Monday night inside Lucas Oil Stadium comes the next best chance to build a bookmark moment for the Bulldogs, one that might rival 1980 as a frame of reference for their followers for generations to come. This second coming of a modern title is long overdue.
The opponent this time – Alabama, led by a Heisman-winning quarterback and a coach who has rewritten the physics of winning in Einsteinian ways – is a much sterner challenge than was Notre Dame, the final opponent of that ‘80 season. Those Irish had a quarterback named Blair Kiel, who was solid but was nobody’s Bryce Young.
And Herschel Walker is not walking through that door, fans. At least not in pads.
Just because the specifics can sometimes get lost in the mist, that doesn’t mean the ideal of 1980 ever vanishes. As Jackson himself said of what awaits these Dogs should they vanquish Bama, “We have to go make a statement so we can be the next ones that people are going to be talking about, the 2021 team.”
What is out there in the short term for Georgia is a title won on the recommendation of an overwhelming regular season and confirmed by beating the source of so many tears and shortfalls, Alabama. On the grander scale, what is in reach for these Bulldogs is the opportunity to cast themselves in bronze as a forever team, as did the 1980 bunch.
In the face of such heavy possibilities, maybe that’s why those with a chance to author history dare not look beyond the hard work of Monday night.
Quarterback Stetson Bennett is one win away from becoming a certified Georgia legend. He’s a South Georgian, with a better feel than most in that locker room for Bulldogs history.
This is how he tackles the subject of trying to measure up to a 41-year-old memory: “I know Lindsay Scott, he’s from Wayne County, down there from where I’m from. And obviously I know Herschel. Talked to (1980 quarterback) Buck Belue and a few other guys on the team. And I grew up listening to (late radio voice) Larry Munson highlights on YouTube, all his calls.
“But there’s a point in time when you become a player that you can’t really be a fan anymore. And I don’t really know when that switch was.
“I guess I do know the magnitude for everybody else out there because I was a fan at one point. I know it’s a pretty big deal.”
Yeah, a pretty big life event. Somewhere between getting your learner’s permit and the birth of a child.
Asked Sunday about how much thought he gives the possibility of Monday being a legacy game, Georgia coach Kirby Smart couldn’t put enough distance between himself and that thought. Such is the life of a coach, existing in the prison of the moment.
“What I feel is how do we stop Bryce Young and how do we control their front and how do we run the ball, how do we throw the ball with efficiency, how do we convert third downs and stop them in the red area,” Smart said.
Others feel a little freer to admit they see outside the narrow tunnel of game day.
“To be the first (championship team) since the drought, I tell people, you’ll be a Georgia legend,” linebacker Nolan Smith said. “We came in to be legendary, be special, leave your mark.”
Frank Ros, a middle linebacker and team captain of the 1980 team, is forever talking about how Georgia has waited long enough for another championship. “Forty-one years, it’s a generation (plus some). It’s amazing a storied program like Georgia has not been able to win another one,” he said. Recovering from minor surgery, Ros won’t be in Indy for the game. (Definition of a minor surgical procedure: Any surgery you’re not having).
Ah, but he’ll be back in the Atlanta area watching intently, and as hopeful as he has been at any time in the last four decades.
“I think everybody is thinking that we’re ready to win one,” he said. “We feel like we have an opportunity, but we have to play to our best. When you get to the finals of any championship you have to be at your best or you don’t have a chance.”
Thus has the 1980 captain cleared room on the pedestal upon which the last championship team stands. They’re beckoning 2021 to take a step up, to lend glory some new blood.
“We’ve been wanting company for a long time,” Ros said.
About the 1980 Georgia championship team
The legacy of Coach Vince Dooley
1980 quarterback Buck Belue returned in September to call the Dawgs
From 2020: Georgia fans get TV replay of 1980 ‘Run, Lindsay’ win over Florida
Where was writer Lewis Grizzard in 1980 when Buck Belue threw that pass to Lindsay Scott?