As I explained when looking at Florida, there is one, primary driver in determining the animosity I feel toward other teams: losing. During my formative years, we didn't do any of that to Georgia...so I didn't feel strongly toward the them. It was just one of those series where you expected something good to happen for the Vols, something terrible to happen to the Bulldogs, and that was that.
Unfortunately for us as fans, that all changed in 2000. We lost to Georgia for the first time since 1988. And then we lost again in particularly terrible fashion. That was followed by another loss...and another one. All of a sudden, we could no longer count on beating up on our neighbors to the South. It was a shock to the system and my view of UGA has been tainted ever since.
Fortunately for the sake of this post...4 straight losses + some difficult relatives = instant rivalry! Put simply: I don't like Georgia at all. I'd put them in my top 3 with Florida and Alabama for most despised teams despite the overall win-loss record in the last 20-ish years. There have been more good moments than bad in my lifetime, but some of the bad ones have been really, really bad. My highest and lowest moments can be found below the jump.Bad: The 2000 season figured to be something of a transition year for the Vols, and indeed it was. A close win over Southern Miss gave way to the Jabar Gaffney Game. The 70-3 undressing of Louisiana-Monroe was followed by an enthralling, though ultimately disappointing, overtime game in Baton Rouge. As I rolled into Athens for the 3rd straight time, I didn't really know what to expect from the game. It was a chilly night, so we bundled up and hiked to the absolute last row of the stadium. I don't remember too much from the game itself, but the ending is something I'll never forget. As the clock hit 00:00, the fans just poured onto the field. Neither the goalposts nor the hedges made out too well. It was surreal to see that emotional eruption from 90,000 people...in that moment, I had some idea of what it was like to be a Florida fan in Neyland Stadium on September 19, 1998.
Rather than take this loss lying down, though, the 14-year-old me opted to be obnoxious. I chose to hold my head high, shed the jacket to reveal my UT t-shirt, and walk out of Sanford Stadium in a blaze of orange glory. I was razed mercilessly on the way out. I listened to chants of "It's great to be a Georgia Bulldog." I bathed in the cascade of "0 and 3 in the SEC." I didn't care. I just wanted to remind everyone there that our record in the last 11 games against them was 10-1. Why I thought this was a good idea...I still don't know. But I did it and don't regret it.
You would think the loss ended there, right? It didn't. Remember those difficult relatives I alluded to earlier? They weren't about to let it go. On Christmas Day 2000, I sat in my grandparents' living room blissfully unaware of any danger that might be lurking under the tree. Eventually, the time came for me to open the present from my aunt and uncle, the UGA alums. They give solid gifts, so I was excited to see what it would be...at least I was until I saw the wrapping. It was the front page and sports section from the AJC the Sunday after game...I was bombarded once again by images of UGA's first victory in more than a decade. And what do you suppose I found inside the box after disposing of the paper? The Georgia highlight film for the 2000 season complete with Larry Munson's "best" calls. And you wonder why I don't like Georgia.
Honorable mentions: 2001 (I wasn't there, but c'mon, it's the Hobnail Boot), 2003 (I WAS there and Jabari Davis is still on my crap list for this)
Good: While the 1998 season turned out to be special, I'm not sure we knew it yet in the 2nd week of October. Yes, we'd finally beaten Florida, but we hadn't done much otherwise. Donovan McNabb had run all over us, we'd beaten up on a bad Houston team, and we'd almost blown a 17-0 lead against a bad Auburn team that destroyed Jamal Lewis' knee. I didn't expect us to win and neither did Vegas as the Bulldogs were the favorite. Gameday was in town and I remember watching Corso don the bulldog head while grabbing lunch at an Athens eatery. I think the good vibes started at that moment.
I'm sure this can be said of any SEC fanbase when their team is good and they expect to win, but the Georgia fans were particularly riled up and cocky for this game. Even though I was only 12, there were a lot of choice words lobbed in our direction as we entered the stadium. I've never been one for trash talk and have always preferred to let the play do the talking for me. The Vols' defense did a lot of talking in the game. Quincy Carter? Amateur. Champ Bailey? Chump. We absolutely owned the Dawgs on this day, and it was awesome. We started taunting the UGA fans who left at the start of the 4th quarter with us up 22-3. Many UT fans, including my dad and me, made a beeline for the Gameday set once the game ended. "Foooooowleeeeeeer" we chanted. "Wrong again, Corso, wrong again!" we exclaimed. We even bought one of those little cardboard signs with the score of the game so I could rub it in the face of the UGA relatives (ok...maybe I had it coming a little bit). This win is absolutely one of my favorites of all-time.
Honorable mentions: 2007 (pure domination from start to finish on both sides of the ball and maybe the last peak of the Fulmer era), 2009 (I drove home from Richmond on a whim to attend this game, I got my picture taken with Bruce before the game, and Crompdaddy put the icing on the cake), 2004 (only saw it via TV, but it felt good to finally beat them again)
What games stand out in your mind from previous encounters with the Bulldogs? Share them below and let's prepare to send the Dawgs to 1-5. Whoo!
P.S. I wrote this while wearing my UT snuggie. That has to mean good things, right? :)
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