Man this one hurt. On so may levels. It's not the kind of hurt that comes when you're mad about the way the game was played, but your heart is broken over the outcome and what you feel was deserved for so many people.
Selfishly, I'm hurt because I thought for once I had a glimpse to realize my biggest sports dream ever. It's been such a long and tumultuous journey over my 26 years as a Georgia fan. Since I walked around those hedges as a young boy, walked through those arches in 2008, and have subsequently come to realize all of those pride points that come from getting the privilege to wear red and black over a good twenty years all I've wanted to have is the chance for a title shot. As a fanbase, I think most of us feel we've devoted ourselves in a cause that warrants that chance. Furthermore, I wanted to win one while I was young and get to share it with my friends on one of those epic trips you talk about for years. I've watched too many countless friends get that chance, and I'm happy for them. Man did I want one of my own, and once again I'm going to be denied that notion. Knowing all the pain that manifests itself on the type of improbable journey that gets you there, it makes it all the more painful to realize you were five yards and 15 seconds short of seeing all of that come to fruition.
Objectively, my heart also hurts for the players and coaches who actually went out and fought for this. Guys like Tavarres King, Aaron Murray, and Christian Robinson who put it all on the line and carried themselves in a fashion that the Dawg nation can truly be proud of. We are just fans who sometimes ask too much of these guys, and they've done nothing more than gone out and given every last ounce of themselves for a bunch of people who they'll never meet. They are the ones who truly deserved this, and it hurts them even more to know they were so close I'm sure. I feel for a coach like Mark Richt, who has endured so much ridicule over the past five years, and now will not have that notch in his belt that solidifies everything he's worked for. I'm proud at the end of the day he's a man we can stand behind, and even with a loss, he may have shown more of himself and his tenacity than we've ever seen.
All that disappointment being said, I don't know if I've ever been more proud to be affiliated with this University's football team.
Coming into this game people kept asking me my opinion on it. I simply told people through the week that I really was only concerned with one thing that had not been proven to me yet... will the Dawgs decide to get off the bus and show up? It was an even matchup from an X's and O's standpoint, both teams certainly having their advantages which was shown on Saturday. My main worry was whether the team would "show up", even furthermore with an emphasis on Aaron Murray and Mark Richt who we selfishly still thought had something to prove to us and the country. Did they ever answer in the grandest fashion.
Aaron Murray has been nothing but a great quarterback for UGA. He's endured some harsh criticism in big games about not being able to get the job done. I was guilty of falling back into the notion that when Bama took that 4th quarter lead and was rolling, that we'd see things crumble around us once again. His drive to answer in the third quarter and the one that ended up five yards short at the end of the game should put an end to all those arguments for a long time. Amidst all the pressure of the situation and backed up in the Bama endzone he led his team and put them in a miraculous position to win the game. He's embodied everything we want in a student athlete, and proved that his gutty resolve we saw a freshman still exists. Now we can only hope we get to see him suit up one more season in a Georgia uniform.
I won't bore us all with the arduous journey Mark Richt has endured, we all know the story there. He came out on the biggest stage of his career and delivered, even up to his post game press conference. People will harp on his conservative nature and lack of emotion. How about a fake punt early in the game to set the tone. How about a gusty play call to set up a defensive stand in the 4th quarter where he displayed confidence in his unit. How about exuding and instilling in his team the will to keep fighting, showing preparation, and the ability to deliver when everything seemed to be crumbling around them. How about the verbal lashing against Chuck Oliver when he questioned one of his players. How about the coke can spike that not many people will know about after that said press conference. I feel fully confident that he's the man to lead our team, and I've never been prouder to have him as the man leading our program.
The team did get off the bus, and they were prepared. After the South Carolina game I had no reason to believe this may be possible, but I was happy to be proven wrong. They came out and delivered. They put forth an effort we can all be proud of. We fell short of our goal, and please know I'm never satisfied with a loss, but I can still be damn proud of the way we carried ourselves. Bama is a great team, and deserves their chance. Georgia is a great team too, and probably deserves just as much of a chance, but fell a few yards short. What we did do on Saturday was confidently say to the nation this is a program that does not roll over and can rise to the occasion when called upon. We involved ourselves in a game that will be talked about for years, and delivered for all those who had the chance to see us play.
Bama may go on to win the 7th consecutive national championship for the conference, and sure we can't ride the coattails due to our loss. What the conference, nation, and anyone who had a chance to see that game will know however is what this program is about. We may have lost the war, but we battled until our last breath. The loss stings, but I've never been more proud to have walked through those arches and call myself a fan of this program. Good things are yet to come and I can say that confidently after what I saw Saturday. It hurts because I never know when we'll be faced with this opportunity again. Maybe it's another 30 years, but something I saw Saturday tells me we may not have to wait that long. I'll always be proud to wear the red and black on Saturday.
I probably won't break down the things that happened in this game on the field. It's to close and too painful to re-live at this point. We all know that a few tips, bounces, penalties, etc. could have UGA facing the Irish in Miami. I do know the team gave their very best on Saturday and the fates didn't align. Of that I can be justifiably proud.
GATA and Go Dawgs. We'll be back here one day.