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July 31, 2009

Great but Obscure Game #6

Coach Dooley says the Bulldogs are three seconds from upsetting the top-ranked team in the country.

NOVEMBER 9, 1985:
GEORGIA 24, FLORIDA 3

The Bulldogs' victory over Florida in 1985 might be the best example of one of the greatest wins in the school's football history but yet, for the most part, it is largely undistinguished. The Gators were on probation and although ranked number one by the writers, Florida was ineligible to appear in the other major rankings--the Coaches/UPI poll. Because of the probation the game was not televised; only radio listeners would hear of Georgia's momentous upset. For the Bulldogs, it would be their seventh but final win of the season; the '85 campaign was far removed from the success Georgia enjoyed in the early part of the decade. Regardless, the Bulldogs' 21-point handling of the Gators remains Georgia's only victory ever, in all of its years of success, over a top-ranked team in the AP poll.

PREGAME: In 1984, probation-bound Florida had achieved a 9-1-1 mark, including a 27-0 drubbing of Georgia (the Bulldogs first loss to the Gators since 1977). By the end of the season, several polls recognized by the NCAA had chosen Florida as national champion. A year later, the Gators were regarded as even better than before. Led by a dominating defense, a Heisman-Trophy candidate at quarterback in sophomore Kerwin Bell, and an offensive line nicknamed the "Great Wall of Florida," the Gators entered the game with a 7-0-1 record and ranked #1 in the AP for the first time in their history. Georgia had stumbled out of the gate with a loss to Alabama but had not suffered defeat since. The Bulldogs were 6-1-1, ranked 17th, and four-point underdogs in the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party."

DETAILS: With 5:24 remaining in the first quarter, Georgia freshman Keith Henderson raced up the middle for a 76-yard touchdown and an early Bulldogs lead. A quarter later, on the exact same play, Henderson got the same result, streaking for a 32-yard score. Meanwhile, Florida missed two field goals before Jeff Dawson successfully kicked a 36-yarder. However, Georgia's Steve Crumley kicked a field goal and built the Bulldogs' shocking lead to 17-3 late in the first half. In the second half, Florida's Bell continued to move the Gators up and down the field but they could not get within striking distance to score. Finally, Florida drove 91 yards midway through the final stanza to Georgia's seven-yard line before John L. Williams lost a fumble recovered by Bulldog linebacker Steve Boswell. Two plays later, Georgia ran a toss sweep with freshman Tim Worley. Running through a hole and breaking a tackle, Worley eventually distanced himself from the Florida defenders and crossed the goal line for a spectacular, 89-yard touchdown. Worley's long jaunt is considered one of the greatest plays in Georgia football history and remains tied for the longest rushing touchdown in school history. With the 24-3 upset, the Bulldogs knocked the Gators off from atop the AP poll while also ending their 18-game unbeaten streak.

PLAYER OF GAME: Certainly a case can be made for any of Georgia's two freshman tailbacks as the player of the game. Henderson led all rushers with 145 yards on just nine carries and two touchdowns. Worley rushed only seven times for 104 yards, 89 of which came on his memorable scoring run. The duo spearheaded a Bulldogs rushing attack that gained 344 yards against the 10th-best rushing defense in the nation.
Notwithstanding, it was Georgia's aggressive and harassing defense, led by end Greg "Muddy" Waters, who put constant pressure on Bell while keeping the highly-touted quarterback and the Gators out of the end zone. Waters had 13 tackles, broke up two passes, and recorded one of five sacks of Bell. Bell threw for a then school-record 408 yards (4th-most ever surrendered by a Georgia defense through the 2008 season) but could lead Florida's offense to only a mere field goal. It is likely the only time in SEC and perhaps even NCAA history a quarterback passed for more than 400 yards in a single game but his team did not score a single touchdown.
STATISTICS:
Georgia- 13 first downs, 344 rush yds, 31 pass yds, 8-3-0 passes, 375 total yds, 0 fumb. lost
Florida- 23 first downs, 28 rush yds, 408 pass yds, 49-33-1 passes, 436 total yds, 2 fumb. lost
Rushing: (GA) Henderson 9-145; Worley 7-104; Tate 6-58 (UF) Williams 12-42
Passing: (GA) W. Johnson 6-2-0-25; J. Jackson 2-1-0-6 (UF) Bell 49-33-1-408
Receiving: (GA) Lane 1-17; Smith 1-8; Osborn 1-6 (UF) Williams 12-103
RUNDOWN: Florida would rebound from the loss to win its final two games of the year and finish with a second consecutive 9-1-1 record. The Gators would not go bowling because of their probation but did finish fifth in the final AP rankings. Georgia, on the other hand, quickly fell from grace. After climbing to #12 in the country after the Florida win, the Bulldogs dropped their final two regular-season games to Auburn and Georgia Tech and tied Arizona in the Sun Bowl (Georgia was favored in all three games) to finish with a disappointing 7-3-2 record. Nevertheless, for its game against the number-one squad in college football, Georgia had been "a total team," according to Coach Vince Dooley. "I don't know how you play any better. Everybody was superb."

July 27, 2009

Too Much Tebow Talk


Since it has been finally reported South Carolina's director of football operations was the culprit who did not vote for Florida's Tim Tebow, maybe we can all move on and live our lives.
If you have been living under a rock for the past week or so, there was a huge controversy last week at SEC Media Days when it was discovered one of 11 conference head coaches did not vote the Gator quarterback to the preseason's first-team All-SEC.
First, the media cried, "Who done it?!?"
"Was it Mark Richt?" "I bet it was Tennessee's Lane Kiffin!" "What about that new coach over at Mississippi State?"
While the media questioned, I, like many others, was screaming "WHO GIVES A RIP?!?" I guess the media does; that's who. Come to find out it was the Evil Genius who left the Heisman-Trophy winner off his first-team all-conference team. Spurrier blamed Speronis, said they had "screwed it up," and then amended his ballot. Case close--the end of Tebowgate. Or so we thought...
A local sports-talk radio station STILL was reporting on the Tebow slight in their regular updates as late as yesterday. On Sunday, one sports editor declared the situation as one of the more notable oversights in SEC history, comparing it to Auburn missing out playing for a national championship in 2004 and Peyton Manning finishing runner-up for the 1997 Heisman Trophy.
Speaking of, am I the only fan of the SEC who thought Michigan's Charles Woodson deserved the Heisman in 1997? Peyton had a spectacular collegiate career and a fine senior season. However, it's difficult to argue with a player who played defense, offense, and on special teams, intercepted eight passes, and scored touchdowns rushing, receiving, and on a punt return for an undefeated Michigan squad who would win the national title. Manning, on the other hand, concluded the 1997 season by reinforcing Woodson's worthiness, throwing for just 134 yards on 31 attempts in a 42-17 blowout loss to Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. I digress...
Many Gator Haters like Tim Tebow. My wife likes Tim Tebow (she calls him her "college football boyfriend"). I even like Tim Tebow. And that's saying a lot considering my despise for all Florida quarterbacks (especially this one) since freshman Kerwin Bell led the Gators to a 27-0 hammering of the eighth-ranked Bulldogs in 1984.
Some may make fun of Tebow...

Nevertheless, you have to admire Tebow for his character, integrity, determination, spirituality, and, by the way, he could finish his Gator career as the best player in the history of college football. Let's just hope the talk of Tebow getting slighted ends and we can soon discuss his play on the gridiron instead of his spot on a coach's All-SEC ballot.

July 21, 2009

That & This


I had emails sent to me yesterday dealing with three different UGA football-related topics, so I thought I'd post my thoughts on each:
***Jim Donnan was recently inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. A local sports-talk radio host last Friday supported the enshrinement, citing Donnan earning the ACC's player of the year in 1967 as N.C. State's quarterback, his success as Oklahoma's offensive coordinator during its wishbone glory years of the mid- to late-80s, and his noteworthy head-coaching stints at both Marshall and Georgia.
Of course, Donnan will work for the host's radio station as a college football analyst/expert for the upcoming season. I remember a few years ago, this same host, working at a different radio station at the time not employing Donnan, made fun of the coach because he allegedly, according to the host, told his players to carry him off the field after Georgia defeated Florida in 1997; the coach being carted off by a group of celebratory Bulldogs was far from a spur-of-the-moment reaction, according to this same radio personality.
I have mixed feelings about Donnan's induction. Completing a little more than 50% of his passes for less than 1,000 yards and only nine touchdowns as the Wolfpack's quarterback in 1967, Donnan was curiously named ACC Player of Year by Coach and Athlete magazine. However, Clemson's Buddy Gore was the "official" ACC Player of the Year in 1967 voted by the conference media while Donnan, in fact, did not even earn all-conference recognition.
If Donnan was voted in the Hall of Fame for primarily being a successful offensive coordinator for five seasons and Division 1-AA head coach for six, surely another former Bulldog should be inducted as one of the game's best defensive coordinators for 17 seasons and one of the greatest Division 1-AA head coaches of all time.
At Georgia, Donnan was certainly a step up from Ray Goff but, in my opinion, his head-coaching achievements certainly pale in comparison to Coach Richt's and probably most of the head coaches in the Hall of Fame. Of the more than 1,000 players and coaches who have been inducted, just one played solely as a placekicker and only one was a punter. I'm not aware of the Hall's criteria of admitting possible candidates but seemingly it is somewhat strict if only two kickers have been voted in. Is winning only 35% of your games against ranked opponents and just 30% against Tennessee, Florida, Auburn, and Georgia Tech, Hall of Fame-worthy? (Richt has won 63% and 59%, respectively.) Donnan's lack of winning against Georgia's biggest rivals ultimately got him fired following the 2000 season. I've said since his dismissal that his firing was mishandled by UGA (i.e., Michael Adams) but I'm glad it happened, especially considering the success the Dawgs have enjoyed under Richt.
Along with most of the Bulldog Nation, I congratulate Jim Donnan on being elected into the College Football Hall of Fame. He is now one of only four Georgia coaches to earn the same recognition ("Pop" Warner, Wally Butts, and Vince Dooley, the others). However, in all honesty, if I had the opportunity I doubt I would have voted him in.
***Speaking of the Bulldog Nation, it was riled up yesterday following a column written by newspaper columnist and sports-talk radio host, Paul Finebaum. Finebaum indicating that Richt would be a coach on the hot seat if Georgia was to "stumble out of the gate" this season is ridiculous, along with the connection made to Tommy Tuberville and Phillip Fulmer. The column is yet another attempt by the attention-seeking Finebaum to stir the pot and be controversial. In my opinion, it would take a lot for Bulldog fans to, in Finebaum's words, "fall completely out of love" with Richt, like back-to-back 6-6 seasons, or something similar. If anyone is going to be on the hot seat at Georgia in the near future, it would be one of his own assistants, not Richt himself.
***A friend of mine emailed me a website that should be of interest to all Georgia football and Larry Munson fans--ChopDawg's Munson Vault. I spent nearly two hours last night listening to Munson calls from the legend's first 21 seasons in Georgia's broadcasting booth. Also included are calls made by Ed Thilenius, the play-by-play man prior to Munson, from the 1959 Auburn and 1965 Alabama games. Before last night, I had never heard the call of Georgia's famous flea-flicker against 'Bama in '65 (photo).
Let me add, there are details most Bulldog fans don't know about the 18-17 win over Alabama in 1965 beyond the successful, Kirby Moore-Pat Hodgson-Bob Taylor flea-flicker for a touchdown and two-point conversion, giving the Bulldogs a one-point lead. Many assume the game was basically over after quarterback Moore passed to Hodgson for two points. You rarely hear that 2:08 was still remaining in the game--an eternity.
After Georgia's kickoff following the two-point conversion, Alabama drove 33 yards in five plays from its 41-yard line to the Bulldogs 26 in less than two minutes. Hardly discussed in Georgia football lore is David Ray had a chance to win it for the Crimson Tide with 14 seconds remaining on a 42-yard field goal attempt, however, the Alabama kicker's game-winning try was short and wide.
Regarding the flea-flicker play, most think that there is a controversy with the first part of the play--Moore's short pass to Hodgson. Photographs prove Hodgson's knees were touching the ground and thus the supposed controversy--the play should have been blown dead prior to Hodgson flipping the ball to a trailing Taylor, who raced into the end zone for a 73-yard touchdown. In fact, The Birmingham News printed these photos two days later with the headline: "camera doesn't lie--it was illegal." However, in actuality, there was no such disputation regarding Hodgson's knees touching.
"All three officials saw Hodgson's knees were on the ground," said an SEC spokesman a couple days following the game. "But they agreed he did not have the ball long enough to rule he had control of it. If he had dropped it, it would have been ruled an incomplete pass [and not a fumble]." In other words, the game officials regarded the football going from Hodgson to Taylor as more like a batted ball instead of a lateral. The fact Hodgson's knees touched the ground has nothing to do with the play counting or not and certainly is no controversy.

July 18, 2009

Junkyard Dogs

As a football season looms where Georgia's defense is expected to be hopefully tougher than a year ago, show more leadership, and be better overall, I'm reminded of a somewhat similar situation 34 years ago.

The Bulldog defense of 1974 had been dreadful, allowing more points per game (23.8) in school history since 1905 and more yards (356.5) than ever at Georgia. If not for a potent offensive attack, the '74 Bulldogs would have fared much worse than their 6-6 final record. Georgia's dissatisfying defense was especially surprising considering it was coordinated by the late, great Erk Russell (photo--UGA Sports Communications).

Entering the 1975 season, only two starters on defense returned and one of those, Erk's oldest son Rusty Russell, was switching from defensive end to linebacker. With less than a month before the season opener, it was reported seven of the 11 defensive starting positions were "unsettled." Could Georgia's defense of '75 actually be worse than the inept unit of the previous season?

Erk had an idea: First, he changed Georgia's defensive formation from the 5-2-4 to the Split-60 and, as importantly, gave the defense a moniker to inspire spirit and toughness--"Junkyard Dogs."

There isn't anything meaner than a junkyard dog," Erk said three weeks prior to the Bulldogs game against Pittsburgh on September 6. "They aren't good for nothing except for being mean and ornery. That's what we want our defense to be."

One of my favorite stories is when assistant coach John Kasay was being interviewed by the Athens Banner-Herald soon after the "Junkyard Dogs" were unveiled. Kasay, who had lived in Athens since starting school at UGA in 1962, discussed some well-known junkyard dogs that lived in the area. "[Kasay] told of two [junkyard dogs] that guarded Parrish Toyota, one at University Chevrolet, and the junkyard dog at Carter's Carburetor that was half blind, underfed, and ferocious at night." Soon afterwards, Junkyard Dogs t-shirts could be seen all over UGA's campus and the town of Athens.

Georgia's Junkyard Dogs were inexperienced and small (only two starters on defense weighed more than 210 pounds) but quick, tenacious, and known for their aggressive style of play. By late October, the Bulldogs, led by their defense, had unexpectedly won five of seven games while allowing just 288 yards and 14 points per game--a far cry from the defensive averages the year before.

Three days prior to Georgia's Homecoming game against Richmond on November 1, the song "Dooley's Junkyard Dogs" sung by James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, was released in Atlanta. The song was written by "Happy" Howard Williamson, part of Georgia football's radio network, who was inspired by the defense's surprising play in a victory in September. The song, cut on 100,000 records, was soon released. An oldie but certainly a goodie:



Note: Whether on this video's YouTube page or on other Bulldog blogs in the past, there is some debate of what game the video of James Brown and the Redcoat Band is taken from. Although Brown performed the song in Sanford Stadium on at least a couple of occasions, this recording is definitely from a Georgia-Florida game in the Gator Bowl. Around the time of the song's popularity, the Bulldogs wore red (see the red-jersied Georgia players enter the field towards the end of the video) in 1975 and 1977 against Florida. Since the tune was released only a little more than a week prior to the '75 game and I know for a fact Brown performed the song two weeks before the '77 game in Sanford Stadium versus Kentucky (Prince Charles' visit to Athens), I'm almost certain the video is from the 1977 Georgia-Florida game--an unfortunate 22-17 Gators win.

Georgia and its Junkyard Dogs would win its final four games to finish the regular season 9-2, #12 in the AP and #11 in the UPI polls, and earn a trip to the Cotton Bowl. Only a mid-October loss to Ole Miss kept the Bulldogs from winning an SEC championship (That's okay. We'd win it in '76.) and having an outside shot at playing for a national title--not bad for a team "unsettled" on seven of its 11 defensive starters only three weeks before its season-opening game.

I'm not advocating for a "Junkyard Dogs II" for the upcoming season--that has already been attempted. After three consecutive seasons of above-average defenses from 1984 to 1986, Georgia revealed its Junkyard Dogs II defense for the 1987 campaign. The new Junkyard Dogs finished seventh in the SEC in total defense (of 10 teams) and dead last in pass defense. Like many other Bulldog backers, I'm only hoping for more leadership, aggressiveness, and some improvement in this year's defense compared to last year's edition. Personally, I have a good feeling this will be the case...

July 15, 2009

Get the Ball, Dawgs, Get the Ball!

"Get the Ball, Dawgs, Get the Ball!" is a Georgia cheer for, I believe, the basketball team. I'm sure many of you have heard it before and, at least on an occasion or two, chanted it along with the Bulldog cheerleaders. It's one of those cheers you find yourself reciting hours after a game has ended only to fully realize it when someone else points out your cheering is annoying. Nevertheless, it should be the motto for the upcoming football season. For it was Georgia's lack of "getting the ball" in '08 that was the main factor, in my opinion, for a somewhat disappointing year.
After last season's 45-42 loss to Georgia Tech, it seemed so simple: our defense was atrocious at times and above average, at best. Sure, the defensive unit had suffered a bevy of injuries, however, the fact remained it could not keep the opposition out of the end zone. From the 2006 Sugar Bowl against West Virginia (the first season of Willie Martinez as defensive coordinator, many Dawg fans would add) through the '08 Tech loss, a total of 39 games, Georgia allowed its opponent to score 35 points or more in 8 contests, including five times in a span of only eight games in 2008. In comparison, prior to the loss to West Virginia, it had been 77 games and more than six years since the last time the Bulldogs allowed 35 points or more (1999 vs. Georgia Tech)!
Further inspection into 2008 reveals something interesting: Georgia's defense allowed only 312 yards per game (ranked 22nd out of 119 FBS teams)--that's actually pretty good. However, it ranked 59th in scoring defense, yielding 24.5 points per game--the Bulldogs' highest average since 1999 and the seventh most in the school's 115 seasons of playing football.
Surely, Georgia's opponents scored a good portion of its points via non-offensive touchdowns, you ask? Nope. Only once in '08 did the opposition cross our goal line in a manner besides the run or pass--Georgia Tech's Morgan Burnett's interception return of Stafford for a touchdown.
So, how did the Georgia defense in '08 allow a reasonable low amount of yardage but yet give up so many points? There were several contributing factors. The top two being Georgia's poor kickoff coverage and simply the Bulldogs did not force enough turnovers, only 16 total (11 interceptions, five fumbles) in 13 games (Photo--Dobbs game-winning INT vs. Kentucky--GeorgiaDogs.com).
Last season, it appears the Bulldogs could somewhat contain opposing offenses from moving up and down the field but had their issues jarring the ball loose or intercepting passes. Of the 119 FBS teams, only seven forced less than 16 turnovers. Complete team football statistics date back to 1947 in UGA's archives and no Bulldogs team from 1947-2007 forced equal to or less than the 16 turnovers tallied by the 2008 squad. Based on the fact that turnovers occurred much more often in the early days of football than the later, it is safe to say last season's Georgia defense gained less turnovers than any team in the school's football history.
Several questions loom as the Bulldogs get ready for the 2009 season: Can Joe Cox fill in adequately for the departed Matt Stafford? Can we establish a respectable ground game? Can we put pressure on and sack opposing quarterbacks with more regularity? Nonetheless, I truly feel if the Dawgs can improve their kickoff coverage and, most importantly, "get the ball" much more often than last season, we should be in for a better year than most expect.
In 2004, Georgia forced only 17 turnovers (12 fumbles, 5 interceptions) in a previous, somewhat disappointing season. I remember the first game of the next year, the Bulldogs surprisingly intercepted four Boise State passes in the season opener of 2005--nearly as many as the total from the entire 2004 season. Georgia would crush Boise State and eventually capture the SEC title when the so-called "experts" gave the Bulldogs no shot to even win the division. In 2009, forcing turnovers and plenty of them in the season-opening game would get the ball rolling (pun intended) and could spell success for the upcoming year ahead.

July 11, 2009

The Second Sign...



For me, the first sign college football is just around the corner is when the preseason magazines hit the newsstands. The second sign is when the early opening lines, or point spreads, for the major games of the year are released. A week or so ago, The Las Vegas Hilton came out with its early lines for noteworthy games of 2009. Games involving Georgia:

GEORGIA +3 Oklahoma State
GEORGIA -2' Arkansas
GEORGIA -14 Arizona State
GEORGIA -4 LSU
GEORGIA -3' Tennessee
GEORGIA +16 Florida
GEORGIA -10' Auburn
GEORGIA +1 Georgia Tech

A few things immediately caught my attention: Georgia is a 3.5-point favorite at Tennessee but only a 2.5-point favorite at Arkansas? Favored by 10.5 over Auburn seems awfully high. The Tigers always play us tough in Athens and even in 2007, a 45-20 Georgia win, the Dogs actually trailed 20-17 in the third quarter.
Being an early 1-point underdog at Tech is somewhat surprising. Much of the Bulldogs not being favored is considering the game is on The Flats, although the Jackets don't have much of a home-field advantage, and last season's second-half debacle against them. I just don't see Georgia Tech running with ease on our defense and us falling victim to our state rival for a second consecutive season. If LSU can contain the Jackets' running game like it did in this past Chick-fil-A Bowl in a 38-3 victory, Georgia can do the same.
Notice how big of an early favorite Florida is over the Dogs. Georgia has not been as big as a 16-point underdog since 2001 when the Gators were 19-point favorites over Coach Richt's first team.
I've always been intrigued with sports betting odds, especially for football. In fact, my second book, About Them Dawgs!, includes a three-page section on point spreads for Georgia football games since 1973. Interestingly and according to The Gold Sheet, point spreads for the 1973 season were the first in college football formulated with the help of computers. It is considered that college football point spreads prior to 1973 have little to no relation to the point spreads of the last 36 years.
As my book mentions, from 1973 through the 2007 season, Georgia was considered the underdog in just 24.5% of its 421 games. In comparison, during the same time period, Tennessee was an underdog in 27.1% of its games, Auburn 31.1%, Georgia Tech 45.8%, and Vanderbilt 71.9%. If you include the 2009 Capital One Bowl versus Michigan State, the Bulldogs have been the underdog in only 11 of its last 30 bowl games and on just three occasions in their last 20 bowls.

July 10, 2009

Vote!


CFB Live of ESPN is currently featuring its "50 states in 50 days." A reader of the blog wanted me to stress for all Dawg fans to VOTE HERE at the best of Georgia polls. Supposedly, the state of Georgia will be featured on July 27th. Anyway, click and vote! Currently, it's a tight race between Coach Dooley (photo--AJC) and Tech's Bobby Dodd as the best coach in state history.

July 6, 2009

Great but Obscure Game #5


OCTOBER 19, 1956:
GEORGIA 7, MIAMI (Fla) 7
After Georgia football's successful run during the 1940s, the Bulldogs did an about-face the following decade. Shockingly, from the start of the 1951 season until mid-November of 1959, Georgia recorded a lowly 0-20-1 mark against ranked opposition. The lone non-defeat, a tie in 1956, came against Coach Andy Gustafson (photo--University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame), halfback Don Bosseler, and the rest of the mighty Miami Hurricanes.

PREGAME: Georgia and Miami of Florida faced one another 12 times in a 30-year span from 1937 to 1966. All 12 games were played at Miami's Orange Bowl at night with every contest held on a Friday. Such was the case when the Bulldogs met the 11th-ranked and undefeated Hurricanes in 1956 in front of a crowd of 42,682. Entering the game, Georgia had a record of 2-2 and struggled offensively to average just nine points per contest. The Bulldogs of '56 would eventually finish the campaign averaging less than 200 yards per game (194.0)--still a school-record low since statistics began being kept nearly 70 years ago. Led by first team All-American Bosseler, Miami was a two-touchdown favorite over a Bulldog squad regarded by the press as the "pore lil Georgia boys."
DETAILS: In the opening quarter, Georgia halfback J.B. Davis fielded a Miami punt at his own 42-yard line. Faking and twisting his way through defenders, Davis sped 58 yards into the end zone and the game's first points. Ken Cooper kicked the PAT. Soon thereafter, Bulldog sophomore guard Cicero Lucas sidelined Bosseler with a bone-crushing tackle; Miami's All-American would be lost for most of the game due to the injury.
During the fourth quarter, just when it appeared the "pore lil Georgia boys" would pull a huge upset, the Hurricanes drove 84 yards to Georgia's 1-yard line. On first and second downs, fullback Bill Sandie was dropped for no gain by the Georgia defense. On third down, an incomplete pass was thrown. Finally, on fourth down, Sandie bulled his way into the end zone for a touchdown. Ed Oliver kicked the PAT and tied the game 7-7 with less than eight minutes remaining.
Georgia's offense, which, as predicted, struggled all day and would do so throughout the season, finally began to mount a drive with the score tied. The Bulldogs moved 39 yards to Miami's 30-yard line before calling on Cooper to attempt a game-winning field goal. Cooper's try was blocked by Bosseler. The injured halfback had returned from the bench and with his block, preserved a tie with the visiting Bulldogs.
PLAYER OF GAME: J.B. Davis was a small halfback from Alabama, weighing just around 150 pounds. However, what he lacked in size, he more than made up with his punt returning skills. In 1956, Davis would return two punts for scores in only six attempts while averaging nearly 30 yards per return. Two weeks following his scoring return against Miami, Davis returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown against his native Alabama and provided the winning margin in a 16-13 victory in Birmingham. Davis, who was named captain of the team the following season, indicated his return against 'Bama was the "greatest thrill of [his] life."
RUNDOWN: Miami would rebound from its upset tie with Georgia and easily win its next five games, including a 20-7 victory over rival Florida (pretty cool vintage video). Although the Hurricanes dropped their season finale against Pittsburgh, they would finish the '56 season with an 8-1-1 record. Miami's #6 final ranking in both major polls would be its highest ranking to end a season until winning its first of five national championships in 1983.
With the help from Davis, the win over Alabama gave Georgia a 3-3-1 record heading into its games against the final "big three." Nevertheless, the Bulldogs would be dismantled by Florida, Auburn, and Georgia Tech by a combined 83 to zero score. The Bulldogs finished last in the 12-member SEC with a 1-6 conference record--the only time in Coach Wally Butts' 22 years at UGA he would end the year at the very bottom of the SEC.
Part of the Great but Obscure games in Georgia football history... Previous games in series: #4 1940 vs. Georgia Tech, #3 1986 vs. Auburn, #2 1974 vs. Florida, #1 1936 vs. Fordham

July 2, 2009

Bulldogs in the "Big House" in 2010?

Quarterback Preston Ridlehuber (with ball against Texas Tech in the '64 Sun Bowl) led the Bulldogs to victory the last time Georgia met Michigan.

Yesterday rumors ran rampant that Georgia might face Michigan in Ann Arbor in 2010 and in Athens in 2011. Apparently, the rumor was started by the University of Michigan's campus newspaper--The Michigan Daily. However, by the end of the day, the report appeared to be merely gossip and highly unlikely. As several articles and blogs point out, Georgia has only five home games currently scheduled for 2010 and looking to add a sixth. Scheduling an away date with Michigan would force the Bulldogs to change a road game to one at home. This would likely mean cancelling Georgia's game against Colorado in Boulder or moving it to another season. These scenarios would probably force Georgia to buy Colorado out--an inconceivable possibility. Amidst the Georgia-Michigan rumors, I was reminded of one of the biggest and most surprising wins in the Vince Dooley era--the Bulldogs' 15-7 victory in Ann Arbor in 1965.
Eight years earlier in 1957, a young Bulldog squad coached by Wally Butts traveled to Michigan's "Big House" for the first time ever and were thumped by the tenth-ranked Wolverines, 26-0. Five lost fumbles, three interceptions thrown by Charley Britt, and 110 yards in penalties resulted in Georgia being shut out while not reaching beyond Michigan's 21-yard line.
Dooley's second Bulldog team of 1965, ranked 10th in the nation and just two weeks removed from their "flea-flicker" win over eventual national champion Alabama, played Michigan for Georgia's second and final time, to date. Whereas the matchup in 1957 attracted 85,002 spectators, less than 60,000 fans witnessed the '65 game in a stadium which held a whopping 103,219 even then. It was speculated Michigan fans wanted to skip watching their Wolverines play a much inferior and undersized Georgia team and rest up for the following Saturday--a home game against rival Michigan State.
The Bulldogs improved their record to 3-0 (first time in 12 years) and ranking to #4 (highest in AP Poll since final rankings of 1946) with their shocking, eight-point win over Michigan. They were led by Bob Etter's three field goals and Preston Ridlehuber, who split time at quarterback with Kirby Moore. Ridlehuber rushed for 61 yards, including a spectacular 23-yarder which directly led to Georgia's lone touchdown. The touchdown, Ridlehuber's first of only two career collegiate touchdown passes, was a 10-yard toss to Pat Hodgson in the final quarter. It was not only the last time the Bulldogs faced the Wolverines but also the last time they journeyed north of Lexington, Kentucky, to play a game.
In my opinion, a two-game series with Michigan in 2010 and 2011 would be desired by most Georgia fans. Many Bulldog backers have complained for years how the team does not schedule games against big-time, nationally-renowned opponents. Unfortunately, other than a bowl matchup, it appears a small miracle would have to occur for a Georgia-Michigan contest to take place in the near future. Of course, once in a while a miracle does come to pass...