After 41 long years, the Georgia Damn Bulldogs are the national champions of college football. After 15 long years and seven futile attempts, the Dawgs knocked off Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
All these years writing this column, I thought I would have something profound to say when Georgia finally won it all. But I’ve got nothing. I’ve been all smiles since Kelee Ringo snatched the bag late in the fourth quarter and ran his way into Bulldog history, solidifying the 33-18 win.
Man, I’m just so happy.
I was lucky enough to be one of the Dawg fans at the game in Indianapolis. I’ve never seen a group of people so collectively happy. (You crazy Dawg people who descended on downtown after the final whistle gave us a run for our money, though.) Kirby Smart has made this whole season about “connection” within the team. As cheesy as it sounds, during the game and after, I felt a deep connection to every Dawg fan in that building. I know I would disagree with many of them on matters both large and small. But we were a big, dysfunctional Dawg family, and I’m happy for every one of y’all.
I’m happy for Kirby. Somehow, this bowl-cutted goof has become one of the best coaches in college football. Certainly the best coach in UGA history. (Sorry, Vince.) And he never has to hear about how he can’t win the big one—how he can’t beat Saban—again. He got his, and he may get a few more before it’s all said and done.
I’m happy for Stetson Bennett. Man, am I happy for Stetson Bennett. Mea culpa. I said many times this season we couldn’t win the national championship with him as the quarterback. I was wrong and couldn’t be happier about it. He was in such an unenviable position. He was either going to become a legend or a goat in Indianapolis, and he knew it. I can’t say I’ll never say another bad word about the guy. He might be our starting quarterback next year, after all, so I’ve got to allow myself some wiggle room for constructive criticism. But I’ll never say another bad word about the job he did this year.
I’m happy for the defense. Nakobe Dean, Jordan Davis, Lewis Cine, KELEE RINGO and every one of those dudes. In an era dominated by high-powered offenses, these madmen went and won a title with defense. They wanted to go down as one of the great defenses in college football history, and they did it. They made up for that display in the SEC Championship Game and allowed only a single touchdown in Indy. Special shoutouts to Will Muschamp, who totally redeemed himself, and Dan Lanning, who is heading west to lead Oregon with a ring on his finger.
Thinking back to all that’s happened over this last decade, trying to get over the hump and falling short, I’m happy for all the players who fell agonizingly short. Aaron Murray and Chris Conley. Nick, Sony, Roquan, Hot Rod. More dudes than there is time or space to name. They sowed the seeds of this title many years ago. They didn’t get to reap in their time, but I hope they feel some ownership over the current success of the program.
So having said all that, if I had to find something at least slightly profound to say—you know, profound in the “freshman lit class at Park Hall” kind of way—I’d say, the destination was worth the journey.
Five yards short.
The fake punt.
My family is all Clemson fans—God help ’em—so they learned a thing or two in the last decade about winning titles. And something my brother said to me a year ago still sticks with me. He said, “The first one is different. It’ll never feel like that again.”
Writing this less than 12 hours after the final whistle, I can already tell you he’s right. If not for those moments of pain and loss, this victory would not feel so sweet. And the next one, unless it comes in another 41 years, won’t feel as sweet. You only get one first time.
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