Georgia’s 10-0 run delivers flashbacks of 1982

Field Level Media

November 15, 2021 at 11:20 pm.

Herschel Walker was running through defenses instead of a Senate race.

Ronald Reagan was in the White House, moviegoers flocked to see “E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial” and “Rocky 3,” while radio stations blasted Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” and Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger.”

“Dallas,” “Magnum, P.I.” and “Dynasty” were must-see TV, a gallon of gas cost around $1.22 and millions throughout the world couldn’t wait to get their hands on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album.

It was 1982, a year Georgia fans have heard a lot about lately, considering it was the last time the Bulldogs went undefeated in Southeastern Conference play before their 39-year wait ended on Saturday.

Top-ranked Georgia’s 41-17 victory at Tennessee pushed the Bulldogs’ record to 10-0 overall and 8-0 in SEC play, with just two nonconference games remaining — home against Charleston Southern on Saturday and at Georgia Tech a week later.

Georgia’s 1982 season ended in the Sugar Bowl, where the top-ranked Bulldogs lost to No. 2 Penn State, 27-23, enabling the Nittany Lions to win the national championship.

All these years later, the championship-game pairing is decided in a four-team playoff, and technically, another conference matchup awaits after the regular season in the SEC title game.

This year’s Bulldogs won their fourth SEC East Division title in the past five seasons and will play the yet-to-be-determined SEC West champion, which is expected to be No. 2 Alabama (9-1, 5-1), on Dec. 4 at Atlanta.

“That was one of the main goals to win the SEC East, coming in winning all the SEC games,” offensive lineman Justin Shaffer said. “Just taking each goal and accomplishing each goal week-to-week is all we can do.”

The Bulldogs haven’t been to the College Football Playoff since the end of the 2017 season, when they lost to Alabama in overtime in the national championship game.

But Georgia isn’t focused on the past. The Bulldogs are focused on getting better, beginning on Saturday against Football Championship Subdivision squad Charleston Southern (4-5) on Georgia’s Senior Day.

“I don’t need to worry about that with these guys. I really don’t,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “This group’s got great leadership. It’s an opportunity to honor the seniors. You get an opportunity to honor this group, it’s what you do, man. They’ve sold this program on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, you earn what you get on Saturday. And that opponent is nameless, faceless — doesn’t matter. It’s what you do.”

Georgia’s defense wasn’t as suffocating against Tennessee (5-5, 3-4) as it has been all season, but the Bulldogs easily took the air out of the Volunteers, who had been averaging 38.2 points per game.

After Tennessee produced a touchdown and a field goal on its first three drives, the Bulldogs dominated the Volunteers, posting six sacks and two turnovers and yielding just seven points in the final three quarters.

That was more than enough for Georgia’s offense, which turned into the “James Cook Show.” The younger brother of Minnesota Vikings’ running back Dalvin Cook made a name for himself on a national stage by scoring three touchdowns to power an offense that amassed 487 yards.

Cook scored on runs of 39 and 5 yards and caught a 23-yard touchdown pass to finish with 104 rushing yards on 10 carries and three receptions for 43 yards.

Quarterback Stetson Bennett went 17-for-29 passing for 213 yards and a touchdown, in addition to running for 40 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. He spread the ball around, completing passes to nine different receivers, led by Adonai Mitchell’s five catches for 65 yards.

Georgia’s defense through 10 games has rivaled any unit that has ever played. The Bulldogs have given up 76 points — 7.6 per game — which is 70 points fewer than the Wisconsin Badgers, who are ranked second nationally having allowed 146 points (14.6 per game).

The Bulldogs are ranked second nationally in total defense (247.3 yards per game), rushing defense (78.1 yards) and red zone defense (57.1 percent), are tied for second in first downs allowed (141) and are sixth in passing defense (164.4 yards).

“The toughest thing is just the personnel,” Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said after the game. “Their front seven personnel is really good. They rotate guys in. There’s no drop off from one to the next guy that is coming in.”

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