SF-7x

November 30, 2009

Bulldogs Salvage Season With Classic Win

I’ll admit it. I had basically given up on Georgia Bulldogs football for 2009, conceded a loss to Georgia Tech, and was already looking forward to next season.

The Dawgs had lost to Kentucky at home and were playing on the road at No. 7 Georgia Tech—a team who had suffered just one loss, was heading to the ACC title game, and still had slim hopes of contending for a national title.

For the past two years, the Yellow Jackets struggled only when faced against disciplined, mistake-free teams. Disciplined and mistake-free, Georgia certainly was not as one of the most penalized and turnover-prone squads in all of college football.

There was absolutely no chance for a Bulldog victory, I thought beforehand, but as long as they don’t get embarrassed…

Much to the surprise of many, Georgia led 17-3 at halftime. However, we had all seen this before.

Just a week before against Kentucky, the Bulldogs held a two-touchdown advantage at halftime and appeared to be headed for a romp. Instead, they fell apart in the second half and lost to the Wildcats in Athens for the first time in 32 years.

Just a year prior against Georgia Tech, Georgia led 28-12 at halftime but its defense allowed the Yellow Jackets to run rampant in the second half. Tech upset the Bulldogs 45-42—the Jackets’ first victory over their in-state rival in eight years.

Last Saturday, Georgia Tech made a game of it in the second half as expected, cutting its deficit to six points and having possession on the Bulldogs’ 46-yard line with just under two minutes remaining. That’s when Tech coach Paul Johnson, who has been labeled a play-calling genius, curiously called for three consecutive long passes—all incompletions.

On fourth down, Tech’s Demaryius “Bay Bay” Thomas, an extremely gifted receiver, a future top-10 NFL pick, and likely the last player on the field you’d expect to drop a pass, did just that. Bay Bay’s blunder would have given the Yellow Jackets a first down but instead it gave Georgia the ballgame.

In their 30-24 victory, the Bulldogs gave run-oriented Georgia Tech a dose of its own medicine, rushing for 339 yards—the most by a Georgia team in more than 21 seasons.

The dynamic duo of Washaun Ealey and Caleb King became only the third pair of Bulldog backs since 1988 to each rush for 100 or more yards in a single game. Ealey carried 20 times for 183 yards; King had 18 rushes for 166.

It was an offense Georgia fans had hoped to see back in September: a dominant offensive line anticipated as one of the best in the nation, a strong running game, and a quarterback in Joe Cox who was not necessarily suppose to win a game, just manage it.

It took Georgia’s offense a while to figure things out but it finally did in grand fashion, guiding the Bulldogs to their biggest victory in at least two seasons.

Notwithstanding, it was the lack of errors which ultimately benefited the Bulldogs—a team who had been plagued by the “little mistakes” all season.

Entering the game, Georgia was averaging nearly nine penalties for 73 yards and committing 2.4 turnovers per game. Its defense had forced only eight turnovers the entire season.

Against Georgia Tech, the Bulldogs were penalized just five times for 39 yards and lost just one turnover. Georgia’s defense, on the other hand, recovered a rare fumble, just its second of the year, and made an interception.

The victory does not erase all of the mistakes and inconsistencies made by the undisciplined Dogs in ’09; it doesn’t erase the pain of five losses. However, it definitely salvages a disappointing season.

This season’s Tech-Georgia game goes down as one of the Bulldogs’ greatest in a classic rivalry. I’ve seen, read about, and/or researched every one of Georgia’s 60 series victories and you’ll be hard pressed to find a dozen cherished more than this one.

This win was especially gratifying because Tech was undoubtedly up and Georgia might have been down, but the underdog Dawgs were the ones who came out on top. The Jackets might be heading to an ACC championship but the Bulldogs won the state championship and get to enjoy it for at least another year.

Speaking of which, Georgia Tech should have its hands full again next year when it plays the Dogs. Georgia returns 10 of 11 starters on offense, including its entire offensive line and one of the best players in the nation in A.J. Green, who did not play Saturday. Ealey is just a freshman, King only a sophomore.

Depending on any early departures, Georgia’s defense should return approximately half of its starters, while arguably the best punter and placekicker in college football, Drew Butler and Blair Walsh, are both only sophomores.

As was the case prior to the Georgia Tech game, I’m still looking forward to the 2010 season but it can take its time getting here. I want to enjoy this unexpected but classic victory as much as possible.

November 29, 2009

Just when I had about given up...


You tore up our hedges, I'll tear up your endzone. (Photo: AJC)

...on the Dogs, they now have me making bowl plans.

I am absolutely ecstatic over last night's win at Tech.  My feelings remind me of the ones I had following Auburn in 2006; I had basically given up on the team but it won impressively, and now my passion is restored.  I know, it sounds somewhat fair-weathered.  Too bad there's only one game remaining this season and it is not until a month from now.

This morning I started to write a piece on how a presumed loss to Georgia Tech, which I and many others had accepted, followed by an unexpected victory, was reminiscent of a particular call by a legendary play-by-play broadcaster.  That is, until I read the Athens Banner-Herald and saw that David Ching beat me to the punch.

I'll put together something else later and have it posted by Monday night.

Until then, a few of the game's facts and stats got me thinking/digging.  Last night's win over the Jackets was certainly a rarity...
  • Only six other times in Georgia football history had an unranked Bulldog team defeated a team ranked as high as No. 7 Georgia Tech: 2006- #5 Auburn, 2001- #6 Tennessee, 1991- #6 Clemson, 1974- #6 Florida, 1966- #7 Florida*, and 1965- #5 Alabama*. * In 1965 and 1966, the AP Poll only ranked the top 10 teams, not 20 or 25.  Entering the Florida game of 1966, although unranked, Georgia was one of nine "others receiving votes" and there for was among the AP's top 20 teams.
  • Only seven times since 1973 had Georgia defeated a bigger favorite than the nine-point favored Yellow Jackets: 1997- 20.5-point favored Florida, 2006- 11.5 Auburn, 1973- 11 Tennessee, 2001- 11 Tennessee, 1975- 10.5 Florida, 1986- 10.5 Auburn, and 1996- 10 Auburn.
Georgia's powerful running game against Tech's defense was extraordinary and remindful of some of Coach Dooley's offenses.  Speaking of which...
  • The Bulldogs' 339 rushing yards were their most not only in the Mark Richt era (as I have already read/heard several times in less than 24 hours since the game), but since the William & Mary game of 1988 (Coach Dooley's last team) when Georgia rushed for 372 yards.
  • Georgia had two players rush for 100+ yards in a single game for only the third time since 1988.  In 1992, Garrison Hearst and Mack Strong rushed for 100+ against South Carolina and, in 2004, Thomas Brown and Danny Ware did so versus Vanderbilt.
  • Joe Cox's 14 pass attempts were the team's lowest since D.J. Shockley completed six of only 12 passes against LSU in the 2005 SEC Championship Game.
  • Georgia AND Georgia Tech did attempt a single punt.  I have Georgia's game punting statistics on hand dating back to the late 1970s and found just one instance each for the Bulldogs and their opponent when they did not punt--Georgia against Duke in 1986 and Kentucky versus the Dogs in 1997.  Based on this and the fact that, until the 1960s, football teams punted often and routinely before facing fourth down, I believe last night was likely the first time in 116 seasons and 1,177 games of UGA football, Georgia AND its opponent did not both punt in a game.

November 27, 2009

* Admission of A Dawg Fan and Tech Hater

I do not like The Georgia Institute of Technology and I especially do not like its football team.

I somewhat respect the Yellow Jackets for their sudden turnaround with Coach Paul Johnson at the helm, but I certainly don't like them or their reversal of fortune.

When I started rooting for the Bulldogs in the early 1980s, unlike many decades ago, I believe many Dawg fans felt more sorry for Tech than those that disliked the Jackets. Hate was reserved for the likes of Clemson, Auburn, and maybe Florida.

This all changed for me when in 1984 I witnessed an underdog Georgia Tech team come into Athens, soundly defeat my Bulldogs, and tear up Sanford Stadium's hedges afterwards.

The next day, on the cover of the sports section of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Tech coach Bill Curry was pictured loving on John Dewberry, a transfer from Georgia two years earlier (Photo). Dewberry, winning quarterback of the Yellow Jackets, was holding a piece of our beloved hedges.

This exhibition of disrespect would not be accepted, I decided. No more did I feel sorry for our neighbors to the west; I felt hatred.

However, there is one, and only one, single issue I will side with our in-state adversary. Most Tech and Georgia football fans are familiar with this controversy and the pair of asterisks that has made it renowned.

If you're unfamiliar with the dispute, I'm sure you'll hear about it this Saturday if you watch the 104th, or 102nd, meeting between Georgia and Georgia Tech; the game's television broadcast mentions it every year.

The Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets cannot agree on how many times they've played one another in football. Georgia defends a 59-37-5 advantage, Georgia Tech claims a 39-59-5 disadvantage.

The disagreement lies with the games played between the teams in 1943 and 1944--both blowout wins for the Yellow Jackets by a combined 92-0 score. Georgia Tech counts the two games while Georgia does not recognize them.

By the start of the 1943 football season, World War II was raging. Because of the war, graduation, and injuries, lost was every one of the Bulldogs' lettermen from its 1942 national championship squad. Georgia's 1943 team was comprised of just 25 seventeen-year-old freshmen too young for the war's draft and a few older players who had not met the military's physical standards.

Many of the teams around the country were in the same predicament as Georgia and a good number of schools cancelled their '43 football campaigns. Only a day before the Bulldogs' season opener, Coach Wally Butts asked his team if it too wanted to cancel its season. They refused, joining only three other SEC teams, of its 12 members, who would play football in 1943.

"So we'll play football as long as 11 men are available to put a team on the field," said Butts.

Georgia Tech was one of the three other participating schools in the conference. The Yellow Jackets, unlike the Bulldogs, would benefit from the war.

Georgia Tech had the Navy V-12 Program, as did other schools, whereas any student who signed up could remain in school and continue playing athletics. The University of Georgia did not have such a program. In addition, Tech had a Navy flight school which drew students, including football players, from other universities.

In 1943, not only did the Yellow Jackets return most of their team from the year before but, according to Dan Magill, a long-time member of UGA's athletics department, they were also joined by the captains of Alabama and Vanderbilt and other players from various schools.

Georgia Tech appeared to have an overwhelming advantage over Georgia and it was evident on the gridiron with a 48-0 victory in 1943 and 44-0 in 1944.

Soon after his hiring as publicity director of UGA football in 1948, Magill told Coach Butts he would no longer count the 1943 and 1944 games in the series record between Tech and Georgia. In the football records, Magill placed asterisks beside the two Bulldog losses because "those were not true Georgia Tech teams," Magill has told me and countless others.

"There's no question about it, there's no way they are true Georgia-Georgia Tech games," Magill said. "There's no question about that. [Georgia] had a freshman team."

This is where I am in disagreement and admittingly side with the enemy.

That freshman team for Georgia in 1943 reached as high as number 20 in the AP Poll during the season. The following year, going into the Georgia Tech game, the Bulldogs were actually seen as only a slight underdog; some even placed even odds on the game. I have the feeling if Georgia would have been victorious in one or both of the '43 and '44 games, they would be recognized today and there would be no asterisks.

Both the NCAA and SEC acknowledges the two games as losses for the Bulldogs. Actually, Georgia also recognizes the losses in its yearly results and all-time record, just not in its series with the Yellow Jackets.

Soon after the beginning of the controversy, few stood by Magill and the Georgia records on their viewpoint or took the stance very seriously.

Only three years following Magill's debatable decision, the Athens Banner-Herald recognized the '43 and '44 games, announcing the 1951 Tech-Georgia contest as the "46th Annual Battle," not the 44th. Six years later, Furman Bisher of The Atlanta Journal jokingly responded to Magill's statement of "Henceforth our records will refer to those 1943 and 1944 games as Georgia versus the Georgia Tech Navy" with:
That being the case, Louisiana State, Wake Forest and Daniel Field, three other teams that defeated Georgia those two years, are expected to be notified in due time that their victories have been revoked.
The fact of the matter is, although Georgia basically had an all-freshman team during those two seasons while Georgia Tech was supported by a Navy program and had a few players from other schools, Coach Butts had asked his team if they wanted to participate or not and they agreed to play the '43 season, including against Georgia Tech. They consented to do so knowing the situation and what the consequences might be.

"I asked [the 1943 team] frankly if they wanted to pay the price in defeats they'll have to take," said Butts.

There were very few "bona fide" college football teams in 1943 and 1944. If all of these teams were not "true" teams, are they suppose to revoke their results from those two years? If the Bulldogs were not a "true" team in '43 and '44, should they discount the 13 combined victories they accomplished those seasons?

In its early years, Georgia played several athletic clubs featuring former college players and even a preparatory school or two; all of these games are recognized in UGA football's yearly AND series results although they do not seem to be "true" opposition.

In 1907, Georgia played against Georgia Tech with at least four "ringers"--former collegiate or professional players from the North--who were paid for their services. Because of this illegal action, Georgia's head coach would be eventually banned from coaching in the South forever. The result of this game, a 10-6 Georgia loss, is acknowledged in UGA's yearly and series results.

In the first Tech-Georgia game of 1893, the Red and Black played a professionally paid trainer at halfback while three of Tech's five touchdowns were scored by a 28-year-old doctor in the U.S. Army. In addition, the umpire of the game, who made several controversial calls in favor of Georgia Tech, was the brother of Tech's trainer. This 28-6 Georgia Tech victory is also recognized by Georgia.

In support of identifying the 1943 and 1944 as "true" games, I believe author Bill Cromartie put it best in his book on the Georgia-Georgia Tech football rivalry, Clean Old-Fashioned Hate:
If the games are not official, then the University [of Georgia] boys who got their teeth kicked in (so to speak), played the games for nothing. They would, most likely, want them to count.
I know Dan Magill well. He is the greatest NCAA tennis coach of all time, the foremost knowledgeable historian of UGA sports, has probably done more for UGA athletics than anyone ever has, and is a wonderful and kind individual, to name a few. However, and I say this with the utmost respect, I totally disagree with his decision from more than 60 years ago regarding the 1943-44 Tech-Georgia games--a decision he still vehemently stands behind today.

During the time of Magill's 1948 ruling, unlike when I was growing up, no Georgia football fan felt sympathy for Georgia Tech, just dislike. I suspect part of the decision by "Dangerous Dan," as Bisher tagged him in 1957, was because of this hatred for Georgia's, at the time, chief rival.

Nevertheless, Magill's judgement and asterisks will remain in the UGA football record books forever, whether I, the Yellow Jacket faithful, or anyone else likes it or not. Personally, I have and can certainly continue to live with the UGA icon's decision, especially if Georgia Tech football continues to prosper while the Bulldogs continue to falter.

At this rate, Georgia could soon not afford the two series losses to, as Magill has labeled, "The Enternal Enemy."

November 25, 2009

And You Think This Year's Team Has A Turnover Problem...

Look through the recent NCAA football record book, as I often do (just kidding), and you'll notice several past Georgia players, and one from the present, who hold Division I-A/FBS records. (Current linebacker Darryl Gamble and four others hold the record for most touchdowns scored on interception returns by a linebacker in a game with two)

Most of the individual records held by Georgia players are owned by Herschel Walker and Billy Bennett. 

There is a particular team record unfortunately held by Georgia that has caught my attention--Most Turnovers Lost in a single game.

Relating to this week's game with Georgia Tech and this season's theme of turnovers, I thought I'd explore Georgia's record of 13 turnovers against Georgia Tech in 1951.

My initial reaction in seeing the Bulldogs committed 13 turnovers in a single game was "how on earth does one team lose that many turnovers in one game?"  Current college football teams often don't even have that many offensive possessions in a game.  Georgia, for example, had 13 possessions against Kentucky, 12 versus Auburn, and only 10 against Tennessee Tech.  

I realize the game of football has changed over the last 50+ years but has it been transformed that much?

I was able to get my hands on a detailed, play-by-play account of the 1951 Tech-Georgia game and was reminded that, back then, teams often punted prior to fourth down if backed up towards its own goal line or faced with 2nd or 3rd down and long. 

The more occasions a particular team is punting prior to facing 4th down, the more possessions for the other team, thus, the more opportunities for the team to turn the football over. 

Entering the '51 Tech-Georgia game, the undefeated Yellow Jackets were headed to the Orange Bowl and an eventual national championship.  The Bulldogs, led by quarterback Zeke Bratkowski (Photo), had a record of just 5-4 and were significant underdogs to Tech.

As expected, Georgia Tech hammered Georgia 48-6, although Bratkowski threw for 195 yards and the Bulldogs had as many first downs (16) as the Jackets.

Georgia's undoing was its 13 turnovers (8 interceptions, 5 fumbles lost), err, make that 12 turnovers (8 interceptions, 4 fumbles lost). 

After examining the play-by-play account, I found that there was an error in the keeping of the game's statistics, which was not uncommon back then.

Before the last few decades and especially before the NCAA began releasing "official" statistics in 1937, game stats were often recorded haphazardly.  This appears to be the case with the '51 Tech-Georgia game.

On record, Georgia threw 8 interceptions, all by Bratkowski, and lost five fumbles while Tech threw one interception and lost four fumbles.  In actuality, Georgia lost four fumbles and Tech lost five--the game's statistician mistakenly swapped the teams' fumbles lost totals.

Georgia's four fumbles were lost by Lauren Hargrove, Bratkowski, Ellis McClung (the ball inadvertently hit his foot on a kickoff and bounced to a Tech man), and Conrad Manisera.

Georgia Tech's five fumbles were recovered by Georgia's Bobby Morris, Bob West, John Terrill, John Terrill again, and Charley Beckwith.

Georgia ran 65 offensive plays in 21 possessions.  Eight of these possessions ended in interceptions, seven punts, three lost fumbles (not including McClung's fumble on a kickoff), one drive ended with the first half, once the Bulldogs were stopped on downs, and once they scored a touchdown--a short run by Dick Raber early in the third quarter.

Of the 21 drives, 12 lasted just two plays or less because of a turnover or a quick kick/punt prior to 4th down.

Bratkowski was considered one of college football's greatest quarterbacks of his day and was the NCAA's all-time leading passer until 1961; however, the sophomore's first varsity game against Georgia Tech was one to forget.

Although "The Brat" completed 17 passes, including seven in a row at one point, nearly half of his 18 incompletions were completed to the opposing Yellow Jackets.  Bratkowski's eight interceptions remains a school record by two picks and are just one interception less than the NCAA record of nine.

Remarkably, six of Bratkowski's eight interceptions were thrown in the fourth quarter alone, including five in the final eight minutes of the game.  Georgia's last four plays of the game were all Bratkowski interceptions, the final three all picked off by Tech's Jack Patterson.

Georgia's NCAA record of 13 turnovers in a single game is difficult to comprehend and a little embarrassing, especially since it happened against the rival Techies.  However, as I found out, the total is actually 12 turnovers. (I know, I know.  What's the big deal, right?)

I contacted the statistics department at the NCAA asking if there ever was a team who committed 12 turnovers in a single game.  If so, it meant Georgia was not the sole holder, although unofficial and through just one individual's research, of the shameful record.

Jim Wright of the NCAA said they had no idea; all they had on file was Georgia's 13 turnovers and if any team had lost 12 in a game, the NCAA did not have it on record.

The bottom line is Georgia officially holds a bewildering but dubious single-game record that, in actuality, the Bulldogs may not own by themselves.

The chance some team in the future commits 14 turnovers in a single game is slim to none.  So, it appears Georgia will likely be forever the record holder for having lost 13 in a game, although an inaccurate total.

It certainly seems fitting to discover this during a season marred by many interceptions thrown and fumbles lost by the Bulldogs.

November 24, 2009

Tuesday's That & This

**Currently, Georgia is a 7-point underdog to Georgia Tech.  I am rather surprised the spread isn't higher, thinking it would be at or close to double digits.  I expect this line to move up to at least 7 and a hook by kickoff.

Unless the Jackets' entire Triple-Option offense comes down with the flu from now until Saturday, it'll mark just the ninth time Georgia Tech has been favored over Georgia since 1973 (the Bulldogs have been favored on 28 occasions) and the first time since 2001.

A 7-point spread is the second-highest for the Jackets over the Dogs only behind 1990's when Georgia Tech entered the game as 12.5-point favorites.  I remember the '90 Georgia-Georgia Tech game in Athens quite well.

The Yellow Jackets had won every game but one, were highly ranked, and heading to their first upper-tier bowl game in years.  Georgia, on the other hand, was hovering around .500, its program was in disarray, and was heading to its worst season in years.  Sound familiar?

The Bulldogs had a 9-0 second-quarter advantage but their lead was short-lived.  Behind sophomore quarterback Shawn Jones (Photo of Jones from '91 Citrus Bowl), the Yellow Jackets woke up and poured it on Georgia, winning 40-23.

The most entertaining aspect of the game, besides watching Georgia's Greg Talley and Joe Dupree rotate at quarterback, was when an airplane flew over Sanford Stadium at one point, carrying a banner that read: "Fire Ray Goof!"

**Those of you who enjoy Bulldog trivia must check out The Smartest Bulldog.  Rack up points answering trivia about mostly Georgia football (and a little on other UGA sports) and win prizes.  You can play on teams as well.

I especially like the game because there is a time limit per question, impacting the number of points scored.  So, one cannot sit on the Internet all day or slowly thumb through the media guide to find the correct answers.

I spoke to one of the guys who started the website the other day, Stan, and he indicated there are even bigger and better things to come at The Smartest Bulldog.  Y'all signup and look for me in the daily standings at PGarbin.

**With a probable loss to Georgia Tech coming and most likely facing an unranked bowl opponent (although there are some pundits who still think we're playing Clemson in the Chick-fil-A), it appears Georgia will finish the 2009 season 0-4 against AP-ranked opponents.  How the mighty have fallen...

Coach Richt entered this season with an impressive 27-16 record against AP-ranked opponents.  In comparison, Dooley was 33-32-4, Donnan 13-26-2, and Goff 4-21-1.

However, Richt first took a step back a year ago when the Bulldogs were just 3-3 against the rank and those wins came against Vanderbilt, LSU (both finished 2008 outside the top 25), and Michigan State (finished at only #24).

An 0-4 mark against ranked opposition would be the Bulldogs' third-worst record in the 74 seasons the AP Poll has existed; Georgia was 0-5 in both 1990 and 1995.

The '90 and '95 teams, however, are somewhat excusable.

As mentioned, the 1990 Bulldogs had Joe Dupree throwing passes by the end of the year.  Enough said.

In '95, Goff's last season, Georgia actually went to a bowl even though we lost Robert Edwards and Mike Bobo to season-ending injuries by the fourth game of the year.

Of the Bulldogs' six losses, five were to ranked teams, and Georgia pulled upset victories on the road that season against Clemson and Georgia Tech.  Most of all, as I've written in the past, the 1995 campaign was nearly permissible because...
...the Bulldogs had seven running backs miss at least one game with an injury, while six different scatbacks started the first eight games of the season.  The low point of Georgia's injury epidemic was when Odell Collins, another running back, pulled a hamstring in late October while doing his laundry and missed the rest of the year.
What's the excuse for this season?

**In case you're interested in me continuing to discuss pointspreads, I had my first featured article posted on Covers.com.

In my "Five college football teams that will finish the year strong," I was admittingly going to initially pick Georgia in my top five because of what I point out in my article I pasted here last week.  That is, until the Bulldogs' second-half collapse against Kentucky.  I put Ole Miss in their place.

It goes to further show me that this season's Georgia football team is as unpredictable, unreliable, and disappointing as they come.

November 22, 2009

Undisciplined Dawgs Give Game Away But They’re Not At Fault

Coming off a huge win over rival Auburn and looking to improve their bowl status, a seemingly inspired bunch of Bulldogs played their best half of the year on Saturday against Kentucky. On its senior night and just days following the passing of beloved mascot Uga VII, Georgia had a comfortable, 14-point lead at halftime and it should have been by more.

We have grown to realize, however, that little comes easy for the 2009 edition of the Georgia Bulldogs football team, including victories.  (Photo: Kelly Lambert of Online Athens)

To start the second half, Georgia’s Branden Smith fumbled on the kickoff return. Two plays later, Kentucky had cuts its deficit to a touchdown. It was only the beginning of the tables completely turning on the Bulldogs in their worst-played half of the season.

Outscored 28-7 in the final two quarters, Georgia was defeated 34-27, losing to the Wildcats at home for the first time since 1977 and in 16 games.

The Dogs had a 487-260 advantage in total yardage; nevertheless, two problems that have plagued Georgia all season—turnovers and penalties—were primarily responsible for the Bulldogs’ fifth loss of the year.

This defeat, in particular, for a Georgia fan, is especially hard to accept.

Although the Bulldogs were only penalized five times, their second-lowest amount this season, each penalty cost Georgia 15 yards.

For the seventh time in 2009, the Bulldogs committed three or more turnovers while, for the third game in its last four, Georgia’s defense did not force any; the Dawgs’ -1.64 turnover margin currently ranks next to last of 120 FBS teams.

All of Georgia’s four turnovers on Saturday came during its dismal second half, including three giveaways on its final four possessions.

Personally, I have found it absolutely ridiculous and somewhat humorous how defenders for Georgia’s coaching staff have blamed these season-long errors and mistakes on the Bulldogs’ talent level, or lack thereof.

“We just aren’t nearly as talented as we have been in years past,” these apologists have said.

As I’ve often mentioned during this season, this notion is untrue. Georgia has plenty of talent. The problem lies with those individuals instructing and mentoring the talent—the coaching staff.

“We have a problem respecting the ball,” said the head of this staff, Mark Richt, following the game.

That’s putting it lightly, coach, and speaking of respect, it’s something your team has a lack of, along with heart, intensity, and discipline, not talent, and this was abundantly clear with last night’s second-half collapse.

But it is not your players’ fault, just yours and your staff’s.

How else can a team play so well in the first half but yet so badly in the second? Did Georgia’s talent level suddenly drop during halftime?

Solely to blame are Georgia’s coaches—the very same staff who apparently doesn’t make defensive adjustments at halftime, who orders short kickoffs that routinely give the opposition excellent field position, and who allows its team to dance on the sideline, acting like they’ve won a national title when they’ve only defeated an average Auburn team. I could go further.

Every year since 1996, the Bulldogs have finished in the final AP rankings and have won eight or more games. The 12-season streak of these accomplishments has most likely come to an end with the 2009 squad—a team that was preseason ranked 13th in the nation.

However, some good can result from Georgia’s disappointing and embarrassing season if Richt can find it in himself to shake up his coaching staff immediately following the lower-tier bowl the Bulldogs will be heading to.

There will be plenty of talent in place for a successful 2010 campaign. It’s up to Richt to “finish the drill” in the off-season.

November 21, 2009

AND We Covered, to Boot!


Celebrate!  In Georgia's win over Auburn, for only the third time this season and fifth game of the last 19 dating back to last year, the Bulldogs actually covered the spread. (Photo: Kelly Lambert of Online Athens

Last week, I was hired on at Covers.com to do freelance writing for the website. 

My first article was on the Bulldogs and pasted below.  My next piece, the top five college football teams that will finish this season the strongest, will be posted on their site Sunday night/Monday morning.

Go Figure the Georgia Bulldogs

The Georgia Bulldogs entered their game last Saturday against Auburn amidst the program’s worst campaign in 13 seasons. At 5-4, the Dogs were considered a team that did absolutely nothing, besides punting and placekicking, particularly well.

Georgia’s defense, one of the worst in the SEC, was facing an Auburn offense ranked among the best in the nation, averaging 230 rushing yards and more than 450 total yards per game. In addition, when the Bulldogs had exhibited any kind of momentum during the season, they had often shot themselves in the foot; Georgia was being penalized 9.44 times and committing 2.44 turnovers per game. In contrast, its defense had forced just six turnovers the entire year; Georgia’s -1.78 turnover margin ranked 119th of 120 FBS teams.

Georgia was a bettor’s dream when playing on its opponent. The Bulldogs were only 2-7 against the number for the season and just 4-14 since facing Alabama the year before—a game many UGA football followers indicate as the point when the program started its fall from grace.

As we know, generally it’s these close followers or “insiders” who know the most and provide the best insight about the local team. Two days prior to the Auburn game, one of Georgia’s most popular independent blogs pleaded to the fan base not to boo the team “if things get out of hand…JUST LEAVE [the stadium].” A reader commented, “I could see [Auburn’s offense] abusing [Georgia’s defense] and Auburn going up 24-0 or something like that.” The general sentiment among many Bulldog fans was Georgia had little chance against the Tigers.

So, as you can imagine, it was quite shocking when Georgia opened as 4½-point favorites. I immediately speculated the line setters had put way too much stock in home field advantage for the Bulldogs—something Georgia has little of.

Since Coach Mark Richt arrived in Athens in 2001, Georgia has won just 40% of its games against the spread at home compared to 61% at away and neutral sites. The Georgia-Auburn series, in particular, has proven to have little home field advantage; the visitor had lost just four times the previous 17 meetings and was 11-6 against the number.

“The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry” had met 112 times before Saturday and every year except one (1943) since 1919. Georgia, winners of three in a row, had not defeated Auburn four consecutive times since the 1940s. The odds were certainly stacked against the Bulldogs to make it four in a row in 2009.

If I was to play anything last Saturday, it was undoubtedly Auburn plus the points or even the Tigers and the money line.

As I and many others expected, Auburn jumped out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead and was driving for a third score when suddenly the tables turned. The Tigers’ vaunted offense would not cross Georgia’s goal line for the final three-plus quarters and the Bulldogs were victorious 31-24, surprisingly covering the points.

The penalty and turnover-prone Dogs committed just four penalties and, for the first time in 15 games dating back to last season, did not lose a turnover. Georgia’s dreadful defense held Auburn to 353 yards and intercepted two passes in its win and rare cover.

Beginning with the victory over Auburn, it is safe to say, we could see a completely different Georgia team henceforth. In the previous three seasons, Coach Richt’s Bulldogs have proven to rebound during difficult times or after a tough loss.

Three years ago, like this season, Georgia had a record of 6-4, losers of four of its previous five games. Nevertheless, the Bulldogs ended the year with three wins over three ranked opponents (two of the three were decided favorites) to finish with nine wins. The 2006 season is considered by many as Richt’s best coaching effort in his nine seasons at Georgia.

In 2007, Georgia was thumped by Tennessee by three touchdowns, dropping its record to 4-2. The Bulldogs responded by winning their final seven games, including covering five of their last six, to finish ranked number two in the nation.

Last season, the Bulldogs were upset at home against rival Georgia Tech in the regular-season finale, losing 45-42 as more than a touchdown favorite. With more than a month to prepare for the Capital One Bowl, Georgia, and specifically its defense, answered with a 24-12 win and cover over Michigan State to finish a successful 10-3 year.

The best predictor of the future is often the past, so I look for Georgia to continue the impressive performance it displayed against Auburn through the end of the season.

The Bulldogs host Kentucky this Saturday and will have the advantage of playing the Wildcats at night and on Senior Day. The following week, Georgia plays at Georgia Tech looking for revenge from a year ago and to deflate the Yellow Jackets’ banner year. The Bulldogs are 7-1 straight up against Tech in the Coach Richt era and 5-2-1 against the spread.

In recent years, Georgia has been one of college football’s most successful bowl teams, recording a 10-2 record since the last time the Bulldogs missed out on the postseason in 1996. During the same time, Georgia is 8-4 against the number in bowl games, including 5-2 since 2002.

During halftime of the Georgia-Auburn game as the Bulldogs trailed 14-7, Georgia defensive tackle and team leader Jeff Owens, a senior, told the team he was not going to end his collegiate playing career “this way”; the game and season, although disappointing, were far from over.

"I had to tell guys we've got to get up because we've got to finish strong," Owens said to the Athens Banner-Herald following the game.

Expect Owens and his teammates, as they did against Auburn, to also finish the 2009 season in a strong manner, similarly to the Georgia Bulldog teams of recent years.

November 20, 2009

A Damn Good Dog Dies



My initial reaction to Uga VII's death is how he was only our mascot for less than two seasons--depressing.  This is especially unusual considering the previous six Ugas all roamed the sidelines for at least seven seasons each, averaging nearly nine.

Uga is likely the most recognizable and famous college mascot in the nation.  I was trying to remember when I, personally, first realized Uga was of importance to the Bulldog Nation and recalled Georgia's Picture Day in the summer of 1984--the only Picture Day I've ever attended.

I remember, at nine-years old, arriving at the practice fields and first getting the autograph of Rusty Gillespie--the Bulldogs' backup kicker and punter.  I then got the autograph of "DAWG!"  Remember him?  He was UGA's non-live mascot, other than Hairy, who was brownish in color, wore a red shirt and black pants, and seemingly disappeared at some point during the mid- to late '80s. 

(Somewhere at my parents' house, there is a photo from that day of my little sister sitting in the lap of the celebrated Andre "Pulpwood" Smith, months before leading the Bulldogs in rushing in 1984 and decades before his legendary game previews.  I'll post the photo if I ever run across it.)

Next, I want the autograph of Georgia's real mascot, I thought.

My mom and I found where Uga was "signing," that is, where his foot was being stamped, and the outrageously long line that awaited his paw print.  Only Coach Dooley's waiting line compared to that of Georgia's Uga IV. 

Only at UGA would fans wait in a line for nearly two hours to get the "autograph" of a dog. 

In 1986, Uga IV was injured jumping off a hotel bed and was sidelined for the rest of the season.  His brother Otto, "The Substitute," filled in for the interim. 

It appears Uga VII will have a replacement but not until the Georgia Tech game a week from this Saturday, meaning there will be no Uga or interim dog for this Saturday's game against Kentucky.

Since my wife recently had a baby, my attendance at Georgia games this season has been at an all-time low.  For most games, I have been fortunate enough to be with my family in front of the TV.

Without fail, for each televised game, my two-year-old son asks about "Ug-dah."  And usually, without fail, Uga VII has soon appeared on our screen. 

I'm not sure what to say to my son when he asks for Ug-dah this Saturday.  It's going to be difficult explaining to a two-year old how his favorite dog (besides our chocolate lab, Herschel) has gone to the big dog house in the sky.  

November 19, 2009

Dogs and ‘Cats: A Better Football Series Than One Would Assume


Munson's "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!" call in 1978 plays a major role in why the greatest Georgia-Kentucky game ever is the, well, greatest. (Photo: GeorgiaDogs.com)

The history of Georgia versus Kentucky in football is a far cry than the Bulldogs’ rivalries with Auburn, Georgia Tech, Florida, Tennessee, and several others. This is abundantly clear just on the sheer fact the Bulldogs have a commanding 49-11-2 series lead between the two teams.

Some Georgia fans think of this matchup as more than just a mere football game.

Until a few years ago, many Bulldog fans made memorable trips to Lexington when the game was held in late October and often at night. The Georgia faithful would watch horse races at Keeneland during the day and their Dogs at Stoll Field, and later Commonwealth Stadium, at night.

This every-other-year ritual ended in 2003 when the game moved to the month of November—a time of the year Keeneland is closed.

Nevertheless, there is some football history between the Dogs and Wildcats.

Facing Kentucky every season since 1956, Georgia has played only five other schools more than the Wildcats. In the 62 games, there have been thrilling victories, intriguing developments, and rare occurrences that make the Georgia-Kentucky football series more appealing than the average college football fan would expect.

I countdown, in my opinion, the 10 greatest Georgia-Kentucky games in history:

10) 1966: Georgia 27, Kentucky 15

On Georgia’s Homecoming and a day mascot Uga I was replaced by his son, Uga II, Coach Vince Dooley’s Bulldogs found themselves trailing in the second half, 15-14.

In the third quarter, quarterback Kirby Moore suffered an ankle injury and third-stringer Lynn Hughes was inserted.

Hughes had been Georgia’s leading passer on Dooley’s first team two years earlier but had not played quarterback in a full year. Normally a safety on defense, Hughes would eventually be named consensus first-team All-SEC at defensive back in 1966 for the second consecutive season.

Playing quarterback, Hughes promptly sparked Georgia’s offense and his 10-yard scoring run and two-point conversion pass to Sandy Johnson in the fourth quarter gave the Bulldogs a 22-15 lead. Georgia would add a Bob Etter field goal and a safety in the final stanza.

Despite the somewhat close final score, the Bulldogs held a 379-122 advantage over the Wildcats in total yardage.

9) 1946: Georgia 28, Kentucky 13

In the first of only two meetings between the teams when both were ranked in the AP Poll (the second coming more than 60 years later in 2007), #8 Georgia was a slight favorite over #19 Kentucky, coached by a young, 32-year-old Paul “Bear” Bryant.

The Wildcats scored a touchdown on the opening drive and then blocked a Georgia punt and held possession at the Bulldogs’ 25-yard line.

The turning point of the game was Georgia end Joe Tereshinski, the first of four Tereshinskis to play at UGA, stopping Kentucky on four consecutive plays following the blocked kick and the Wildcats turning the ball over on downs.

The Bulldogs scored three consecutive touchdowns on a run by Charley Trippi, a fumble return by Johnny Rauch, and a run by Rauch.

After the Wildcats had pulled within eight points in the final quarter, Trippi caught a 62-yard touchdown pass from Rauch to seal a Georgia victory. Besides both rushing for and catching a touchdown, sophomore Trippi, playing in only his third game on Georgia’s varsity, also completed four of six passes for 52 yards.

The loss would be the first of 17 games “Bear” Bryant would coach Kentucky, Texas A&M, or Alabama against Georgia. In his career against the Bulldogs, the legendary coach recorded a 12-5 mark, including 2-2 while at Kentucky.

8) 1994: Georgia 34, Kentucky 30

After being upset by Vanderbilt on its Homecoming, Georgia looked forward to facing a dismal Kentucky squad. The Wildcats were averaging only 15 points and 279 total yards per game and were two-touchdown underdogs to the Bulldogs at home.

Nevertheless, it took a late Georgia rally and a Kentucky turnover in the final seconds to bring victory to the Bulldogs.

The Wildcats’ offense might have been bad but Georgia’s defense was even worse as Kentucky compiled 425 yards and four touchdowns.

With 6:30 remaining in the game, the ‘Cats took a 30-27 lead when Georgia’s Eric Zeier was intercepted by Van Hiles, who returned the senior quarterback’s errant pass 61 yards for a touchdown. Zeier was picked off twice during the game but finished with 420 passing yards and two touchdowns on 36 of 51 passing.

It took Zeier only five plays to move Georgia 66 yards for a touchdown, coming on a 28-yard pass to Hason Graham. Graham had 10 catches for 157 yards and hauled in both of Zeier’s touchdown tosses.

The upstart Kentucky offense would not quit, driving into Georgia territory late in the game, trailing 34-30. Carlos Yancy clinched the Bulldogs’ fifth win of the season by intercepting Kentucky’s Jeff Speedy at the 15-yard line with just 13 seconds remaining.

The Wildcats would finish the ’94 season with a 1-10 record, including losing their final 10 games by an average of more than 26 points per defeat.

7) 1977: Kentucky 33, Georgia 0

The ’77 game is memorable to Georgia and Kentucky fans for different reasons.

For the Bulldogs, the disturbing loss was one of six during the ’77 season--the only losing campaign of 25 during the Coach Vince Dooley era. Georgia was held to eight first downs and 127 total yards, including just 47 rushing—the Bulldogs’ lowest rushing total since gaining 42 yards against Miami (Fla) more than 11 years before.

For the Wildcats, the 33-0 drubbing still ranks as Georgia’s worst defeat to Kentucky and the last victory for the ‘Cats in Athens. The eighth-ranked Wildcats would eventually finish the season 10-1, ranked sixth in the nation, and remain likely the greatest Kentucky team in history.

Regardless of the final score, the game was significant because of its halftime show honoring England’s Prince Charles.

The 28-year-old prince had been touring various parts of the United States and had been in Charleston, South Carolina, the morning of the game before flying into Athens.

As Prince Charles walked onto the field at Sanford Stadium during halftime, similarly to how Georgia fans chant “damn good dog” for mascot Uga, “damn good prince” was cheered by much of the sold-out crowd.

Also during halftime, James Brown, The Godfather of Soul, sang and danced to “Dooley’s Junkyard Dogs” in what would eventually be Georgia’s worst regular-season defeat in more than 15 years.

6) 2000: Georgia 34, Kentucky 30

A banged-up Georgia team played at Kentucky minus its star quarterback, Quincy Carter. Playing in Carter’s place was Cory Phillips—a sophomore who had thrown just six passes, completing two, in his collegiate career.

Phillips’ inexperienced showed early as he completed just one of his first six passes and the Wildcats had an early 13-0 lead. Then the young quarterback caught fire.

Late in the third quarter with the score tied 20-20, Phillips completed an 85-yard touchdown to freshman Damien Gary.

Kentucky’s own young quarterback, freshman Jared Lorenzen, who stood at 6-4 and 275 pounds, answered with a 75-yard touchdown pass to Quentin McCord. Lorenzen guided the Wildcat offense to 620 total yards against a Georgia defense that entered the game ranked eighth in the nation, yielding just 268.3 yards per game.

It was Georgia’s defense, however, that sealed a 34-30 victory when Lorenzen was intercepted for the second time by Cory Robinson with 45 seconds left in the game.

Phillips finished the game with 400 yards passing and four touchdowns, tying a school record.

Four games later against Georgia Tech, Phillips would pass for 413 yards. To date, besides Eric Zeier, he is the only Georgia player in history to have more than one 400-yard passing performance in his career.

Lorenzen, nicknamed the “Hefty Lefty,” would finish his career at Kentucky in 2003, passing for 1,250 yards, seven touchdowns, and adding three rushing touchdowns against the Bulldogs in four games. Even so, Lorenzen and the Wildcats were 0-4 against Georgia.

5) 1940: Kentucky 7, Georgia 7

In the first night game ever played by a Georgia team in Athens, the Bulldogs entered having lost two games in a row while favored Kentucky was undefeated at 4-0-1.

Coach Wally Butts, in his second season at Georgia, had a personal rivalry with Kentucky Coach A.D. Kirwan since both had been coaches at high schools in Louisville, Kentucky, several years before.

Approximately 16,000 spectators in Sanford Stadium witnessed the Wildcats hold a 7-0 lead until late in the contest. With a few minutes remaining, Georgia took possession at its own 49-yard line and sophomore sensation Frank Sinkwich took over the game.

Sinkwich completed two passes for 33 yards and rushed four times for 18, including a one-yard scoring run with 2:23 left.

Eighteen years before college football adopted the two-point conversion, Georgia’s Leo Costa’s point-after kick tied the game that eventually ended in a 7-7 deadlock.

4) 1987: Georgia 17, Kentucky 14

Only days after undergoing angioplasty to remove blockage in his arteries, Coach Vince Dooley and his Bulldogs hosted Kentucky on Homecoming.

Looking for its first SEC road win since 1984, Kentucky scored touchdowns on its first two possessions and had a 14-3 lead at the half.

At halftime, senior Georgia quarterback James Jackson was benched in favor of backup Wayne Johnson. Johnson rushed for a touchdown midway through the third quarter to cut Kentucky’s lead to four points.

With six minutes left to play in the game, Georgia freshman Rodney Hampton was stopped on fourth-and-inches on the Wildcats’ seven-yard line. Kentucky was forced to punt after three plays.

Starting from the Wildcat 49-yard line, Johnson quickly moved the team for the go-ahead touchdown; Lars Tate scored from five yards out on a sweep with 1:08 left and Georgia possessed a 17-14 advantage it would not relinquish.

Hampton finished the game with almost twice as many rushing yards than any other player, gaining 123 yards on 19 carries. Georgia’s defense, after allowing 200 yards in the first half, yielded only 33 in the second.

3) 1988: Kentucky 16, Georgia 10

Alfred Rawls, a first-team, all-state running back for Wilcox County High School in Rochelle, Georgia, signed with UGA in 1986 to follow in the footsteps of his idol, Herschel Walker. However, more than two years later, it was Rawls who would haunt, not help, the Bulldogs against Kentucky.

Rawls could not enter UGA because he did not meet the NCAA’s minimum academic standards. After two years at an Oklahoma junior college, Rawls decided not to enroll at Georgia because the Dogs were stacked at the tailback position. He chose Kentucky instead.

In 1988, the Bulldogs met the Wildcats ranked 11th in the nation and eyeing an SEC title. Kentucky had a 2-4 record, was losers of eight consecutive SEC games, and had not defeated Georgia since 1977.

Trailing 10-7 in the third quarter, Rawls sprinted 48 yards down the sideline for a Wildcat touchdown as time expired in the period.

Down 13-10, Georgia could not muster any offense in the final quarter and Kentucky went on to win, 16-10.

Rawls out-dueled Georgia’s star tailback and Heisman Trophy-candidate, Tim Worley. Rawls rushed for 128 yards on 15 carries while Worley was limited to 99 yards on 19 rushes.

2) 1998: Georgia 28, Kentucky 26

In a battle of future NFL quarterbacks, Kentucky outplayed Georgia for most of the game but it was the 11th-ranked Bulldogs who were victorious in the end.

Kentucky’s Tim Couch led the Wildcats to a 10-0 first-quarter lead; however, Georgia quarterback Quincy Carter guided the Bulldogs to four touchdowns on four consecutive possessions. Midway through the third quarter, Georgia had a 28-20 advantage.

Late in the same stanza, Kentucky’s Derek Homer scored on a one-yard plunge to pull the ‘Cats within two points of the Dogs. In a bid to tie the game on a two-point try, Homer was stopped just shy of the goal line.

Protecting the two-point lead and trying to run out the clock, Georgia’s Ronnie Bradley fumbled at the Wildcat 24-yard line late in the ballgame.

Couch promptly moved Kentucky into field goal range with only a few seconds showing on the clock.

Holder Matt Mumme, son of head coach Hal Mumme, mishandled a bad snap and kicker Seth Hanson never got to try a 50-yard game-winning attempt. Mumme grabbed the low snap, rolled to his right, and threw a desperation pass that was intercepted by Larry Mann.

Couch threw for 326 yards and two touchdowns as the Kentucky offense rolled up 530 total yards.

Georgia’s Carter was brilliant, completing 10 of 14 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 114 yards on 14 carries, including a 49-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter.

In more than 11 years since the game, Carter’s rushing effort is the last time a Georgia quarterback rushed for 100+ yards in a single game and is one of only two such performances by a Bulldog quarterback since 1976.

1) 1978: Georgia 17, Kentucky 16

The 1978 Georgia Bulldogs were known as the “Wonderdogs.” Most preseason prognosticators predicted Georgia would finish close to or at the bottom of the SEC; however, the Wonderdogs came into the Kentucky game with a 5-1 record and ranked 16th in the country.

Looking to build upon the 33-0 embarrassing defeat it dealt Georgia in Athens the year before, Kentucky led 16-0 midway through the third quarter.

With 6:49 remaining in the period, Georgia’s Willie McClendon, the SEC’s leading rusher, scored on a three-yard run. In the fourth quarter, quarterback Jeff Pyburn passed to tight end Ulysses Norris for a six-yard touchdown with 10:09 left. Rex Robinson’s PAT cut the Bulldogs’ deficit to two points.

With just over four minutes remaining, Kentucky kicker Tommy Griggs, who missed a PAT earlier, failed on his second critical kick of the contest, missing a 42-yard field goal.

Behind runs by McClendon and pass completions from Pyburn to Amp Arnold and Lindsay Scott, Georgia drove to the Wildcats’ 12-yard line in 12 plays.

With only seconds remaining in the game, Robinson’s 29-yard field goal was just successful, edging inside the left upright. The Wonderdogs had struck again, barely escaping Lexington with a 17-16 victory.

Perhaps more acclaimed than Robinson’s winning kick and the one-point, comeback win by Georgia is the radio call by legendary broadcaster Larry Munson, who hollered as Robinson’s field goal was successful, “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! … The bench is unconscious. He kicked the whatchamacallit out of it!”

November 16, 2009

A Day Many Dawgs Will Never Forget


During halftime of the Georgia-Auburn game as the Bulldogs trailed 14-7, Jeff Owens reportedly told the team that the game and Georgia's season were far from being over. The senior defensive tackle added that the following Saturday against Kentucky would be his last time playing in Sanford Stadium and the Bulldogs needed to finish strong and win the final two home games of the year. 

Owens and his teammates responded with a 31-24 victory over the Tigers.  Let's see if they can finish the drill this Saturday night against the Wildcats.   

Owens speech to his fellow Bulldogs reminds me that Saturday is Senior Day at Sanford Stadium and Owens, along with a group of others, will be making their final appearance between the hedges.  

For the past six seasons, whenever I have attended Georgia football's annual Senior Day, I'm reminded of an occasion that I and many other Dawg fans will never forget.

There are many lasting memories from Georgia’s 2002 season, namely, David Pollack’s interception for a touchdown against South Carolina, “man enough” to beat Alabama, David Greene’s touchdown pass to Michael Johnson to defeat Auburn, and winning the SEC Championship Game and the Sugar Bowl, to name a few. 

Personally, a memorable event from that season that ranks highly in my mind was David Jacob’s (Photo: #99 David Jacobs) appearance against Georgia Tech on Senior Day.

Jacobs, a defensive lineman from Atlanta, started a combined seven games at Georgia as a freshman and sophomore in 1999 and 2000.  In 2001, he started the first eight games of the season at nose tackle and recorded 55 tackles, 10 for losses, and led the team with 21 quarterback pressures.

Following Georgia’s eighth game of the season against Auburn, Jacobs was hospitalized with severe headaches and dizziness.  It was later learned he had suffered a stroke, leaving him with impaired speech and partial paralysis on the right side of his body.

Donations poured in to help Jacobs with hospital costs while a fund was also established by the Georgia Athletic Association; however, the young 22-year old’s football career was unfortunately finished.

David Jacobs’ last appearance in a Georgia uniform was not against Auburn in 2001 when he first complained of dehydration which ultimately led to his stroke. It came over a year later on November 30, 2002, when he was the last of Georgia’s 22 seniors to be announced during Senior Day ceremonies.

In full uniform, Jacobs ran out from the east side of Sanford Stadium with arms raised and his helmet held overhead.

As the crowd cheered, many with tears in their eyes, Jacobs sprinted into the arms of his awaiting grandparents—an everlasting memory from a memorable 2002 season.

November 13, 2009

"The Darkest Chapter" Ends In Victory Over Auburn

There have been two major scandals that have shaken the UGA football program in its history; both are hardly discussed, if at all, in the football annals of the school.

The second and last one, the 1962 Wally Butts-Paul “Bear” Bryant game-fixing scandal, was called the most shocking sports story “since the Chicago White Sox threw the 1919 World Series.”  Butts was eventually exonerated of any wrong-doings and won a libel suit despite overwhelming evidence against the former-Bulldog coach.

Beginning with a newspaper article written by famed sports writer Grantland Rice (Photo: Tennessee Society for American Baseball Research) more than 100 years ago, UGA football's first scandal left the Red and Black without a conference, coach, and captain.

Despite the obstacles, Georgia defeated Auburn in 1907 for its most meaningful football victory, at the time, in the program's short history.

1907 SEASON:  After a season-opening victory over Dahlonega to begin its 16th campaign of playing football, Georgia was embarrassed at home on Herty Field by Tennessee, 15-0.  This result enraged a number of UGA alumni and Athens businessmen and was the beginning of, according to author John Stegeman, "the darkest chapter of the history of Georgia football."

A win over Mercer and a tie against Alabama followed but these games seemingly did not matter to the agitated alumni and businessmen.  What was desired was a victory over Georgia's chief rival, Georgia Tech.  The message was clear--the Red and Black had to defeat its neighbors to the west.

NEW ADDITIONS:  Following the loss to Tennessee, under immense pressure, Georgia head coach W.S. "Bull" Whitney, in his second season at the helm, decided to reach out and receive some help to please the unsatisfied.  Whitney arranged for several football players from elsewhere to join the Georgia squad.

The Red and Black's new players did not participate in games three and four but without fail suited up when Georgia faced Tech in front of 6,000 spectators at Atlanta's Ponce de Leon Park.

In the second half, Georgia trailed 10-6, having scored its touchdown on a run by halfback "McDuffy," one of the team's new additions.  The Red and Black had a couple shots at victory towards the end of the game but came up short and lost to Georgia Tech for the fourth consecutive season.

GRANTLAND RICE:  Over the next two weeks, Georgia split games against Clemson and Sewanee and its record stood at an even 3-3-1 heading into the season finale against Auburn on Thanksgiving.  However, first, the Red and Black would have to face Grantland Rice and the infamous scandal.

Rice, a one-time writer for the Atlanta Journal, scribed in a mid-November edition of the Nashville Tennessean:
The stunt [of adding new players] perpetrated by the University of Georgia in her game against Tech sets a new limit [of violations]. ... The evidence has been turned over to us from several sources ... Coach Whitney used at least four ringers, and probably more, in that Atlanta conflict. ... And now the secret is out.
Rice also mentioned Whitney suspiciously held a secret practice prior to the Georgia Tech game where no one from the outside was allowed to witness.  The Georgia head coach also waited until the last possible moment to bring his players onto the field and did not give a pre-game lineup to the press until just before the kickoff.

Interestingly, UGA's football media guide notes Coach Whitney would not reveal his lineup until just before kickoff because he was merely "very superstitious."  Perhaps he was superstitious of getting caught trying to use illegal players.

Rice went as far as identifying the "ringers."  The four or five individuals were former stars who had played at either Syracuse, Georgetown, or a professional team in Savannah.

Soon after the loss to Tech, these players got out of town and headed northeast, claiming later they had received $150 plus expenses for their efforts in the Georgia Tech game.

By the time Rice's article was printed, Whitney too had left for the northeast to Schenectady, New York.  On his trip home, he told a reporter that the players had been "furnished" to him, which he accepted, because of the much-needed win over Georgia Tech.  Although Whitney admitted he "was in error," he denied paying the players.

After an investigation, Georgia was kicked out of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (S.I.A.A.) and "Bull" Whitney was barred from coaching again in the South.  Captain Kyle Smith was suspended for the final game against Auburn while assistant coach Branch Bocock, who would be Georgia's head coach in 1908, was ordered to watch the season finale from the stands only; although he was allowed to accompany the team to Macon for the Auburn game, Bocock was not permitted to coach them.

THE GAME:  The odds were certainly stacked against Georgia entering its final game of the 1907 campaign.  Auburn sported a 6-1-1 record, including a win over Georgia Tech, and an overwhelming favorite to defeat the Red and Black at Macon's Central City Park on Thanksgiving Day.

On a rain-soaked, muddy field freshman quarterback and future Georgia head coach George Woodruff  kept the Red and Black in the game during the first half, ending in a scoreless tie.

Frustrated in being shutout, Auburn took to the air in the second half.  By 1907, passing the football had only been allowed in the game's rules for one year and there were certainly restrictions:
"One foreward pass legalized behind the line if made five yards to the right or left of center.  Ball went to opponent if it failed to touch a player of either side before touching the ground. Either team could recover a pass touched by an opponent. Limit one pass each scrimmage down."
With approximately 14 minutes remaining in the contest, Auburn's Tom McClure dropped back 10 yards and floated a pass that was batted to the ground by Georgia guard Harry Harmon.  Defender Jim Lucas retrieved the free ball around midfield and began sprinting towards Auburn's end zone.

Lucas was caught by McClure close to the goal line but, with aid from teammate Woodruff, was dragged for the final foot over the line for a Georgia touchdown.  Cliff Hatcher's conversion was successful and the Red and Black eventually won in a 6-0 upset (a touchdown counted for five points until 1912).

Having been reinstated back into the association, Georgia finished in third place of 11 teams in the final S.I.A.A. standings; not too shabby for a squad ending its season in scandal and without a captain or coach.

The 6-0 win over Auburn in 1907 is considered Georgia's most significant victory in its first 18 seasons and 113 games of playing football until 1910.  From the November 29, 1907, edition of The Atlanta Constitution:
Without a regular coach, and Captain Kyle Smith out of the game, the Georgia team went into the fray badly handicapped, but a grittier eleven has hardly ever represented the University of Georgia.