Vince Dooley reveals when Bulldogs proved to him they were a contender

Dec 2, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart hugs Vince Dooley after defeating the Auburn Tigers in the SEC Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
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The Georgia Bulldogs are getting ready to play in the biggest game in school history in more than 30 years.

The last time the Bulldogs were national champions was in 1980, when they defeated Notre Dame 17-10 in the Sugar Bowl.

The coach of that team was the legendary Vince Dooley. Dooley was the head coach of the Bulldogs from 1964-88.

He knows about preparing 19 and 20 year olds to play in the biggest game of their lives. But he’s done his time with the motivational speeches. And with the Bulldogs about to play Alabama:

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“Well I’m not saying anything to them, thank goodness. It’s Kirby that has to say something to them,” Dooley said.

There’s always that curiosity what a coach says to his team before a game like the national championship.

“Sometimes you can almost look at a team and you don't have to say anything, just ‘Let's go.’ I think that's what gonna happen in this game because both teams are ready.”

Dooley said that’s how it was in 1980. If football players aren’t ready to play in a national championship, then there’s something wrong.

Georgia didn't achieve perfection this season like the team in 1980.  The Bulldogs had one blemish this season. It was a brutal loss on the road to the Auburn Tigers, which they were later able to avenge in the SEC Championship.

But Dooley said how Georgia responded after that loss proved to him Georgia had the makings of a good team, a team that could be taken seriously. It reminded him of his own team after they defeated the Tennessee Volunteers in the season opener in 1980.

“I knew we had the nucleus of a good team,” Dooley said, tying it together with Georgia’s regular season loss to Auburn before getting revenge in the SEC Championship.

“Sometimes you have to get your butt kicked. And it’ll make you work a bit harder.”

The Bulldogs bounced back, and they have put several impressive performances together, including their 54-48 double-overtime win in the Rose Bowl against Oklahoma.

Now, the Bulldogs get to essentially play a home game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Dooley said there’ll never be a game quite like this championship ever again in the new stadium.

“There won't be fans as into any other game as they'll be into this game because of the closeness,” Dooley said.