My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

On the Bright Side: The 10 Best Moments of Georgia's 2009 Season

I apologize that it's probably a little late for something like this -- I had planned to write it in the day or two after the bowl game -- but better late than never, right?

Anyway, I put together a quick list of my votes for the 10 best plays of the season for Georgia, counting down in reverse order.

Given that Georgia's season was marked by disappointment and bad losses, I figured I might have trouble coming up with 10. As it turned out, the opposite was true, and I could have easily extended the list to 20. The truth was, as bad as some moments were in 2009, they were probably more than matched by the highlights, and my guess is that, in a few years when Georgia's place in the standings looks a bit better, most fans will look back on last season with a lot more fond memories than it probably appears right now.

Anyway, without any further delays, here's my list...

Honorable Mentions:

-- Brandon Boykin's 100-yard kick return vs. Tennessee. This might have been his most impressive run of the season, but it turned out to be a fruitless bit of momentum as Georgia's offense could get nothing going against the Vols in what was easily the Dawgs' ugliest loss of the year.

-- Drew Butler's 68-yard punt against Oklahoma State. Fans probably would have preferred that Georgia didn't need to rely on its punter quite so much in 2009, but that was the way it unfolded, and Butler responded perfectly. In his first punt as Georgia's starter, Butler booted a huge bomb to swing field position in the early going against the Cowboys and he continued his long punts throughout the season en route to All-America honors.

-- Washaun Ealey's 8-yard run against LSU. OK, an eight-yard jaunt in a game that the Dawgs ended up losing might not seem like much, but it was the first carry of Ealey's career and it effectively marked the turning point in Georgia's season. Ealey, who hadn't seen any action in the first four-and-a-half games of the season and appeared headed for a redshirt took a toss sweep from Joe Cox and rushed around the right side to the 48-yard line. The eight yards matched the total Georgia had on the ground up until that point in the game, and Ealey's hard running sparked the listless offense, which scored its first TD of the game on that drive. What was a moribund rushing unit early in the year became the strength of the offense by season's end, thanks in large part to the emergence of the freshman tailback.

10. Brandon Boykin's kick return vs. Texas A&M. For a guy who already had two 100-yard returns for touchdowns, this 81-yarder must have seemed like a walk in the park. But the truth was, it answered A&M's first score and set the tone for the game. A&M was a disaster on special teams, and with Georgia's defense struggling and the offense stuck in neutral for the early part of the contest, it was Boykin's big play that proved to be the spark in the Bulldogs' fourth straight bowl win and eighth win of the year -- the 13th consecutive season they accomplished that mark.

9. Richard Samuel's 80-yard run against Arkansas. In some respects, it was the perfect illustration of why Samuel needs to stay at tailback. His breakaway speed is impressive, and after his initial burst through the line of scrimmage, he shifted into another gear, cruising virtually untouched for the score, which pulled Georgia to within four in a game it eventually won 52-41. But it also showed Samuel's drawbacks -- he was, after all, untouched thanks to a brilliant block by Ben Jones -- and the rest of his one-hit-then-fall-to-the-ground runs only seemed more frustrating after this one.

8. Caleb King's 75-yard run vs. Georgia Tech. A win over Tech following the dismal performance in 2008 would have been satisfying regardless for UGA fans. But beating Tech at its own game? Well, that was sheer perfection. And no play epitomized that effort more than King's big run on Georgia's first play from scrimmage in the third quarter. The touchdown gave Georgia a 14-point lead and immediately put an end to any delusions by Tech that it would own the second half. It turned out to be a crucial touchdown, too, given that the Yellow Jackets would rally down the stretch, and King's score proved ultimately to be the difference in the game.

7. Joe Cox to Israel Troupe against Auburn. On first blush, it just seemed like a big play at a crucial time -- plenty of reason to be included on the list, but nothing particularly overwhelming. But it turned out to be so much more. One play earlier, Georgia's start wide receiver, A.J. Green, injured his shoulder when being tackled near the sideline. As he made his way back to the locker room -- not to return during the regular season -- Troupe entered the huddle without even garnering a notice from his quarterback. The play was called for Green, and it wasn't until the team broke the huddle that even Cox realized his favorite target wasn't on the field. No matter. Troupe played the part perfectly and hauled in his first reception of the season -- a 50-yard bomb that put Georgia on the scoreboard and sparked a 31-24 come-from-behind win over the Tigers.

6. A.J. Green's touchdown run vs. Vandy. I call it a touchdown run because, really, that's what it was. Green took a quick toss from Joe Cox at the line of scrimmage, then put on a show for the sparse crowd by dashing through, over and around defenders for a 65-yard touchdown -- the longest of his impressive career. The score gave Georgia a 7-0 lead in a game that turned out to be one of the rare easy wins for a team that had to scratch and claw for each measure of success in 2009, and it was without question the most entertaining highlight to watch of the season. Once again, Green proved there's nothing he's not good at on a football field.

5. Reshad Jones' INT vs. Georgia Tech. This was a big play just in terms of the game's outcome to be sure. Jones picked off Jaybo Shaw with 6:41 left in the first half and Georgia nursing a seven-point lead. The Bulldogs then marched 57 yards for a touchdown to take a 14-point lead into the half in a game they'd eventually win by just six. But in terms of sheer emotion, the play was even bigger -- a perfect piece of redemption for Jones, who was singled out as the biggest reason why Georgia lost to its in-state rival in Athens the year before. The Bulldogs' win over the ACC champs in the regular-season finale was as much about heart and determination despite overwhelming disappointment a week earlier, and Jones' pick embodied that perfectly.

4. Virtually the entire South Carolina game. OK, I'm cheating here by throwing a bunch of big plays into just one moment, but how can you pick the signature play from a game that had so many of them? Brandon Boykin returned a kickoff 100 yards to answer SC's first score. Branden Smith took a reverse and sprinted through the Gamecocks' defense for a 61-yard touchdown. DeAngelo Tyson blocked a PAT that essentially proved to be the difference in the game. And, of course, as has become habit, Rennie Curran squashed South Carolina's final hopes by breaking up a pass at the goal line on the Gamecocks' last offensive play. The game had a little of everything, and the Georgia highlights were numerous.

3. Bacarri Rambo pass break-up vs. Auburn. It's a moment fans won't soon forget from 2009, but sadly, Rambo has no memory of it whatsoever. With the Bulldogs leading 31-24 in the final moments of action, Auburn had driven deep into Georgia territory in hopes of throwing for a game-tying score. They nearly had it, too, when Chris Todd hit Mario Fannin over the middle at the 1-yard line, but Rambo came in from behind and leveled Fannin. The ball bounced to the ground, and so, too, did Rambo. The freshman safety laid on the field for nearly 20 minutes without moving following the hit as the entire crowd chanted his name. He waved to the fans as he was carted off the field, signaling to his team to finish the job, which is exactly what they did, stuffing Auburn on its final two plays to secure the win.

2. A.J. Green touchdown reception vs. LSU. It's easy to forget now because of what happened in the aftermath, but had Georgia won this game, Joe Cox's long completion down the sideline to Tavarres King and subsequent touchdown throw to Green in the back of the end zone to take a 13-12 lead over LSU would have gone down not only as the biggest play of 2009 for Georgia, but one of the most memorable moments in the team's history. Unfortunately, referee Marc Curles put a damper on the celebration by throwing a flag for -- well, celebration -- and Georgia's ensuing kickoff was returned to the Bulldogs' 38. LSU scored two plays later and won the game.

1. A.J. Green's field-goal block vs. Arizona State. It's not that we didn't already know Green was great. He had proved that more than a few times (with plenty of examples on this list alone). But when Green blocked what would have been a go-ahead field goal try with 4:31 to play in the game, he cemented his legacy as the ultimate hero of Georgia's early season. Of course, he wasn't done with the heroics just yet. When the offense took the field, Green chipped in with three catches on the final drive, including a 36-yard reception on third-and-6 that set up the game-winning field goal by Blair Walsh. In what was a down year for Georgia, those two plays made the difference between respectability and outright embarrassment for the Bulldogs. In fact, that's probably a good way to sum up just how important A.J. was all year.

So, what do you think? How would your list shape up? Any arguments with my conclusions?


Anonymous said...

Don't want to pick nits here, but Reshad intercepted Jaybo Shaw in the first half. Nesbitt was still on the sideline.

Anonymous said...

I like that Cox to Troupe pass against Auburn since that's also the play where Caleb flipped Eltoro Freeman upside-down on his block. Great things happened all over the field on that one.

Anonymous said...

I thought there were at least 6 highlight worthy plays made by Marlon Brown - which is a good thing since we burned his redshirt...

Anonymous said...

I'd narrow the SC game down to Rennie Curran's defense on the Gamecocks' last drive. And I'd put Caleb King's run against Tech at No. 1. There were more spectacular plays (A.J.'s catch against LSU, Jones' pick), but I'd argue that none was more meaningful.

brad said...

Mine was Caleb running over Eltoro Freeman. Put him out of the game and I really think helped Caleb realize he can be a really good back.

Anonymous said...

i think a bar in athens should come out with a new mixed drink...the bacardi rambo...I can see the tag lines now "sure to be a hit with the ladies", "nothings given more pop to bacardi since the mojoito", "sure to get you black out drunk"...etc.

Anonymous said...

Video of #4. Well done by Bacarri Rambo