Cobb's Bulldog diehards enjoy double dose of championship glory

Jan. 10—The Georgia Bulldogs are national champions once again, and this time, it wasn't even close.

Georgia became the first team to repeat as national champions in the College Football Playoff era with a 65-7 thrashing of the TCU Horned Frogs at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, on Monday night. Despite the cross-country flight, plenty of Georgians and Cobb locals made it out west to witness history.

Cobb Chief Magistrate Judge Brendan Murphy, a "double Dawg" graduate of the University of Georgia and its law school, said he was feeling "about as good as you can be" the morning after the big win.

Murphy said he is happy for all the Georgia players, especially quarterback Stetson Bennett, who went from being a walk-on to a 2022 Heisman Trophy finalist and two-time champion, not to mention offensive MVP in both title games.

"Stetson's from Blackshear, Pierce County, and some of his family members are pharmacists, like my wife, but some of his family members are also lawyers and judges," Murphy said. "We heard he wanted to go to law school, so we'd love to have him for an internship at the Cobb County courthouse, but we're afraid the NFL might have to come first at this point."

Murphy drove to Indianapolis with a friend last year for Georgia's 33-18 victory over Alabama in the 2022 title game. This year, Murphy's wife, Sarah, joined him and some law school friends for the big game (she was sidelined with a COVID diagnosis for the last championship).

Despite a controversial ban on tailgating around SoFi stadium, including no pop-up tents or grills, Murphy said fans had a drink or two at their cars before entering the stadium. He added that, despite heavy rain, there were still some fans tossing a football in the parking lot prior to kickoff.

"Georgians, we're gonna find a way to tailgate," Murphy said. "Now, we didn't break any laws, but we did find a way to tailgate."

Murphy said his wife bought refundable plane tickets to Los Angeles on Nov. 5, the day Georgia beat Tennessee 27-13 to wrest the top spot in the rankings from its Southeastern Conference rival.

"It might have even been at halftime when we beat Tennessee," Murphy said.

Wade Stephens of Marietta, an Athens native and Georgia graduate, also drove to Indianapolis last year and made the trip for this year's game with his wife and three sons. Stephens, a former MDJ associate publisher, said he was "living large" Tuesday after the win.

Stephens and his wife also booked plane tickets shortly after Georgia beat Tennessee, though Stephens said they had reserved hotel rooms right after last year's national championship victory in hopes that Georgia coach Kirby Smart would lead the team back to the final.

Murphy and Stephens both said the split at the stadium Monday was about 50-50 between Georgia and TCU fans.

"I was very impressed that it was really 50-50," Stephens said. "(TCU fans) really traveled well, they were here, they were hungry. They had a huge pep rally at the Santa Monica Pier and we were, like, totally outnumbered."

Stephens said the tension was high after Georgia gave up a touchdown to TCU in the first quarter. However, it was a Georgia party from there on out, as the Bulldogs extended their lead — already 31 points at halftime — and held TCU to zero points following their early score.

Stephens cried tears of joy after last year's victory, releasing the emotions bottled up after 41 years without a national championship.

This year, the tears flowed again as Smart pulled his starters from the game, giving Bennett and Georgia's other stars their final send-off after a perfect season.

"Kirby calling those timeouts to give Stetson his curtain call, to give the defense a curtain call, I mean, it just brought tears to my eyes," Stephens said. "I cried like a baby."

Kim Frye, a Marietta lawyer and Georgia graduate, said there were no tears from her this year, "just absolute relief and the fact that we had done it a second time."

Frye made the trip with her Sigma Kappa sorority sisters, Mary Frances Hinson and Ashley Anderson, both of east Cobb, and Beth Guerra, also an attorney in Marietta.

The group found multiple Georgia bars in the LA area, including the Bulldog Bar in Santa Monica and the Hermosa Saloon, with its swinging saloon doors and Georgia flags flying out front.

"We managed to find Bulldog fans wherever we went," Frye said.

Murphy, Stephens and Frye all mentioned that the weather during the game, rainy and windy, was less than ideal.

However, that could not dampen the mood of the Georgia fans, especially as victory arrived Monday night.

"People at home are like, 'Well, the game was kind of snoozy,' and I'm like, 'If you were standing there, it was not snoozy at all,'" Frye said. "Every score was fantastic, we were so loud. ...(TCU fans) were pretty loud at the beginning, but by halftime we had shut them up, and by the end of the third quarter a lot of their fans were gone."

Back in Marietta, former Mayor Bill Dunaway, who was a Georgia cheerleader from 1958-1961, watched the game at home with his wife, Dot — a TCU graduate — and their daughter and son-in-law.

"The marriage is intact," Dunaway said, adding that he and his family "kind of felt sorry for TCU after the first quarter."

Dunaway tipped his hat to Smart for motivating the players to leave it all on the field, noting he had worried beforehand they would not come out firing on all cylinders like they did.

"I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was surprised at how well they played," Dunaway said.

Dunaway also tipped his hat to TCU for making it to the national championship.

"It was wonderful that they were there at the ball game," Dunaway said. "I hope the players will remember that they went to the national championship, and not remember how the game went."

Stephens is already looking forward to next season, and if history is any indication, he thinks his Bulldogs have a good shot at another championship next year. The 2024 national championship game will be played at NRG Stadium in Houston.

"I think, with the incoming class we have, we have a good chance to repeat as well," Stephens said. "... We're contemplating making reservations right now."

Frye is on the same page as Stephens regarding planning for a third championship trip.

"We're looking at booking our room for Houston already," Frye said. "We're not kidding."