I could tell UGA was going to play well against Auburn in 2013 and 2007. I knew Florida was in for some trouble in 2007. You could tell Hawaii had no shot later that season. In 2002 it was pretty evident that Arkansas was done before that game started. The same could be said for big wins or losses for Georgia as follows: 2009 Florida, 2008 Alabama, 2011 Auburn, 2014 Auburn, 2014 Missouri, 2015 Florida and 2009 Georgia Tech.
But most games are usually pretty normal - one team knows it is going to win, and the other knows it, too. There are games when one team thinks it can win, and the other knows that won’t happen. Then there are games where no one really does know what’s going to happen.
As usual, I was on the field when Alabama came on to the field in 2015 at Sanford Stadium. It was a game that had been built up for some time - particularly in Athens. Even though Georgia looked wishy washy during the early part of the season - great against South Carolina; miserable against Vanderbilt - everyone knew that the game was monumental.
Then Alabama took the field. The Tide sort of organized in the closed end zone in front of the student section. That made perfect sense, after all, as that’s where their locker room was located. Instead of running onto the field, Alabama just sat and waited (for whatever reason) It was just where many of the Bulldogs were lined up for pre-game warmups. Talking started; pushing and shoving ensued.
The game started, and Alabama embarrassed the Bulldogs for the second-consecutive trip to Athens. The pre-game stupidity should have given you a key as to what was going to happen.
Georgia was full of false bravado.
Its not abnormal to see. I’ve been on the field for many stupid pre-game talk-it-out sessions - usually it is Georgia Tech, about to get its ass whipped again, barking all that noise before the Georgia game.
Frankly, its dumb. More than that - it shows a lack of mental toughness. Rather than going onto the field and playing the game, players seem more interested in talking about what they can do than showing it. When UGA’s players went to the aid of their outnumbered teammates in the corner of the end zone that day they did what they should have done. You have to be there and have your teammate’s back - even when that person is wrong.
But it is an unwelcome distraction at an important time. Pre-game warmups are a time to get yourself right mentally and physically - not discuss what will or will not happen on that day. I was also at midfield in-between the Alabama and Georgia players before the coin flip because of a special photo I was doing at the time.
Leonard Floyd was furious. I would have sworn that he would have ripped someone’s head off if given the chance. He was massively motivated. By contrast, Derrick Henry, Reggie Ragland and Ryan Kelly didn’t seem angry as much as they seemed focused. All of them had their helmets on.
Alabama, you see, had already won the game. It was just a matter of time. They used their aura to their advantage before the game. They chirped enough to get UGA’s attention; they pushed and shoved; and then left to warm up. UGA was pissed. Alabama seemingly had moved past that moment after they went to their side of the field.
Their mental states could not have been further from one another. Rather than worrying about how to best execute, Georgia’s players were probably more concerned with taking someone’s head off.
Again, its challenging sometimes to be mentally tough. Cam Newton, as great as he is, couldn't deal with reporters after the Super Bowl. Reporters. He’s got some growing to do. Georgia does as well. And the person leading them now was present at that scuffle last fall as well.
Kirby Smart ran onto the field after the Tide took the field, and a UGA staffer at the time asked him what Alabama was doing. Smart just shrugged his shoulders, had a I-don’t-know-what-you-are-talking-about look and jogged to the other end of the field - dismissing the pre-game stupidity as such.
Hopefully the future will be full of UGA players understanding what is important before games and what isn’t. Trust me when I tell you that something like that makes all of the difference in the world.