One of Georgia's greatest quarterbacks ever, Eric Zeier begins his third season as a color analyst on the Georgia Bulldogs Radio Network. By the end of his senior season in 1994, he held 67 school passing records and 18 marks in the Southeastern Conference. Zeier played in the NFL from 1996 to 2001 with the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Bucs, and Atlanta Falcons. Each week during the 2009 football season, Zeier will be writing about Georgia football exclusively for georgiadogs.com.
Twelve minutes into the game this past Saturday it looked as if the Dawgs had finally collapsed. The scrutiny this team has been under since that loss in Stillwater, Oklahoma, has been immense. They have had to deal with questions about their abilities, their coaches, their dedication and their discipline. And now they were dealing with an Auburn football team that looked as if they belonged with the nation’s elite. Those first twelve minutes were excruciating. Chris Todd and the Auburn offense moved up and down the field as if they were practicing against air. The Auburn defense looked like Auburn defenses of old, not allowing the Dawgs one first down in the initial twelve minutes. The penalties were still there, with three in the first stanza. The score was 14-0 and appeared to be on its way to something much worse. Everything was perfectly aligned for this team to quit. The excuses were neatly aligned to justify any failure.
And then, without warning, everything changed. Our boys in red and black did not quit. As a matter of fact, they looked directly into the challenge in front of them and found a way to put together their most complete game of the season. For the first time in two years, the penalties stopped. After three penalties in the first twelve minutes of the game, only one more was committed in the final three quarters. The turnovers were eliminated. The offensive line became the dominant unit we all expected to see at the onset of the season and Washaun Ealey and Caleb King were finding themselves at the second level of the Auburn defense before a Tiger even came into sight. And out of nowhere we found a way to put pressure on Chris Todd without having dial up blitz after blitz. Georgia's defensive line took control of the football game and all but shut down an Auburn offense that looked as if it could not be stopped moments earlier. The two interceptions registered by the Dawgs were a direct result of the Georgia defensive line and in the most crucial moments of the last drive for the Tigers, it was the defensive line that once again stood up to make a play when needed.
The Bulldog Nation finally saw a glimpse of the team it expected to see in 2009. And that is a team that would be anchored offensively by a seasoned and dominant offensive line. A team that would be dramatically improved defensively as we finally got players off the injured list and into the line-up. A host of playmakers that were ready to shine when provided the opportunity. The turnovers and penalties were eliminated. Finally, the Dawgs of 2009 played a game like they were capable of playing.
The results of this game are not the only things that have changed about this team. Over the past two weeks, there has been something noticeably different about this squad. There is a focus about this football team that is quiet but undeniably determined. Gone is the dancing and false bravado. In its place is a very business-like attitude with only one goal in mind: TO WIN. As the last Tiger pass fell harmlessly to the ground securing the win for Georgia, there was excitement, but not the uncontrollable exuberance we saw earlier in the year. This team is not yet done. They still have something to play for. While one game does not a trend make, this I can say with confidence: Our Georgia Bulldogs will not quit. They were presented with the perfect opportunity to do so and instead found a way to dig a little deeper and put on their best performance of the year. Coach Mark Richt has preached it since he arrived on campus…FINISH THE DRILL. And that is exactly what the 2009 Bulldogs will do!