Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Countdown 2010: 35 Days to Go

35: Harry Babcock, End #56 (1950 – 1952)

During a time most of the offense in college football took place on the ground, Harry Babcock became a star catching passes for Coach Wally Butts. The 6’2’’ Babcock came to Athens from Ocala, Florida, where he played mostly guard. But as a member of Georgia’s freshman squad in 1949, he switched to the end position (similar to the modern wide receiver) where he would become a force in the SEC. Georgia completed only 61 passes during the 1950 season, but Babcock was the recipient of 8 of those passes.

1951 would mark a change in the Georgia offensive philosophy with the arrival of quarterback Zeke Bratkowski. Bratkowski would become one the greatest quarterbacks in SEC history and Babcock was on the receiving end of a lot of Zeke’s throws. Babcock led the SEC in receiving that year, finishing with 41 catches for 666 yards. His signature performance came in the Georgia 35-28 victory over Boston College when he caught long touchdown passes (76 and 54 yards). He was named to the All-SEC first team by the Associated Press.

During his senior season in 1952, injuries sustained in a car crash would hamper him throughout the year but he still managed to put together a fine campaign that would earn him All-SEC and All-American honors. He had 8 catches for 106 yards against Alabama and caught two touchdowns in a win over Pittsburgh. Despite being injured much of the season, his importance to the team was never more prevalent than against Florida. Gator linebacker Arlen Jumper took a cheap shot at Babcock early in the game and Babcock retaliated. Both players were kicked out of the game. Without Babcock on the field, heavily favored Georgia struggled on offense and ultimately lost the game. He finished with 3 touchdowns and 456 yards on 31 receptions, second in the SEC behind teammate Johnny Carson.

Harry Babcock ended his career as Georgia’s all-time leading receiver. He caught 80 passes for 1,199 yards (still good for 16th all-time today). He became the second Georgia player, after Charley Trippi, to be selected #1 overall in the NFL when he was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 1953. Injuries hampered much of his NFL career and he was out of the NFL just a few years later. The player that Coach Wally Butts once said was “the finest all-around end I have seen in my 15 years in the league” was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1992.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Countdown 2010: 36 Days to Go

36: DJ Shockley, Quarterback #3 (2001-2005)

Often regarded as Mark Richt's first recruit after he became the head coach at Georgia, DJ Shockley was a nationally recognized and all state quarterback coming out of Clayton County, Georgia who would become the unselfish hero of the Bulldawg Nation.

I could regale you the typical biography of stats and accolades that proves his worthiness as one of the greatest to ever don the Red and Black, but that would be too typical for a player that won over the hearts of Dawgs everywhere.

Think back to before the season in 2005. Shockley had never started a game, the man in front of him spent the last 4 seasons becoming the all-time winningest quarterback in NCAA history, he was inserted into games with fans cheering his presence if there was a touchdown, yelling and booing if an interception came about and with his natural talent on display when he did play, the thought of transferring weighed heavily on his mind.

Instead, Shockley decided to stay at Georgia, and face that his entire college career would culminate into starting only one season. Before the 2005 season began, most wondered how things would play out with him starting for the first time.

On that squelching September afternoon in 2005 against up and comer Boise State, the redshirt senior blew away all doubts with a 300+ yard, 6 TD performance (5 passing, 1 rushing) that earned him national player of the week honors.

My fav clips are Leonard Pope's catch at 1:55, and Sean
Bailey's catch at 4:21

For the rest of 2005, Shockley was a machine that seemed unstoppable. Amassing a 7-0 record through some close games and dominating performances, Shockley's name became synonymous with the other two major college football stars of 2005: Reggie Bush and Vince Young.

An injury against Arkansas forced him to miss the following week's game against Florida, a bitter loss that was followed by a last minute 31-30 loss to Auburn where Shockley gave an inspiring performance, and had brought Georgia the lead within the last few minutes.

After leading the Bulldawgs to a 4th quarter victory over Georgia Tech, Shockley entered the Georgia Dome the following week to give an MVP stomping of LSU and bringing a second SEC Championship to the Georgia in the Mark Richt era.After gambling his future by staying at Georgia, Shockley received the ultimate prize of a Championship to cap off his remarkable one year.

While the Bulldawgs and Shockley would face an embarrassing loss in the Sugar Bowl to West Virginia, Shockley put in an amazing performance that was the only reason Georgia remained in the game (minus Shockley, that game could have easily been 38-14).

In his one and only season, Shockley amassed 10 wins, an SEC Championship and MVP, the National Bobby Bowden Award, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award Finalist, and third in the AP's Player of the Year contest (only behind Bush and Young).

Despite his ability, poise, and leadership to bring another championship to the Red and Black faithful, it is the quiet loyalty he showed to Georgia that Bulldawg fans remember the most.

The greatest leap until we saw the likes of Knowshon

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Countdown 2010: 37 Days to Go

Knox Culpepper, LB #48 (1981-1984)

Like many Dawgs before him, Knox Culpepper will enter the Georgia-Florida Hall of Fame this year. For his career, Culpepper finished with 383 tackles, ranking sixth on Georgia's all-time list. But most importantly, he finished 3-1 against the Gators.

Culpepper remembers "the smell of liquor coming from the stands as we ran onto the field [in Jacksonville]. There was no atmosphere quite like it."

The early '80s linebacker followed in his father's footsteps, who played linebacker for Wally Butts' Dawgs in the '50s and was team captain in 1956. He also accepted the challenge of wearing linebacker Frank Ros' number, the senior captain of the 1980 National Championship team.

An All-State linebacker from The Lovett School, Culpepper was a second-team All-American, an All-SEC performer and the team captain himself by his senior season with the Dawgs in 1984. He set the Georgia record for total tackles in one season with 170 in his junior year of 1983, a record still held today.

What did he do for an encore? Only 166 total tackles in 1984, still good for second on the single season list. He earned the Coffee County Hustle Award both seasons.

Culpepper also still ranks #1 and #2 on Georgia's single game tackles list. In 1983, he racked up 25 tackles versus Auburn in a 13-7 loss, breaking the school's record. However, that record only stood through the bye week as Culpepper marked up 26 tackles against the NATS in a 27-24 win.

In "What It Means to be a Bulldog," Culpepper references the "immortal" words of Lewis Grizzard, who wrote that "The game of life is a lot like football. You have to tackle your problems, block your fears, and score your points when you get the opportunity."

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Countdown 2010: 38 Days to Go

38: Sean Jones, Safety #6 (2001 – 2003)

Sean Jones accounted for 42 touchdowns playing quarterback for Westlake High School in 1999. He also played defensive end and committed to Georgia and Coach Jim Donnan. Jones red shirted during his freshman year in 2000 and instead found a home on the defensive side of the football. In 2001, Jones played in all 12 games as a back-up free safety. He made 38 tackles and had 2 pass breakups and returned in 2002 as a starter.

In 2002, Sean Jones’ play as both a safety and a punt returner helped lead Georgia to a 13-1 record and an SEC Championship. Starting in 12 of 14 games, he made his first fantastic play of the season against Northwestern State by blocking a punt that was returned for a touchdown. His best game of the season came in the most important Georgia game in 20 years. Georgia traveled to Auburn with a chance to clinch the SEC East title. While most people remember how this game finished, few forget that without Sean Jones, Georgia would have never been in position to win. On Auburn’s opening drive of the game, Jones intercepted a pass deep in Georgia territory that kept them off the score board. Later in the game, he grabbed another interception and recovered a fumble. And with the Dawgs down late in the 4th, Jones had a big punt return to set up Georgia’s game winning drive(his 16 yards per punt return in 2002 ranks 8th all-time at Georgia). He finished the season with 83 tackles.

During his junior (and final) season in 2003, Jones moved from free safety to strong safety. Playing against Tennessee in Knoxville, Jones made one of the biggest momentum changing plays I have ever seen in college football:

He continued to make fantastic plays throughout the year, including tying the Georgia record for field goal blocks with 3. He led the team with 5 interceptions, a sack, 5 pass break ups, and finished second on the team with 121 tackles. He was named to the All-SEC first team and a consensus All-American.

Sean Jones finished his career at Georgia with 250 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, 1 sack, 3 fumble recoveries, 7 interceptions, and 4 blocked kicks. He was drafted in the second round of the 2004 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns and currently plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Countdown 2010: 39 Days to Go

39: Rennie Curran, Linebacker #35 (2007 – 2009)

Like me, Rennie Curran grew up in Snellville, Georgia, and played his high school football at my high school rival, Brookwood. Despite his short height, Curran was one of the top linebacking prospects in the country after recording over 150 tackles in both his junior and senior seasons. Rennie is the son of immigrant parents from Liberia. Here is a great video on his family and how he came to Georgia:

Arriving on campus in 2007, Curran quickly made a place for himself in the Georgia rotation at outside linebacker. He made his first career start in Georgia’s 42-30 victory over Florida in Jacksonville, recording 5 tackles, including two for a loss. A continued to make big plays in the Blackout victory over Auburn and had his finest game of the season against Kentucky. As the Dawgs got revenge for the 2006 loss to the Wildcats, Curran was named SEC freshman of the week as he made 13 tackles in the victory. He closed his freshman season with a 7 tackle game in the trouncing of Hawaii in the Sugar bowl. For the season he played in 11 games (starting 5), had 53 tackles and 3 sacks. He was named to the All-SEC Freshman team and a Freshman All-American by Sporting News, Rivals, and Scout.

In 2008, Curran would win numerous awards including 4th team All-American (Phil Steele) first team All-SEC (Coaches, 2nd Team AP), and was also a Butkus Award finalist. He lead the team in tackles in 9 of 13 games, totaling 115 tackles, 3 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. He registered double digit totals in sacks and five games and forced a fumble at the goal line against South Carolina to help preserve a Georgia lead. Here is a look at some highlights from the 2008 season:

2009 ended up being Rennie final year at Georgia, but with a struggling defense around him, he played an even more important role than he had previously. In the second game of the season against South Carolina, he made a play that clinched the Georgia victory:

He recorded a career high 16 tackles in Georgia’s narrow loss to LSU, one of six double digit tackle games for him during the season. He led or tied for the team lead in tackles during eleven of Georgia’s thirteen games. For the year, he registered an SEC leading 130 tackles, including 10 quarterback pressures and 3 pass break ups. He was named a consensus first team All-SEC member, the permanent defensive captain, and a finalist for the Lombardi and Bednarik awards.

For his career, he made 30 starts (out of 37 games) and had 298 tackles, 6.5 sacks, and 24 tackles for a loss. His 298 tackles is 15th all-time at Georgia and he was named a two-time All-SEC player. He left for the NFL following the 2009 season and was drafted by the Tennessee Titans.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Countdown 2010: 40 Days to Go

40: Matthew Stafford, Quarterback #7 (2006 – 2008)

Before Matthew Stafford enrolled early at Georgia in January of 2006, the expectations for the Dallas native were already off the charts. The strong-armed quarterback from Texas came to Athens as one of the biggest recruits since Herschel and only increased expectations on his first pass in Sanford Stadium. During G-Day, Stafford entered the game to a standing ovation from the Georgia faithful and found Mikey Henderson for a 67 yard touchdown pass. The bar had been set extremely high but Stafford would answer most of those expectations in the next three seasons.

Joe Tereshinski won the starting job to begin the 2006 season, but everyone knew it was a only a matter of time before Stafford became the starter. In the season opener against Western Kentucky, Stafford came into the game in the second half and led the Dawgs on a scoring drive that culminated in a touchdown pass to tight end Coleman Watson. The next week, Joe T was injured at South Carolina and Stafford came in. While he was not brilliant (throwing three interceptions) he showed flashes of what he could do. He made his first start against UAB the following week. As Georgia struggled through the ’06 season, Stafford too dealt with pains of being a freshman starter in the SEC. following the loss against Tennessee, Stafford was made the permanent starter and against Auburn a few weeks later, he proved what the hype was all about. In a game dubbed the Massacre on the Plains, Stafford led Georgia to an upset victory over the #5 ranked Tigers. Stafford would help the Dawgs close the season with two more victories over ranked teams (Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech). For the season, he threw for 1,749 yards on 52.1% completion for 7 touchdowns.

In 2007, Georgia had an amazing season that ended with a Sugar Bowl victory and #2 overall ranking. Stafford’s development into the potential he showed coming into college was one of the main reasons. The season opened with a solid win over Oklahoma State, but the season really got going against Alabama. With the Dawgs down 3 in overtime, Stafford threw a perfect touch pass to Mikey Henderson for a touchdown, giving the Dawgs a 26-23 victory over the Tide. A few weeks later in Jacksonville, Stafford passed for 217 yards and three touchdowns in a rousing victory over Florida. He continued his solid play in the Blackout victory over Auburn and the beat down of Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl. Stafford finished his sophomore season with 2,533 yards and 19 touchdowns. In his first full season as starter, he reduced his interceptions from 13 to 10 and improved his completion percentage to almost 56%.

Georgia entered the 2008 season with a preseason #1 ranking and a lot of hype on the duo of Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno. While the Dawgs failed to live up to the national championship aspirations many of us had, Stafford did turn in one of the best single seasons by a quarterback in Georgia history. After a great game in the desert in Arizona State and a solid effort in the loss to Alabama, Stafford earned his first career 300 yard game on 25 of 36 passing performance (69%) against Tennessee. He then threw for 376 yards and three scores, including the game winning touchdown in the final minutes, in the victory at Kentucky. In his final home game at Georgia, Stafford had his finest game throwing for 407 yards and five touchdowns against Georgia Tech. He capped his career with an MVP performance in the Capital One Bowl victory over Michigan State. He finished the season with 3,459 yards (second highest single season total in Georgia history) with Georgia record 25 touchdowns on 62% completion and was named second team All-SEC. Here are some highlights from the 2008 season:

For his career, Stafford threw for 7,731 yards (third all-time) and 51 touchdowns (also third all-time). He also ran for 6 career touchdowns and had a record of 6-3 against Georgia’s rivals (Auburn, Florida, and Tech). Matthew Stafford became the third player in Georgia history to be drafted #1 overall in the NFL draft when he was selected by the Detroit Lions in the 2009 NFL Draft. While he struggled as part of a horrible Lions squad, he did turn in one of the most amazing moments ever caught on NFL Films (according to Steve Sabol, the President of NFL Films):

Colorado Tickets on Sale Now

Most people know that the Colorado Buffaloes ticket office is putting single game tickets on sale August 2nd.

However, last week it became public that the Buffs decided that they would not sell single game tickets for UGA. This is an obvious response to the pending invasion of the West by Bulldawgs.

Instead of the single game package, you can only purchase ticket for the game in Boulder through their 3-game "National Championship" pack. While it seems like a pipe dream, it's actually in celebration of the REAL 1990 national champions.

However, you get stuck with tickets to Hawaii (been there done that!) and Kansas State (JUCO University is BACK!)

Anyways, if you want to pursue this option, tickets are actually on sale now if you have a promo code, and I'd suggest going to the Colorado Dawgs' facebook page to get the information on the tickets, as well as to get updates on what's happening in Denver and Boulder. They also seem to have a tailgate planned for the game, which is welcomed news.

$136 is the minimum price for the package, and if you look at online ticket sites, a single game ticket is at least $70, closer to $100 if you want a better seat.

At that point, I'd almost rather just buy the single game ticket and not worrying about unloading the others. That way, you at least have more control over where you sit.

John Isner is Really Tall

John Isner has been in the news a lot since his record setting match at Wimbeldon last month. Yesterday, he competed in the final of the Atlanta Tennis Championship as he took on fellow American Mardy Fish. In the nearly 100 degree weather (I was told the court temperature was measured at near 150), both players fought hard with fish finally winning in a tie breaker after the third set. Each player was only broken twice, but it was apparent that the heat was getting to the 6'9'' Isner more than it was Fish.

The tournament took place at the Atlanta Athletic Club, which my wife's boss just happens to be a member of. He purchased multiple tables for the championship (his son was serving as one of the ball boys as well) so we got to sit in the second row of the VIP section. while sitting close to the court was great, the best part of the VIP section is the free beer, water, and soda that is brought directly to your seat. The heat would have been unbearable without the 5 liters of water I went through.

Here are my pictures from the event:

Our seats on the second row

The insane amount of water we drank to beat the heat

Isner gets ready to serve

This one clocked in at 129 miles per hour.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Countdown 2010: 41 Days to Go

41: Thomas Davis, Safety #10 (2002 – 2004)

During my time at The University of Georgia I had the pleasure of watching one of the hardest hitting players in Georgia history bring the pain against SEC defenses. That player was Thomas Davis, who was originally not offered a scholarship to come to Georgia and play football. But when a member of the Georgia coaching staff saw Davis playing basketball, they knew his athleticism would translate onto the gridiron. The native of tiny Shellman, Georgia, will be remembered as one of the key players of the mid-2000s teams that brought the SEC Championship back to Athens.

Davis redshirted during 2001, spending time at both linebacker and safety. During the Dawgs run to the SEC Championship in 2002, Davis moved up the depth chart and ended up starting four games that year. 2003 would be a breakout season for him and he helped lead Georgia back to the SEC Championship for the second straight year. He was named to the All-SEC squad as he totaled 130 tackles.

During his junior season in 2004, played a major role in the another ten win season for the Dawgs under Mark Richt. One of his signature plays was a huge tackle against LSU’s Jacob Hester. Hester, then a freshman, fumbled on the play. He would not fumble another ball for nearly four years. Despite missing the Kentucky game with an injured knee, he once again led the Dawgs in tackles with 81. He also 5 tackles for a loss, three sacks, and an interception. Here are a look at some of Davis’ career highlights:

Davis left school with one year of eligibility remaining following the 2004 season. For his Georgia career, he made 29 starts in 35 games played. He totaled 272 tackles, 10.5 sacks, and 3 interceptions. He was drafted 14th overall in the first round of the 2005 NFL draft by the Carolina Panthers and has developed into an All-pro player. He will miss the 2010 season after suffering a torn ACL in spring practice.