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Bill Murphy: Georgia fans feeling wide range of emotions as Rose Bowl draws near
Bulldogs face Oklahoma in college football semifinal on Jan. 1
Georgia
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart reacts after Georgia wide receiver Terry Godwin (5) scored a touchdown against Auburn during the second half of the Southeastern Conference championship on Saturday in Atlanta. - photo by John Bazmore | Associated Press

It’s game week for the Georgia Bulldogs — the biggest since Georgia wrapped up a national championship in the Sugar Bowl at the end of the 1980 season. 

Many of us don’t remember that game. Either too young, which is the case for myself, while others were years away from being born.

I’m sure many of the emotions that engulf No. 3 Georgia’s (12-1) fan base before facing No. 2 Oklahoma (12-1) on Monday at the Rose Bowl are almost identical to those of the fans who were entrenched in the excitement of the week leading up to the 17-10 win against No. 7 Notre Dame 37 years ago.

None of us could have imagined it would be so long before the Bulldogs would be so close to winning their next championship. 

With a win in the Rose Bowl, Georgia will face the Clemson/Alabama winner for the championship trophy Jan. 8 in Atlanta. 

Most of the Georgia fans I know are cautiously optimistic about its chances to win two more games and hoist the national championship trophy. 

Bulldogs fans are hungry. 

It’s been so long since Georgia won it all. Decades have come and gone with every year fans saying, “This is going to be the year!”

Georgia fans are anticipatory. In just a couple days, the Bulldogs will arrive in Southern California to finalize game preparation and brace for the media circus that surrounds the four teams in the championship hunt at both semifinal games. Georgia will have to both be ready to play its best game of the season and deal with all the distractions. With the advent of the playoff system in 2014, it has created a new fervor for the culmination of the season like never before in college football. 

The more pessimistic (shall we say) of Bulldogs fans are feeling a sense of trepidation. It’s hard to argue with them. Georgia’s task in the Rose Bowl is trying to contain Heisman-winning Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield. Hopefully, Georgia’s defense will be able to trump Oklahoma’s high-speed offense.

The folks I know going to the Rose Bowl are absolutely psyched. It will be a sea of red and black migrating all the way from Los Angeles International Airport for the 40-mile drive that, with traffic, will be infinitely longer sitting on the freeway en route to Pasadena. Georgia fans will find a way to get a big chunk of the tickets, even though Oklahoma also has an amazing fan base.

There is one Georgia Bulldog, however, we would all love to hear his take on this Rose Bowl matchup for Georgia — Larry Munson, the legendary voice of the Bulldogs who last called a game in 2008 and died in 2011.

In true Munson fashion, he would let us all know our chances of winning against Oklahoma were slim to none. However, it would be wonderful to hear him paint with words, in a way only he could with his thick Midwestern accent, how the Sooners are bigger, stronger, faster and want it more. 

Make no mistake: Nobody was cheering harder for the Bulldogs than Larry. 

During the course of his more than 30 years calling Georgia games, he broke chairs, nearly fell out of the press box he was so excited and gave us catchphrases that no other human on the planet would slip into a game situation that would become something fans will undoubtedly hear about for generations to come. 

If Georgia beats Oklahoma on a last-second pass to a running back open in the back of the end zone, what would Munson have said? In 2001, we all heard Georgia’s greatest commentator say we stepped on Tennessee with a “hob-nailed boot” when Verron Haynes caught the pass in the middle of the end zone from David Greene. No one else in the Bulldog nation could ever make such a nonsensical reference that everyone understands so clearly what he was trying to say during that moment in Knoxville. 

And my favorite was in 1982 when Munson capped off the Bulldogs’ last-minute defensive stand to beat Auburn 19-14 by saying, “Look at the Sugar falling from the sky!”, referencing the berth earned to play in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. During that tense drive at the end of the game, Munson implored the Georgia defense time and time again to “Hunker it down one more time!”

Munson had a way of capturing a moment on the football field from his perch in the press box like few others in any sport. That’s why he’s a legend. 

We can only imagine what Munson would say about the big moments in the Rose Bowl, and maybe, hopefully, a national championship win. 


Bill Murphy is sports editor of The Times. He can be reached at bmurphy@gainesvilletimes.com or @Bill_Murphy379 on Twitter.

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