It's finally over.
After a season full of frustration and disappointment, the Georgia Bulldogs closed out the 2009 season with a 44-20 win over Texas A&M in the Independence Bowl.
Ironically, Georgia beat Texas A&M the same way a lot of teams beat Georgia this season. The Bulldogs capitalized on mistakes, made a few plays here and there, and let the Aggies shoot themselves in the foot.
In short, Texas A&M looked a lot like Georgia playing against Kentucky.
Georgia's season was marred by stupid mistakes, penalties, and bad decisions. All of those things came together for one final embarrassing mess against Kentucky.
No loss hurt more than that one. That loss was the difference between a respectable 9-4 season and a hugely disappointing 8-5 season.
But all of those stupid mistakes, penalties, and bad decisions disappeared against Georgia Tech and Texas A&M, Georgia's final opponents. That bodes well for next season.
Ultimately, though, the bowl win wasn't about next season. It was about this season.
Georgia needed this win to solidify their reputation as a tough team that can stare down adversity and overcome it, even when no one is watching. And no one was watching last night.
But the seniors needed this win. Joe Cox really needed this win. Above all, Mark Richt needed this win.
Now, Richt has a lot of decisions to make, and Georgia fans are imminently aware of each of them.
Who will be the new defensive coordinator? Who will be quarterback next season, and can Richt develop him better than he developed Cox?
For now, though, Richt and Georgia need to simply reflect on this past season. The answers to most of their questions can be found in the disappointing losses.
In short, Richt can't let a bad season go to waste. Bad seasons provide opportunities for growth and maturity. You don't learn when you win. You learn when you lose.
Georgia had a lot to learn this season, and Richt needs to make sure the lessons hit home. It appeared they did in the final stretch of the season.
Now, he needs to carry them over into next season.