It's Great to Be, a.....

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - They sing it and hum it all the time on Saturdays. They'll do it against anybody, in or out of conference.

Other teams do it, happily, when they can. One doesn't hear it much in Nashville ever, nor in Starkville lately, or Columbia most of the time.

/It's great to be .../

But it seems like a Florida cheer, and the Gators spent a little more than a decade dancing proudly to it almost 90 percent of the time on Saturday.

/a Florida Gator I said it's great to be a Florida Gator/

On a Saturday that ended a rough week, on a warm day in a stadium preparing for a Super Bowl, being a Gator wasn't all that hot.

On the other haaaand ...

/It's great to be a Georrrgia Bulldog I said it's great to be a Georgia Bulldog/

As much as Florida so enjoyed taking Georgia to the woodshed all these years, the Bulldog Nation went through a mass exorcism of sorts Saturday as its team did a fine job of failing to seal the deal early before coming through with a with a relief-filled 31-24 win over the Gators at Alltel Stadium.

It was the rare night since 1990 in this series that Georgia's memory of The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail party wasn't truly forgettable. Twas truly an odd sight for so many young Bulldog fans: The Georgia quarterback taking a knee against Florida, and the Bulldogs just hanging out on the field celebrating and high-fiving hungry fans who were finally satiated.

For 13 of 14 years, Georgia fans danced into Jacksonville, full of optimism and a superiority complex. Over the same span, Florida fans subconsciously took a cue from their coach at the time, pointed to the scoreboard, and pretty much just smirked.

Why shouldn't they?

Georgia to Florida has been what South Carolina is to Georgia, to a point. Good border rivalry, lots of remarkable smack talk, and then the game. USC-UGA for the last decade or so has been more entertaining and closer than UGA-UF, but just as one-sided at the end.

But this is The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, so yes, it's clearly the bigger deal.

Florida was in such control for so long, but Georgia was getting closer. Yes, the defeats were less embarrassing, but those last few years inspired a greater "if not now, when?" tone in Bulldog Nation, countered almost yearly by "not just yet, Fluffy" from Gator Nation.

When? Now. Finally.

Georgia was the better team Saturday, despite some spells of major mediocrity. The Bulldog defense was again less than impressive several times, courtesy of an absence of fundamentals and wretched tackling. Again, some Georgia defenders seem more interested in the hit 15 yards downfield than making a simple play two yards past the line. This time, they bowed up enough at the crucial times to survive.

The offense was a few dropped passes away from really taking control. Only a botched snap marred Georgia's red-zone visits, the Bulldogs actually looking like they knew what to do when near the goal line.

And for a change, none of the missteps were big enough for Georgia to blow it.

The final two minutes, the still-filled Georgia half of the stadium stood and yelled and barked and sang, almost a whoosh coming over the field as finally, finally, finally Georgia held up its end of the deal against a Florida team that never quit and was pretty danged close to terrorizing the Bulldogs yet again.

The Gators were tough, even without their best defender for nearly the entire game, and a banged up tailback who was the best ball carrier of the day, and despite some quite interesting penalty calls.

Quarterback David Greene darned near started a strip tease afterward, throwing particles of clothing and accoutrements into the crowd. He apparently kept the game ball, and would be very much forgiven if he slept with it Saturday night.

After all, Georgia knocked off its back the monkey of the dismal trips to the Neutral Field Bowl, failed to let the Gators and their immensely talented sophomore quarterback continue a fourth-quarter comeback and repeat last year's last-minute nightmare.

So now muted a fair bit will be talk of taking this game away every other year from Jacksonville, where the field is of the same dimensions as in Athens and Gainesville, now that the Bulldogs finally interrupted that Gator run and begin dreaming of their own.

Suddenly, Jacksonville was a heavenly place to visit for the neighbors to the north, and it was with strong throat and delirious mind that members of the Nation on hand were able to, with Florida on the other side and the St. John's River a few hundred yards away, forget about everything else and remind themselves of one thing, and with enthusiasm:

/It's great to be a Georgia Bulldog./

Thoughts of the Evil Genius perhaps returning to this gathering can wait for another day.

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