Originally created 01/01/00

Dogs enter 2000 with optimism

TAMPA, Fla. -- Now begins the 2000s, and the Peach Bowl officiating crew has yet to tire from throwing yellow flags. Maybe by the next millennium. Maybe Clemson needed to see whether Orlando Brown had any eligibility remaining.

Now begins the 2000s, and the end of the Joe Hamilton era at Georgia Tech. A career that spanned more than 10,000 yards ends in Jacksonville, maybe the only time he'll get to play in an NFL stadium.

The last time a multitalented running and passing quarterback (Shawn Jones), graduated, the Yellow Jackets dropped into a five-year slumber as they waited for someone to replicate his style.

So as Hamilton bids adieu at the Gator Bowl today, Tech must ask whether they'll be able to recuperate or simply re-calibrate this next decade without its greatest weapon.

Now begins the 2000s, and down here by the Gulf of Mexico, the Georgia Bulldogs are discussing the future without the fear of Y2K. No one in black and red is building a compound, hoarding bottled water and batteries, or succumbing to bedlam that Armageddon is upon us.

Instead, the topic of conversation centers around this being the Year of the Dog.

It's always too early to write about next year, except that next year is finally here after an infinite number of countdowns. And hopefully, you're still able to retrieve money from your ATM -- if you've got money in the account.

Jim Donnan has been thinking of the year 2000 since joining Bulldog Nation five years ago. It is now that he will have a full stable of his recruits; no more carryovers from the Ray Goff era.

He'll have a veteran quarterback in Quincy Carter, one who will make his 24th start today in the Outback Bowl. He'll have 36 returnees from the Dogs' bowl roster

And maybe most importantly, Donnan will have his three most petulant opponents -- Tennessee, Florida and Georgia Tech -- all losing their starting quarterbacks and seemingly in a talent recession.

So Georgia's future looks brighter than its present, as a 7-4 season of "disappointment" and "underachievement" concludes today against Purdue.

"This is the first game of our 2000 season," claims defensive tackle Richard Seymour. "Everything we've done before this is erased."

Kind of like what happened when the ball dropped, the clock struck midnight and scientists at Antarctica moved the location of the South Pole. A tabula rosa for the 21st century.

Zapped is the memory of Ben Leard to Ronny Daniels. So long to Tee Martin's play-action scrambles. Aloha to Jasper Sanks' fumble vs. Florida. And most importantly, adieu to Bud Williams, Chris Young and the abominable way the Tech game ended.

"Put it all behind us," Donnan said. "We've got a lot to look forward to."

The Outback Bowl presents little on the national landscape except the veiled notion that it's the first sporting event of the millennium. For Georgia, there is the springboard effect a feel-good win would supply.

"On paper, they have all the tools to be among the best in the nation next year, to play in the Orange Bowl," departing linebacker Orantes Grant said. "What I really think they need is they need to believe that they are that good.

"It seems that all the good teams have that swagger about them, that attitude that they take to the field that they can't be beat. I think we have that same attitude, but at times we just don't play like we believe it.

Georgia is a program on the cusp of college football greatness, an emerging title contender just like those days of Herschel and Lindsay and Vince. A loss today at Drew Brees' hands could again crack the fragile nature of this team, one that keeps reminding them of bad ole 1999.

Reach Rick Dorsey at (706) 823-3219.


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