Bulldogs wrap up with Peach Bowl win

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, January 6, 2021

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While we continue to worry about COVID 19 issues, which are getting downright burdensome, we can keep our head high throughout the winter and spring with Georgia’s hard fought 24-21 victory over Cincinnati on New Year’s Day.

Cincinnati was a well-coached, well-prepared team, which came into the game with incentive-driven ambition. Win and the Bearcats could thumb their noses at the Playoff Committee.

It would not have been an embarrassment to have lost to that team, especially when you consider that the have-not teams of today have talent. There are good players everywhere. If an underdog is ready to play and the favored team is not, then look out.

Coastal Carolina could not flourish in a Power Five conference, but they might slip up on a favored team if that team does not take them seriously and gets caught looking the other way. Liberty is a team that is no fluke even without the prayers of the disgraced Jerry Falwell Jr.

However, given the history of the two schools—Georgia and Cincinnati, Bulldog fans would have gotten a lot of dissing had they lost in the Peach Bowl. Kirby Smart, the indefatigable coach, had his team ready to play fortunately, but with all the opt-outs, practice field timing with the new faces in the lineup was critically challenged. In the end, the Bulldogs found a way to win. No expert analyst, with a faultfinding bent, could discredit that.

Cincinnati had a terrific game plan; the Bearcats were a seasoned team with 14 seniors on their roster. They had excellent lateral speed and came with “miles and miles of heart.” They believed they were the ant that could move the rubber tree plant. They gave the Bulldogs many headaches on defense. Credit intense coaching aligned with team resiliency and resolve for winning this bowl game.

And, about the coaching decision late in the game in this era of riverboat gamblers calling the shots from the sideline. Percentage football still has its place today in the college game. Defense and kicking still win games. I didn’t throw up my hands in dismay when Kirby chose to punt from his own 43-yard line with 3:07 left on the clock.

He believed in his defense, and he knew what Jack Podlesny could do, given opportunity. Fourth down gambles carry considerable risk. A lineman misses a block, or a canny defender shoots the gap and a long winter ensues.

On the way home, I harked back to the Georgia 10-9 defeat of Texas in the Cotton Bowl, Jan. 2, 1984. If there has ever been a greater defensive struggle in a bowl game, it would have to date back to the founding of most bowls in the 30’s.

It was three and out afternoon, both sides. With time winding down in the final quarter, Texas had three field goals to Georgia’s one which resulted in what appeared to be a comfortable lead for the Longhorns. Gil Brandt, Vice-President of the Dallas Cowboys was giving me a ride to Love Field where I was to board a plane to Miami to see what turned out to be the National Championship game between No. 1 Nebraska and No. 5 Miami.

I kept lingering at a portal in the old Cotton Bowl while Gil was shouting for me to leave the stadium. “The game’s over,” he yelled, just as Chip Andrew’s punt was fumbled by Texas’ Craig Curry with Gary Moss recovering for the Bulldogs at the Longhorn 23. Two plays later, the Bulldogs faced a 3rd down and four challenge at the 17.

From the Georgia sideline, Vince Dooley said to George Haffner, offensive coordinator, “Okay George put it up,” calling for a pass; Haffner, however, said, “I think we should run John Lastinger on the option.” Dooley just waved in exasperation and said, “Whatever.”

Lastinger is now moving down the line of scrimmage as Brandt yells, “I’m gone, get a taxi.” I can see Lastinger has a block and is racing toward the end zone. He hits the pylon and I see the official’s upraised hands.

Playing percentage football, playing for the break has won a lot of football games for football coaches who are patient.

Just as it was after Dallas in 1984, Georgia partisans will enjoy a nice winter while awaiting spring practice (Hopefully!).