ATHENS, Ga. — If a Southeastern Conference football championship and an invitation to the BCS title game aren't motivation enough for Georgia this Saturday against Alabama, there is always that score to settle.
On Sept. 27, 2008, the Crimson Tide traveled to Sanford Stadium and stunned the Bulldogs 41-30. Alabama scored on its first five possessions behind the precise passing of John Parker Wilson and built a 31-0 halftime lead.
The Bulldogs had opened the '08 season ranked No. 1 nationally, while the Crimson Tide had gone 7-6 the year before in coach Nick Saban's debut.
"In my eyes, that was the rise of those guys," Georgia fifth-year receiver Tavarres King said this week. "That's when they were on the climb. We didn't have a terrible year that year, but in the years after, we kind of had a little downhill tumble."
Georgia and Alabama are meeting for the first time since that memorable night when the No. 3 Bulldogs came out in black jerseys only to be smacked down by the No. 8 Tide. Beginning with that loss, Georgia endured a 20-17 record in a stretch that concluded with the 45-42 loss to South Carolina early last season.
That run of mediocrity included a home loss to Georgia Tech in '08, a home loss to Kentucky in '09 and a 10-6 loss to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl that capped a 6-7 season two years ago.
King, fullback Richard Samuel, defensive end Cornelius Washington, linebacker Christian Robinson, and defensive backs Sanders Commings and Bacarri Rambo are Georgia's players who competed against the Tide or witnessed the defeat while redshirting.
"We were on cloud nine for a while after the Sugar Bowl the year before," Robinson said. "We went out to Arizona State the week before and won, and then we came home to play a team that was out to prove that they belonged and that they were back. That season was the opposite of this year, because we lost a big game to South Carolina and could have instantly done the exact same thing we did in that year, lay down and lose to Florida and Tech.
"We won those two games this year, so now we're kind of heading in that opposite direction. We're on the up, and people believe in us."
Georgia snapped out of the doldrums by winning the final 10 games of last year's regular season and by going 11-1 this year. The Bulldogs have not conducted a "blackout" since, but coach Mark Richt doesn't believe that defeat led to the drudgery that followed.
"You take one game within itself," Richt said. "The bottom line was we didn't play well that day. We played a much better second half, but not enough to overcome what had happened in the first half. We just got whipped obviously, but I don't think how it might have affected anything other than that day."
Georgia's veteran players believe what transpired five years ago will have no bearing on Friday. If anything, it will serve as a reminder of what can take place.
"I know the types of teams that Coach Saban brings to town," Robinson said. "They're hungry, and they're out to dominate people. That's just the mindset they are trained to have. He recruits those kinds of players, but we do, too, and we're showing up now at the right time.
"We're hungry and we have something to prove."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...