Georgia’s season began just 39 days ago but the Bulldogs already have had a year’s worth of stomach-churning, nail-biting, hold-on-to-your-seat moments.
A brutal schedule that served up three top-10 teams will do that to you.
So will needing a touchdown pass with 1:47 left to beat LSU, a 75-yard drive in the final two minutes to force overtime against Tennessee and a goal-line stand to fend off South Carolina.
Topping it all off, the No. 7 Bulldogs are trying to stitch together an offense that is likely to be without its top two tailbacks and three of its top receivers for Saturday’s game against No. 25 Missouri.
And the midway point of the season isn’t even here yet.
“I may have some heart issues after this season,” senior offensive guard Chris Burnette said.
Georgia’s thrilling victories the past two weeks — 44-41 over LSU and 34-31 against Tennessee — haven’t gone unnoticed nationally.
“Cardiac Dawgs! Dawgs!” ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption Host Michael Wilbon said on Monday.
“There’s never a dull moment, whether it be a positive thing for us or a negative thing,” tight end Arthur Lynch said. “It just seems like we’re kind of keeping things on edge.”
Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said he even mentioned to his wife, Katharyn, on the ride to the airport from Neyland Stadium on Saturday night how exciting the game was.
“You could see why college football is one of the most exciting sports out there,” Richt said. “It’s very, very dramatic stuff, and we’ve had the most drama in a two-week period that we’ve probably had in a long time when it comes to games that were tightly contested and hard fought. To come out on top has been very gratifying.”
Still, Georgia would take a 45-13 win right about now.
“We don’t want to have close games every week,” wide receiver Chris Conley said. “We don’t want to be losing five to 10 years off our life every single time we’re in the fourth quarter.”
Even when the opponent is North Texas, which was tied with Georgia at 21 in the third quarter before the Bulldogs finally pulled away.
“I don’t know if we’re going to be that team that just blows somebody out of the water,” Lynch said. “I just think for us, when push comes to shove, we know how to win close ballgames. We almost pulled it out against Clemson … and we’ve pulled it out these past four and we’ll continue to do so as long as we play within ourselves, we prepare every day in practice and we know what’s coming before it hits us.”
The Bulldogs and quarterback Aaron Murray have answered questions about coming through in big games, but now they have to do it with their team dealing with a slew of injuries.
Georgia has eight frontline players now out or questionable for Saturday due to injuries.
Lost for the season with knee injuries: receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley and tailback Keith Marshall. Receiver Michael Bennett is out at least a week with a knee injury.
“It’s tough,” Burnette said. “Really, your heart just goes out to those guys. You look back to January and even years past, seeing those guys go to work with you, having great goals for the season, it’s just tough to see them go down in a split second like that.”
Richt said Tuesday that tailback Todd Gurley (sprained ankle) and safety Tray Matthews (pulled hamstring) are doubtful for Saturday and punter Collin Barber (concussion) is questionable. All three were held from practice Tuesday.
“Not many teams are going through what we’ve been through and have been through what we’ve gone through,” receiver Rantavious Wooten said.
Still, Richt said he thought his team’s frame of mind, all things considered, is “fine. We’re ready to go to battle again. Football is a physical game with injuries, and other teams have injuries. Some guys are very excited about the opportunity to make more contributions, and the rest of the guys are excited about making their phase of the game stronger in order to help the spots that we’re wounded at, to a certain degree.”
Added Burnette: “As a whole, as a team, I think that we are really growing up as men. Adversity builds character and character builds perseverance. We’ve been able to learn how to persevere and I think that’s really going to be able to help us, not only through the rest of the season, but in life.”