What if D.J. Shockley had played for UGA against Florida in 2005?

dj-shockley-sec-big-ap

D.J. Shockley, healthy again, running past LSU. (AP photo)

In a conversation with D.J. Shockley about the torrent of transfers among college quarterbacks, the matter of the game he famously missed arose. It always does. It’s one of the great What-Ifs in Georgia history. (And recent Georgia history is strewn with What-Ifs.)

Having waited four years — one as a redshirt, three more as David Greene’s understudy — to be the No. 1 quarterback, Shockley had lifted the Bulldogs higher than most anybody figured. They were ranked No. 13 in the preseason Associated Press poll. After seven consecutive wins, they were No. 4. USC was No. 1, Texas No. 2 and Virginia Tech No. 3.

Shockley hurt his left knee in the first half of Victory No. 7 and didn’t return. The Bulldogs held on to beat Arkansas 23-20, but the gloom had already descended. His injury was diagnosed as a sprain — no surgery required, Mark Richt reported afterward — but was listed as doubtful for the next week’s game, which was against Florida in Jacksonville.

Florida had already lost twice — to Alabama and LSU — and was, with Georgia being unbeaten, all but out of the SEC East race. At that point, not winning the East had become a Gator trend. They hadn’t done it in Steve Spurrier’s final season, hadn’t done it in any of Ron Zook’s three years in charge. Now Urban Meyer was head ball coach in Gainesville, and there were still questions as to whether his spread offense, as imported from Utah, would cut it in the mighty SEC.

Game day in Jax — it was Oct. 29, 2005 — dawned with most folks figuring Shockley wouldn’t play against the Gators but the Gators themselves not fully convinced. Here’s Shockley: “I went out on the field before the game just to walk around, and Charlie Strong (then Florida’s defensive coordinator, more recently head coach at Louisville and Texas, now at South Florida) started walking right behind me. He just followed me around. He wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to play.”

Shockley didn’t. Georgia lost, barely. The Bulldogs cut the lead to 14-10 on a throwback pass from running back Thomas Brown to quarterback Joe Tereshinski III — desperation is the mother of throwback passes — but could draw no closer. When the new week’s polls were released, the once-beaten Bulldogs had fallen to No. 11 and were well and truly out of the national championship race. (No playoff back then, only the BCS.)

Shockley returned for the next game — Georgia had a bye in between — and threw for 304 yards against Auburn. That was the Devin Aromashodu Game. The receiver caught a pass on fourth-and-10 with two minutes remaining and the Tigers down 30-28 and fled for what appeared to be the go-ahead touchdown. Georgia’s Paul Oliver punched the ball loose just before Aromashodu crossed the goal line.

Auburn’s Courtney Taylor recovered the fumble in the end zone. Officials signaled a touchdown, which would have been better for Georgia. (The Bulldogs and Shockley would have had 1:52 to answer, which they might well have done.) But the fumble couldn’t be advanced by Auburn, only recovered. The ball was placed at the 3. John Vaughn kicked the game-winning field goal at 0:06.

That made Georgia 7-2. It would upset LSU in the SEC championship game — Shockley was MVP — to reach 10-2. That paired the Bulldogs against West Virginia in the Sugar Bowl, relocated to the Georgia Dome because of Katrina. Georgia fell behind 28-0 and lost 38-35. They would finish 10th in the final AP poll. One talking point of that offseason: Did Willie Martinez, having just completed his first year as defensive coordinator, know what he was doing?

Another talking point. Let’s Shockley had played against Florida and Georgia had won. Let’s say the Aromashodu catch hadn’t become an absolute-worst-case scenario. Let’s say Georgia had been unbeaten after the SEC title game. Would it have played for the BCS title?

Nope. USC and Texas had started the season 1-2 in the polls. Neither lost. USC would have two Heisman winners in its backfield by the time the Rose Bowl arrived; in Vince Young, Texas had maybe the best player not to win a Heisman. The same thing that happened to Auburn in 2004 — going undefeated but never being able to pass USC and Oklahoma, higher-ranked teams that didn’t lose, either — would have happened to the Bulldogs.

And would Georgia have beaten Florida with Shockley? One prominent figure seems to think so. Shockley again: “I ran into Urban a few years ago and I told him about Charlie Strong following me around. He laughed. He said, ‘He knew there was no way we’d have stopped you.’ ”

Reader Comments 0

24 comments
Jse1960
Jse1960

If General Custer had had superior air support he may have been victorious at Little Bighorn!

khd713
khd713

What's even crazier to think about is that if UGA had all of Alabama's players this year they'd have been undefeated! Just think! What if!!!


(Actually, on second thought, if Kirby was the coach they probably still would have gone 7-5).

John Vickery
John Vickery

Wow, things must be really bad in dawgnation for this kind of "what if" scenario to be spouted eleven years later. If he would of played, he could of also aggravated the injury & not played the next week vs auburn thus the 10-2 season wouldn't of happened.

Why so much hate for Richt?

Mutley
Mutley

Again , only losers play the what if game. Florida beat Georgia twice with a running back playing qb when Florida's qb was injured and the next year when he was declared ineligible. Georgia was favored in both games. The Spurrier curse in Jax continues.

dawg fan
dawg fan

This is indeed a very odd and random topic.  I think AJC writers have a quota on how many times they are expected to write about UGA.  We kind of own this rag. 

JKToole
JKToole

@TOJacket I know, owning GA Tech every decade since the 40's is small consolation.

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

Real programs aim higher than consistently beating a mid-level ACC school. Sad.

SvenOttke
SvenOttke

You are literally writing an article about a game played 11 years ago.  Pathetic.

ShovelPlease
ShovelPlease

Geesh, UGA won the SEC that year.  Kinda odd to pick that season to play "what if."  

cmac22
cmac22

Welcome to the life of every Bulldog fan .... playing our favorite game of WHAT IF!!!!  

In the FL game, nobody deserves to win with a guy like Tereshinski playing QB.  Richt should have been fired in 2006 when he had Stafford on the bench and that boob playing QB! 

The AUful game was just another unbelievable gut punch that this program has endured for a long time!!!  

loran-whatayagot
loran-whatayagot

It's nice to dream what if's. Unfortunately it is what it is.

dawg fan
dawg fan

We probably would have beaten Florida but if we rolled into the Dome at 11-1 I'm not sure we play with quite the same chip on our shoulder as we did so we very well could have lost the SEC.  That was always the problem with Mark Richt, even back then.  For every step forward there was always a step back. 

OH:IO
OH:IO

@dawg fan


shoulda woulda coulda


Good Lord. It NEVER stops.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@OH:IO

You act like ohio st fans don't say the same damn thing every time they don't win a NC, lying hypocrite.

But that's what lying hypocrites do, isn't it?!

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

So that 1990 Bobby Ross championship team didn't find their way...

davidg32
davidg32

Mark, the thing I remember most about that game is that...on Georgia's very fist third-and-long...Joe Tereshinski threw a perfect pass to All-SEC tight end Leonard Pope for first-down yardage.  The ball hit Pope right between the numbers, and he promptly dropped it.

After that, whenever it was third-and-long, Mark Richt had us running either a draw play, or running off-tackle.  Tereshinski...who admittedly did not LOOK like a quarterback...wasn't given a chance to BE a damn quarterback when we needed one.  He only threw 20 times or so, but after that first dropped pass, he didn't throw again on third and long.  Most of his passes were screen passes, or downfield heaves.  

I know that Tereshinski looked more like an offensive guard, but if Coach Richt had let Joe throw the ball when he would let Shockley do so, Georgia may well have won that game.

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

Here's one: If Georgia was Alabama, how many championships could they have won? Hey! What if Peyton Manning had chosen Georgia instead of Tennessee!?! Or how about - now don't let this blow your mind - what would have happened if the University of Georgia had NEVER EXISTED!!??!! This is brilliant, Mark! You could write this kind of article every week and it would never get old!