Will Davis

I was wrong. I was wrong. Holy cow, was I wrong.

Right here in this very spot, sitting On the Porch with you on Dec. 3, 2015, I bemoaned the decision by UGA athletic director Greg McGarity to fire Mark Richt. Like a lot of Georgia fans, my point was that Richt had us competing for SEC titles most years, had excellent character and values, and there was no guarantee in the hyper-competitive world of college football that UGA could improve upon that. 

“Will McGarity find a coach who can improve on Richt’s 10 wins per year?” asked Will “Nostradamus” Davis. “I’m doubtful.”

Well who’s doubting now?

Actually, I am. Or was. In the first half on Monday night, I suppose a lot of us were doubting. Stetson Bennett was slipping and sliding and fumbling and our offense was moribund. Here we go again, I feared.

In the third quarter when Bennett flailed under pressure and fumbled to the Tide inside our 30 yard line, Georgia fans began to ponder the familiar refrain —  maybe next year. When Bama took advantage of the turnover with their first touchdown of the game, all seemed lost. Our offense had been a disaster. 

I’m in a group text with 17 of my old Kappa Alpha fraternity brothers from UGA. Two in particular have said all year we would never win a title with the famed former walk-on from Blackshear.

“Bowers was open down the middle,” said Billy Olson of Athens. “Little guy can’t see the field.”

“He can’t see over the dang line,” said Charles Creech, who’s also a childhood friend from Raleigh.

“A natty or not, keep him in or pull him,” said Steve Townsend of Dalton. “Grow a set, Kirby.”

He later added: “We’re done. Maybe next year.”

If that wasn’t depressing enough, then came the fumble in the third quarter.

“Stets just cost us the game,” texted Creech.

The consensus all season was that Bennett was a cute story, but they couldn’t get past that 3-star rating in high school. Or was it 2-star?

I promised the haters I would mail them all a flip phone when Bennett won it.

And then he flung that beauty to A.D. Mitchell down the right sideline. The wizards of smart changed on a dime.

“Stets for Prez” said Rhett Mauney of Augusta.

“—— you Stets haters!” added Comer Hobbs of Colorado.

The emotional swings of Monday night will probably have this state reeling the rest of the week. Then came the dagger, the pick 6 by Kelee Ringo.

I was jumping up and down in the den. The TV showed Stetson crying and then my wife was crying.

Next my neighbor Denny Ennis was launching a celebratory fireworks show. The dogs were racing around the yard barking at everything. Somehow our 7 year old, who was allowed to watch the first half and had made us some UGA posters, never woke up in the bedlam.

It’s a cliche, but it doesn’t make it less true, that the darker the night, the brighter the sunrise. Oh sure, college sports is a silly diversion from the realities of life. But it’s a very meaningful one here in the state of Georgia. And especially for my family. My great-grandfather was the business manager for the UGA football team in 1913. When I was a kid, he would sit in his green Duster in the driveway and listen to Larry Munson call the game. Today, my daughter is the fifth generation of her family to attend the University of Georgia.

I love Mark Richt. What a great man. And I was proud to see him in red and black at the game Monday. But I’m also thankful for Greg McGarity. Kirby Smart was a brilliant hire. And I’m thankful that Stetson Bennett has shown us all how to overcome hardships, criticisms and obstacles to achieve his dreams. His testimony is the same of the last two years of COVID madness: the crowds are insane. “Keep fighting and keep your mouth shut,” was Bennett’s advice. “Life is tough.” But sometimes it is very sweet. How Bout Them Dawgs? Now, where can I buy some flip phones?