rent like champion

December 29, 2012

GRANTHAM vs. WILLIE MO

A heated topic of conversation among some family members of mine on Christmas Day was Georgia's overall defensive effort this season, considering its perceived collective talent level.  After I noted the Bulldogs' current and unheard of streak of allowing three consecutive opponents to rush for 300+ yards, a relative quipped, "And just imagine how many yards Georgia would be allowing if 'Willie Mo' was still the defensive coordinator instead of Grantham."
 
Ah, Willie Mo, or Willie Martinez...  I hadn't associated the name with the UGA football program since I, along with most of the Bulldog Nation, breathed a sigh of relief upon his firing in early December of 2009.  Recalling Martinez's tenure as defensive coordinator a five-year stint of seemingly a steady decline in defensive performance with each passing season and the Bulldogs' disappointing defensive play in 2012 invoked a question of whether or not Georgia's defense had actually performed better under Grantham compared to the final few seasons coordinated by Martinez.
 
In the past, I've compared the Bulldogs' offensive production statistics of when Mark Richt was calling the plays to that of Mike Bobo.  I decided to make a similar comparison, examining Georgia's defense in the three seasons under Grantham (2010-2012) to that of Martinez's final three years as the Bulldog DC (2007 through 2009 regular season).

A quick look at the numbers reveals the 40-game Grantham regime having a slight edge in fewest total yards allowed per game (TG- 318.0; WM- 321.0) and yards yielded per play (TG- 4.92; WM- 4.96).  In the 38 games under Martinez, Georgia did total more sacks per game (WM- 2.45; TG- 2.15).  But above all, the Bulldogs under Grantham had the advantage in the two most important defensive categories of those considered: turnovers forced (TG- 2.13; WM- 1.37) and offensive touchdowns allowed (TG- 2.33; WM- 2.71) per game.

However, there is an existing perception that Grantham's defenses normally play quite well when pitted against average to lower-tier offenses; however, Grantham's troops have often had their struggles in stopping productive offenses.

Therefore, believing it would be a better comparison of the effectiveness of their defensive units, I compared the two coordinators when only faced with an offense that would finish its respective season ranked in the nation's top 50 in total offense, or slightly better than the top half of the approximately 120 FBS teams (current total offense rankings were considered for Grantham in 2012).  During the three-season periods, both coordinators faced a top-50 offense roughly one third of the time (Martinez- 12 games; Grantham- 13 games). 

For what the comparison is worth, which might be little, its results were rather one sided and a little surprising to me (PG= per game; Three-and-Outs %= the percentage of the opposition's offensive possessions which resulted in a punt or turnover in one to three plays):
  
                                             WM         TG
Total Yards PG:                        363.5     407.4
Yards Per Rush:                     3.8        4.4
Yards Per Pass:                     7.5         7.9
Yards Per Play:                      5.5        5.7
Off. Touchdowns PG:              3.3        3.5
Sacks PG:                                    3.1        1.5
Turnovers Forced PG:            1.8         2.2
3rd Down %:                         37.7       46.4
3rd + 4th Down %:              37.3       46.3
Pts Per Red Zone Visit:            4.5         5.2
Three-and-Outs %:             25.9       26.1

Against offenses I defined as productive, Grantham's defenses forced a few more turnovers and had the slightest edge in three-and-out percentage.  However, Georgia's defenses from 2007 to 2009 performed better in every other category, particularly in yards allowed (nearly 45 less per game), yards per rush (more than a half-yard difference), sacks (twice as many), and 3rd/4th-down conversions (nearly a 10% difference).

As was the case with my Richt vs. Bobo comparison, I realize simply comparing statistics doesn't reveal the entire story, so to speak, especially when considering merely 12 or 13 games.  Personally, I prefer Todd Grantham over Willie Martinez as Georgia's DC on any day and against any offense, whether productive or one not so much.  However, what is evident is that Grantham's defenses have overall performed at a sub-par level against efficient offenses.  Apparently, this is especially the case even when compared to the final three seasons of Willie Mo's tenure.

Perhaps most telling, Georgia's record is 7-6 when Grantham's defensive unit has faced a top-50 offense; the Bulldogs were 9-3 in the 12 games with Martinez under the same circumstances from 2007 to 2009. 

Let me add, the Bulldogs will face the FBS' 24th-ranked offense (8th in rushing offense!) in a few days down in the Capital One Bowl.  Let's hope the performance by Grantham's defenders against Nebraska coincides with the viewed collective talent level of the defense, and any perception of Georgia having struggles in stopping productive offenses is at least put on hold.

December 24, 2012

Final Game Footage

'Tis the season, so my posts have been somewhat limited of late.  However, I did find time to discover some historic Bulldog-related videos, none of which I had ever seen, including rare color footage from the Orange Bowl of more than 60 years ago. 

With Georgia's final game of the 2012 season looming, I cut the footage a bit to display some Bulldogs at their best in the final games of their respective years:

1949 ORANGE BOWL vs. TEXAS

video
 
Georgia entered the 1949 Orange Bowl losers of just one game during its regular season en route to capturing an SEC championship.  On the contrary, Texas had finished its '48 campaign with only six wins in 10 games, were called a "third-rate team" by some Miami sports writers, and entered the bowl as heavy underdogs to the Bulldogs.

The silent coaches film displays the game's opening kickoff, which was fumbled by Georgia's first-string fullback, John Tillitski, and recovered by Texas' Randall Clay.  After the Longhorns ran a play and then committed a penalty, quarterback Paul Campbell was intercepted in the flat by the Bulldogs' second-string fullback, Al Bodine.  Bodine, a senior playing in his final game, lumbered for a 73-yard touchdown, causing the 1949 Orange Bowl to begin with quite a bang for the Bulldogs.

Alas, led by the rushing of eventual NFL coaching legend Tom Landry, Texas would soon take command of the game and upset the Bulldogs in the end, 41-28.  For what it's worth and for Bodine, whose only other interception at Georgia was returned for a 39-yard touchdown against Furman in 1947, the lumbering fullback remains the only Bulldog in history to tally touchdowns for each one of his interceptions with a minimum of two career picks.

1957: "THE DROUGHT BREAKER" vs. TECH

video

What is often lost in recalling fullback Theron Sapp's drought-breaking touchdown against Georgia Tech in 1957 is that it was Sapp, who not only capped the historic scoring drive, but playing linebacker on defense, started it, as well.

Following Sapp's third-quarter fumble recovery at the 50-yard line in a scoreless tie, Georgia ran the ball five consecutive times for just 11 yards.  Facing 3rd and 12 and the fact that the Bulldogs had completed just 40 passes all year, including NONE thus far in the game, Charley Britt connected with Jimmy Orr for an improbable and critical first down to the Jackets' 26-yard line.  From there, Sapp carried six straight times for 25 yards.  After Britt was stopped for no gain, Sapp crashed off his right side into the end zone for the celebrated touchdown and immortality.

Sapp's game-changing fumble recovery, nine carries for 34 hard-earned yards on the game-winning drive, and 1-yard drought-breaking touchdown snapped Tech's eight-game winning streak over Georgia with a 7-0 Bulldogs' victory.  In addition, it represents likely the only time in the history of college football that an individual jersey number was retired (Sapp's No. 40) primarily based on merely a six- or seven-minute performance in a single game.

1982: "BOCA" vs. FSU

video

Who knew Coach Richt could escape a sack a la Randall Cunningham?  As evident by his minus-42 career rushing yards on 72 rushes while at Miami, the Hurricane quarterback was far from mobile; however, at least against 14th-ranked Florida State in late-October of 1982, the Boca Raton native had all the right moves.

Richt has said that one of his goals upon signing with Miami out of high school was to be "the Heisman Trophy winner my third year."  Instead, by his third year at Miami, the once highly-recruited Richt, who had been nicknamed "Boca" by this time, had yet to start even a single collegiate game.  Nevertheless, once future Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly went down with an injury in the third game of the '82 season, the Hurricane starting job was Richt's to lose. 

With Richt under center, Miami won three of four games and entered its game against the Seminoles ranked 16th in the nation.  Unfortunately, despite 273 passing yards from Richt, the 'Canes fell to the 'Noles, 24-7.  A couple days later, Richt lost the starting job when he was issued a one-game suspension for a dorm violation. When he returned to the team with two games remaining, the senior had been placed behind freshmen quarterbacks Kyle Vanderwende and Vinny Testaverde. 

Richt would never take another snap from center, establishing that Boca's performance against FSU in '82 was the final game for the Bulldog-to-be.

December 18, 2012

Christmas Came Early

Hugh at Georgia's Picture Day in 1974
A few months ago, I posted a piece on my moving and unforgettable visit with the parents of Georgia football player Hugh Hendrix.
 
As I've indicated a few times here before, Hugh was an intelligent, straight-laced individual and the "most likable player on the team," who was projected to start at offensive guard in 1976 as a senior after starting the latter half of the 1975 season.  Two months prior to the season opener, Hugh passed away from a rare blood infection within a week of merely exhibiting flu-like symptoms.  To this day, the actual cause of his fatal infection is a medical mystery.
 
In memory of Hugh, the team dedicated its '76 season to their fallen teammate.  A decal Hugh's jersey No. 64 was placed on the Bulldogs' helmets; the first time Georgia ever featured a helmet sticker in honor of someone or something.  Inspired by Hugh, the Bulldogs would go on to capture an SEC championship.
 
In short, I visited the home of Harvey and Carolyn Hendrix back in September along with a teammate of Hugh's at Georgia and a couple of his childhood friends.  During the visit, Carolyn asked me if I knew whether or not the UGA football program still gave out her son's award the Hugh Hendrix Memorial Award, which was annually awarded to the Bulldog player who "most strained his potential."

Come to find out, Hugh's award was given from 1976 through 1989, resumed for one year in 1992, and then was discontinued for reasons unknown.  I suddenly felt compelled to begin a pursuit to reestablish what had been discontinued, and said then:
 
Hugh Hendrix touched many people in life, just after his passing, and continues to do so to this day, including yours truly when I visited his parents and later stood over his grave last week. If there ever was a Bulldog player who deserved a team award in his honor for being the ultimate teammate and one who strained his potential, it is undoubtedly Hugh. The football program honored him before; it should do so again!
 
Within 15 minutes of my posting three months ago, I received an email from an Athletic Board member with a suggestion on how I could go about getting the award reestablished.  Within 48 hours of the post, I had received over 30 emails of kind words, advice, and even a few from individuals wanting to donate money to the cause.

I was truly taken aback by the amount of support from the readers of this blog.

I decided that the best route to take was to first send a letter to Greg McGarity, and then go from there.  Only two days after mailing my letter, I received a response from the AD, indicating that the athletic department was going to look into why the award was discontinued and they'd be in touch with me.

Late last week, I received an email from another prominent member of the athletic department.  After just 10 weeks since my email from McGarity, I was thrilled to read: "We are going to reestablish Hugh’s award. We are in the process of getting this done."

I soon contacted Harvey and Carolyn with the good news.  I had not previously communicated with them the efforts to reestablish the award, and didn't want them to be totally taken off guard if ever contacted by the athletic department.

Hugh with teammates Dave Christianson (No. 81),
Bubba Wilson (No. 30), and Steve Davis (No. 14) --
Photos courtesy of Hugh's friends Janice Henck & Kathy Wicks Kelley
Hugh's parents were extremely happy and appreciative that the UGA football program would continue to remember their son 36 years after his death.  "Tell everyone involved 'thank you so much' from the two of us," Carolyn said to me.  "We have been given an early Christmas gift!"
 
I concur.  With the news from the athletic department, my household received an early Christmas gift, as well.

But, why was the award discontinued to begin with?  Besides "what can I do to help?" it was the question most asked in the emails I received.
 
I don't know why the award was interrupted 20 years ago, and really don't care.  Perhaps the current regime in the athletic department doesn't even know the reason.  I can only speculate that unfortunately Hugh's award was grouped with others not associated with financial backing or a scholarship back in the early-90s, and was dropped.
 
Nevertheless, it appears what was once mysteriously interrupted will be rightfully continued.  Therefore, the question that should be asked regarding the Hugh Hendrix Memorial Award is not why, but who...
 
Who amongst the current edition of Bulldogs is worthy enough to receive such an honor?

December 13, 2012

Bulldog Legend Dispelled (kind of)

Jake Scott flies to the defender during the '69
Sugar Bowl (the day after flying out a window?)
By the end of their regular season, the 1968 Bulldogs were considered perhaps the greatest football team in the program's history; even better than the 1920 undefeated S.I.A.A. championship team, the 1942 consensus national title squad, the perfect 11-0 Bulldogs of 1946, you name it.

Georgia was expected to easily handle Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl on January 1st.  The Hogs weren't even the best team in their conference that year, and they'd be facing maybe the greatest Bulldog team of all time?

The matchup seemed hardly fair.

Nevertheless, Georgia committed eight turnovers on a chilly day in New Orleans and were upset by the Razorbacks, 16-2.
 
I recently sat down with a prominent member of that '68 Bulldog team, and I just had to ask him: What happened in that Sugar Bowl game, and are the rumors true about the Bulldogs excessively partying the night before the game?
 
The stories of Georgia in New Orleans on New Year's Eve of 1968 have become near legendary, while helping explain why the team played so poorly the following day.  Among many others, Bill King of the Junkyard Blawg recently recognized the partying in a piece he did on Jake Scott a couple of years ago. 
 
One of the original books on UGA football Jesse Outlar's Between the Hedges from 1974 even acknowledged the carousing with a joke: New Orleans taxi driver attempted to cheer up a group of saddened Bulldog followers following the loss to Arkansas.  He said with a straight face, "I don’t understand what happened to that Georgia team.   When I brought several of them to the hotel at 2 a.m. this morning, they told me there was no way they could lose to Arkansas."
 
When the Bulldogs were preparing to face Pittsburgh in the 1977 Sugar Bowl, Coach Vince Dooley issued a strict curfew on his team for the entire week leading up to the game.  Seemingly, he had learned his lesson from eight years before: "It's been my experience any team that has ever gone to New Orleans and lost spent too much time on Bourbon Street," said Dooley the week of the game.
 
In Tony Barnhart's What It Means to Be a Bulldog from 2004, the '68 Georgia starting quarterback, Mike Cavan, brings up the rumor of he, Scott, and fullback Brad Johnson being on Bourbon Street the night before the game until 4:00 AM: "Let's get the record straight...I can't speak for Brad or Jake, but I was in my room..." says Cavan.
 
Concerning the rumors of excessive partying prior to the Sugar Bowl, the '68 player, who was very forthright during our interview, summed it up as "all nonsense."
 
The player said that Coach Dooley would say prior to every game that there would be only a few game-winning or game-changing plays that would transpire and be the difference between which team was about to win and which would soon lose, whether the final result was close or a rout.
 
"Dooley would say that we had to expect every play to be one of these possible 'game-winning' plays; therefore, we needed to give it our all on every play," said the player.
 
Apparently in the '69 Sugar Bowl, the Razorbacks had a number of game-changing plays, whereas the Bulldogs had just one.  Trailing 10-2, Georgia recovered an Arkansas fumble on the kickoff to start the second half.  Looking to tie the game, the Bulldogs moved 18 yards in five plays.  Facing 3rd and goal from the Hogs' 2-yard line, Georgia's game-changing play ensued:

 
video
 
According to the player, Dooley always said that if a team physically dominates a football game, odds are it'll likely win.  If it successfully executes more game-winning plays than its opponent, it'll definitely win.  In the '69 Sugar Bowl, Georgia physically dominated Arkansas but didn't execute its lone game-changing play.  Evidently, that's why the Bulldogs lost, not because of staying out late in the Big Easy.
 
"After the game, I overheard an Arkansas player say that he couldn't believe they got their ass kicked by us, but they still won the game," said the player.
 
But what about the rumored partying from the night before?  Were there players out and enjoying New Orleans into the early morning?
 
"From what I know, the entire team was shut up in the hotel and couldn't get out," said the player.  
 
In fact, this particular Bulldog tried to get ice on his floor; the machine was broken.  He tried to get ice on a different floor of the hotel, but couldn't because security wouldn't allow players to leave their respective floors.  "There were police at every exit," he added.
 
"If players got out on Bourbon Street that night, they must have flown out the window to get there," said the player.  He continued with a laugh, "Now, I will say that Jake Scott was smart enough that he might have brought a police uniform on the trip to escape."
 
That, or knowing what is rumored regarding the legendary Scott, he literally flew out the window...

December 7, 2012

Should've, Would've, Could've

When the 78th Heisman Trophy is handed out tomorrow night, history likely will be made in college football  for the first time, a freshman will take home the coveted award.  However, 32 years before there was "Johnny Football," another freshman and a true freshman, at that should've received the trophy, and would've if the same voting mindset, but mostly the voting deadline of today prevailed in 1980.
 
A little over a week ago, I simply shook my head when I heard Kirk Herbstreit's televised plea to Heisman voters: "I keep encouraging everybody, if you’re going to not vote for Johnny [Manziel], if it’s on his ability or his game or his season, that’s fine," said the ESPN college football analyst. "But let’s avoid not voting for him because he’s a freshman. That’s crazy."
 
My, how times have changed.  What is now crazy was once the mindset of many Heisman Trophy voters.  Herschel Walker could've won the Heisman Trophy in 1980 if he had not been a freshman.  However, as declared in the media back then only days leading up to the award's presentation, "because [South Carolina's George] Rogers is a senior he is considered the frontrunner" and "Rogers' status as a senior gives him the edge over Herschel Walker."
 
Notably, what should have given Herschel the edge over Rogers was the fact that when the two faced head-to-head on November 1st, Georgia defeated South Carolina 13-10, while the eventual 3rd-place Heisman finisher outgained the eventual winner 219 rushing yards to 168.  In addition, Rogers lost a critical fumble in Bulldog territory late in the game, costing the Gamecocks a victory.
 
But more so than Walker or Rogers' class status, by Friday, November 28th the day Heisman ballots were due Rogers held the ultimate edge because the senior's regular season was all wrapped up.  Herschel, on the other hand, and his Bulldog teammates still had one game remaining on their regular-season schedule against Georgia Tech the very next day. 
 
Herschel Walker might have won the Heisman in 1980 if all voters felt freely to vote for a freshman, but he most likely would've captured the award if his entire regular season was considered by voters, whether he was a freshman or otherwise.
 
Against the Yellow Jackets, Herschel rushed for 205 yards on 25 carries and three touchdowns in a 38-20 Georgia victory.  With 9:30 remaining in the game, Walker broke off a 65-yard touchdown run — his seventh run of 48 yards or more that season—and in the process, became the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher for freshmen, breaking Tony Dorsett’s record of 1,586 yards set seven years prior.  The outstanding effort was Walker’s third 200-yard rushing performance in Georgia’s last four games — a Heisman-like performance that, fortunately for George Rogers, voters could not take into account because of the absurd deadline to submit ballots.

"If [the Georgia Tech] game had counted in the Heisman Trophy balloting [Walker] would have won it as a freshman," said Coach Vince Dooley after Rogers won the Heisman. "It’s a shame the Heisman voting is done so early. Here’s a back who has gained over 1,600 yards, set all kinds of records, and has played on an undefeated, No. 1-ranked team."

"If that’s not deserving of a Heisman Trophy, I don’t know what is," Dooley added.

This is what Heisman voters had to consider in 1980: South Carolina and Rogers’ regular season was completed on November 22nd. In 11 games, Rogers rushed for 1,781 yards and was instrumental in the Gamecocks achieving an 8-3 record.

For Walker, the last impression of the freshman phenom for Heisman voters was an un-Herschel-like performance against Auburn on November 15th. Walker gained just 77 yards on 27 carries (2.9 average) against the Tigers and did not even lead his own team in rushing.

Personally, if I had a Heisman vote then and had to submit it prior to all of college football's regular season ending, I too probably would’ve voted for Rogers.

Following the Heisman’s presentation to Rogers, John Farrell, the chairman of the Downtown Athletic Club said that if Walker’s performance against Tech had been considered, it probably would have made a difference in the voting but added "we have to stick to our [ballot] deadlines."

In addition, there were several newspaper articles within a few days of the trophy’s ceremony proclaiming Herschel should have won considering his final performance.  A number of  voters even indicated later if the voting was held after the regular season had ended for all teams, they would have voted differently.

On December 18, 1980, Walker was honored as the UPI’s NCAA Back of the Year. The freshman had 47 votes to the second-place Rogers’ 39 votes — voting that had been administered after the regular season had ended.

And, don't even get me started on the two backs' bowl performances...  Too late.  In a 17-10 win over Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl, clinching the national championship for the Bulldogs, Herschel rushed for 150 yards on 36 carries and two touchdowns against the Fighting Irish.  Here's the kicker: not only did the rest of the Georgia team have minus-23 yards of total offense, but Herschel played nearly the entire game with a separate shoulder!

As for Rogers, he was held to 113 yards in a 37-9 loss to Pittsburgh in the Gator Bowl. 
 
The two bowl performances helped prove who really was deserving of the 1980 Heisman Trophy, and who should have been the initial freshman to take home the award.

History has shown repeatedly that one game can make or break an individual’s season. Evidently, one disallowed game kept Herschel from winning the most recognizable and prestigious individual award in sports on two occasions; he should've won the Heisman in 1980 before actually capturing the same award two years later.
 
But, as they say, should've, would've, could've...

December 4, 2012

Look a Heah, Hot

It has taken me a few days to fully process the Bulldogs' loss in the SEC Championship, while I remain a man of few words following the heartbreaking defeat.  In fact, I have just three words to describe my feelings concerning its end result: As Florida Evans once so infamously proclaimed...
 
But, it's time to move on and look forward to Georgia's bowl game, capping hopefully a 12-win campaign and adding the 2012 season as a rather memorable one to the annals of Bulldog football.
 
Less from a month from now, the Bulldogs will face the Nebraska Cornhuskers for only the second time in history.  And, although the outcome of the teams' initial game was one quite forgettable for Georgia enthusiasts, the 1969 Sun Bowl is known for a tale which might be the best Bulldog bowl story of all time (extracted from Loran Smith's Dooley's Dawgs):
 
Entering the Sun Bowl without a win in four games, the 5-4-1 Bulldogs had no business facing a Nebraska program that was amidst a 32-game non-losing streak.  This mismatch was never more evident as the Cornhuskers led 38-0 midway through the final quarter.  Georgia experienced one of its few highlights of the game when quarterback Paul Gilbert scored a touchdown on a 6-yard keeper.  
 
Obtained from a reputable Nebraska football historian, the following video (with audio from the Cornhusker radio broadcast) is of the Bulldogs' lone score from the game.  Unfortunately, any exchange between Georgia's Poss and an opposing Cornhusker on the PAT is not in view:
 
video

 
Also obtained from this same historian was a bit of information:  Apparently, Nebraska's Rich Glover in fact did not play in the '69 Sun Bowl; he was a true freshman that year in a time when freshmen were ineligible to play varsity college football.
 
Regardless, the piece on the Sun Bowl from Loran's book remains an excellent and humorous narrative, supporting that sometimes the best told story is one that's a little embellished (especially if it's an old football story).  It's just too bad the lopsided 45-6 final score wasn't a bit exaggerated as well...

November 30, 2012

"Pulpwood" Spoke...

In just his first 7 games as a Bulldog, Pulpwood rushed
for a Herschel-like 4 touchdowns of 34 yards or more.
...with me on the phone a couple of days ago from his home in Broxton, Ga.  And, among many other things, I discovered the answer to a question I've had for over five years: whether or not the real Andre "Pulpwood" Smith is the voice behind the Monk-e-mail Pulpwood (NOT SAFE for work, kids, and those easily offended, but damn funny) that many Dawg fans have grown to follow.

For my next book on UGA football, I decided to take a different approach by interviewing primarily players from yesteryear who were certainly standouts, but not necessarily household names.  And, although Pulpwood might be a household name with some, I discovered that he is quite different as well "an interesting fellow," according to Coach Dooley following his star fullback's performance against Alabama in 1984.  I concur.

During a week the Bulldogs face a favored Crimson Tide team at the Georgia Dome, it was rather appropriate I learned of Pulpwood's game of his life as a Bulldog: Georgia's 24-14 upset victory over Alabama from nearly 30 years ago.

Pulpwood, who had played in just one varsity game as a true freshman in 1983, surprised all, even himself, by first capturing Georgia's starting fullback position entering the '84 campaign (over David McCluskey the team's returning leading rusher), and then breaking off a 50-yard touchdown sprint from his fullback position in the season opener against Southern Miss.

A Coffee County teammate of Pulpwood's recently said of the highly-touted tailback, who had initially signed with Texas A&M: "At Georgia, they put him at fullback weighing only 195 pounds and lightning quick. ... If he was to ever get loose, he would be gone."  Never was this more evident than Pulpwood's game at Legion Field arguably, the greatest rushing performance ever by a Bulldog in the Alabama series.

On just a simple fullback dive off the option series, Pulpwood first struck only 1:28 into the game, streaking for a 44-yard touchdown.  Just 2:19 later, he was off again on the exact same play, sprinting for a 34-yard score.  Pulpwood mostly served as a blocker the remainder of the game for mainly tailback and fellow freshman Lars Tate.  However, he resurfaced with a critical first-down run of 17 yards on the Bulldogs' final touchdown drive, which gave Georgia a 10-point lead late in the game.  Pulpwood finished with 117 yards on 12 carries, including the two distinguished scoring jaunts.

Two weeks later, Pulpwood rushed for more than 100 yards in a rout of Vanderbilt.  Smith's final of two career 100-yard performances – Georgia's only two 100-yard rushing games by an individual in a 20-game span from October 1983 to October 1985 included another long run, a 47-yard touchdown late in the opening quarter.
During what would be his final game at UGA,
Pulpwood (No. 35) celebrates a touchdown with
No. 32 Lars Tate in the Citrus Bowl.

Two months later, Pulpwood's tenure as a Bulldog would end with a 17-17 tie against Florida State in the Citrus Bowl.  Georgia's ultimate one-hit wonder finished his sophomore season with 655 rushing yards, a 6.0 average, and four touchdowns all team highs.  His 12 receptions in 1984 led all running backs.

Soon after the Citrus Bowl, Pulpwood was declared academically ineligible.  After leaving school, he would live a life of crime and drugs, culminating with getting shot in Atlanta in 1997.  However, since this former life, he has been "blessed," according to Pulpwood, discovering those that truly loved him and people that "had my back."  Such individuals include old teammates McCluskey and Tate, Keith Henderson and Tim Worley.  Recently, after hearing of their old friend's turnaround, the four former Bulldog running backs traveled to Crossroads Baptist Church in Douglas, Ga. to demonstrate they still had Pulpwood's back in 2011 after years of searching for him.

Finally, Pulpwood wanted to call attention to another Bulldog that always stood by him one of the most celebrated Bulldogs of all time, Coach Dooley, who was there by Pulpwood's bedside in Atlanta the moment he woke up in the hospital after getting shot.   

As I wrapped up my phone interview, I decided to find out what the real Pulpwood thought about Georgia's upcoming meeting against Alabama for the SEC title and a spot in the national championship game:

"The key will be to jump on the Tide early," Pulpwood declared without any hesitation, "...just like I did to them in Birmingham back in '84," he added with a laugh.

November 27, 2012

High on the Dogs' Hogs


Lee, Theus, Andrews, Gates, the rest of the Hogs,
and their coaches can be commended for their 
much better than expected play in 2012.
Entering the season three months ago, they were the Dogs' most inexperienced unit of players and likely the team's biggest question mark: the Hogs on offense, Georgia's  offensive line. 
 
Back in the spring, I posted a pessimistic piece indicating the Bulldogs' inexperienced offensive line one which returned only 31 career starts was my primary cause for concern, and for good reason.  As mentioned then, when a Georgia squad from the past or FBS team from the previous year returned little along the offense front, it almost always equated to a decline in overall record. 
 
Entering 2012, the Bulldogs' 31 offensive line starts were the lowest in the SEC, while only 13 of the other 123 FBS schools returned fewer.
 
With two games remaining on its schedule, no matter the outcomes, Georgia has already achieved a better record than a year ago, bucking the trend that an inexperienced offensive line corresponds to a drop in overall team results.  Instead, the Bulldog youngsters wound up being one of the best offensive lines in the conference (by my measurement) and an integral part of one of the best teams in the nation.

Granted, the jury may still be somewhat out on this unit.  Against Georgia's two toughest opponents South Carolina and Florida the young Hogs struggled; the Bulldogs' two remaining games will be versus rather formidable opposition.  However, few will argue that throughout the season, Georgia's offensive line performed better overall than expected. 
 
Following the Bulldogs' disappointing, losing 2010 campaign, I blogged about the Offensive Hog Index a calculation originally used to measure NFL offensive lines that I borrowed and tweaked for the college game.  This index takes into account three statistical rankings amongst conference members where final placement is determined by the average of the three rankings.  The three measurements used are yards per rush (sacks omitted), percent of passing plays (pass attempts + times sacked) resulting in an interception or sack, and third- and fourth-down combined conversion rate.

Entering the SEC Championship Game, Georgia averages 5.56 yards per rush (3rd-best in SEC), 8.47% of its passing plays have resulted in a sack or interception (7th lowest), and have a 45.86% success rate on third and fourth down combined (4th highest).  The Bulldogs’ 4.7 average ranking places 3rd in the conference amongst the 14 members (school ranked by average of three rankings, followed by returning career OL starts in parenthesis):

 
 1. Texas A&M, 1.7 (95)
 2. Alabama, 3.0 (95)
 3. GEORGIA, 4.7 (31)
 4. Tennessee, 5.3 (105)
 5. Miss. State, 6.7 (43)
 6. LSU, 7.0 (104)
 7. Ole Miss, 8.0 (57)
 8. Vanderbilt, 8.3 (60)
9T. Florida, 8.7 (79)
9T. Kentucky, 8.7 (50)
11. Arkansas, 9.3 (65)
12. South Carolina, 10.0 (61)
13. Auburn, 11.0 (35)
14. Missouri, 12.3 (68)

In 2010, I was astonished that Georgia's offensive line returned a nation's highest 155 career starts, yet by the end of the season, the unit ranked in the bottom half of the SEC in Offensive Hog Index.  Two years later, I'm even more amazed, but delighted, that evidently the opposite has transpired: the SEC's most inexperienced offensive line has turned out to be one of the conference's best.

Also in 2010, I stated that the Bulldogs' shortcoming of an experienced offensive line but its sub-par play can primarily be blamed on any coach that had anything to do with those "experienced" linemen.  Only two years later, the opposite holds true: give credit to Will Friend and anyone else who has a hand in coaching the offensive line for transforming what was a major concern in August to a team strength by regular season's end.

November 23, 2012

Before there was "Gurshall"...


Thirty-four years before Todd Gurley and Keith
Marshall, Georgia had Buck Belue and another true 
frosh "quarterback" for Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.
Before the recent arrival of "Gurshall" to UGA, two Georgia true freshmen from yesteryear, who also played the same position (well, kind of), delivered the Bulldogs in celebrated fashion to a victory in the Georgia-Georgia Tech series.  However, a significant difference between a freshman duo from 34 years ago and the Bulldogs' tailback pair who have combined to wear number 34 (and will hopefully run all over the Jackets tomorrow), is Buck Belue and David Archer weren't even supposed to see the field in the bitter intrastate rivalry on a Saturday afternoon at Sanford Stadium.
 
In 1978, Georgia signed Belue from Valdosta High and Archer from College Park's Woodward Academy; both players had been recognized as first-team All-State quarterbacks in 1977 for their respective classifications.  Belue was considered perhaps the nation's most highly-touted quarterback coming out of high school and was expected to challenge junior Jeff Pyburn for the Bulldogs' top signal-calling spot.  Archer, on the other hand, was promptly moved to the defensive backfield upon his arrival to Athens and placed on the JV squad.
 
Belue's Georgia career got off to a rocky start.  In the season opener of 1978, the Bulldogs trailed Baylor 7-6 early in the third quarter and had the ball nearing midfield.  In a surprise move, Coach Dooley replaced Pyburn with the young signal caller, who entered the game actually listed as the team's No. 3 quarterback behind Pyburn and sophomore Chris Welton.  On his first collegiate pass attempt, Belue's inexperience showed as he was intercepted.
 
Georgia would go on to defeat Baylor and Belue would remain the Bulldogs' No. 2 quarterback throughout the season.  However, entering the regular-season finale against Georgia Tech, he had seen little action.  Following the Baylor game, Belue really only played in blowout wins over Ole Miss (42-3) and VMI (41-3).
 
As far as Georgia's other quarterback recruit from 1978, Archer's only varsity action had come during the rout over VMI, where he was in for just a few plays as a member of the secondary. 
 
As the "Wonderdog" season of '78 neared to an end, no one would have ever guessed that the two freshmen, especially Archer, would play prominent roles and ultimately be responsible for winning arguably the most exciting Georgia-Georgia Tech game of all time.
 
Through the first 20 minutes of play against the Yellow Jackets, the Bulldogs had committed four turnovers with Pyburn under center and were losing, 20-0.  Again, Belue was surprisingly inserted into a game when Georgia trailed.  It was perhaps a risky move; there is good reason why the TV broadcast displayed only the freshman's rushing statistics to that point.  Entering the Tech game, Belue had completed just 7 of 19 passes, throwing for no touchdowns and 3 interceptions.  Nevertheless, he promptly led Georgia on a 9-play, 55-yard touchdown drive which included three pass completions in as many attempts.
 
Often lost in this account of what was the greatest comeback in UGA football history at the time is the fact Belue didn't remain in the game for its duration.  Trailing 20-7 to start the third quarter, the Bulldogs were quarterbacked again by Pyburn, who was actually booed by some fans when he came onto the field.  
 
Pyburn responded to the jeering of his own home crowd by leading Georgia to its second touchdown drive, cutting the Bulldogs' deficit to six points.  However, on the following possession, the offense was forced to punt and the first-string quarterback was benched in favor of Belue for the second time in less than a length of a quarter.
 
Thanks to Scott Woerner's punt return for a touchdown, Georgia took a 21-20 lead, but it was short lived as Georgia Tech returned the ensuing kickoff for a score.  Trailing 28-21 and under the direction of Belue, the Bulldogs punted, lost the ball on downs, and then punted again in three possessions.  However, Dooley decided to stay with the freshman for a final possession one which resulted in one of the greatest touchdowns (and certainly the most celebrated two-point conversion) in the annals of "Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate."
 
As far as the other UGA freshman quarterback recruit from '78, Archer surprisingly got to play in the Georgia Tech game, as well.  However, Archer's showing is much less heralded than Belue's, although just as impactful and probably more so inconceivable.  Sent in as an extra defensive back to simply "cover the tight end," Archer's interception with approximately a minute remaining resulted on his lone snap of the game, in what would be his final play as a member of Georgia's varsity, and above all, clinched a 29-28 memorable victory. 

video
 
A season later in 1979, Belue would replace Pyburn one final time as Georgia's starting quarterback after the Bulldogs got off to an 0-3 start (although, ironically, the senior would start against and defeat Georgia Tech that year after Belue was injured during the previous game).  And in 1980, as we all know, Belue would become and remains the only quarterback to guide Georgia to an undisputed national championship.
 
What about the other Georgia freshman quarterback recruit from '78?
 
David Archer transferred from UGA following a season on the Bulldogs' JV team in 1979.  He would continue to play college football and actually return to his original position at his new school.  And like Belue, Archer too guided his team to a championship, quarterbacking the West Georgia Braves to a Division III national title in 1982.

November 21, 2012

** Double the Dispute


Whether Bulldogs recognize them or not, we unfortunately suffered
setbacks in the Georgia-Georgia Tech series in 1943
(and the Jackets have the scoreboard to prove it) and 1944.
The following is a piece I've posted before during previous Georgia-Georgia Tech game weeks.  It's a stance one of giving our hated rival to the southwest credit I'm not proud of, but an opposing view I've supported for quite some time.  Let me add that despite my opinion, I still hate Tech! 
 
Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving to all (... and even to those Yellow Jackets out there).
 
I do not like The Georgia Institute of Technology, and especially hate its football team.
 
A few years ago, I somewhat respected the Jackets for their sudden turnaround with the beginning of the Coach Paul Johnson era, but now cherish the fact they've endured three consecutive seasons of five losses or more.
 
Unlike many decades ago, when I started rooting for the Bulldogs in the early 1980s, I believe many Dawg fans felt more sorry for Tech than those that disliked the Wramblin' Wreck.  "Hate" is a strong word and it was probably more reserved for the likes of Clemson, Auburn, and maybe Florida.
 
In 1984, this all changed for me when 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.  Worse, Dewberry, the winning quarterback of the Yellow Jackets, had torn off a piece of our beloved hedges.

This exhibition of disrespect will not be accepted, I decided then.  No longer did I feel sorry for our intrastate rival; I felt hatred.

However, there is one, and only one, single issue I do side with our in-state adversary.  Most Tech and Georgia football fans are familiar with this controversy and the pair of asterisks that have made it renowned.  If you're NOT familiar with the dispute, I'm sure you'll hear about it this Saturday when watching the 107th, or 105th meeting between Georgia and Georgia Tech; the game's television broadcast mentions it annually without fail.

The Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets cannot agree on how many times they've played one another in football.  Georgia defends a 62-37-5 advantage; Georgia Tech claims a 39-62-5 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 in the series results.

By the start of the 1943 football season, World War II was raging. Because of the war, graduation, and injuries, every one of the Bulldogs' lettermen from the 1942 national championship squad was lost.  Of the 38 "men" on Georgia's 1943 roster, 30 were only 16 or 17 years old and too young for the war's draft.  The few remaining players of 18 years and older were only part of the team because they 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 boys if they too wanted to cancel their season.  They refused, joining only three other SEC schools of the 12 total members, who decided to field a football team in 1943.

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

Like Georgia, rival Georgia Tech was one of the four participating schools in the conference.  However, unlike the Bulldogs, the Yellow Jackets were prospering from the war.

As did a few other schools, Georgia Tech benefited from its on-campus Navy V-12 Program, whereas any student who signed up for the program could remain in school and continue playing athletics.  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 – Tech's squad was also joined by the captains of Alabama and Vanderbilt and other players from various schools.  This gave the Jackets an overwhelming advantage over Georgia and it was evident on the gridiron with a 48-0 victory in 1943 and a 44-0 win 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 school's football records, Magill placed asterisks next to the two Bulldog losses because "those were not true Georgia Tech teams," Magill has personally told me before and countless others for decades.
 
"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."
 
Unfortunately, this is where I am in disagreement and admittedly side with the enemy.
 
First off, that freshman team for Georgia in 1943 reached as high as No. 20 nationally in the AP Poll during the season.  Entering the Georgia Tech game the following year, the Bulldogs were actually recognized as only a slight underdog; some local bookies even placed even odds on the game. 
 
Above all, I have a feeling if Georgia would have been victorious in one or both of the '43 and '44 contests, the games would be recognized today in the series results and there would be no asterisks.
 
Both the NCAA and SEC acknowledges the two games as losses for the Bulldogs.  And, actually Georgia also recognizes the losses in its yearly results and all-time record (just not in the series results).
 
Coach Curry, will you accept this rose, err, I mean, piece of hedge?
Soon after the beginning of the controversy, few stood by Magill on his stance or took his asterisks seriously.  Three years following Magill's debatable decision, the Athens Banner-Herald recognized the '43 and '44 games, announcing the 1951 Georgia-Georgia Tech contest as the "46th Annual Battle," not the 44th.  Magill's statement during the late-50s of "Henceforth our records will refer to those 1943 and 1944 games as Georgia versus the Georgia Tech Navy" was countered by sportswriter Furman Bisher with the following:
                                                                                                    
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.

Let me add, although Georgia basically had an all-freshman team during those two seasons while Georgia Tech was supported by a Navy program and a few players from other schools, Coach Butts had asked his young team if they wanted to participate, and they agreed to play the '43 season, including against Georgia Tech.  They consented to do so with knowledge of the circumstances 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 actually very few "bona fide" college football squads from the 1943 and 1944 seasons.  Should all of the remaining "non-true" programs revoke their results from the two seasons?  If the Bulldogs were not a "true" team in '43 and '44, should they discount the 13 combined victories they achieved 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 eventually be banned from coaching in the South forever.  The result of the game, a 10-6 Georgia loss, is acknowledged in UGA's yearly and series results.
 
In the first Georgia-Georgia Tech football 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 more 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 personally know Dan Magill well.  Among other things, 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.  However, and I say this with the utmost respect, I totally disagree with his decision from more than six decades ago regarding the 1943-1944 Georgia-Georgia Tech 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 hate.  I suspect part of the decision by "Dangerous Dan," as Bisher tagged him in 1957, was because of this hatred for Georgia's chief rival of the time.
 
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 Bulldogs having two less losses to the Jackets, especially if (and God forbid), as was the case when Magill made his determination, Georgia football was to ever falter while the Eternal Enemy prospered.  Of course, I don't see that happening anytime soon...