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October 31, 2014

Dawgs Up to Same Old Tricks

Four weeks ago, Gurley became the latest in 
a long line of Dawgs to perform an old trick.
Earlier this week, seeing that Arkansas is now promoting Sebastian Tretola for the Heisman Trophy after the giant Razorback lineman passed for a touchdown against UAB, while hearing that the Bulldogs' one-time Heisman Trophy candidate (whose last game featured a trick pass of his own) will unfortunately miss the Florida game, I recalled a "Cocktail Party" story few Bulldog enthusiasts are aware of, involving an uncommon play which has prominently been showcased in UGA football lore for decades, especially down in Jacksonville against the despised Gators.

Nearly 40 years before tailback Todd Gurley completed a 50-yard pass to Jeb Blazevich against Vanderbilt this season, there occurred the most acclaimed trick pass play, or a pass thrown by someone besides the quarterback, in Georgia football history. 

You're likely familiar with the famous "Appleby to Washington" playthe 80-yard end-around touchdown pass from tight end Richard Appleby to Gene Washington, resulting late in the 1975 Florida game as the Bulldogs trailed the Gators, 7 to 3.  However, one of the greatest plays in the annals of Bulldog football perhaps wouldn't have even been called in the huddle if not for a rain-soaked Gator Bowl field that day.

Much earlier in the game before the famous trick touchdown resulted, Georgia trailed Florida 7-0 midway through the second quarter.  With the Bulldogs facing 3rd-and-6 at the Gators' 31-yard line, the "Appleby to Washington" trick play was called for the first time in the contest, except rather than Appleby passing, it was designed for another tight endjunior Steve Davis, who had been a highly-recruited quarterback out of high schoolto do the throwing.

"It was the exact play Richard would run, except instead of running left to right, I took the handoff from [quarterback] Matt [Robinson], running from my right to left," Davis informed me when I interviewed him for my latest book on UGA football. "It had rained really hard leading up to the game and seemingly stopped right before kickoff.  So, and this is also how the play differed from Richard's, when I planted to throw the ball to Geno (Gene Washington), I slipped down on the wet field, losing about four or five yards."

Davis admits his failed end-around pass was kind of embarrassing, but he quickly got over it, adding, "Think about it, if I'd completed the pass, or maybe even gotten a throw off before slipping, there's likely no 'Appleby-to-Washington' to win the game."

A year later in his final game as a Bulldog, Davis would finally get his chance to get off a trick pass.  Against Pittsburgh in the Sugar Bowl, running the same Appleby-to-Washington-type play, Davis threw a bomb that according to ABC-TV announcer Keith Jackson was "right on the money." However, instead of Washington catching it for a touchdown, he let the ball slip through his hands in an eventual 27-3 loss.

The trick pass play has been around at Georgia essentially since the departure of legendary Charley Trippi. With the exit of Trippi, who averaged 11 pass attempts per game as a senior in 1946 from his halfback position in Georgia's T-formation, the Bulldogs' offense instantly changed forever, where the only position primarily designed to throw the football was the quarterback.  Going forward, a pass from anyone else was considered rather uniquea trick pass.

If no rain-soaked Gator Bowl field in 1975, may-
be no Appleby-to-Washington to defeat Florida.
From what I gathered, following the transformation of Georgia's offensive strategy, halfback John Donaldson executed the program's first notable trick pass playa 40-yard completion early in the 1947 season.  While it's said you can't teach an old dog new tricks, Donaldson's pass thus began a trend of many a Dog pulling what is now an old trick.  

Against Florida in 1959, eventual-Pro Bowl punter Bobby Walden, who was also a standout halfback at Georgia, completed the Bulldogs' first trick pass for a touchdowna 14-yard halfback toss to Gordon Kelley executed as an icy rain fell in Jacksonville during a 21-10 win by the Bulldogs en route to an SEC championship.

With Coach Vince Dooley's arrival in 1964, Georgia fans for the next quarter-century got used to what was regarded as a conservative offense. However, as cautious as the Bulldog offense operated under Dooley, it routinely had a surprise for opposing defenses, especially in the form of a pass.

Playing for a newly-integrated program while ironically head-coached by the aforementioned Donaldson, running back Horace Kingone of the first five black players to sign with Georgiawas responsible for the first points in the first game of the Georgia freshman team's 1971 season by throwing a 38-yard touchdown on a halfback pass to Jerry Paul against Clemson.  In the 33-3 victory by the Bullpups over the Cubs, King also added 143 yards rushing and a touchdown.

Early the following season on the same afternoon he became the first African American to score a touchdown in UGA varsity football history, King completed a 25-yard pass in a victory over NC Statea "halfback pass [which] really hurt," according to Wolfpack head coach, Lou Holtz.  In the opening game of his senior campaign against Oregon State, King threw a 28-yard touchdown to Butch Box.

Of the more than 50 Bulldogs beginning in the 1940s to the present to pass for more than 100 yards for a career, King (119 passing yards) remains the only one not to play the quarterback position. Including his freshman season with the Bullpups, he remarkably threw for 157 yards on 15 pass attempts and two touchdowns while at Georgia from 1971 to 1974.

A few years after King and then Appleby-to-Washington, receiver Amp Arnold became the next Bulldog to pull off a successful trick pass play for a score, and against the Gators, no less. In Jacksonville in 1978, Arnold's 44-yard touchdown pass to Lindsay Scott was the difference in a 24-22 Georgia win. 

Notably, the trick pass play isn't for everyone, not even the greatest Bulldog player of them all.  Tailback Herschel Walker was 0 for 2 passing while at Georgia, first attempting what looked like a wounded duck against Notre Dame in the 1981 Sugar Bowl followed by throwing an interception against Kentucky the next season.

During the Jim Donnan regime, running back Patrick Pass was indeed a threat to pass, going to the air in three of his four seasons (1996-1999), totaling 86 yards on 3 of 5 passing.  Besides Pass and other offensive players, the head coach added a wrinkle to the trick pass by also implementing it on special teams as early as his first season at Georgia.
Attempting a halfback pass against the
Auburn freshman team in '71 is Horace

Kingking of the trick pass play at UGA.

During the 1996 season at Mississippi State, punter Dax Langley lofted a 38-yard completion which was described as "wobbly," and one which seemed to hang in the air "forever"so much that his teammate on the receiving end, Hines Ward, was quickly tackled from behind inside the opposing 10-yard line after having to literally stand and wait on the toss to arrive to him.

"My pass might not have been pretty, but it was better looking than the sight of Hines getting caught from behind," Langley joked when I interviewed him for the same book. To date, Langley's trickery remains the only time in the last half-century a Georgia punter has completed a pass attempt.

During the same game in Starkville and a year removed from playing quarterback, Ward threw a 19-yard touchdown to Larry Brown on a receiver-reverse.  A season later in 1997 against Florida, it was Ward-to-Brown again for nearly 30 yards on the opening drive of the monumental 37-17 upset over the Gators.

In 2005 against Florida, quarterback Joe Tereshinski, who was filling in for an injured D.J. Shockley, made an unforgettable leaping touchdown catch of a 9-yard halfback pass from tailback Thomas Brown (during a forgettable passing performance by Tereshinski, ending in a heart-breaking 14-10 loss).  

Finally, the history of Georgia's trick pass play wouldn't be complete without mentioning the only Bulldog to complete more than one trick pass for a touchdown in varsity actiontailback Tim Worley. During his run for the Heisman Trophy in 1988, Worley attempted three halfback passes, the last of which fell incomplete against Florida. Nevertheless, the Worley-led Bulldogs walloped the Gators that afternoon, 26 to 3, while the star tailback's misfire followed a 9-yard scoring pass from him to Troy Sadowski against TCU earlier that season and a 27-yard touchdown toss to John Thomas versus Ole Miss. 

Upon completion of the Florida game and until the tail end of the season, Worley remained a legitimate contender for the Heismana campaign which had been established when his trick-passing prowess, like Arkansas' Tretola 26 years later, caught the nation's attention in October.

Like Worley, Gurley, the other aforementioned, and the additional notable tricksters below, the next player to join the distinguished list of trick-pass-play Dawgs is anyone's guesssurprise!
  • 1967 vs. Georgia Tech: the great Jake Scott, positioned at holder, throws incomplete off a fake field goal.
  • 1978 vs. Kentucky: tailback Willie McClendon 33-yard completion to Amp Arnold during a furious rally to defeat the Wildcats 17-16 after trailing, 16-0.  
  • 1989 vs. South Carolina: fullback Brian Cleveland 30-yard completion.
  • 1990 vs. Alabama: tailback Larry Ware two-point conversion pass to Chris Broom, cutting the Tide's lead to 16-14, which allowed Georgia to later win the game with a field goal.
  • 1994 vs. Georgia Tech: freshman running back Hines Ward throws incomplete on his first collegiate pass attempt; however, it makes for good practice as Ward would close the following season as Georgia's starting quarterback.
  • 1997 vs. Tennessee: holder Drew Cronic completes a 21-yarder to Patrick Pass off a fake field goal; nevertheless, the Bulldogs had been faced with 4th down and no less than 26 yards to go.  
  • 1998 vs. Georgia Tech: receiver Michael Greer completes a 68-yarder to Larry Brown for a touchdown; the play remains the last Georgia trick pass to cover more than 50 yards.
  • 2003 vs. Auburn: receiver Michael Johnson throws a 40-yard completion to Fred Gibson on an apparent reverse; Johnson catches a 19-yard touchdown from David Greene on the very next play.  
  • 2012 vs. Alabama: tight end Arthur Lynch, playing the protector position in punt formation, completes a 16-yard trick pass in the SEC title game to cornerback Sanders Commings, who was positioned as a lineman.
  • 2013 vs. North Texas: it was Lynch on the receiving end of a 42-yard completion from Rantavious Wootenlikely satisfaction for the fifth-year senior receiver who had misfired on a trick pass attempt the year before.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ga should have run one down in Jax this year...would have been better than all that other crap Bobo called!