It was one for the ages and can’t be ignored. Those of you who don’t like it when I “write about ball” are excused until Friday, if you so choose.
As soon as Zach Mettenberger’s last missile fell harmlessly to the ground Saturday evening I turned around to enjoy the reaction of the obnoxious LSU fan who had paid $400 on Stubhub for the privilege of annoying me for the entire afternoon. To my amazement he was applauding. He caught my eye and said, “I didn’t pay enough for these seats. One of the greatest games I have ever seen.”
I have to echo his sentiments. And I have seen a lot of games between the storied hedges of Sanford Stadium. Numerous people asked me if Saturday’s thrill-a-minute contest was the best ever. That is hard to say. Kevin Butler’s “Oh my God!!!! Oh my God!!!! Oh my God!!!!” 60-and-a-half yard field goal against Clemson remains the greatest last-second finish and Buck Belue’s astonishing comeback against Tech during his freshman season will always be high on my list, but I will say this — I echo Vince Dooley’s post-game comment that he had never seen such outstanding play by opposing quarterbacks in one game. I will also say that I have never heard Sanford Stadium as loud as it was during the last LSU possession.
Where does one begin to count the many red-and-black blessings on Saturday. What a magnificent day it was, one that seemed to be created for college football and a Top Ten showdown in the Southeastern Conference. It was on just such a day that Dorsey Hill must have uttered the immortal line, “That dog will bite you!”
With College Game Day in town the party started early and my kids’ inspired tailgate was in full swing when I arrived on campus at 8:23 in the morning. The barbecue was delicious, the fried chicken had never tasted better and the birthday cake we served for my oldest child’s 28th birthday was better than snuff, and not half as dusty.
I knew we were in for a great day when the solo trumpeter nailed the first seven notes of the Battle Hymn of the Bulldog Nation, and I knew the team was ready to play when I saw Mark Richt jumping up and down with them in the pre-game huddle.
Plus there he was, the Mad Hatter on the LSU sideline. Nobody ever knows what Les Miles has up his sleeve. That’s why he wears a long-sleeved windbreaker when it is 78 degrees out.
Allow me to make a few observations. If Leonard Floyd was publicly traded I would sell all my Disney stock and put all my funds in him. The oft-maligned — and picked on — Brendan Langley knocked a ball loose with a jarring tackle. Jordon Jenkins got his long-awaited first sack. Preacher Ray Drew played a stellar game, and Conner Norman jumped on Odell Beckham’s fumbled punt like a duck on a June bug.
And when we absolutely had to stop LSU, the defense hunkered, didn’t they?
I want to give props to the offensive line. Before the game a few of my friends and I were afraid that the difference in the game would be that the Tigers’ O-line would out-perform ours. Shows what we know. Our defense snuffed the running game all night and our O-line created giant holes all night and gave Aaron Murray more protection that the Secret Service gives the POTUS. Of course, Murray is having a better year than the POTUS.
For many years now I have sat beside a fellow named Jim Melear on row 50 in section 108. The last few years I have had the pleasure of watching his son, Jake, grow up — just as people around me watched my son Jackson grow up over the years. Jim and I have exchanged high fives and hugs for a lot of years. He used to have to spend a lot of time calming me down when my temper would get the best of me, but I have mellowed a tiny bit as of late. When Aaron Murray found Scott-Wesley alone down the far sideline Saturday, with 1:47 left to play we looked at one another and both of us said the same thing. “We scored too early.”
Turns out that Les Miles said the same thing. But Jim and I were wrong and Les Miles was wrong because the defense and the stadium were not going to let LSU into field goal range or the end zone. They said “neaux” and they meant “neaux.”
When LSU turned the ball over on downs with 52 seconds on the giant scoreboard clock it was “Glory, glory to old Georgia …” My favorite Aaron Murray pass of the day might have been the one he heaved toward the southeast stands after the final snap. I didn’t want to leave and neither did any of the other red clad fans. I was crying. Mark Richt was crying. Somewhere I am certain that Bill Queen was crying.
And somewhere in the heavenly realm, Erk Russell was lighting Larry Munson’s cigar and shouting, “It’s great to be a Bulldog on a Saturday night.”