‘A Tale of Two Programs’ -Johnny Vance (Guest Columnist)
My Eldest Younger Brother Johnny Vance’s BHB Debut
Here’s Johnny on Georgia ~ A Tale of Two Programs:
Hey Dawgs fans. This is it. The BIG one. This year’s “Game of the Century.” Georgia and Bama tee it up in Tuscaloosa this Saturday at 8:00 p.m., Prime Time. And, while it’s possible and perhaps even likely that these two teams will see each other again in the SEC championship game later this year, it’s hard to overstate how important this game is for the University of Georgia.
Notably, the Dawgs have won two in a row in Tuscaloosa with 2002’s “Man Enough Dawg Enough Game” and in 2007 with Little Mikey Henderson in overtime, but the real trend in this series is Bama’s five straight wins over our beloved Dawgs, starting with the match-up in Athens in 2008.
These are not your run of the mill losses. These have been season-defining, program-limiting losses which have kept this program and this loyal fanbase from experiencing overdue greatness.
It’s been 40 long years since 1980.
Let’s start with that 2008 game. The Blackout in Athens. You wish you were blacked out for this one, folks. It got ugly quickly and Alabama went into the locker room at halftime up 31-0. And while the final score was slightly more respectable at 41-30, the game was never in doubt. Bama controlled from start to finish.
Remember this was supposed to be Georgia’s year. We finished the 2007 season as the hottest team in football and started 2008 ranked #1 with offensive weapons all over the field, but Bama was the reality check and in my opinion this game marked a turning point in the Mark Richt era. Fans started to question if he would ever get it done, and while I personally remained a Richt loyalist, those questions, in hindsight, now appear legitimate.
Heartbreak in the 2012 SEC championship in the Georgia Dome. I was there with one of my little brothers, and the Dawgs put up a hell of a fight and had a lead most of the game. But the story of this game is Bama ran the ball down our throat in the 2nd half, seemingly gaining seven yards with each touch and while we screamed our asses off, our defense just couldn’t make a stop when needed. Of course everyone remembers Aaron Murray taking us down the field in the final minute for the potential winning score, but we came up four yards short. Ouch. Painful. It’s the only time I’ve experienced thousands of football fans in near silence as we made our way out of the stadium. Remember fans, the winner of that game was going to the national championship to play an undermanned and simply less-talented Notre Dame team.
We were relegated to beating Nebraska in Orlando in a who-cares meeting at the old Citrus Bowl, a year before we had to face them again, with our backup quarterback starting at the old Gator Bowl, and a gimpy Todd Gurley gutting out a game he shouldn’t have played. But, back to the Bama chronicles, what my big brother and fellow alumnus has called the Shakespearean tragedy, which has in many ways defined GEORGIA. Alabama easily crushed Notre Dame. We would have done the same.
Four lousy yards short of a (third) national championship.
2015, “The Washout” in Athens. The tailgate experience at City Bar that day in Athens was near legendary with some fun old college friends and my good buddy “Big Punisher,” but the game itself was epically pathetic.
Dawgs fans, you may not recall, but coming into this game we were 4-0 and Bama was 3-1, having dropped a game earlier in the season to Ole Miss. Here’s the thing that sticks out to me most. We were favored to win: Yes, to slay mighty Bama. The Bama fans were all wearing “underdog” stickers, as it was the first time Bama had been an underdog in well, what felt like forever to us all, y’all. And you can’t forget the damn rain. It came down in buckets with no breaks. We walked to the stadium happy, drunk, fired up and delusional.
Then the game started.
It was over by the 2nd quarter and I’m pretty sure Mark Richt’s career had been decided by halftime. I was done defending him and when the apologists stop apologizing, it’s over. The Cocktail Party loss later only cemented the deal. Later that same season in Atlanta, we did get to see Mark Richt walk off the field one last time after the annual beatdown of Tech, but this Bama game may have sealed his fate: Great man. Good head coach. He never got to the promised land.
January 2018. The national championship in Atlanta. Crazy, but I paid $1,800 for an upper-deck end zone seat a week after watching the most epic Rose Bowl ever at home on TV. We all know what happened, but I’m still grateful for the experience. All of the story lines have been written and I can’t add much, but when we sacked Tua in overtime and pushed them out of field goal range, we thought the game was ours, and the stadium reached a fever pitch.
And then on the next play it was over. Just like that. Unlike the silence following 2012’s heartbreak, this was different. Lots of yelling, crying and a few scuffles, here and there.
They ripped out our bloody beating hearts.
December 2018. The SEC championship in Atlanta. Dawgs controlled and again had a lead for most of the game, really put a hurting on Tua, but Bama had some more black magic for us. Just as Tua had replaced Jalen Hurts to lead Bama to a comeback victory earlier in the calendar year in the national championship, this time it was Jalen’s turn to play hero and lead his team to a comeback victory. Despite the storybook victory for the Tide, this one somehow didn’t sting quite as much because the stage was smaller…and, well, it was unfortunately expected.
That’s Bama’s huge five game streak over my Dawgs. By my count these games have cost us (at least) two national championships, great guy Mark Richt’s job, and another SEC championship and playoff berth. Like I said, these aren’t your run of the mill losses. Straight painful.
Do we get it done this Saturday or perhaps in the SEC championship later in the year? It ain’t gonna be easy but we’re way past due for a win, and this Dawg D is straight up nasty.
Pictured: “Big Punisher” (aka Mashburn Esq.)/Johnny Vance (bank director)/Dr. August Vance (chiropractor)/young John John Vance (3-time LAX national champion)/Hanish “Han” Vance (writer & brand ambassador) ~ before Mark Richt’s last football game as head coach of UGA.