“Tale of Two Saturdays”

In my humble opinion, the penultimate level of amateur athletics is American college football, and the end of year rivalries, including state championships, are just too savory not to be enjoyed.

Tale of two Saturdays. Again. As it’s been so many weeks, so many autumnal years.

Hanging with the #Marshall crew before the game today, tailgating with the oldest of my little brothers plus a friend of his on the westside of The ATL. Big shout out to Decatur and Esther, who had a grandson playing for each side, and their counterparts on the Marshall side, and their whole family who were there in droves and all very cool.

What a rare and great moment. 34, Marshall, for Tech came in as the Jackets’ leading rusher. They were just 3 and 8, though, coming in, off a huge 11-win year. While UGA and solid, talented senior Keith Marshall (#4) played in the final regular season contest of the dominant running “Gurshall” era at the nation’s oldest university. An era which revealed not only the purely freakish talents of Todd Gurley but also the emergence of workhorse Nick Chubb. Big-time college talents, each was considered perhaps the best player in the country at the time of them starting as primary runner for UGA. While Chubb is rehabbing with two years of eligibility, after setting the school season mark for yards per carry in back-to-back seasons. A VERY substantial record at the school of Herschel and our early 1940s’ boys (Frank Sinkwich and Charlie Trippi).

See, here’s some facts about Richt, he wins nearly ten on average over fifteen and has already won a ninth game in 2015, which could easily bloom to ten in a bowl, learning to win ugly behind D late this year, and doing it. Coach is 9-3 after a competitive top 10 10-3 campaign last year. But to me the deciding quality is that he lost his top guy during the year (tragically!) each of the last three football seasons, with Gurley getting hurt mid-2013, then suspended then hurt mid and late 2014, with Chubb filling in remarkably in 2014 before going out fairly early in 2015. Here’s the point: the last time Richt had a full and healthy squad UGA was a play away from the national championship game.

He’s 13-2 versus Tech, never losing in their stadium, where our section was the party line in the pool and the wettest section I’ve ever sat in, the “MVP” to the front of us alone had four gallons of whiskey in her purse, among five-seven or so of us with brown – it was nuts, especially upon realizing said brother Johnny Vance, a diehard Georgia alum (Honors) and accompaniment law school grad Matt – with his rotating jerseys of red and white for offense and defense – were seated directly three rows in front of me. I was with my lovely (alum) wife and daughter.

The DAWGS wore red tops and ye silver britches on the road, with those red helmets gleaming in a bright Midtown sun from left to right across your radio dial, and it was on. Tech chose old gold in ATL.

Clean, Old-fashioned Hate, Tech took our trophy last year and we wanted it back.

What a defense. 13-7 in a glorious low-scoring slugfest, we recounted our seats together, the three of us lads in the first year of the Richt regime. 50-yard line second row Tech side and a lady had said, “What Tech fan sold you those seats?” “It’s worse than you thought” my brother’s irascible legal representation had responded, “We got them for free.” Those chaps threw a great tailgate today and would be more than welcome in my section any day.

A week before, was the home finale tight overtime opening round of the state championship, and make no mistake about it: We Run This State. It was a huge thrill to see Eddie Vasquez at his first game, in the old stadium, and my lovely North Campus, and in the Classic City tailgating downtown with my good Georgia Southern pal Matt Fasick who lives in Athens before that, after starting at the Taco Stand on Milledge, where we’d dined on perfect burritos with a nacho side.

On a sunny, temperate Atlanta day, our alma mater played after the game, with me: “I love you, Georgia!”