Monday, October 29, 2007

On eliminating back-monkeys in three easy steps

Step one, cut a hole in the box.

Okay, so I'm buzzing, and I have been since about thirty seconds after kickoff Saturday, and I'm hoarse, and it's awesome. I'm not going to pretend to have Zen Bubba's powers of football prediction, but sometimes I get inexplicable feelings (see last year's Auburn game), and something just told me that Doug was going to be streaking Highland Avenue again this week. Even with that feeling, though, I was waiting for one of the classic give-it-up-early-and-then-just-manage-to-pull-it-out last-minute field-goal Forrest-Gump victories that have been irritating my ulcer for the past two seasons.

Luckily, I didn't have to wait for long.

Coach Mark Richt (the undisputed hottest coach in Division IA) knew what he was doing coaching this game. I attribute it to his being the father of four small children. Because we weren't up against a college football team this week; we were up against the boogeyman of 2-and-15, a boogeyman that had psyched us out numerous times in past games. And if anyone knows how to conquer a boogeyman, it's a daddy.

The first thing to do, of course, is to make that boogeyman funny instead of scary. For the Bulldogs, that meant taking this Most Sacred and Hallowed Football Tradition off its pedestal and playing honest-to-God rough-and-tumble football. They didn't need to go out there with the goal of not-losing, which had been their mindset for going on a decade and is always a spiffy tool for self-defeating; they needed to take the field with the singular goal of fucking some shit up, and they didn't know whose shit, and they didn't particularly care. CMR said that they "game-planned energy" as much as they game-planned any of their plays, and it obviously worked. What else worked? CMR's now-famous proclamation that if they didn't get a penalty for excessive celebration after their first score, they were going to run steps. Sure enough, they swarmed the end zone after that first touchdown, Trinton Sturdivant shook it like a Polaroid picture, and Georgia had not one but two penalties and twenty-two-and-a-half yards that put a floppy hat and a flowered mumu on that boogeyman and stuffed him back in the closet. A Florida player later referred to it as "fake juice," manufactured enthusiasm, but if it works, I don't care if it's OJ or Tang. I had a few moments of fear when Florida did appear to get appropriately riled in response and answered with a touchdown of their own, but it soon became apparent that no amount of encouragement from Urban Meyer could make them want this win as much as the Bulldogs did.

Step Two was to put the fear of God into the Gators, and I think Tim Tebow spent enough time on his back, staring up at a sea of red helmets, to attest that we did that quite well. I recognize that the man was playing with a bruised shoulder, and he kept his head in the game admirably well under the circumstances, but by around the fourth nut-sack, he was starting to get twitchier with every snap. Every time he rolled back to pass, he heard footsteps. And even with that kind of constant pressure, he managed to pass for 236 yards and hook up for a total of 343 offensive yards. Dude's a hoss, and I tip my hat to him (and to the Unstoppable Percy Harvin).

Step Three was to pitch a tent in Florida's end zone, set up a hibachi and a satellite dish, and call it claimed territory. Doug points out to all of the "Tebow's shoulder" apologists that Tebow wasn't playing defense, and Tebow's shoulder didn't allow 42 points. A team that has in the past seemed almost phobic of the goal line (that would be ours), that has a recent history of charging manfully down to the red zone and then kicking for three (still us), saw Florida's red zone four times and scored all four times. With touchdowns. (Those are the ones that stay on the ground.) I'm sure Brandon Coutu felt well put-upon every time they pulled him away from his DVD and animal crackers to kick a PAT, because he certainly wasn't kicking field goals and he had probably just gotten comfortable.

In other words, Knowshon "B-Button" Moreno (must credit Practically Harmless) -- redshirt freshman, captain for the game, and all-around badass -- is my babydaddy, and Mo Massaquoi is my backup babydaddy. And fullback -- fullback -- Brannan Southerland is welcome to join the party. My biggest fear as Knowshon crossed the goal line after a nine-play, five-minute, 67-yard drive was that we couldn't possibly keep that kind of energy going for three more quarters, and that I was going to be brokenhearted if we started to slip. Then Florida answered, and then we answered their answer, and then they answered our answer to their answer, and I was convinced that the game was going to end 77-70 and the winner was just going to be whoever got the last TD in. Then they pulled ahead. Then we pulled ahead. Then the game started to get exciting.

A few off-the-field game notes:

- My mom? Magical. Yells, "Sack him!" and they do. Six times.
- Game ball goes to my dad, who, as Doug reports, picked up a spur-of-the-moment impulse-buy monster plasma-screen TV in time for the game. Add this to his recent purchase of a ruby-red Acura TL, and one might have to conclude that, in addition to being a great man, he's also a cool guy.
- Sports-related superstitions are a necessary but onerous burden. Unsure whether to go with my black Georgia t-shirt (undefeated at home) or my red Georgia jersey (undefeated on the road, save for the Tennessee game, which had mitigating superstitious circumstances), I chose to go with both for the neutral site but ended up stripping back down to the t-shirt after Florida's field goal. It appears to have been the wise choice.

One last word on the excessive celebration penalties: One Gator blogger talked about "acting like you've been there before" when you score a TD and said that that joyful display, coupled with the unfortunate jumping-on-the-V incident at Vandy a few weeks back, added up to a "low-rent" team of "excessive celebrators" that was a poor representative of the SEC East. Well, honestly, I'd like to politely invite him and so many of Georgia's other critics to kiss my preternaturally toned pink ass. First off, let me remind the gentle reader that the Vandy-V incident was pretty much the first time Mark Richt had had a facial expression all season, and he used it to chew gaping new ones out of every player involved in said incident in an inspiring and, frankly, not a little bit arousing display of passion and devotion to clean, classy football. Let me also remind the gentle reader that Florida is a team that has never hesitated to run up the score, trash-talk on the field, or shit-talk opposing players and coaches to the press, so pardon me if those protestations of bruised sensibilities ring just a little bit hollow. "Discipline, poise, and class," Terence Moore? You can keep 'em. Saturday, the Bulldogs played like a bunch of high school kids throwing the football around the dirt lot for bragging rights and a Co-Cola after the game, and while it's not something I'd like to see every week, it was so unspeakably refreshing that this week -- and just this week -- I'm doing a Trinton Sturdivant butt-dance around the office myself, and I'll probably keep doing it until it stops being fun, or next Saturday, whichever comes first.

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