|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.
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.