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On Tuesday, November 2, the initial College Football Playoff rankings of the 2022 season were released, and the Tennessee Volunteers leapfrogged the Georgia Bulldogs, who were atop the Associated Press poll, to become the top-ranked football team in the country.

Then they played Georgia on a soggy Saturday afternoon in Athens.

Tenneessee 13, UGA 27

To be the best, you've got to beat the best, Vols. And you didn't. Final score: Tennessee 13, UGA 27. Honestly, it wasn't really even that close.

Driven in no small part by the chip on Bulldogs fans' shoulders, the game atmosphere was truly great, the best in years. The enthusastic fans were really into the game from long before kickoff, were only made more rabid when the refs stole a safety from Georgia in the second quarter, and somehow managed to get even more energetic when the rain started falling in the third quarter. What a bunch of damn good dawgs!

Reminder to future Walter: This is why you buy season tickets, to go to games like this one. Fantastic.

Thanks to friend James for keeping me company in the rain. I certainly enjoyed myself.

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Today was the 100th annual Georgia Homecoming football game. As is often the case, it was against Vanderbilt, who played UGA in the very first homecoming game on November 18, 1922. As is often the case, the Bulldogs won big. (To be fair, Vandy won 12-0 in 1922, and went on to finish the season undefeated, their second undefeated season in a row. Obviously, 1922 was a different time.)

Vanderbilt 0, UGA 55

Despite the score, I had a lot more fun this week, in part because the Dawgs scored early (and often), in part because Mom came with me, and in part because we arrived a hour before kickoff and got to watch plenty of Homecoming pomp.

One thing worth documenting: As I've mentioned before, UGA has replaced paper tickets with e-tickets, accessible only on smartphones. I had both tickets on my phone, and both had to be scanned for Mom and me to enter the stadium. However, after scanning the first ticket, my phone received a text notification... which temporarily locked out the ticket app. Oops! It was no big deal at the time — we were, in fact, the only people in our line — but this presages potential trouble on a busier day when, say, a boisterous (read: drunk) Tennessee crowd comes to town.

From now on, airplane mode.

(Side note: It didn't help anything that my phone case broke on Wednesday. So I did what anyone would do and fixed my smartphone with duct tape. It really is good for everything!)

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Today I returned to Sanford Stadium for the first time since November 9, 2019. This is the view from my newest tickets, 12 rows closer than the seats I had since 2002.

Auburn 10, UGA 42

Wow, what a difference!

I was looking forward to this one, what with Auburn coming to town for something like the 126th time. To bolster my courage to go out in public again, I got Omicron boosted 2 weeks ago. I also got a flu shot. And, for good measure, a tetanus shot. Because, you know, some dawgs bite. Especially the drunk ones.

I wish I could I could tell you that I had a great time, but that wouldn't be true. The drive to Athens started me in a bad mood because I was my usually anxious pre-game self (that hasn't changed for the better in the past three years). Traffic (and my innate struggles at time management) meant that I arrived in Athens with barely enough time to sprint into the stadium before kickoff.

To make matters worse, since my last visit, Sanford Stadium has gone paperless and cashless, and it only seems to have slowed ticket taking and concession buying. Welcome to the future!

To make matters worst, after standing in a concessionaire's line for five minutes to buy a Coke, I discovered that particular concessionaire had sold out of regular Coke. "Will a Diet Coke do?" You might as well ask me if Pepsi is okay. IT. IS. NOT.

On the up side, Auburn did bring a marching band that performed at halftime, complete with a flag corps that had a real hard time holding onto their flags. I did enjoy that while I drank my Coca-Cola Dasani water.

I might have had more fun if I hadn't gone alone, if I had taken someone to bitch to. But I think the real lesson here is that I shouldn't go to games that have a 30 point spread. Frankly, Auburn is not good this year (especially since they're down to their third string quarterback), and UGA played down to their level for most of the game, striping the on-field product of any significant entertainment value. If the football game isn't any good, there really isn't any reason to spend 5 hours on the road and 4 hours in the sun watching it.

Try harder next year, Auburn.

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Texas A&M 13, UGA 19

I didn't take that picture. That was broadcast by CBS, which is how I saw the game between Texas A&M and Georgia (final: Texas A&M 13, UGA 19). I post it only to remind myself of what I missed. What a great sunset!

I had a real debate with myself whether or not to attend today's game. The final decision came down to the (accurate) forecast of heavy rain. I went to the Kentucky game last month and was generally miserable. I ended up wet, cold, and bored by the lousy game quality. That wasn't an experience I was interested in having twice in the same season.

Now that the home schedule is over, I'd like to make note of two disappointing trends from the 2019 season:

  1. Why is it getting so hard to get people to go to the games? Even putting aside the two rainouts, I had a hard time enticing anyone to come with me, and the seats around me were empty most of the time. Assuming this isn't purely a side effect of my own anti-social tendencies, is this a problem with the current state of Georgia football (which seems to win in spite of their anemic offense) or a symptom of some larger trend?
  2. What happened to bands at halftime? The only band marching in Athens in 2019 was the Redcoats. Was this a fluke in the schedule that no team playing in Athens this year had a traveling marching band, or are marching bands at football games becoming as archaic as the fewer and fewer fans attending them?

Maybe we'll get answers to these questions next year.

Meanwhile, good luck against Tech and in the SEC Championship, Dogs. I assure you I'll be rooting for you on the couch.

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Only one team showed up to play in the annual Georgia/Missouri game. Luckily for Georgia fans, it was Georgia. Final score: Missouri 0, Georgia 27.

Missouri 0, UGA 27

Above see the blue lights rolled out for the Veteran's Day ceremony at halftime. You know, this was the sixth home game of the 2019 season and I have yet to see an opponent's band on the field. Do schools not have bands anymore?

My guest for the evening game was Friend James (aka the man who paid me to make this), who had never attended a football game before. I spent most of the game explaining it, which was fine. With only one team on the field, there wasn't that much to see.

Not that I'm complaining about the Bulldogs pitching a shut out, mind you. It was just cold — very cold — and it would have been nice to have something to jump up and down about.

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The forecast was 57° and rain. I asked Mom, and she declined to attend. I asked seven more people, and they all had better things to do. I went alone. I should have listened to what they were trying to tell me.

As forecast, the game was very cold, and very wet. So wet, in fact, that the Athletic Department decided not to allow any bands on the field, which made for a very unusual pre-game with no band welcoming the players onto the field and an equally odd Homecoming halftime, where the homecoming court was seen only on the video board in still photographs (taken on a sunnier day).

Kentucky 0, UGA 21

The football was as bad as the weather. There were 10 punts in the first half alone. (Six of those drives were 3-and-outs.) Georgia's strategy appeared to be "wait until Kentucky makes a mistake." It did work eventually when Kentucky badly shanked a punt and allowed Georgia to score on the following play. Congratulations, Georgia, but don't expect that plan to work in two weeks against Florida.

I was not prepared for the amount of rain. I lasted only slightly longer than Kentucky did. I left in the fourth quarter after Georgia finally shut the door, making a goal line stand to break Kentucky's spirit. I paused on my way back to the car to take one last look back just as Georgia scored their third touchdown. Final score: Kentucky 0, UGA 21.

It. Never. Stopped. Raining.

Like I said, cold and wet.

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The first evidence I saw that things were going to go poorly was at the start of the game when the three guys sitting behind me correctly predicted Georgia's playcalling on the first three downs. And they didn't just call runs and passes. They accurately predicted blocking assignments and routes. If the guys in the stands can do it, it should come as no surprise that the opposing coaches can do it, too. And they did. (Although, how hard is it to predict "run up the middle, run up the middle, pass to the outside" when it is repeated for 4 quarters and two overtimes of play?)

South Carolina 20, UGA 17

The picture above is of the South Carolina players celebrating at midfield and tearing branches off the famed hedges after their win. Some Georgia fans were up and arms about this, but that's what underdog visiting teams do when they beat #3 ranked Georgia. Or, as in this case, #3 ranked Georgia beat itself.

There was a lot of blame to go around in this 20-17 loss in double overtime, but quarterback Jake Fromm does deserve special mention in no small part because he's typically been so good. He played so badly today — missing open receivers, throwing three interceptions, and fumbling once — I have to wonder what recently went wrong in his life. Dumped by his girlfriend? Dead dog? Payoff? Did no one tell Jake the cautionary tale of Quincy Carter? Bad games against South Carolina can ruin promising careers, Jake.

Oh well. Better luck next week, Dawgs.

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Nothing was usual when Notre Dame came to Athens.

Notre Dame 17, UGA 23

What you see above is the new LED lighting installed in Sanford Stadium earlier this year. Those of you who see a lot of live sports may be familiar with the old metal halide lights that warm up slowly. These are not those. Quick on and color changing, the new lights made for some very impressive stadium effects during the big game, including the red out at the start of the fourth quarter. Nice addition, Georgia.

It didn't take red lights to notice the difference between Notre Dame and a "regular" game. Despite adding extra seats to the stadium for this meeting of top ten teams, Athens was still expecting 50,000 people without tickets, and they arrived early and took all the parking places. We had a flyover of F15s and about two dozen returning Dawg football stars on the sideline (including David Pollack, Champ & Boss Bailey, and Knowshon Moreno, just to name a few). When kickoff finally arrived, the atmosphere was truly electric.

Speaking of the crowd, although ticket costs had bloated from their $75 cover price to a rumored $600 and up on the secondary market, it didn't keep the drunks out. Nor did it keep them in their seats. For reasons that remain unclear to me — credit my naturally welcoming personality, perhaps — Mom and I had plenty of elbow room in an otherwise packed stadium when the couples to our left and right simply disappeared at halftime. That gave us plenty of space to bite our nails when Notre Dame made their late comeback attempt.

Final score: #7 Notre Dame 17, #3 UGA 23. Great football game. It just might have been worth $600.

Footnote: During the pregame, all ten Ugas were showcased on the big board. However, instead of being presented chronologically, they were ordered alphabetically by Roman numeral: I, II, III, IV, IX, V, VI, VII, VIII, X. That probably says terrible things about a Georgia education, but at least the football team is good.

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A 7:08 PM kickoff on Saturday meant that I didn't get back home until just before 2 AM Sunday, but it was worth it to see UGA beat down Auburn 27-10.

Auburn 10, UGA 27

What I will remember most about this game, aside from the drunk girl to my left who couldn't quite grasp the concept of "personal space," is the cold. It may not be the coldest Georgia game I've ever attended (that would be a Tech game almost a decade ago), but it was pretty darn close. According to the television in the student center, it was 38° at the final whistle.

My usual Auburn-game companion, Friend Randy, didn't think he was going to need anything more than a light jacket. He never did get the hang of the knit cap I let him borrow, but I note he never took it off, either. (You're welcome, Randy.)

As for the football itself, it seems that every year in the annual UGA/Auburn contest, one team out thinks itself. This year, that team was Georgia. UGA tried its best to pretend that it isn't a run-first, second, and third offense in an attempt to beat trick play-happy Auburn head coach Gus Malzhan at his own game. (Blankenship's failed fake field goal springs to mind.) Fortunately, great defense won out. Next year, let's keep it simple, okay, Dawgs?

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The first night game of the season meant the return of the cell phone lights to Athens!

Vanderbilt 13, UGA 41

Ok, so they're not really visible in that pic, but trust me, it's cool. In fact, the only reason Sanford Stadium was that full at the start of the 4th quarter (score at the time: Vanderbilt 6, UGA 38) was because the homecoming crowd was waiting to play with their flashlights. It was worth it.

As for the football game itself: Vanderbilt was who we thought they were, and UGA started its season 6-0 for the second straight year — for the first time ever! National title, here we come (he says, tongue only partly in cheek).

The next home game isn't until November. I have my fingers crossed that by then, the temperature will finally fall below 80° during a game. While I like my Georgia football team hot, I prefer my Georgia football weather mild. And yes, I believe that I *can* have it all.

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To be continued...

 

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