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Georgia Vs. Vanderbilt 2011: Or, How I Was Saved From The Dumbest Game Ever

While Georgia was locked in mortal combat with Vanderbilt (and its coaches), I was watching white people attempt to do the electric slide in a hotel ballroom -- and I couldn't be more grateful.

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.
If you think about it, Georgia's one solid performance in Nashville in the last decade was in 2005, when Jay Cutler was a senior and the Commodores were actually kinda decent. So let's chalk this up to Georgia indulging in its long-standing habit of playing down to the opponent and be done with it. I can't even spend that much time excoriating the defense for letting Vandy run all over them outside like that, because Lord knows nothing I can say or do will be worse than what Todd Grantham's going to do to them once they get back to Athens. That's not a dude you want to be around when he's pissed off even when the pissed-offedness isn't your fault.

So yeah, about Todd Grantham and the whole dust-up with James Franklin there at the end. I'll stipulate that Grantham may indeed be crazier than a sack of ferrets, and that he may be running a quart or two high on rageahol at any given moment. But if that's a known quantity at this point -- which it ought to be, for better or for worse -- than what the hell did Franklin think was going to be the result of him seeking Grantham out after the game to gripe about Shawn Williams? I don't know if Franklin thought Grantham was going to lower his head deferentially and offer him a "Yes sir, sorry sir," but I could've told him before he was even hired for the Vandy job that that was unlikely to ever happen. As long as no blows were exchanged, let's give Franklin and Grantham both the same right everyone else in this country has to hate each other's guts, and vow not to drag it out any further with gratuitous talk about "teachable moments" or who needs to apologize to whom.

In the end, I'd like to thank my girlfriend for two things: First, the phrase "The game isn't called Feelingsball," which is pretty much all the response the Grantham-Franklin confrontation needs; and second, for saving me from having to watch all that. If she and I ever do decide to tie the knot, and we can't find a spring or summer weekend that works, I'm officially casting my vote for the weekend of Georgia-Vandy. Even when it comes to Georgia football, there are some things I just don't need to see that badly.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.