GAME #52
Saturday, November 23, 2019

Texas A&M Aggies: 7-3
@ #4 Georgia Bulldogs: 9-1

Sanford Stadium
Athens, Georgia

Trip Dates 11/22/2019 – 11/24/2019
School University of Georgia
Visiting Team Texas A&M Aggies
Pre-game Record: 7-3
Home Team #4 Georgia Bulldogs
Pre-game Record: 9-1
Game Time (ET) 3:30 PM Eastern
Weather 63 & Rain with Fog
Attendees Jarrett & Al 
Jarrett’s Pick Georgia Bulldogs
(34 and 17 record)
Al’s Pick Georgia Bulldogs
(28 and 23 record)
Attendance 92,476
Capacity 92,746
Length of Game 3:11
Seat Location Corner, Row 60
Miles Traveled 1,793
Photo Album Click here for the Georgia Photo Album

It was a 3:45 wake up call for the 6:58 JetBlue flight to Atlanta. Who keeps making these reservations? Oh wait, that would be me. Since my daughter was coming home from college for the week and wanted MY car (not hers), the deal was that she would have to pick me up at JFK on Sunday. But that meant, Beth had to take me to the LIRR on Friday so I could air train it to JFK. Even this was too early for Beth to talk on the ride to the LIRR. I will make no comment about this for fear of retribution except to express my deep sorrow about not having a meaningful and deep conversation with my wife before I departed for the weekend. Anyone buying that? Beth chimes in with that she hopes no one is buying it.

The LIRR to air train connection was smooth and all went well getting to JFK. This really is convenient but, due to issues I will not go into for fear of pissing off both sides, mismanagement has forced a price increase from $5 to $7.75. I have no doubt they will keep raising prices until ridership plunges and they are losing net revenue. Mismanagement.

For once Al has beaten me to the airport and I find him having breakfast at one of the many restaurants within the JetBlue terminal at JFK. Our breakfast conversation turns towards Al’s recent trip to a silent retreat with Debra. Al conveyed how much he enjoyed himself and is very much looking forward to doing it again…in 2037. Hi Debra! Just kidding, Al wants to go again in March during March Madness. I can joke because there is absolutely no chance Beth would ever suggest this, as she would not last the first 10 minutes, and I’m being generous. Very generous. Beth concurs that I know her well, but also adds that I would do great on one one of these retreats! Which I think is a shot at me and has been confirmed by Beth is most definitely a shot at me.

Anyway…it was time to board our flight. JetBlue boarded this flight from both the front and back of the plane. Something I have not done since the days of shuttle flights to Boston. I will say it was efficient and the plane boarded very quickly. I liked it and I suggest that airlines take note that this is a good idea, other than having passengers roaming free on the tarmac.

After arriving in Atlanta, we take the train to baggage claim, walk to the outside, take another train to the car rental center, and get the rental car. Planes, trains, and automobiles. And then more trains. So the car Avis assigns us has lots of damage and I am told to have them mark the damage at the gate when leaving. This does not seem efficient to have the gate agent (of which there is one), who is dealing with a long line to exit, get out of her booth and walk around the car marking extensive damage. The gate agent apparently agreed and just marked the damage form as “lots of damage all over”. I guess I just got free reign to beat the shit out of this car. I should have taken the insurance.

We set off on the 90 minute or so drive to Athens, which I have been saying all week was a 45 minute drive, as usual.

University of Georgia
We arrived at UGA and parked. Why does the parking garage have only one pay machine? More inefficiency. If only I ran the world. Beth adds in her most sarcastic tone, yes, if only!

We head to the UGA dining hall for lunch. This is another cafeteria style dining hall where you pay one price and then there are multiple stations with various options in an all you can eat style. It was quite good. It was very good that they did not have these kind of dining halls when I was in school. This way I could wait until later in life to put on all the weight.

We did not have much time to linger, because we had to head out and meet up for a tour of the UGA athletic facilities.

Athletics Tour
Through Al’s excellent navigation skills, we were able to find our way to Butts-Mehre Hall which would be the start of our tour. We met up with our guides and we ventured forth. We started in the Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall Sports Museum. On display were the 1980 National Championship trophy, SEC Championships, Heisman trophies, trophies from multiple other sports, and lots of memorabilia from various sports. This was a nice museum and a nice entrance to the UGA program.

I will say this once and get this out of the way…I am a Florida Gator. We hate Georgia. Beth has been waiting for this line all report. We hate red. We hate black. We hate the letter G. Pretty much anything associated with Georgia is tainted. Georgia is worse than FSU, worse than Miami. It’s just a fact. I did not buy a shirt, I will never wear it. I did buy a shot glass for the display case, but that is as far as it goes. I will not root for Georgia at the game. I will try to be as impartial as I can in this report. I try to distance myself as much as possible. But my bias is there. Just know this going in.

So to translate, when I say the museum is nice, that means it must be really really nice.

Next stop was the indoor practice facility. It was relatively new and quite big and apparently we had just missed Tim Tebow who was broadcasting for SEC Nation. Then we moved onto the baseball stadium. UGA has done something interesting with the premium seating at their baseball stadium, creating a lower level dirt level view, which is a premium club. It would definitely be an interesting place to see a game. As I remarked, “I could definitely get thrown out from here.”

Next up was the tennis venue where UGA is in the middle of constructing a new grandstand. Then it was onto Stegeman Coliseum where the Bulldog women’s volleyball team was in the middle of practicing for its game later that night. After that we walked through some of the office space overlooking some of the other facilities. One of which was the gymnastics gym. For the life of me, I will never understand how the gymnasts do what they do. The athleticism is incredible. I know I am not the standard of comparison, but I can’t walk on a balance beam, so it is incomprehensible to me to watch them do what they do on that thing.

We then headed over to Sanford Stadium. First up was the Georgia Bulldog locker room. Then out through the tunnel to the field. We have lots of pics of this in the photo album so please check those out. The field was being painted so there was no access to the field but we got close. And we were technically “between the hedges”.

The tour was over at this point and we thank our hosts and the UGA athletic department for showing us around. Despite not being able to see equestrian (inside joke, see Baylor report), it was an excellent tour and we appreciate it.

Self Guided Georgia Tour
After the facilities tour, we headed to the bookstore. I can not say I did my usual shopping as I will never wear Georgia gear, but I did pick up a shot glass for the collection.

After the bookstore, we headed to North Campus to do a self guided tour of campus. I will admit that I was a bit disappointed. From all that I had heard and researched, I was expecting it to be nicer. It was nice, but it was not as nice as expected or anticipated. Al did find a clock tower bell that he was allowed to ring. I am not sure if having permission took away from the joy, but he looked very happy ringing the bell. The two ladies guarding the bell were even happy that Al stopped the bell when he was finished. We Yankees (Northerners, Haley, not New York Yankees), can be nice too.

I should also make a note here that UGA and Athens in general has a lot of hills. Be prepared, as you will always seem to be going uphill.

Downtown Athens
After North Campus, we headed into downtown Athens. Given Al’s unnatural obsession with cannons, the double-barrelled cannon was a must. As it turns out, it was another example of hype being ahead of reality. But we did walk through downtown Athens to get there so we were able to see some of the town. Downtown Athens is a very nice college town. It is directly off campus and very walkable.

Pre trip research indicated that one of the places to eat in Athens is Weaver D’s. Al took the lead and after looking up the hours, we decided it was now or never. So now it was. Al navigated our way there and it was a good thing because if I knew how far it was from where we were, I probably would not have agreed, as we were still on foot having left the car in its original parking spot all day.

We eventually arrived at Weaver D’s. A place that was originally made famous in an REM song and album and reinforced via the many sports broadcasters that tout this place upon stops in Athens. Weaver D’s serves soul food cooked by its namesake and you can not go by the menu. Based on our experience, the menu consists of whatever has been decided to be cooked that day. We headed there with the intention of having something light and eating later. It did not work out that way. My fried pork chops were excellent. The side dishes were average at best and the cornbread was very disappointing. Al and I both ordered banana pudding for dessert. It was made fresh to order and certainly tasted very fresh, but was only average at best. I am glad we went as it was certainly an experience, but not someplace I would return to. Al comments that he should have stuck to the idea of just ordering the dessert, as he was not as happy with his meal as previous guests.

We trekked back to the car, mostly uphill. I should also point out that UGA has a unique intersection on its campus with a diagonal intersection. It is not everyday that you see a diagonal crosswalk. I would not recommend stopping in the middle.

Women’s Volleyball
After a very brief respite at the hotel, we returned to the UGA campus for the Georgia Bulldog women’s volleyball match versus South Carolina. We had a choice of this or the Georgia Ice Dawgs game. I let Al make the call and here we are.

Some notes from the match:

  • the match went 5 sets with SC winning… more volleyball for everyone
  • How many coaches challenges do you get? I think it is unlimited.
  • Will either coach get a challenge right? I think the coaches were 0 for 10.
  • At some point we gave UGA #23 Kacie Evans the nickname “The Hammer”

Post Match
After volleyball, we headed to Blind Pig Tavern, a place that was recommended to Al, although he did not know why. Snacks and beer it was. It was at this point that my daughter realized I was on a trip to the University of Georgia near Atlanta. As I was giving her the flight info for Sunday, and telling her the flight was Atl to JFK, she expressed surprise I was coming from Atlanta. I informed her I was at Georgia. The response was something akin to Oh yeah. As she was going home from college on Saturday, and she has flown home from college from Atlanta, I pointed out that she could have come on this quest trip and flown home with me on Sunday. This thought had never occurred to her. That’s my girl! Love ya Hales!

After Blind Pig Tavern it was back to the hotel for sleep.

Now, a word about sleep at the Sleep Inn. There is absolutely no soundproofing in the outside walls. Just what exactly is that banging outside all night? Turns out it was the rain on the roof. Boy did that sound travel.

Downtown Athens – Gameday
Saturday morning we finally get our act together and head out for UGA. Our destination is the baseball field parking lot. This is where the athletic staff had given us the inside scoop on where to park, but we were there considerably later than intended. But we were able to secure the last spot in the lot, after driving up and down the rows and getting the last spot in the last row we looked. Maybe today will be a good day, despite the heavy rain and overwhelming favorite that Georgia was to beat Texas A&M.

We head off on a cross campus walk to downtown taking a quick stop to let the heavy rain pass. Today was going to be a wet day. But I had packed for that and taken the not going to be wet mantra to heart. I was well prepared.

We put our name in at Trappeze Pub, a name that came up repeatedly in pre trip research for its well curated beer list, and wandered around downtown a bit waiting for our table. Downtown Athens was a bit subdued, a fact that I believe was due to the weather, but there were a lot of A&M fans in town. I am sure this is because of the SEC scheduling model that has A&M in Athens once every 12 years.

Eventually our table was ready and we settled in and reviewed the extensive and varied beer list. Pre trip research paid off. The selections were eclectic. We both tried a few and while some were better than others, the wide range of options were a very welcome change of pace from your run of the mill bar. The burger and fries were good too. And they have the best fries in Athens, for many years running, or at least that is what the menu says, and according to Beth, if the menu says it, it must be true. I will say, I do recommend the Trappeze Pub if you are in Athens, at least for a drink. If you are a beer drinker, even slightly, you will not be disappointed. A note to the woman at the table next to us, Al will send you the contact info for the silent retreat he went to, your boyfriend, tablemates, and entire restaurant will thank you for going.

After lunch, we headed off to Sanford Stadium.

Game Tickets
We were unsuccessful in securing tickets to this game through our normal diplomatic channels and back channels. So we were on our own. Given the forecast for today, a constant downpour of rain, we had used yesterday during the tour to scout out the seating locations and priority number one was being in the last few rows of the lower bowl underneath the overhang from the upper deck. Yesterday, we had secured seats in the corner, row 60, the last row of the lower bowl.

We entered Sanford Stadium and headed to our seats to see how well our seat selection had gone. The Quest had done good. Our seats were well under cover and were dry. They were in the last row and while benches, they were up against a wall providing a back to lean against. Not only that, the concourse behind us was buttressed by a handicap seating box, minimizing the traffic directly behind us. It was an ideal situation given the weather. So much so, that I found myself rooting for a downpour to create an even messier game to give Texas A&M a greater chance. Not a good chance but a greater chance.

We done good.

The Game
UGA received the opening kickoff, went 3 plays 0 yards and had to punt. TAMU, not to be outdone went 3 plays, -9 yards, and punted. UGA started from the TAMU 47 yard line, so while only moving the ball 23 yards, was able to get on the scoreboard with a 41 yard field goal. 3-0 UGA. TAMU would then do another 3 and out, this time only losing 1 yard. UGA would fare worse going 3 and out losing 17 yards and punting. TAMU would manage a first down on its next drive, but only one before having to punt back to UGA. UGA would go 3 and out. The 1Q would end at 3-0 UGA. I wish this could be blamed on the weather or on fantastic defense, but it can’t. The anemic output to me, was simply bad QB play.

The 2Q began in the middle of a TAMU drive that after starting in UGA territory would move 15 yards for a game tying 37 yard field goal. UGA returned the ensuing kickoff to the UGA 46, so after moving the ball 22 yards entirely on the ground, UGA was able to take the lead back on a 49 yard FG, 6-3. TAMU would then do another 3 play -8 yard drive and punt. Then UGA would put together the first complete drive of the game going 7 plays, 65 yards for a TD, going ahead 13-3. There would be a few more anemic drives and punts before halftime.

If TAMU had any hope of making this a game, it seemed to end on the opening drive of the 3Q. After receiving the 3Q kickoff, TAU fumbled on the third play, giving UGA the ball on the TAMU 21. UGA was unable to move the ball any further, but it set up another UGA FG and a 16-3 lead. The teams would trade punts, before TAMU would go on one of its best drive of the game, a 7 play 39 yard drive, setting up a 35 yard FG cutting the lead to 16-6.

The 3Q ended and I will give Georgia credit for its end 3Q tradition. Light up Sanford is pretty cool. I am constantly surprised on our Quest trips at how few schools actually have an end 3Q tradition (or a team running out of the tunnel video for that matter) and I will give credit when a school has one and it is a good one. So nice job with Light up Sanford. Now I hope you provide charging stations to all the fans who need to charge their iphones after using the light for even 3 minutes.

The 4Q began with a UGA FG, extending the lead back to 13 at 19-6. TAMU would then go on its best drive of the game, a 10 play 75 yard masterpiece, making this a one score game at 19-13. You could sense the crowd was now getting anxious. UGA had to punt on its next drive. TAMU took over on its own 10 with 8m left to play. The crowd got loud for the first time and did rise to the occasion when needed. TAMU was able to move the ball to the UGA 42. Kellen Mond was sacked on 1st down. On 2nd down TAMU got 9 back and on 3rd down it was an incomplete pass. This set up 4th and 11 from the UGA 43 with about 4 minutes left. TAMU and the very expensive Jimbo Fisher elected to punt.

I do not understand this decision. You need to stop UGA with either a 3 and out or with only one first down given the time remaining. Depending if TAMU pins them back or the TAMU punt goes into the endzone and if they hold UGA with no first downs or one first down the variability is high as to where TAMU gets the ball back but best case it is midfield but could be as bad as 15-20 yard line with the way Camarda was punting. If you go for it, you give yourself the chance for the first down. If you do not make it, you still have to hold UGA to zero or one first down and then UGA will punt. Worst case, Camarda pins you back on the TAMU 10. So, what you give up is potential field position, maybe 40 yards or maybe 20. What you gain, is the chance for a first down on 4th and 11. Either way you have to stop UGA. This is a no brainer to me. I do not understand this decision.

It turns out UGA ran out the clock. TAMU never saw the ball again. And that is the real big downside to the punt. You may never see the ball again. The chance at 4th and 11 is worth taking. If it was on your own 20 when UGA was automatically in FG range that’s one thing, but you were on the plus side of the field. If you stopped UGA they would have to punt back to you, if you failed on 4th or punted regardless. For this you are paid $7.5 million? Bad decision.

UGA wins 19-13.

Post Game
After the game we head out to the car and to find some dinner. We get to the car and have a surprisingly easy exit out of the immediate vicinity of Sanford Stadium.

After driving around a bit, we settle on a place called DePalma’s. Mainly because I thought it was a branch of the same restaurant as is in Tuscaloosa that Beth and I contemplate going to and I thought that I could do some scouting for us. That and Al was making me choose between this and Olive Garden. We ordered the homemade breadsticks as an appetizer which take 20 minutes, so it was a leisurely dinner. Al is insulted that the words Olive Garden are even listed in this report, let alone something that possibly he said. But he did.

After dinner, it was back to the hotel for some late games and sleep.

Sunday Tourist
We awoke on Sunday morning and unlike usual we had a late flight so were able to stay in Athens for a bit. The first stop was breakfast, Krispy Kreme for Jarrett and Starbucks for Al.

The next stop was The Tree that Owns Itself. This is a famous Athens landmark whose owner loved this tree so much that upon his death the owner deeded it to itself. This came up in my research but I dismissed going to see for a few reasons a) it’s not the original tree as the original tree fell down and b) a tree can not legally own itself. Therefore, I deemed this to be a con. But I foolishly told Al about it and he still wanted to go. So off we went. And you know what, it is a tree. A tree with a few plaques. Yeah!

Florida Volleyball
After a side trip to see a tree, we returned to Stegeman Coliseum for another volleyball match. This time, to see the Florida Gators. After playing some games with the family back home and in Alabama who was wondering where the hell I was after showing them pictures of the Gator team and Gator fans, and then taking a lot of crap for not having anything Gator on, we settled in to watch my Florida Gators absolutely destroy the Georgia Bulldogs 3-0. Yes, I cheered vocally. And yes, there were a lot of Gator fans there. We are everywhere. Go Gators!
Fortunately, the Gators made quick work of the Bulldogs and the match ended as we needed to depart for Atlanta. The drive to Atlanta and the ensuing flight to JFK was uneventful, which is always a good thing. The only bad thing was the Priority Pass Atlanta lounge was full and we could not get into the Delta Club as we were not flying Delta. And (hush, hush) I think I may have found a secret entrance into the Atlanta airport if TSA lines are long, the international terminal.

I will say this, Haley provided some nice entertainment upon my arrival at JFK. JetBlue flies into Terminal 5 at JFK and she went to pick me up at Terminal 7 and wanted me to come to her. That’s my girl. She did not realize I would have to take a train. She thought it would be easy to go from one terminal to another…like at LaGuardia. If you know LaGuardia, you know how impossible moving between terminals is, via bus given the traffic and construction, and via walking is a death wish. I’ll have what she’s having. And on that note, I will close another year of trip reports.

From Beth…Woo hoo, another year done! I would like a raise again please! And I have a complaint, these trip reports don’t come to me in any specified amount of time and then I am rushed to read them. I will take a double raise and a bonus. Jarrett responds, blame Al for all delays. I will double your salary without a problem and Al will take care of any bonus. Crisis averted!

Texas A&M finished 2019 with a 7-5 record and 4-4 in the SEC West, which was good for 4th place. The Aggies earned a spot in the Texas Bowl and beat Oklahoma State 24-21. It should be noted that Texas A&M’s 5 losses were as follows: #1 Clemson, #8 Auburn, #1 Alabama, #4 Georgia, #1 LSU.

Georgia finished the regular season 11-1, 7-1 in the SEC East, winning the SEC East. The only regular season loss was a 2OT game against South Carolina. The Bulldogs would lose 37-10 to LSU in the SEC Championship game. This earned a Sugar Bowl berth where they would beat Baylor 26-14.

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Photo Gallery
For our Georgia photo album, Please click here. You can view as a collage or run as a slideshow. There are comments to explain what is in the photo but most are self explanatory. Thanks to Google, I can no longer embed the slide show with comments.

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