving you guys the ball back because we haven't stopped you in the second half. Well let’s talk about better times. How about your first game at UGA. You're under the lights against Clemson and you showed out. Greenie was off that night and you really saved the day. How much fun was Athens for you that night?

When I first got to Georgia and saw how big the guys were, I said this is ridiculous. I'm not

14

photo by Rob Saye

going to be able to play with these guys. Over time you gain confidence and you get better. My first game I'm nervous as all outdoors. So it's my first game and I just go out and react. I throw a touchdown to Terrance. I ran one in as well. I mean there's nothing like Athens on a Saturday night and it was my first game. It's hard to explain how good of a feeling it is to be in that environment. It's definitely something that I will always remember. You talked about talking to kids earlier. I know in Athens that you and Greg Blue spent a lot of time working with kids. Is that something Coach Richt said you should do, an order that came from your parents, or just something you chose to do on your own because a lot of kids don't have father figures these days?

It's really a collection of all those things. They always put it out there that it good for you guys to do this. Then growing up, I come from a family where you always want to help others. But from my mind frame, it was just we were in such a good position to be role models for that you don't know how much it means to kids. And after a while it feels real good because you walk in a room and kids' eyes light up. You know you've changed their day, which is remarkable. This is a two-part question. Since the advent of the reality show, wives are making husbands watch some truly awful TV. What bad TV are you currently being forced to occasionally watch and what TV shows do you currently enjoy watching?

Yeah. My wife watches all those "Basketball Wives.” All those crazy shows. "Love and Hip Hop,” this and that. She really loves those shows. So I watch those. But the ones I like right now are "Sons of Anarchy" and "Breaking Bad.” I'm just watching them religiously right now. When we got thumped in Columbia this year, it was horrible. We looked inferior in all phases of the game despite having what many felt to be better talent. Basically, we were just flat. We were out coached and outplayed. What does Coach Richt need to avoid that from happening again?

I think it's a couple of things. From being around Coach Richt and being in a scenario where we have to go into a hostile environment, trust me, he had those guys ready. I'm sure they had a great game plan. But sometimes things just don't go right or players don't come to the game with the same mentality that they're going to take over and be that productive. Not to say that this was the key part of the game, but that first series when they throw it deep, There, Rambo has a chance to intercept it and doesn't, That was kind of like the tell-tale sign of how the game was going to go. We were there to make the play, but just didn't make it. It's not so much the coaches all the time. They can only do so much. The players have to go out and they have to play the game. They've got to execute well. When I played in 2005, guys took it upon themselves to say, "Hey, we've got to play this game. If we want to make something of our season, we have to do it." Once you get between those lines, you've got to do it.

I think the most obvious thing you have to start with is National Championships. That’s what everybody is pretty much graded on. I know LSU has a couple, Alabama has couple and Florida has as well. But if you look at Coach Richt's tenure, he's averaging nine or ten wins a season. And people talk about getting rid of Coach Richt. I think it's just crazy for people to say that. If you bring another guy in, you're going to expect him to win immediately. If he doesn't win ten games a year, then you're going to be like "We should have kept Coach Richt." Coach Richt is a coach that gets the most out of his players. When I was there, players always gave everything they had for him. To have that kind of respect is awesome. To go against the guys he's going against now, Les Miles, Saban, and Spurrier? I mean it's a who's who of coaching in the SEC because the SEC is the top conference. Everybody wants to play in it and the coaches want to be in it. And expectations are always high. For the most part, Coach Richt has lived up to them for the most part. The biggest thing is just trying to get that National Championship out of the way. After college everyone knows you ended up with the Falcons for four years. You never really got a chance to start early there and then Matt Ryan took over later in your career. A lot of guys can't handle that situation and can disrupt team chemistry because of a "Me First" attitude. Were your three years at UGA backing up Greenie something you could use to stay ready as a backup in the NFL?

Yeah, absolutely. It definitely prepared me for that backup role because I knew what it took to prepare for it. Everyday I prepared just like I was going to be the starter. When I was at Georgia. I knew I was always one play away. That was the same way in the NFL. I knew I had to be ready when my time was called. You know if you're not ready, then they replace you. You had to be ready at all times. I just had the mentality "I'm going to be the starter so I've got to prepare like a starter." I did everything a starter did so when my time came no one could ever say, "This guy wasn't ready." I know you're married with a daughter around the age of three, what was she this past Halloween? I am married with a daughter. I also have a son as well. He's seven months old. My daughter is two and a half and she was Minnie Mouse for Halloween. She loves Minnie and Mickey. So she was Minnie Mouse and she walked around with the outfit on and went trick or treating everywhere. One of my favorite stories about you is when the Athens zoo got that bear and they let the grade school kids name it. They could pick any name in the world and they picked DJ Bear, after you obviously. I don't know anyone else with a bear named after them. How proud did that make you feel when it happened?

Aw, man! That was probably one of the highlights of my life right there. Some little kids not only knew who I was, but wanted their bear that was being moved in to the zoo to be named after me. I got a good joy out of that. I actually still have the frame and everything they gave me for naming the bear DJ. So that was a pretty cool part of my life right there. There's lot of great players in the NFL. Many of them played at some very storied programs. What is the overall perception of Mark Richt and the state of the UGA football program by players in the NFL?

For the most part, everybody respects Georgia. Everybody loves their own school, but everybody respects Georgia, especially in the SEC because everybody knows the talent it puts out. They know the type of guys that we are and the type of guys that they've played against. Obviously, you think about the teams that are winning National Championships, and they're kind of put on a different pedestal. And then you have Georgia and everybody else that's sort of right on the cusp of being that National Championship talk. But they still respect it in that same class. People know we're playing in BCS bowls and winning lots of games. So we're definitely respected.

Bulldawg Illustrated


ʜʹĘŚĘąʎʍʾʜĘ&#x153;

Gruff & Grump By Chad White and Al Hickson

We are more talented ...

ʾʪʹʲʌʹʚʰʜʹʚʰʣʜʪʧʰʾ

ʤʧʣʜÍ?ʤʣʯʣĘ&#x201A;

ʤʡʝʊʍʨʜʼʧʴʜʍʨʍʼʣʜʧʾ

photo by Rob Saye

Dawgs beat the Nerds â&#x20AC;Ś again. It never gets old. Now, moving on â&#x20AC;Ś 11-1. Youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d have to admit it does have a nice ring to it. The boys have come a loooooong way from that dismal night in early October. Who would have believed this that night? Not us. Not you either. What many have waited a lifetime to see is now before us. Those that have seen it, have not seen this situation in 30 years. For the first time since the days of Herschel Walker, the University of Georgia finds itself in an after November matchup with real and honest to goodness meaning in the chase for the Crystal Ball. Let us not cloud these waters. This is what it is all about. SEC championships are great. National Championships are better. Like a wise man said over the weekend, an SEC championship game is a business trip. It is a time to get to work and get it done. But, unlike the previous four trips to the Dome, this time it is even bigger. This time we are on a business trip that happens to be to play in game for the National Championship. So, first things first. Big, bad Alabama awaits us. We say bring em on. Apparently so does Bacarri Rambo. It probably is not the best thing that ajc.com has his words on the front page. Surely, they have found their way to the walls of the Alabama locker room. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We are more talented,â&#x20AC;? says Rambo. Well, you know what? We think so too. We are loaded. Totally and completely loaded. Our defense has NFL players all over the place. Jarvis Jones is the best football player in the country and if there is a better linebacker than Alec Ogletree not named Jarvis it could not be more than one or two. We could rattle off all the rest of the names on our defense but we all know them. And, yes, we will print Shawn Williams. We should probably say Shawn Williams just as many times as possible. You know, Shawn Williams really does appear to be the spark of this resurgence. Just like that, Shawn Williams was said three times. Or was it four? Either way it is still not enough. The challenge is that talent is just that. Talent. Will it go unrealized is the question. Alabama has plenty of talent, as well,

www.bulldawgillustrated.com

rest assured. And, they have the best head coach in college football. They are a team that plays with incredible focus and execution. Letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s be real about this, a lack of focus and execution has derailed many a dream of Dawg fans in the past. This game will be huge in the legacy of Aaron Murray. Clearly the record books will forever show him as an all-time type quarterback. That is not why we play though. We play for championships. We play for the ring. If Murray can play as he is capable, he can jump to the front of the line in the discussion of Dawg quarterback greats. The last time we squared off with Alabama has become infamous and also a game that many point to as the point in time that the Dawgs lost their way. That will all change with a victory Saturday Night. It will not be easy. We see three keys to this game: 1) How will Aaron Murray play and can he give us a complete game in the biggest one of his career? 2) Playing a clean game and avoiding sloppiness in turnovers and penalties. This goes without saying every week. But, it REALLY is imperative this week. 3) Stopping the Bama run. Their offensive line is tremendous. It is the critical matchup, we believe. The way we feel is like this. We could not have scripted this any better. Saturday night we will get to play right down the road from our campus against the premier team in all of college football. The Dawgs will have their chance to take the next step to becoming that team. We get to drive to the game. They will have to fly. Granted, the temperature will be the same for both teams. Nothing we can do about that. And, who better to beat for the SEC title than Alabama? They are pretty much just a lower life form of people (excluding, of course, our friends from that state) who happen to have played a higher form of football than have most in the past century. We say that all ends this coming weekend. It is time for the University of Georgia Bulldogs to take what should rightly be ours. The time is now. Letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s get to it boys. We will be hollering for you. Go Dawgs!

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EHVWSDQFDNHVLQWKHZRUOG 2125 N. Decatur Rd.

404.634.6294

Decatur, GA 30033

Go Dawgs!

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15


SEC Championship Extra  

The road to crystal goes through Atlanta ... Georgia and Alabama breakdowns, Tech fan photos, Rob Sherrell one on one with D.J. Shockley, th...