“You definitely heard some of that, some comments,” said Tamme, a tight end.
Quarterback Andre Woodson and wide receiver Kennan Burton signed in the same year and heard the same things. In the 10 seasons prior to their enrollment in 2003, the Wildcats had averaged 4.4 wins a season, but none of them listened to that talk, Tamme said.
“You knew we could build something special here if we all committed to doing it,” he said. “We wanted to commit to turning this thing around, and that’s what we’ve done over the last four or five years.”
The No. 22 Wildcats beat Vanderbilt last week to move to 7-3 overall, assuring their first back-to-back, seven-win seasons since 1976-’77. The driving force behind the turnaround is the offense powered by those three signees from 2003, but the most critical moment in the process came last year against Georgia, Tamme said.
“We were so close so many times against the top teams,” he said. “Last year when we beat Georgia was really the first time we got over the hump. When we got that game, it was a release of all the emotions from being close so many times. We tried to build on that.”
And they have. This season Kentucky snapped a four-game losing streak against Louisville and handed No. 1 LSU its only loss of the season, climbing as high as No. 8 in the nation.
“They were a good team last year,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. “We knew that because we witnessed it first hand. Some other folks got to feel it this year.”
The Wildcats will try to post their first back-to-back wins over No. 8 Georgia (8-2, 5-2 SEC) since the 1949 and 1956 seasons at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Sanford Stadium. There are no excuses for the first loss on the Bulldogs’ end, Richt said.
“I think the one thing we came away with was they just lined up and beat us,” he said. “There’s enough to play for regardless of what happened last year, but I’m sure the guys will be thinking about that (loss) to a certain degree.”
The Wildcats are winning with offense. They are fourth in the SEC in both points (37.7 per game) and yards (440.2 per game), and it all starts with Woodson, their Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback.
“You can’t catch a ball from a better person,” Tamme said. “You can’t get any better throws than what Andre Woodson throws. It’s been special to be a part of that and see him grow into the leader he has become.”
Woodson leads the SEC in passing yards (265.3 yards per game) and passing touchdowns (29). His efficiency rating ranks 17th in the country.
“He’s so calm back there,” Richt said. “He knows what to do and how to handle every situation. He’s seen it all, and he’s not going to panic. I have not seen anybody really rattle the guy. I think he’s a first round (NFL) draft pick. That’s pretty high praise.”
Georgia hopes the Wildcats’ resurgence continues this season to a certain degree. If the Bulldogs beat Kentucky on Saturday and the Wildcats then beat Tennessee in the last week of the regular season, Georgia will win the SEC Eastern Division championship.
The Wildcats would have to make a little more history for that to happen. They haven’t beaten Tennessee since 1984, a string of 22 straight games.
“We want to end this thing the right way,” Tamme said.