The University of Georgia is known as a football school, and rightly so. Its history on the gridiron goes back to 1892 and claims 12 SEC titles and two national titles.
However, between the early 1980s and the 2000s, Georgia football was accustomed to mediocrity.
Enter coach Mark Richt.
Under Coach Richt, the Georgia football program has been restored to national prominence. Two SEC championships and multiple Top-10 finishes are just a glimpse into the resume of Coach Richt.
Throughout his tenure, the Bulldogs have been a team to be reckoned with. The longer Richt stayed, the easier it was to expect the Dawgs to walk away victorious, and after nine seasons with Coach Richt, we now have more than enough wins to make a list of the 10 biggest victories under Mark Richt.
Thank you, Coach Richt. And here's to nine more seasons as the head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs.
After being snubbed for a shot at a National Championship, the 2007 edition of the Georgia Bulldogs strutted into the 2008 Sugar Bowl with something to prove—prepared to destroy anything and everything in their paths.
What resulted was a complete dismantling of the previously undefeated Hawaii Warriors.
In the newly introduced "Blackout" uniforms, the Georgia defense shut down one of the nation's most prolific offenses.
During the regular season, Hawaii averaged 46.2 points per game and 529.3 yards per game. However, against Georgia, Hawaii only managed 10 points and 306 yards.
Heisman candidate Colt Brennan was sacked eight times and managed to throw three interceptions and lose two fumbles.
As one ESPN recap stated, "The Bulldogs were so much stronger, so much faster, so much better in so many areas."
After this dominating performance the Bulldogs ended the season as Sugar Bowl champions and ranked second in the country.
"We're No. 1. We're supposed to be in the National Championship game. The nation knows it, everyone knows it." - Georgia Safety, Kelin Johnson
If the previous year's victory was considered a fluke, the 2002 destruction of Georgia Tech proved that the Bulldogs were here to stay.
As if beating your arch rival wasn't enough, the Bulldogs also built themselves a 34-0 halftime lead. Musa Smith rushed for 121 yards in order to become the first Georgia running back to rush for more than 1,000 yards since Garrison Hearst, and the stadium began to sing "Hey, Hey, Hey, goodbye!" with five minutes left in the third quarter.
Although the season didn't play out like the Bulldogs would have liked, this win also kept Georgia in the discussion for a National Title appearance.
Coming into this matchup with fifth-ranked Auburn, all hope seemed lost for the Georgia Bulldog's season.
Fan morale was at an all-time low, and a victory at Auburn seemed anything but likely coming off of shocking losses at the hands of Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
However, three interceptions by Tra Battle, a 30-7 halftime lead, and a coming out party for true freshman Matthew Stafford resulted in the demise of Auburn and their BCS title hopes.
The 2003 Sugar Bowl was Georgia's first Sugar Bowl appearance since 1982.
The Bulldogs were highly favored against the 9-4 Florida State Seminoles, and the result was not anything outside of expectations.
The Dawgs took a very conservative gameplan. Relying on their defense to shutdown FSU, Georgia only passed the ball 15 times, which allowed Musa Smith to run for 145 yards and take home the Sugar Bowl MVP trophy.
The Georgia defense created three turnovers as FSU quarterback Fabian Walker crumbled under the pressure of his first start.
The Bulldogs cruised to a 26-13 victory and became the first team in school history to win 13 games.
"In the locker room, we were happy, but we didn't act like it's the first time we've won a big game. The players are learning how to win, expecting to win. That's a great sign."
This quote from Mark Richt embodies the importance of this Sugar Bowl victory over Florida State. It affirmed that Georgia was back. It affirmed the winning tradition that has been so prevalent under Coach Richt.
After posting the worst record 11 games into the season under Coach Richt, the 2009 edition of the Georgia Bulldogs decided that there was no better time to get back to their bread and butter—beating the Yellow Jackets and running the football—than in the regular season finale against seventh-ranked Georgia Tech.
There are so many things to love about this victory that the best way to relay them is through a list:
- 339 rushing yards against an option attack that only managed to run for 205 yards
- Eighth victory over Georgia Tech in nine seasons
- King and Ealey came out with swagger and coined the phrase: "I run this state," which has truly endeared itself with Bulldog Nation
- The "G" flag that was planted at midfield after the game
- And of course the Demaryius Thomas fourth down drop
"I just wanted to get this game. It was real personal. I wanted redemption." -Georgia safety, Reshad Jones.
The 2007 Blackout was easily one of the most electric atmospheres ever in Sanford Stadium. The Stadium went absolutely nuts when the team took the field in their black uniforms.
The Bulldogs manhandled the Auburn Tigers for the second year in a row, and they looked downright sexy doing it.
The Georgia offense was unstoppable, as they eclipsed 40 points for the third straight game.
The 2007 Blackout was a statement game. Georgia was a team to be feared.
This victory was truly a turning point for the 2007 season. After beating Vanderbilt on a last second field goal, the Georgia Bulldogs looked anything but prepared to take down the Top-10 Gators.
However, the Bulldogs displayed true character in this game and would not back down.
Sparked by the infamous endzone celebration, the Georgia defense sacked Tebow six times and Knowshon Moreno rushed for 188 yards and three touchdowns.
In reference to the endzone celebration, Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes stated that it showed "no class," but as we all know, Spikes is last person we would want to decide what is "classy."
And in the minds of the Bulldog faithful, THE endzone celebration was nothing but genius.
This victory is in the top three for the simple reason that it brought home the Bulldog's second SEC title in four years.
LSU entered this game ranked third, and the Bulldogs were ranked 13th.
The Tigers were expected to run away with this one, but the Dawgs were able to avenge a loss in the 2003 SEC Title game.
In addition to bringing home a championship, it was also special to see DJ Shockley reap the rewards for his loyalty to the Red and Black.
"P44 Haynes." It is a play that is synonymous with one of Larry Munson's greatest calls of all time: The Hobnail Boot.
In Mark Richt's first game outside of Sanford Stadium, the Georgia Bulldogs clung to a 20-17 lead over the seventh-ranked Volunteers late in the game.
However, Tennessee took a 24-20 lead on a screen pass with 44 seconds remaining.
Unfortunately for the Vols, freshman David Greene would only need 39 seconds.
Showing the poise of a senior, Greene drove the Dawgs down the field, and threw the game winning pass to Verron Haynes with five seconds remaining.
A 26-24 victory in Knoxville snapped a five game losing streak at Tennessee, and was the first signature victory under Coach Richt.
While some Georgia victories under Coach Richt may have been more exciting, none are more meaningful or monumental than the 2002 SEC Title victory.
Arkansas entered the title game on a six-game win streak, but they were no match for the Georgia Bulldog defense.
The Georgia defense was stifling. In the first half Arkansas had more punts than first downs and was held to 74 yards. In fact, the Bulldogs had two touchdowns and a field goal before the Razorbacks even had a yard.
Georgia walked off the field with their first SEC title in 20 years and a BCS Bowl bid.
This victory affirmed that Georgia football was back, and that it why it is the greatest victory under Coach Richt—for now.