My girlfriend and I share a deeply held belief that if you live in the Southeast, you should know better than to schedule a wedding between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. But we attended a wedding in Nashville this past weekend without protest -- her because it was one of her closest friends from high school, me because hell, Georgia was only playing Vanderbilt and how much would I really be missing?
Nevertheless, when the kickoff time was announced a couple weeks ago, I called my girlfriend to ask what time the wedding was, and when she said 1 p.m., I mentioned that Georgia-Vandy wasn't starting until 7. "Uh-huhhhh," she said on the other end. "And?" To make a long, frosty phone call very short, I was informed that the reception was at 5:30, and there was no way in hell I was blowing off any part of the reception and leaving her stranded on the dance floor so that I could go watch the game that is annually one of the most wretched on Georgia's schedule.
Turns out she may have saved me from a night in the ICU at Vanderbilt Hospital, because the game was wretched, though not in the way I'd anticipated. I figured that with Malcolm Mitchell sitting due to a tweaked hamstring and Isaiah Crowell still gimpy, we'd slog through another offensively challenged affair, hold off the Commodores on defense and spend the drive home from Nashvegas grumbling about how, once again, we'd failed to crack 30 on the scoreboard. Instead, the offense broke out fairly impressively despite facing a serviceable defense with a personnel limp; it was the defense that couldn't get off the field, letting Vandy rush for an even two bills and helping to turn what should've been a ho-hum affair into a game that literally wasn't decided until the last play.
The defense wouldn't have even looked so bad, though, had it not been for the special teams demonstrating alternate meanings of the word "special." You know it's a bad night when Blair Walsh missing two more field goals is the least embarrassing thing your ST unit manages to pull off (Walsh at least managed to go 4-of-6 on the evening). For the second time in a month, the Dawgs let an overmatched opponent hang around in the game thanks to a ridiculous 90-plus-yard kickoff return for TD, and then, with barely a minute standing between them and victory, the Dawgs let a punt get blocked for perhaps the first time in Drew Butler's career, putting Vandy only 20 yards away from the go-ahead score and giving Georgia fans all over the Southeast acid flashbacks of the homecoming debacle in 2006.
So why am I not more upset about all this? Well, the fact that I was checking for updates on an iPhone in a hotel ballroom rather than watching it live had something to do with it; when all you've got is bars creeping across a digital field, it's a lot easier to reduce the game to abstractions and ignore the reality of actual players doing stupid, stupid things. But the other reason is that I've become accustomed to Georgia doing stupid things in Nashville. Consider:
- 2003 -- The defending SEC champions head up to Nastyville to play a Commodore team that will finish the season 2-10 -- and find themselves staring at a 2-0 halftime deficit. (Yup, that's the football team I'm talking about, not the baseball team.) Georgia gets it together in the second half enough to slink away with a 27-8 win.
- 2007 -- Reeling from an open-handed bitch slap received the week before in Knoxville, Georgia scores on its opening drive against Vandy but accomplishes nothing else of note for the remainder of the first half and goes to the locker room trailing 17-7. Only after the Dawgs force a Vandy fumble deep inside Georgia territory can they mount a last-minute drive that ends with Brandon Coutu kicking a game-winning field goal; final score, 20-17.
- 2009 -- I actually remember very little about this one except that we committed eight penalties and were only leading Vandy 20-10 going into the final quarter. I'm just going to assume the rest was a complete drag.