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May 31, 2009

It's Hit Newsstands!


This past weekend, the Bible of college football was released--Phil Steele's College Football Preview.
I consider myself somewhat of an aficionado of preseason college football magazines. In 1982 when I was just seven years old, my parents bought me my first--Lindy's with Herschel Walker on the cover. Not long afterwards, I was acquiring every and any preseason college football magazine available. During most summers the number of these previews in my possession could easily total in the double-digits. A decade ago or so, I figured that, for the most part, all of these magazines basically gave the same information and unveiled similar rankings/predictions. There was and is one, however, that was certainly different, stood out from the rest, and one of the few, in my opinion, worth buying.
I bought my first Phil Steele annual in 1995--his first edition. Ever since then, like many football fans, I cannot go without it and look forward to its release every June.
As advertised, Steele's mag is more than 300 pages "jampacked with information" while it is also "the most accurate preseason magazine the last 10 years." It's the only magazine that will analyze Louisiana-Monroe as much as the USC Trojans or might go into detail about a team's third-string center. As far as accuracy, it was the lone magazine that picked the Dawgs to win the SEC East in 2005 and one of the few that did not rank Georgia #1 or #2 nationally in 2008. (Steele had us ranked #9 and second in the SEC East behind Florida.)
Steele, who also runs the sports service Northcoast Sports, once filled his preview with football gambling-related material. However, his annual has grown thicker with more thorough and detailed facts and analyses as Steele has apparently learned to separate his profession into two different ones--football handicapper and football writer. Best of all, the magazine is of the opinion of only one individual--Phil Steele--as he writes every single preview himself. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this is one factor that makes most of the other previews inferior as they usually have dozens of contributing writers. (Lindy's, for instance, has nearly 80 listed contributing writers for its 2009 edition.)
Steele's magazine predicts great things from Georgia for the upcoming season. Again, this is just one man's opinion, but an opinion regarded highly by many college football enthusiasts. Several things that caught my eye:

  • The Bulldogs are ranked second in the SEC East behind, obviously, Florida and 13th in the nation. We're 11th in Steele's Power Poll which considers team strength and talent and not schedule. Georgia is forecasted to play Illinois in the Outback Bowl.

  • "Phil's Forecast" on the Dawgs concludes by declaring, "[Georgia] makes my list of surprise teams which means I think they are a surprise (non-Top 10) National Title contender." Georgia is the seventh-ranked "surprise team" for the year.

  • The Dogs are impressively ranked in the top 30 (of the 120 FBS teams) in seven of eight positional units (all except quarterbacks): 3rd best offensive line in college football, 5th best receivers, 9th-linebackers, 13th-defensive line, 18th-special teams, 20th-defensive backs, and, surprisingly to me, 30th best running backs.

  • All five of Georgia's projected offensive linemen (Boling, B. Jones, Glenn, Sturdivant, and C. Davis) are on Steele's first through fourth preseason All-SEC teams. No other SEC squad has more than three.

  • Steele is rather high on Caleb King, projecting him as a 4th-team All-SEC member and the 17th best "draft eligible" running back in the nation. In comparison, Oklahoma State's feared Kendall Hunter (1,555 rushing yards, 6.5 avg., 16 TDs in '08) is ranked lower at 20th. The magazine also lists eight favorites for the '09 Heisman Trophy, followed by 11 "contenders," 28 "possibilities," and 19 "darkhorses." King and A.J. Green are mentioned among the possibilities while Joe Cox is regarded as a darkhorse recipient of the trophy. This says a lot about King--a back many do not feel should even start for the Dogs.

Steele and I also agree on Georgia Tech's positioning, ranking the Yellow Jackets 28th. It looks like we're in the minority of those who think Tech is not a Top 15 squad. However, I do strongly disagree with Steele's assessment of Ole Miss--#6 in the nation, SEC West champion, and a Sugar Bowl birth. I just don't see the Rebels contending for the SEC title this year; they'll likely be as successful as last season--8 or 9 wins, that's it. Although, admittedly, I sure am glad the Bulldogs don't have to face them until 2011...

May 27, 2009

GREAT but OBSCURE Game #4

NOVEMBER 30, 1940: GEORGIA 21, GEORGIA TECH 19

Frank Sinkwich led the Bulldogs to a thrilling, two-point victory over Georgia Tech in 1940 (photo--GeorgiaEncyclopedia.org).

In the second year of the Coach Wally Butts era while sporting silver britches for the first time in their history, the 1940 Bulldogs were vastly improved from previous seasons. Nevertheless, Georgia's advancement, nor its new pants, did not necessarily translate into victories as it often endured tough-luck losses. Many felt, however, it would only be a matter of time until the Bulldogs turned things around for the better. Led by the super sophomore, halfback Frank Sinkwich, a signature win was greatly anticipated and certainly needed.

PREGAME: After achieving just a 5-6 mark in his first season at Georgia, Coach Butts and his boys had not fared much better in 1940. After beginning the year with two wins, the Bulldogs won just one of their next six games heading into the Georgia Tech contest. A loss in any of Georgia's two remaining games against the Yellow Jackets or Miami of Florida in the finale and the Bulldogs would record consecutive non-winning seasons for the first time since 1905 and 1906. Georgia Tech, on the other hand, had a record of only 2-6, including five losses in a row, after winning eight games and the Orange Bowl in 1939. Thus, the 1940 Georgia-Georgia Tech game was a rare match up--one which paired tradition-filled programs both enduring rare losing campaigns.

DETAILS: A Homecoming crowd of more than 28,000 in Sanford Stadium witnessed the host Bulldogs trail 13-0 late in the first half. Georgia quickly drove down the field from its own 35-yard line to Tech's 11-yard line. With 50 seconds remaining, Jim Todd tossed a touchdown to Carl Grate for the Bulldogs' first points. In the third quarter, Georgia took the lead following a touchdown pass from Frank Sinkwich to Paul Kluk and Leo Costa's PAT. Later in the period, Sinkwich threw a 4-yard touchdown to captain James Skipworth on third and goal. Trailing by eight points in the final quarter, Georgia Tech turned to its passing game--an aerial attack described by Butts as the greatest he had ever seen. From Georgia's 17-yard line, Tech's Johnny Bosch hurled a pass into the end zone. Georgia's Lamar Davis attempted to intercept but instead batted the ball into the hands of George Webb for a Yellow Jacket touchdown. In the closing minutes and trailing 21-19, Georgia Tech drove from its 24-yard line to Georgia's 19 in six plays. Bosch passed for the apparent game-winning touchdown but an offsides penalty called on the Yellow Jackets nullified the score. After three straight incomplete passes, Ralph Plaster's 42-yard field goal for victory fell short and Georgia escaped with a two-point win--its first over Tech since 1936.

PLAYER OF GAME: Towards the end of his first year on Georgia's varsity, Frank Sinkwich was already the main offensive threat for the Bulldogs. The Wednesday before the Tech game, the sophomore sensation was laying in an infirmary with a temperature of 104 degrees. Three days later, he rallied Georgia to three scores in the second and third quarters and an eventual victory. Sinkwich easily led all rushers with 121 yards on 28 carries. His 9 of 11 passing for 70 yards and two touchdowns against the Jackets directed a Georgia passing game that would eventually finish second in the nation in 1940. A Georgia Tech player said of Sinkwich following the game: "[Sinkwich] came on that field for one reason and that was to play football."

STATISTICS:
Georgia- 17 first downs, 172 rush yds, 106 pass yds, 17-12-0 passes, 278 total yds, 3 fumb. lost. Rushing: Frank Sinkwich 28-121; Cliff Kimsey 9-29. Passing: Sinkwich 11-9-0-70; Heyward Allen 5-2-0-25. Receiving: James Skipworth 4-31; Lamar Davis 2-28.

Georgia Tech- 16 first downs, 117 rush yds, 160 pass yds, 24-10-3 passes, 277 total yds, 0 fumb. lost. Rushing: Ralph Plaster 14-41. Passing: Johnny Bosch 12-5-2-84. Receiving: Jack Nettles 4-51.

RUNDOWN: Interestingly, playing its final regular-season game in late December, Georgia Tech somewhat salvaged a 3-7 year with a win over California on December 28th--a full four weeks after its loss to Georgia. Less than a week after defeating the Yellow Jackets, the Bulldogs thumped Miami (Fla) by three touchdowns on a Friday night in the Orange Bowl. Georgia finished the 1940 season with a 5-4-1 record, avoiding a losing campaign for a second consecutive year. The victory over Georgia Tech is hardly recognized as one of Georgia's greatest games. However, it arguably jump-started the brilliant collegiate career of Frank Sinkwich and the highly successful decade of the '40s for Wally Butts and his Bulldogs. Sinkwich would be one of college football's best as a junior and senior, winning the Heisman Trophy in 1942. Georgia would win nine games and the Orange Bowl in 1941, a Rose Bowl and a national championship in 1942, and only four years later, capture a Sugar Bowl and go undefeated in 1946.

Part of the Great but Obscure games in Georgia football history... Previous games in series: #3 1986 vs. Auburn, #2 1974 vs. Florida, #1 1936 vs. Fordham

May 24, 2009

The First of Many


The May issue of the College Football Historical Society features an article of mine on Bob McWhorter--Georgia's first All-American. (Note: After scanning the three pages of the CFHS newsletter my article appears on and converting the scan to a PDF file, for some unexplainable reason, a few of the article's words became misspelled or appear crammed together. Maybe it's time for a new scanner...)
Ray Schmidt is the founder and editor of the newsletter and has also authored at least four books on college football, including a recent one published on the Rose Bowl. The College Football Historical Society is in its 22nd year and a great read for those interested in the history of college football. It is certainly worth the $15 or so for the annual subscription of 6 to 9 issues. For more information on the CFHS newsletter, Ray can be contacted at rayscfhs@msn.com or P.O. Box 6460, Ventura, CA, 93006.
Before conducting research for my books, I had no idea the impact McWhorter had on Georgia and college football in the early 1910s. As my article mentions, I once simply thought of him as the football program's first All-American and the namesake for a dorm at UGA. On the contrary, McWhorter was much, much more.
Like most, I have always thought of Herschel Walker as the most OUTSTANDING player ever for the Bulldogs and, arguably, in the history of college football. I also believe Charley Trippi is the best ALL-AROUND player and greatest ATHLETE ever to don the red and black. Notwithstanding, I've felt for some time that Bob McWhorter is the most VALUABLE Georgia football player in the 117-year history of the program.

May 19, 2009

Rex Robinson

Rex Robinson kicks a 46-yard field goal against Notre Dame in the 1981 Sugar Bowl (Photo by Frank Fortune).

Former Georgia placekicker and 1979 and 1980 All-American Rex Robinson has started his own blog, Dawg-Leg Write. In less than two weeks blogging, Rex offers an interesting viewpoint and great insight in his posts.

Robinson was one of college football's first true, accurate placekickers. He made 67% of his field-goal attempts while at Georgia. During the same time (1977-1980), less than 56% of field goals were successfully made in all of college football. Robinson's first point-after as a Bulldog was missed (vs. Oregon in 1977), however, he responded to make 101 in a row thereafter to end his collegiate career--the second-longest consecutive PAT streak in NCAA history at the time. His 56 career field goals were also second best in college football history.

In his sophomore season of 1978, Robinson missed only two kicks all year: 29 of 29 PATs, 15 of 17 field goals. Both of his misses occurred in the first half against Kentucky--ironically, the game where Robinson kicked his most famous field goal--a 29-yard winner to defeat the Wildcats 17-16 on October 28 in Lexington. The game, one where the Bulldogs trailed 16-0 in the third quarter, witnessed both one of the greatest comebacks and kicks in Georgia football history. "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!"

May 18, 2009

Number 14 ?!?

It's May and that means, by the end of the month, the first of the preseason college football magazines will be released. Athlon Sports has started a countdown of its top 25 for Athlon's college football annual. It is the first preseason poll I've seen besides the pre- preseason ones that came out shortly after the 2008 season ended. The Bulldogs are #14 in Athlon's rankings. Number 14 through 25:

14. Georgia
15. Florida State
16. Nebraska
17. LSU
18. Cincinnati
19. North Carolina
20. Michigan State
21. Utah
22. Georgia Tech
23. Iowa
24. Notre Dame
25. Oregon State

I'm actually surprised Athlon's ranks Georgia as high as it does. I believe most preseason polls, including the AP and Coaches, will rank the Bulldogs around 18th to 20th. Most of these polls look at only a few factors when predicting how well a team is going to do: the team's record the previous season, how well they finished the season, returning starters, and returning star players. Also, many of the preseason magazines cover other sports besides college football (i.e., their time is limited) and have multiple writers with differing opinions contributing to their preseason football annual. These factors often translate to not much thought going into preseason predictions.
A great example is Georgia last season. Many of the preseason polls, including the two major ones, picked the Dawgs #1. However, if the time was taken to look closely at their inexperienced offensive line and difficult schedule, few would have chosen the Bulldogs as the best team in the country. Personally, I predicted Georgia to finish 10-2 in the 2008 regular season with a preseason ranking of seventh.
I believe the opposite will occur this season and the Bulldogs are probably a better team than the pundits will predict. These "experts" may very well overlook an experienced offensive line, a fifth-year senior at quarterback, a defense that should only get better, and a sense of leadership that obviously was lacking last year. While most in the media will place the Bulldogs towards the bottom of their poll, I feel like they should be ranked more like 10th to 13th (and I tend to be quite the pessimist).
It appears Athlon's might have done its homework ranking the Bulldogs as high as it did. The magazine and I also agree on our state rival's preseason ranking. Notice where it ranks the Yellow Jackets (likely a top-15 team in most preseason polls)...

May 15, 2009

Victories Lost?


I was recently looking on the College Football Data Warehouse website, which provides a plethora of information on the world's greatest sport, and noticed it credits Georgia with 724 victories in its history. However, the NCAA, the University of Georgia, and most everyone else recognizes the Bulldogs with 723 wins all time, ranking 11th highest of Division 1-A schools.
I looked into things further and found that the CFB Data Warehouse acknowledges a 5-0 win over the "Atlanta Olympians" in Athens (newspaper clipping prior to 1909 Georgia-Atlanta Olympians game courtesy of The Atlanta Constitution) to open the 1909 season on October 2. Seemingly, everyone else claims the '09 season did not start until a week later with a 0-0 tie with Citadel. I began to search through my Georgia football resources and archived newspapers and discovered, in fact, the Red and Black opened both the 1908 and 1909 seasons with wins over the Olympians--victories not recognized in the school's official football records.
On October 3, 1908, Georgia defeated "The Olympians of Atlanta" at Athens' Herty Field by a score of 29 to 5. Not much was reported about the game besides the Olympians were captained by Dan Sage--interestingly, Georgia's team captain three seasons earlier in 1905.
The following season on October 2, Georgia was scheduled to host Dahlonega but, for whatever reason, the visitor "dropped out" and the Olympians took its place on Georgia's slate. The star of a 5-0 Red and Black victory was on the losing end--quarterback Frank Dobson of the Olympians. The bizarre thing about Dobson is he had been an assistant coach (yes, a coach not player) at Georgia Tech the season before and by the end of the 1909 season, was Georgia's head coach! This may be the only time in college football history an individual played against and coached for the same team in the very same season. Dobson is a very interesting story himself; I'll post something about him within the next couple weeks. In the second half of the game, Georgia halfback John Cox scored on a run up the middle and the Red and Black held a 5-0 lead (touchdowns counted for five points from 1898 to 1911) it would not relinquish. Georgia's point-after was missed.
The reason I believe Georgia does not regard these victories as official games is because they likely were thought of as exhibitions, especially since "The Olympians of Atlanta" sound like some sort of club team instead of one from a particular college. Also, it appears the Olympians were made up of former college football players.
Nevertheless, there are some reasons to believe these two games should be acknowledged in the football annals of the school. Georgia has played "official" games versus teams made up of college all-stars or former football players in the past, primarily during World War II (e.g., Daniel Field), and also against squads not from traditional colleges but "prepatory" schools (e.g., Locust Grove). In addition, not once in the archives are the games against the Olympians referred to as exhibition or practice contests.
The argument can be made that the 1908 and 1909 Atlanta Olympians games are not recognized since the opponent is not associated with a college or university, however, other college programs count such games from the past. For instance, I recently did research for a publisher releasing a book on Southern Cal football and became well accustomed to the history of its program. One-hundred years ago and more, the Trojans played the likes of Los Angeles and Santa Ana High Schools, San Diego YMCA, and SC Prep--all teams not associated with any college but recognized as official games in USC football history.
Towards the end of the 1909 season, in several of its issues, The Atlanta Constitution printed game results for southern football teams of interest--Georgia, Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, Auburn, Sewanee, Clemson, Alabama, Mercer, and Tennessee. Listed as Georgia's first result was a 5-0 win over the "Olympians." It seemed 100 years ago the Red and Black's victories over a club team counted, so why would they not be recognized later by UGA? Especially when other schools, like the USC Trojans, uphold games against similar opposition.
Now, the difference between 723 and 725 victories do not seem like a big deal. But, just think, should Dawg fans have celebrated the program's 700th victory against Ole Miss in late September of 2006 rather than versus Auburn six weeks later? (I know, it's still not that big of a deal.)

May 11, 2009

Mother Foley

I was watching the Diamond Dogs at Foley Field on Mother's Day and it prompted me to remember a short story I included in my first book. Judge Frank Foley (portrait from UGA's School of Law), for whom UGA's Foley Field was named after, was not only a reputable judge but one of the most faithful Bulldog backers of all time. Nevertheless, it was "Mother Foley," the judge's mother, who, during Georgia's "Dream and Wonder" season of 1927, was regarded as the Bulldogs' "staunchest supporter [they] ever had."
On this Mother's Day, I was reminded that many of the Bulldogs' biggest fans are moms. My wife's (the mother of two come September) support of UGA athletics was one of the reasons that attracted me to her approximately eight years ago. Mother Foley's support of the Bulldogs, however, is tough to beat:

"Like 'Mother Foley,' Like Son" from "Then Vince Said to Herschel...":
After Georgia’s momentous victory over Yale in ’27, Furman was defeated the following week 32-0. On October 22, 1927, the undefeated Bulldogs faced Auburn in neutral Columbus, Georgia. Auburn kicked a field goal in the first quarter but Georgia responded with 27 second-quarter points.
The most elated person at the game was reportedly A.L. Foley, or “Mother Foley," a 69-year old woman who had two sons attend the University of Georgia. She was considered “the staunchest supporter the Bulldogs have ever had.” During halftime, she turned to writer W.C. Munday and said that Georgia’s performance in its 24-point lead was the finest sight in the world that there ever was.
After the Bulldogs’ 33-3 victory, Mother Foley was surprised by a visit from assistant coach Harry Mehre who gave her the game ball. Tearfully, Foley said to Mehre, "Really, Harry, you’ve made me happier than I’ve ever been and I do not know how to express my appreciation.” Wiping her tears and undaunted, Foley continued, “By the way, how about putting your name on this ball.” Mehre obliged and subsequently head coach George Woodruff and assistant Jimmy Crowley also added their autographs.
Mother Foley must have passed her loyalty to her son, Frank. Frank Foley was a standout baseball player on Georgia’s 1908 championship team and later was instrumental in bringing the Georgia-Auburn game to Columbus every year. The University’s baseball stadium, Foley Field, is named after him.

May 4, 2009

GREAT but OBSCURE Game #3

NOVEMBER 15, 1986:
GEORGIA 20, AUBURN 16
Starting Bulldogs quarterback James Jackson was granted permission to attend his grandmother's funeral the day of the 90th meeting between Georgia and Auburn. By the middle of the afternoon, Jackson had not reported back to the team. So, the Bulldogs gave the starting nod instead to Wayne Johnson (photo)--a sophomore who had played in less than half of Georgia's games, attempting just four passes all season.

PREGAME: Host Auburn entered the game with an 8-1 record, was ranked 8th in the nation, and held the inside track on capturing the SEC title. The Tigers had one of the nation's best defenses and an offense averaging 38 points per game which featured standouts Brent Fullwood (the eventual sixth-place finisher for the Heisman Trophy) and quarterback Jeff Burger.

Georgia's 6-3 mark was its worst after nine games in seven years. With games remaining against Auburn and Georgia Tech, the Bulldogs were still hoping to receive a bowl invitation. Georgia was a 10 1/2-point underdog to the Tigers--an already considerable spread set prior to Jackson's absence.

DETAILS: Auburn scored first on a 4-yard run by Reggie Ware, capping an 84-yard drive. However, Georgia retaliated and tied the score following an 8-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to tight end Troy Sadowski. In the final six minutes of the first half, Georgia kicker Steve Crumley booted two, short field goals and the Bulldogs led 13-7 at halftime. Soon following an Auburn field goal, Johnson scored on a 6-yard keeper and Georgia held a comfortable and surprising 20-10 lead late in the third quarter.

With 5:37 remaining in the game, Auburn was pinned down at its own 1-yard line but would drive 99 yards in 14 plays capped by a Burger to Lawyer Tillman scoring pass. Down 20-16, the Tigers would get the ball back at their own 6-yard line with 1:43 left in the contest. Three plays quickly moved Auburn to Georgia's 45-yard line. With only 54 seconds to play, linebacker Steve Boswell intercepted Burger, securing the unexpected Bulldogs victory. Georgia's win was its first as a double-digit underdog in more than 11 years (1975 vs. Florida) and would be the Bulldogs lone victory over Auburn in an eight season span (1983-1990).

PLAYER OF GAME: Led by linebackers John Brantley (20 tackles) and Boswell (19 tackles and game-winning interception), Georgia's defense held an explosive Auburn offense, for the most part, in check. In addition to intercepting Burger three times, the Bulldogs defenders limited Fullwood to less than five yards per carry (he entered averaging 9.1 yards per rush). Nevertheless, the star of the game was no doubt quarterback Wayne Johnson. He completed all but one of his seven passes, directed a running game that rushed for 239 yards against one of college football's best defensive units, and was responsible for both of Georgia's two touchdowns. Johnson accomplished all of this in a huge upset after finding out he would start only a few hours prior to kickoff.
STATISTICS:
Georgia-
17 first downs, 239 rush yds, 59 pass yds, 7-6-0 passes, 298 total yds, 0 fumb. lost
Lars Tate 24-94 rushing, Wayne Johnson 7-6-0-59 passing, Lars Tate 2-9 receiving
Auburn- 20 first downs, 138 rush yds, 233 pass yds, 36-19-3 passes, 371 total yds, 0 fumb. lost

Brent Fullwood 19-94 rushing, Jeff Burger 36-19-3-233 passing, Lawyer Tillman 9-150 receiving
RUNDOWN: In what Coach Vince Dooley called "a real 15-round fight," the skirmish continued into a 16th round. The 1986 Georgia-Auburn game might be best remembered for as the one played "between the hoses" as security personnel turned water cannons on celebrating fans who had stormed the field.
SEE VIDEO.

Unfortunately, innocent Bulldog bystanders in the northeast corner of Jordan-Hare Stadium would also be doused. Side story: An older brother of a good friend of mine was one of the Georgia enthusiasts who rushed the field that night and pulled up a portion of Auburn's "A-U" logo. Even today, he still has the clump of grass he pulled from the turf. The grass has long been shriveled and nearly black in color but the Auburn blue paint is still very evident in the souvenir he has kept for nearly 23 years.

After falling to Georgia, Auburn would defeat rival Alabama and later Southern Cal in the Citrus Bowl to finish 10-2 and #6 in the final AP poll. Following a week off, the Bulldogs defeated Georgia Tech for the first time in three years but later fell to Boston College in the Hall of Fame Bowl to end the year with an 8-4 mark.
Part of the
Great but Obscure games in Georgia football history... Previous games in series:
#2
1974 vs. Florida
#1
1936 vs. Fordham