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November 2, 2012

King Conquered Rebs


Against Ole Miss in '74, Horace King had a game of his life
by scoring three first-half touchdowns on short runs...
A few days ago, I tuned into ESPN's 30 for 30 "Ghosts of Ole Miss" a captivating story of violence interrupting at Ole Miss because of the integration of the school in 1962 while the Rebel football team was experiencing an unbeaten season at the same time.  Somewhat fittingly for me, earlier that evening on the phone, I just so happened to speak to Horace King one of the first black football players to play at Georgia, who ran wild against the Rebels in his hometown of Athens during his final season as a Bulldog.

Because of what he stood for and what he endured while becoming one of Georgia's best backs of the 1970s, I've always been fond of King and have mentioned him a number of times on this blog.  Therefore, it was truly an honor when he agreed to participate in the current book project my father and I am undertaking.

After speaking with the Bulldog great and watching "Ghosts of Ole Miss," all while thinking of Georgia's upcoming game at Sanford Stadium versus the Rebels, I thought it might be rather appropriate to recall arguably King's greatest game in a Bulldog uniform.

In early October 1974, both Georgia and Ole Miss entered their meeting at Sanford Stadium with identical 2-2 records.  The Bulldogs had been disappointing, losing to Miss. State and Clemson in what were considered upset defeats.  The Rebels, on the other hand, had began their season under first-year head coach Ken Cooper by upsetting 18th-ranked Missouri and nearly did the same three weeks later against 3rd-ranked Alabama. 

Coach Cooper had played at Georgia during the 1950s, was then a Bulldog assistant for nearly an entire decade, and later an Ole Miss assistant for three seasons before being chosen to replace legendary Johnny Vaught.  On the head coach's 38th birthday, Cooper's Rebels ventured to Athens recognized as only four-point underdogs.

By game's end, the Rebels had rushed for 228 yards, had a 21-16 advantage over the Bulldogs in first downs, and had totaled nearly 30 more offensive plays than Georgia (85 to 57, including 55-14 in the second half).  Yet, in spoiling Cooper's birthday and his return trip to Athens, the Bulldogs held the most important of advantages over the Rebels the final score.  In a shocking 49-0 rout, Georgia handed Ole Miss its worst defeat since 44 years earlier in 1930.

Thanks to King, sophomore quarterback Matt Robinson, and an Erk Russell defense that bent the entire contest but never broke, the Bulldogs played what would turn out to be their very best game of the season.

...and added a fourth score on a long 79-yarder.
King scored the game's first three touchdowns, all resulting in the first half and coming on short runs of 1, 1, and 4 yards.  In the third quarter, Robinson connected with Gene Washington for a 74-yard bomb, giving Georgia a 28-0 lead.   King followed the scoring pass with a long touchdown of his own, running 79 yards to paydirt.  At the time, King's long jaunt ranked in Georgia's top 10 all time in longest rushing touchdowns, while his fourth touchdown tied a single-game modern-day school record.

Robinson added another long scoring pass in the fourth quarter an 86-yarder to Richard Appleby and finished with a staggering 241 passing yards on just 6 of 9 passing.  One year prior to being known as the "Junkyard Dogs," Georgia's defense performed as such, forcing six turnovers, and although it allowed the Rebels to march up and down the field, the defense never allowed them to cross the goal line.   

In rushing for 129 yards and four touchdowns, King would be recognized as the UPI's national back of the week.  Following his record-setting performance, he might have been a tad camera shy as well, but the unselfish back wanted to give credit where credit was due.  

"I just wish I had some offensive linemen here with me," a lonesome King said as he looked around for someone in Georgia's locker room to share in his limelight.  "That's where the games are won or lost."

As I mentioned the other day in my phone conversation, part of the process in writing this book is for each former Georgia great to first come up with, as the book is appropriately titled, a "game of their life" while playing for the Bulldogs.  For the humble Horace King, I perhaps should have added that if he can't come up with a game, I certainly know of a good one I could suggest. 

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