November 23, 2010

Seniors' last stand

Senior linebacker Darryl Gamble said it had never really occurred to him that his Georgia football career was coming to an end until he drove past Sanford Stadium just a couple of days ago.

"That's when it hit me," Gamble said. "I kind of looked over and realized everything went by pretty quick."

Gamble isn't the only Bulldog who feels that way.

When Georgia closes out its 2010 regular-season campaign Saturday night (7:45 p.m.) against Georgia Tech, Gamble will be one of 23 Bulldogs playing in Sanford Stadium for the final time.

The list includes Clint Boling, Quintin Banks, Brian Brewer, Shawn Chapas, Vance Cuff, Chris Davis, Josh Davis, Akeem Dent, Demarcus Dobbs, Kris Durham, Chad Gloer, Chris Grund, Akeem Hebron, Fred Munzenmaier, Josh Murray, Courtney Newmans, Derek Rich, Josh Sailors, Kiante Tripp and Brandon Wood.

Juniors Ben Harden and Charles White will also walk with the group, marking the end of their respective Bulldog careers.

For some, the memories are a mixed bag of good and bad.

"There are a lot of memories that are positive," Durham said. "Of course, you remember some of the negative things, but winning the Sugar Bowl was definitely something that sticks out in your mind because we ended up highly ranked (2nd), ended up getting a ring and winning a BCS bowl, that sort of thing."

Georgia's seniors have certainly endured their share of ups and downs.

After beating Hawaii to win the Sugar Bowl, earning a No. 2 final ranking in 2007, Georgia followed up with a trip to the Capital One Bowl against Michigan State before last year's win against Texas A&M in the Independence Bowl.

The Bulldogs (5-6) need a win over Georgia Tech (6-5) to secure a bowl for 2010.

""I tell those guys it's hard to lead when things aren't going right. It's easy to lead when you are winning. It's hard to lead when you are not winning like you should or the way we feel like we should. To keep a team together and to keep a team motivated and to keep persevering is not easy. You can look at the seniors too," head coach Mark Richt said. "This isn't what we wanted our senior year. They could have sacked their bats too. They've not done that or even come close to doing that. I'm proud of how they've led through the adversity and I'm very confident that when we come out of the gate, we'll be ready to play, the seniors will and the rest of the team will be ready to play. That's part of the reason why I'm proud of the effort. Most every one of them is graduating, if not already graduated. Even the ones who had a few bumps along the way, which they all have, they have come out of it the right kind of men, so I'm really proud of them."

Unfortunately, it's some of those bumps that stick out the most.

When asked what legacy the Bulldog seniors will leave on the program, Dobbs could only shrug.

"I don't know what the legacy will be. I wish I could sit here and throw out something off the top of my head. I don't know if we left a legacy but I know if we don't make a bowl game that will be the legacy that we leave," Dobbs said. "We've got to win this game to get bowl eligible, because we don't want to leave that kind of legacy."

Like the rest of Georgia's fifth-year seniors, Dobbs and Durham are among those who came to Athens with the rest of the 2006 signing class that included quarterback Matthew Stafford, running back Knowshon Moreno, cornerback Asher Allen and safety Reshad Jones, currently playing in the NFL.

"As I look back, everything the team has done, the players that came in with this class, we had some great players," Durham said. "We had some great people to come through. We had some great victories but the only thing that matters is how you finish. This is our last game and nobody's going to talk about the Sugar Bowl or anything else that we participated in. They're going to talk about this season and whether or not we finished strong."

Perhaps Boling summed it up best.

No, it hasn't been the type of season the Bulldogs were hoping for. But a win over Georgia Tech will certainly be an appropriate sendoff.

"You never want to lose to Tech, no matter when you're playing," Boling said. "We could be 0-11 and still be ready to play. It's going to be an exciting game."

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