The game that changed a program

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

When thinking about the great Georgia Football moments where does your mind go to? Is it a single play? Is it a game? Or is it a certain season?

For me, it is a certain game. Notre Dame 2017. I don’t think this game gets enough credit because of how sloppy that Georgia offense played that night. But this game to me signified a change in the Georgia football program.

Going into the year there was a lot of chatter for the second season of Kirby Smart and his Bulldogs. Coming off an 8-5 record and a strong Liberty Bowl victory over TCU, many believed Georgia could win a weak SEC East. With a strong recruiting class and a veteran team led by Running backs Nick Chubb And Sony Michel the sky was the limit.

Also returning that year was highly touted QB, Jacob Eason. Who, flashed a ton of talent his freshman year but did not do enough to take the Dawgs over the top. The biggest game of that  2017 season was considered to be the trip up to South Bend to play the Irish.

Many believed things should start off pretty easily, for Georgia. The season started with App State, then the Dawgs were primed to square off with the Irish the next week. But it didn’t go that way. Eason was hurt early in the 1st half and highly recruited QB Jake Fromm was going to get playing time. Not many at the time knew that Fromm was going to get the starting job for the rest of the season.

The first thing that was noticeable when the Georgia team got up to South Bend was all of the Georgia fans that made the trip up. Seeing that 40k Georgia fans fill up Notre Dame Stadium signaled a change. But also the outcome of the game showed to many in the fanbase that changes were coming.

There was a ton of buildup for this game, almost all the talk that week in the College football world was about the Dawgs vs Irish. Usually, if Georgia was playing in a game with a bunch of hype, it seemed they always came up short. We can go through the laundry list of games Georgia should have won under Coach Richt, but that’s a different post for a different day.

The game was a defensive battle throughout and was a one-possession game the entire time. Georgia, with a strip sack from Davin Bellamy, won 20-19. Georgia fans at the game and many at home went crazy once victory was secured when Lorenzo Carter fell on the ball. Believe it or not, there was a time during Kirby Smart’s tenure when Georgia fans were happy with any victory, it did not matter the final score.

That day singled a change in the program. In the past, it felt like Georgia always came up short in a big game that was tight. Furthermore, there were two things Kirby said after the game that showed the program was different. First, he talked about how sloppy the team played and he expected better. As far back as I can remember, that never happened under Richt when Georgia played in a big game and won. Richt would just be happy with the win and complement the team.

Another thing that Kirby said after the game was one of his more famous Kirby-isms: “Keep Chopping Wood”. When he said it did not have a ton of impact on me, but when the player’s post-game interviews were saying the same exact saying, it became clear this was a team message. It also showed they were singing from the same hymnal. Some call it brainwashing propaganda, others call it culture.

The 2017 season will go down as one of the best seasons in Georgia football history. With a SEC Championship, and Rose Bowl victory. But even though they came up short in the title game it is still an important season and showed what was possible for Georgia. That win against Notre Dame showed Georgia fans it wasn’t the same old Georgia.

Looking back at that 2017 season now when Georgia has won back-to-back titles gave me an appreciation for this program and how far they have come. Hopefully, Georgia fans do not lose that appreciation. Because being on top of the mountain does not last forever.