Georgia football season started on September 4 in Charlotte, North Carolina, where a Christopher Smith interception return for a touchdown was the difference in the Bulldogs’ 10-3 win over Clemson at the Duke’s Mayo Classic.
Georgia’s football season ended Monday night in Indianapolis, where a Kelee Ringo interception return for a touchdown sealed a 33-18 win over Alabama in the college football playoff national championship game. .
What followed was a week-long celebration across the state as the Bulldogs and their dedicated fans, tens of thousands of whom were there at Lucas Oil Stadium on Monday, celebrated in Georgia’s first national championship since 1980. .
This celebration reached its climax on Saturday afternoon in Athens, when the university, the city, the team and the fans from here and abroad all gathered for a party, first in the streets, then where these Bulldogs call home.
Say hello to those bulldogs
It’s always special to go to Sanford Stadium on a Saturday to see the Bulldogs, but this Saturday was different. We weren’t there to see the men in red and black running around Dooley Field. No, we were there to cheer and salute these Bulldogs for their remarkable accomplishments this season.
Before Coach Kirby Smart could begin his remarks, he was greeted with chants of “Kirby! Kirby! Kirby! He then told the more than 92,000 people inside Sanford Stadium for Georgia’s championship celebration that much of what the Bulldogs have achieved this season started about a year ago at the stadium. when the players were training at 6 a.m.
“I want to give these guys a round of applause for what they’ve done for this university,” he said, turning around and encouraging his players to “Get up! Get up! Get up!”
Smart and the team arrived at the stadium in style, slowly descending Lumpkin Street in a victory parade. The parade consisted of about two dozen vehicles, from sporty convertibles to pickup trucks to huge 18-wheelers with hay bales in the back. From start to finish, crowds of three, four and five people lined the road.
Diehard fans follow the Dawgs
Smart always goes out of her way to thank diehard Georgia fans for their love and support. In some of his first televised comments after his victory on Monday, Smart waved his left arm at the huge Indianapolis crowd and said, “Look at those fans and the people who traveled.”
He saw that love again and felt it coming back to him and his program on Saturday. The Apollo 11 crew did not receive a warmer welcome after returning from the moon.
“You guys were amazing,” he told fans. “You travel everywhere we go and you invade the stadiums”,
With thousands of fans lining the sidewalks between Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall at the corner of Pinecrest Drive and Lumpkin, and the turnoff for the Tate Center car park, then continuing to Dawg Drive near the stadium, these Bulldogs on the long road of almost a kilometer was welcomed as a hero.
Around the stadium, the Stegeman Coliseum and other sections of campus, some fans were hounding like it was a Saturday in the fall. Red and black were definitely the colors of the day. The Georgia players wore their white Nike College Football Playoff Windbreakers.
“It’s a long time coming”
Once the team entered the stadium, the official celebration began. Former star running back D’Andre Swift had the honor of calling the Dawgs before the festivities really began. On and around the stage at Dooley Field were the players, coaches, UGA President Jere W. Morehead, Director of Athletics J. Reid Parker Josh Brooks, Governor Brian Kemp and Commissioner of the SEC Greg Sankey, and more.
“As someone who was in New Orleans 41 years ago,” Kemp said of the team’s 1980 victory over Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl to win the national championship, “it put long to come.” Kemp then proclaimed that day, Saturday, January 15, 2022, to be “Georgia Bulldog National Championship Day.”
Former Georgia quarterback DJ Shockley was Saturday’s emcee, bringing in the various speakers, including offensive lineman Jamaree Sayer and nose tackle Jordan Davis. When Shockley asked Davis what the University of Georgia meant to him, Davis only needed two words: “That’s it.”
Sankey drew one of the biggest roars of the afternoon. As the SEC’s top man, who won the last three CFP national championships, Sankey said he’s been to many national championship ceremonies. However, he said: “I’ve never been to a full stadium on a Saturday in January.”
This season will be remembered for the Bulldogs as they finally overcame the hump and won the elite program’s first national championship in 41 years. He will be remembered for a commanding defense, one of the best in college football history. Quarterback Stetson Bennett IV will be remembered, a former extra who started the season third on the depth chart and went on to earn the starting job and help lead Georgia to a championship. Davis and linebacker Nakobe Dean will be remembered, two of the best defensive players in the country who also happen to be special people with huge hearts.
Just look at the numbers
Numbers don’t always tell the story of a season, but they can tell a lot. And before we stray too far from that final Indy whistle, let’s take a moment to appreciate some of those numbers:
- Georgia outplayed their opponents 579-153
- The defense gave up just 13 touchdowns all season while producing 49 sacks, 99 tackles for loss and 16 interceptions
- Bennett threw for two touchdowns in the national championship game, earning Offensive Player of the Game honors, ending his magical season with 29 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.
- Freshman tight end Brock Bowers led the way with 56 catches for 882 yards and a school-best 13 touchdowns. Georgia’s next two leading receivers were also freshmen: Ladd McConkey (31 catches for 447 yards and five touchdowns) and Adonai Mitchell (29 for 426 and four touchdowns)
- In a close battle for tackle team leader Lewis Cine, Defensive Player of the Game at Indy edged Dean, 73-72
As Smart said in closing his remarks, “A new standard of excellence has been set.”
Saturday’s parade and celebration, with 92,000 people in the stands, a few thousand more on the pitch and who knows how many thousands more outside the stadium, was one of the biggest events ever. history of Athens – perhaps the greatest. Perhaps the only thing that challenged him was the 1998 Widespread Panic concert downtown, when at least 100,000 people turned out for the biggest album release party this music-loving town had ever seen.
We love our music in this spectacular college town and we love our Bulldogs. We will talk about what this team has been doing this season for years. Saturday’s celebration will be too, as the legend of the two grows and grows over time.
Sankey drew one of the biggest roars of the afternoon. As the SEC’s top man, who won the last three CFP national championships, Sankey said he’s seen many national championship celebrations. However, he said: “I’ve never been to a full stadium on a Saturday in January.”
The festivities ended with the seniors of the 1980 squad raising the flag for the 2021 National Championship. It was a time to celebrate, a day to savor and cherish. How about doing it again next year?