Although Florida traveled to Athens to play the Bulldogs four times in the early days (before 1931), the game has been played in Jacksonville for the most part since the two teams first met in Macon in 1904. Prior to 1971. the teams met in Tampa. Savannah (twice), Gainesville, and Jacksonville (thrice), along with the tour games played in Athens. After Jacksonville became the permanent venue, there has not been any interruption except for 1994-95 when, owing to the enlargement and enhancement
of Alltel Stadium by the Jaguars, the Georgia-Florida game moved to Gainesville and Athens in back-to-back years.
The Bulldogs had a big advantage in the series for the longest time through the forties. Then Florida had the advantage in the fifties. In the sixties, starting when Vince Dooley took over in Athens, Georgia dominated the series again. It went back Florida's way in the go's and early 2000's. Coach Kirby Smart. who took over at Georgia in 2016 has a 5-2 record against the team he helped upset in 1997-a game in which Smart's pair of interceptions made a significance in the outcome. The annual bout in Jacksonville is a critical conference game, and it always gets Kirby's undivided attention even though he has expressed some misgivings about the game being played in Jacksonville, which Is based on a recruiting stance.
For years it has been my favorite road game, which brings up an interesting point. It is not a neutral site. How could it be a neutral site when it is played in a Florida city with the city's constituency all favoring the Gators? Yet, the Georgia fans flock to the
coasts of Georgia and North Florida-tor a tall vacation. One thing is certain, It Is a cash cow for the participating teams. The game always is played on network television (CBS for the most part) over the years, and tickets are sold out before the schedule cards are printed. Tickets are priced at a premium which enhances the gate, and the city of Jacksonville pitches in to help with travel costs for the two teams. Fans flock to Georgia's Golden Isles - St. Simons, Sea Island, Jekyll Island - Amelia Island, Ponte Vedra, Jacksonville Beach, and points in between. Golf dominates the recreational agenda. There are fishing options galore it that is your thing, but there are
such hidden opportunities as Little Saint Simons Island, which most visitors and locals ignore. St. Simons has become party central for fans and UGA students alike. Many of them watch the game on television and don't worry about the game ticket hassle.
Jalon Walker, a sophomore linebacker from Salisbury, NC, is an aggressive defender who is always around the football as evidence by his success in his two years with the Bulldogs. In his freshman year, he blocked a punt against Kent State, played extremely vs. Ohio State and had a memorable game against TCU in the National Championship game in which he had a pass break-up, tackle for loss and four quarterback hurries. He is a Communications major who is enjoying being a student-athlete at the University of Georgia.
Mekhi Mews was beside himself when he got the news that he would be offered preferred walk on status to play for the Georgia Bulldogs. “I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for weeks,” he said. A native of Grayson, Georgia, Mekhi is an honors graduate from Central Gwinnett High and expects to excel on both the football field and in the classroom. A Redshirt sophomore, getting to play at UGA has been a lifelong dream, and the attention he is getting is inspiring him to be the best he can be, packing a powerful punch with his 5-8, 185-pound frame. Speed and quickness are invaluable assets which he displayed in the Ball State game when he returned a kickoff for 47 yards and then a punt for 69 yards and a touchdown. Already, he has 300 all-purpose yards. He has brought a lot of smiles to the coaching staff and now his exciting play is bringing smiles to the faces of all Dawg fans.
Pearce Spurlin III, a native of Rosemary Beach, Fla., played high school football at South Walton High where he became highly regarded as one of the top tight end prospects in the nation. He was ranked the No. 15 prospect in the state of Florida and the No. 3 tight end prospect in the state. His junior season he caught 74 balls for 1,404 yards and 20 touchdowns. He enrolled early, arriving in January so he could participate in spring drills. He also played basketball and lacrosse in high school, a highly regarded all-around athlete standing 6-7 and weighing 240 pounds; a great prospect for the Dawgs.
Lawson Luckie is an outstanding tight end who hails from Norcross. Enrolling early at UGA so he could participate in spring drills, he is the son of one of three triplets who played for Georgia all at the same time. He was named First Team tight end in region 7-7A as a senior before enrolling in Athens. His brother, Carter Luckie, is a defensive end also at Norcross. Lawson had multiple scholarship offers but he chose to stay close to home where he can spend time with his family including his impaired brother, Cannon. His coaches consider him a fine prospect for the future at UGA.
Oscar Delp a sophomore tight end from Cumming Georgia will be one of the new faces among the tight ends this fall. He is a promising receiver who will measure up to Georgias distinguished reputation for great tight end play. He saw action as a reserve in 13 of 15 game last fall in which he logged 5 catches for 61 yards on the season. He saw significant action in the Chick Fil A Peach Bowl against Ohio State. He enrolled early at Georgia in January and led all receivers in the G-Day game with seven catches for 91 yards. Interestingly, his first collegiate catch was a 28-yard touchdown pass from Carson Beck, against South Carolina in Columbia last fall. Oscar considered playing D-1 lacrosse but when the offers for him to play football started piling up, he found a home with football and has developed an outstanding reputation as a receiver and blocker. He has three relatives whoa re currently playing at West Forsyth’s football roster, including his brother Henry. A tight end naturally wants to catch the ball and in the Georgia system there is plenty of opportunity for that. A key to a tight end’s success, however, is his ability to make critical blocks which keeps the offense moving down the field. Oscar is always getting the attention of pro scouts who come to Georgia practices who appreciate his excellent blocking efficiency.
Guarded anticipation has turned into high expectation in Athens, Georgia, since Kirby Smart came on the scene eight years ago. In that short period of time, he has brought the greatest football glory in history to the University of Georgia.
The UGA family, doting fans across the state and the football world have seen this indefatigable young man signal early on that he has special qualities as a recruiter and coach. In only his second year, he had the Bulldogs playing for the national championship. Any seasoned soothsayer would suggest that it would take back-to-back- to-back sensational recruiting years to be able to contend for a national championship.
What the Bulldog aficionados have with their leader is someone who can recruit with the best and he now has a track record that confirms he can coach with the best. As of today, he is the greatest football coach in the history of the state.
Insiders will tell you that he is a very smart man. His surname defines him. He is consumed by his coaching responsibilities. You go into his office; you are on the clock. He has no time for small talk. One of his greatest assets in a game that thrives on mental acuity, he couches everything in a positive framework.
In addition to being a remarkable recruiter and coach, he is a smooth and insightful communicator. He makes sense to his staff, he makes sense to recruits and he makes sense to his players. Before he could reach the mountain top, he had to defeat his mentor and friend, Nick Saban. That finally came about in Indianapolis on Jan. 10, 2022. There were four bitter losses before he could dethrone his mentor. Yet, he will tell you he would not be where he is today without having spent time with Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa. He is driven by pride, not ego.
Now Kirby has a monumental challenge in trying to do something that hasn’t been done since the thirties and that is to win a third consecutive national championship. Minnesota was the last team to pull that off—in 1934-36.
“I say that three-peat is possible but not probable, but if anybody can, Kirby can.” Most pundits would suggest that Georgia has a favorable schedule except that the SEC is the toughest, most abundantly competitive league— top to bottom—in college football. The forecast suggests that the toughest opponent will be Tennessee in Knoxville. Nov. 18.
The Dawgs literally rained on the Vols’ parade in Athens last year. The Vols will host Georgia in a hostile environment with visions of upsetting Alabama in Neyland Stadium last fall prominent in their recall. Taking down Georgia has been a lofty goal since the New Year began. While there is quarterback talent in Athens, none has produced under pressure, and while Carson Beck is the front runner with excellent talent, he must first win the job. There is a passel of good running backs in Athens and also receivers, led by Ladd McConkey, the mountain boy who grew up in a family with feelings for Tennessee orange.
There is talent in the offensive line room, there is talent across the board on defense, so what’s the big deal? It is the SEC and somebody will bite you if you let your guard down. You have to play your best every Saturday. The pressure to win, to remain undefeated is an overwhelming challenge but nobody loves a challenge, nobody is more competitive and resourceful than the Bulldogs leader. It is time for a “Smart Attack.”