After one of Georgia’s most heartbreaking, backbreaking losses in its celebrated history, there is precious little consolation.
But it is there nonetheless.
The main positive takeaway from the devastating 26-23 overtime loss to SEC rival Alabama in the national championship is that, win or lose, the Bulldogs were going to come away from the game changed.
And despite the defeat, they appear to have come away better than we could have ever imagined.
Bowed, of course, but unbroken. The team’s seniors, especially, will carry this thrill ride of a 13-2 season with a deep sense of accomplishment, into pro football or any number of career paths. The heartache will follow them – but after the initial anguish, so will an abiding pride in what they accomplished.
Returning players will now – well, work overtime – to get on top. This experience has changed them, and they can’t be changed back.
It’s changed their program too. What they have done has left its mark.
“This season will change Georgia forever,” receiver Riley Ridley said afterward. “It’s been a while since we made it this far, and we just came up a little short tonight. But we’ll let this feeling right here drive us.”
“Georgia is back folks,” wrote Morgan Moriarty at SBNation.com.
Given that Georgia’s second-year Coach Kirby Smart studied under Alabama Coach Nick Saban for nine years, Moriarty adds that the Saban way that has won five national titles in nine years, and put Alabama in the national championship game three years in a row, “is up and running at full speed at Georgia, and it’s here to stay.”
“Everybody respects Georgia now,” Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker says. “Even though we took an ‘L’ tonight, everybody respects Georgia now.”
“Georgia falls short of national championship,” Moriarty’s headline read, “but a new standard has been set in Athens.”
And a fan base that could not possibly have loved the Dawgs more than it did, now does.