As my four years in beautiful Athens, Georgia, draw to a close in the next few weeks, I thought it fitting to take a look back at the football memories both good and bad.
These games can absolutely not be labeled as the "best wins from 2005 until now," or even the "best games from 2005 until now." Instead, this article will take a group of ten games over the time period that I think can be counted as the most important games.
"Most important" is a fairly serious label, and these games have not only a local but also a national import. The final score may not have favored my Dawgs, but the significance of each game spread beyond just Sanford Stadium.
We can quibble with the ordering of the games—that is incredibly subjective—and I would encourage you to add some of your reasoning and/or other games to the discussion.
Without further ado...
I watched this game from the comforts of the common area in my freshman year dorm. All 30 or so of my hall mates crowded around our couches and a single television to cheer the Dawgs on to a magical victory.
This game was all about QB DJ Shockley (No. 3, pictured). He did it all for the Dawgs.
His touchdown pass to Sean Bailey on the opening drive at once electrified and stunned the crowd.
His scamper into the end zone later in the game sealed his place in Georgia QB history.
When the final whistle blew, "Shock" had passed for another score as well, earning him the MVP distinction for the SEC Championship.
This game—and overall season—is the basis for Georgia fans' hopes for the 2009 season. "If we did it with a long-time backup QB then, we can certainly do it now."
After nearly 12 hours of spectacular SEC tailgating and a visit from ESPN College GameDay, that is the only way I can describe my silent walk home after the game.
My roommates and I had even made a sign so brilliant that Home Depot, ESPN, and the UGA police deemed it unfit for television.
We had fought our way through the 10,000 or so tailgaters on North Campus to the porta-potties all day.
And we even showed up in our black for another Blackout at Sanford Stadium.
Then our Bulldogs went oh-for-the-first-half.
In so doing, we helped Alabama Coach Nick Saban (pictured, with Mark Richt) with a little announcement he had for the college football world: "We're baaack."
At the end of this game, I found myself curled up on the couch, leaking tears of joy in the midst of the 15-person party in my apartment.
As I originally hail from the state of Alabama, the Bama and Auburn rivalries occupy a special part of my heart. And this match-up cemented my love for the Dawgs over the in-state schools—regardless of the amount of beer and liquor bottles that rained over my victorious Dawgs afterward.
Nobody expected little WR/PR Mikey Henderson (No. 27, pictured) to be our savior. Nobody expected QB Matthew Stafford to deliver when it counted most. Most of all, nobody expected Offensive Coordinator Mike Bobo to out coach the other sideline.
But that is exactly what happened on the Bulldogs' first and only possession in overtime.
The preceding game was a prototypical SEC slug-fest, and the Tide booted a field goal in their OT possession.
And with the game on the line, Bobo put the hands in his sophomore QB's hands, telling him to put the ball where only Henderson could grab it.
To this day I am convinced that it was my prayers that sent the ball sailing past the defender's fingertips and into Henderson's arms. I have not received full confirmation of that though.
The lead-up to this game reeked of the 2006 Sugar Bowl against West Virginia.
It was a lose-lose situation for the Dawgs—win and it's no surprise, lose and you're legitimizing a less-than-major player in the collegiate football world.
So the Dawgs placed a chip firmly on their collective shoulders and spent the next 60 minutes of football brutalizing a severely over-matched and underwhelming opponent.
When DE Marcus Howard (No. 38, pictured) laid this hit on Hawaii QB Colt Brennan, jarring the ball loose for a defensive score, the game was all but decided.
The significance of the game can be heard in SEC fans' chauvinism regarding "lesser" conferences. Enough said.
And the momentum from this drubbing carried the Dawgs to several preseason No. 1 rankings and a spot in the national spotlight.
This game single-handedly put West Virginia Mountaineers football on the national landscape.
The combination of a cocky Bulldogs squad and a hungry Mountaineers side combined to give Georgia one of its most embarrassing losses in recent history.
SEC defense was supposed to be enough to stop a Big East rushing attack. Then the Dawgs simply could not tackle for the whole first half.
When WVU Coach Rich Rodriguez called for the fake punt in the fourth quarter, snuffing out the Dawgs' comeback hopes, he put himself on the map.
With the dust settled three years past, Rodriguez finds himself in his dream (nightmare?) job, and West Virginia finds themselves in the perennial spotlight.
This game single-handedly over-hyped one of the largest publicity stunts in Georgia football history: the Blackout. But it worked.
The Dawgs entered on the heels of a surprise win in Jacksonville, eager to ride their new winning wave in Sanford Stadium.
Simply put, lesser stadiums would have collapsed with all the commotion during this game. The fans were literally deafening—my ears were ringing for several days afterward—and the team responded in kind.
On their way to one of the most dominant performances of the season, Knowshon and the boys even took the time to Crank Dat Soulja Boy during the second half.
Auburn fans and players alike may liken this performance to a bunch of "monkeys." The Georgia faithful will chalk it up as what happens when an SEC crowd fuels an elite SEC team in a conference match-up.
A transcendent experience, to say the least.
On this day we found out what Florida fans must have been feeling the year before—"Chill out, it's only one game. We still own you."
But those words ring hollow when there are Yellow Jackets defiling your hedges (pictured).
The empty, dazed feeling after this game should be more than enough motivation for the Dawgs in the years ahead.
And the score even overshadowed Matt Stafford's brilliant five-touchdown effort.
But I have let some thoughts simmer for the past few months, and seeing this picture brought them steaming back to the surface.
I hope we beat you guys every single year from this year forward. And I hope the score is 50-0 every time.
Have some class next time you win a football game. You will never see Bulldogs taking a rickety chunk of metal from Bobby Dodd Stadium, so why would you think to tear off a piece of our hedges?
I hope the leaves choked you on your way back to the bus.
Personal tangent: I was helping the Athletic Association host recruits and their families for this game. My recruit—don't remember who it was at the time—and I witnessed the final drive of this game from directly behind the hedges. I laughed, I cried, I screamed and I think I scared the recruit a little bit.
This game may well prove to be the most important for the future of the Dawgs. Stafford and the Georgia offense had been nearly nonexistent for the first three quarters of the game until third-string QB Joe Cox entered the picture.
Cox orchestrated two of the sweetest clutch drives in recent Georgia football memory, eventually hooking up with tight end Martrez Milner in the end zone for his second—and game-winning touchdown pass of the game.
It is exactly that leadership "it" quality that Cox possesses that has Georgia fans excited for the upcoming 2009 season. If his skills and results come anywhere close to his single, dominant quarter against the Buffaloes three years ago, then Dawg fans are sure in for a treat.
I could sum up this game in two simple words.
To Florida Coach Urban Meyer, it was a "bad deal."
To the Georgia contingent, it was a Godsend.
The one thing that the Bulldogs had lacked for months, maybe even years, was motivation. So when I saw the whole team rush the field after RB Knowshon Moreno's first-quarter touchdown dive, I witnessed the biggest outpouring of Bulldog Nation emotion in my memory.
Our offense looked spectacular. Our defense pummeled Florida QB Tim Tebow all day, even sacking him on the Gators' first offensive play.
And our fans were along the ride from the very first snap. I ended the day crying for joy on another unknown Georgia fan's shoulder. It was a great day for the Bulldog Nation.
The 2006 Chick-fil-A Bowl for me officially began in the ticketing line two hours before kickoff. After scalping an upper level ticket—I had left my second-row student ticket at home in Alabama—I was ready to just get in the arena.
So when I heard Va-Tech fans comment on how they "travel really well" and how the ACC would have its day, my friends and I decided to voice our opinions differently.
And thus began the loudest "S-E-C" chant I have ever heard—in the faces of the Hokie fans in line outside the arena. It was beautiful.
This game was important for Coach Mark Richt, newly appointed Offensive Coordinator Mike Bobo, and for QB Matthew Stafford more than other participants.
Richt handed over the play-calling reins to former Bulldog QB Bobo, concentrating his efforts instead on "motivation" and "game-planning." Georgia's surprise onside kickoff in the second half proved his point.
Bobo's play-calling in the second half led the Dawgs back from a 21-point deficit, gluing him into his position for several years.
And Stafford's comeback performance and subsequent MVP trophy solidified his status as a favorite Georgia player in recent memory.
The sweetest moment came after the game, seeing Va-Tech Coach Frank Beamer's press conference on the big screen, talking about Georgia beating him at his own game—special teams.
On further analysis and thoughts by others, I apologize for not including this game. Count it as an honorary top three choice.
You could count PK Brandon Coutu's (No. 96, pictured) 37-yard field goal at the end of this game as the largest sigh of relief in recent Bulldog history.
After Vandy ruined our Homecoming the previous year, we turned the tables en route to one of the greatest single-season turnarounds in Dawg history. The Bulldogs finished the season with seven straight (mostly) dominant wins heading into the highly anticipated 2008 campaign.
Knowshon Moreno used this game as his coming-out party, rushing for 157 yards on only 28 carries.
Final personal thought: What were you doing, Vandy fans? Showing up in pastel colored shirts? Arriving just before halftime? Arms crossed and voices silent for a 3rd-down stop by your defense?
I know you guys got College GameDay last season—and you even seemed pretty hyped for it—but this was a pathetic appearance by SEC fans.