Dawgs’ 29-game streak secondary this week but still staggering

Georgia photo by Tony Walsh / Georgia senior running back Kendall Milton rushed for 156 yards and two touchdowns last Saturday night in the 31-23 victory at Georgia Tech, which extended the winning streak of the Bulldogs to 29 games.
Georgia photo by Tony Walsh / Georgia senior running back Kendall Milton rushed for 156 yards and two touchdowns last Saturday night in the 31-23 victory at Georgia Tech, which extended the winning streak of the Bulldogs to 29 games.

Though they're getting harder and harder to find, there are members of the Georgia Bulldogs who remember what it's like to lose a football game.

Georgia has won 29 consecutive contests since falling to Alabama 41-24 at the 2021 Southeastern Conference championship game inside Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium. In order to reach 30, the Bulldogs will have to defeat that very same program in that very same venue Saturday afternoon (4 on CBS).

"I can recall just some of the pain that were in the seniors' eyes after that game and just how bad they wanted that," Georgia senior center Sedrick Van Pran said earlier this week. "I think it's definitely something that I still hold dear in my heart, not being able to get those guys an SEC championship their senior year. It's just a memory that I have from that game for sure."

That loss to Nick Saban's Crimson Tide knocked Georgia from the top spot in the College Football Playoff rankings to the third seed in the four-team spectacle, but the Bulldogs bounced back with a 34-11 shredding of Michigan in the Orange Bowl semifinal and a 33-18 topping of Alabama in the national championship contest in Indianapolis.

Georgia scored the final 20 points of its rematch with the Crimson Tide, which delivered the Bulldogs their first national championship since the 1980 season, but nobody knew then that Michigan and Alabama would serve as the first two victims of a winning streak that hit 29 last Saturday night with a 31-23 triumph at Georgia Tech.

"It's definitely a great accomplishment," Bulldogs redshirt junior quarterback Carson Beck said. "I haven't been the starter for all of it, but to be able to continue that and be a part of it is huge for me, and obviously everyone else on the team feels the same way. I honestly don't think it's something that we think about.

"I think we've done a really good job at keeping the main thing the main thing and focusing on each opponent week to week and just trying to go 1-0 as each game presents itself."

Last weekend's win in Atlanta enabled Georgia to set a new SEC record, breaking the 28 consecutive wins that Alabama established under Paul "Bear" Bryant during the 1978-80 seasons and matched under Gene Stallings during the 1991-93 seasons. Alabama's streak under Bryant included the 1978-79 Associated Press national titles, while the Crimson Tide's streak under Stallings included the 1992 national crown.

Should Georgia take its current streak from 29 to 32, Kirby Smart's Bulldogs would become the first program ever to win three straight AP national championships.

"It's a great honor, and it's something we'll look back on," Smart said Saturday night after setting the new league standard, "but it's not one person. That's three different teams, so there are a lot of kids who aren't in our locker room who were a part of that.

"It's not the focal point for us. The focal point is to get better."

Georgia, perhaps more than any year under Smart, has shown significant improvement from Labor Day to Thanksgiving. The two biggest threats to the streak transpired in September, when Georgia trailed visiting South Carolina 14-3 at halftime before rallying for a 24-14 triumph, and when the Bulldogs needed a 40-yard touchdown pass from Beck to Brock Bowers with 2:52 remaining to pull out a 27-20 win at Auburn.

When the Bulldogs are asked about their 29 straight victories, they typically sound like a reflection of Smart.

"I think we try not to think about the streak that I know everyone talks about," Van Pran said. "We try our hardest to just focus on the next game, because at the end of the day, none of those previous games can help you win the next one. We surely can't bring any victories we've had this season with us this Saturday.

"We have an understanding that each team has a very, very unique challenge that they pose to us, so we take it serious and make sure that we prepare the right way throughout the week."

Yet human nature is human nature, so there can be those rare moments of escape for reflection and appreciation.

"I definitely try to take some time to sit back and appreciate it," junior cornerback Kamari Lassiter said, "but it's hard sometimes even to take a second and just slow down when games are coming at you so fast and the practices and everything flying around. Sometimes I sit down and think for myself personally over the last few years that I've been able to be a part of a really good program and a program that's taught me a lot of things, not just about football but about life.

"I've been around some really good guys, some guys who have gone to the league and some guys who are still with me, but just being able to be a part of this and even somewhat have an impact on some of these teams is really and truly just a blessing and something that I'm very grateful for."

Van Pran agrees, adding, "It's an amazing, amazing blessing. It's something that I could have never in my life imagined. It's something that God has allowed me to be a part of, and I'm so, so grateful for it."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com.

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