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Georgia Football

Upon Further Review: UGA Football's Run Was Amazing

December 5, 2023

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ATHENS - So it’s been a few days since UGA Football’s championship three-peat hopes were dashed by Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide.

There were no last-minute heroics Saturday despite multiple opportunities for them. There will be no championship parade in Athens in January. There will be no opportunity to bask in the glow of yet another College Football Playoff trophy. And it’s okay.

I started writing this series to try to make some sense, especially for myself, as to why we were seeing what we were seeing on Saturdays. The early season fits and starts made us all scratch our heads in various states of confusion given the talent and coaching we knew existed in Athens. We saw how good this team could be and wondered why the consistency we’d come to expect wasn’t there. I set out to do the same after the SEC Championship Game but have decided to take a different approach. Instead of pointing out areas of concern and why, I’ve chosen to celebrate the last two-plus years of unprecedented success. 

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We all knew the unbeaten streak would end at some point. It had to. And there have been moments in the last 24 months (since the Dawgs last lost) where that streak could have ended earlier than it did: at Missouri 2022, Peach Bowl 2022, Auburn 2023. What sticks out about those games are the late-game or last-minute heroics that vaulted the Dawgs to a victory, protecting the undefeated streak and keeping championship hopes alive. Luck always has something to do with a streak such as the one we witnessed. Luck, combined with talent and effort, make you almost unstoppable. And the Dawgs had all of that for 29 straight games. Until they didn’t.

To maintain my sanity, I’ve chosen to focus on how amazing that two-year streak was. 2 Championship trophies. 4 CFP wins. An SEC title. 2 SEC East Division titles. 2 victories over each rival (Auburn, Florida, Tech). 2 beatdowns of the creamsicle-colored folks up in Tennessee. An embarrassingly easy win over Oregon in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff. And that’s just the team stuff. We’ve seen a former walk on start at quarterback and silence every single doubter. We’ve been fortunate to watch the most gifted tight end this program has ever seen do things that defy belief. We’ve seen highlight reel catches and bone-jarring hits that all led to wins and to building a legacy of excellence this program hasn’t seen since Herschel graced Sanford Stadium.

The difference in those eras, though, is striking. The 21st century Dawgs don’t rely on a single other-worldly talent to carry the team. This program is built to sustain this excellence year in and year out regardless of an individual talent. What Kirby has done in these last two seasons is remarkable. Roster management is challenging, to say the least, in this day of the transfer portal and NIL. How he has crafted the roster and maximized “we over me” ensures this program isn’t leaving the upper crust of college football society anytime soon. That 25 players from the last two championship teams have been drafted, a record we may not see broken for some time, should tell you that. And that is worth celebrating.  

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While Kirby recruits at an elite level, the development and ascension of unheralded players continues to amaze. We should celebrate players like Javon Bullard, Daijun Edwards, Ladd McConkey, Jordan Davis, Stetson Bennett, and Justin Shaffer who were overlooked high school players that turned into (or will turn into) NFL draftees after several seasons in Athens. While it’s fun to follow the twists and turns of the recruiting world – and now the transfer portal world – it’s more rewarding to follow how these diamond-in-the-rough players go from relative unknowns to stalwarts in red and black. And when they leave, as they all do at some point, we’ll miss them terribly. But we’ll cheer on those who step into their positions in the hope that they’ll carry on the legacy of excellence their predecessors worked so hard to build. And that is worth celebrating.

The Orange Bowl will provide a first glimpse into what this team could look like next season, not a reminder of what wasn’t achieved. The opportunity to show the playoff committee what they are missing is there. The opportunity to start setting the table for 2024 is there. The opportunity to start a new winning streak is there. Given what we’ve seen from Kirby and his staff, I’d submit to you that this isn’t the only long winning streak, coupled with championships, we’ll see during his tenure as the head man in Athens. While the loss to Alabama and the loss of a three-peat opportunity hurts, this program has accomplished so much since the last loss in 2021. The next streak, and the next assault on college football, began when the clock struck 00:00 Saturday night. Celebrate what these Dawgs have accomplished and celebrate what opportunity this last loss brings. Your sanity may just well depend on it.

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