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November 13, 2015

Punt Auburn Punt

Against Georgia in 1973, it was Punt
Auburn Punt, and then... Punch!
Like many of you, I am certainly fond of the greatest, and most unique plays in Georgia's football history. But, sometimes we may forget one or so of the more unique plays worthy enough to rank amongst the Bulldogs' bestone of the so-called "weirdest" plays ever in a college football game, one that was "psychedelic football," and a play so strange surely "Andy Warhol...drew [it] up [in] the game plans."

With the Georgia-Auburn game looming tomorrow, I was reminded by an emailer today of the 1973 meeting between the Bulldogs and Tigers, and a play featuring a pair of Auburn puntsboth blocked by Georgia (kind of)so odd the sellout crowd of 59,700 at Sanford Stadium should have next anticipated, according to the legendary Lewis Grizzard, "the appearance of a herd of pink elephants wearing G-strings, dancing the boogaloo to the strains of four purple baboons playing flutes."

Less than a year after Auburn's acclaimed "Punt Bama Punt" ultimately defeated Alabama in 1972, the Tigers endured what I've dubbed "Punt Auburn Punt," which led to their eventual loss to Georgia.

With Georgia leading 21-14 late in the third quarter, Auburn was forced to punt from its own 48 yard line. The snap to punter Roger Pruett was bad one, whereupon he finally gained possession of, only to have his kick blocked by senior Dennis Hester. The blocked kick bounded behind the punter as everyone gave chase, but it was the punter, Pruett, who grabbed the loose ball.

Hester was then on the run, moving from his left to the right, when he decided to attempt what is now rather common in the sport, a rugby-style punt. But, Pruett's second attempt at a punt on the same play failed miserably, dribbling up field a few yards until bouncing off of Abb Ansley.

Loose ball? That's what Auburn figured, as a mass of players attempted to gain possession near the Tigers' sideline until Auburn's Lee Gross emerged from the pile at his own 45-yard line holding the football.

I guess the Tigers' two failed punts and the ensuing chaos which followed was so extraordinary, yet controversial, it wasn't even included on the official coaches film (which normally includes all plays on special teams, as well). The following footage begins with a second-down option play by Auburn followed by a third-down incompletion (partially cut off), leading directly to Georgia's first-down play, bypassing the punts and chaos: 

As the revered Jesse Outlar said, the players in the 1973 Georgia-Auburn game will get to tell their grandchildren they participated in the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry, and "so can a large delegation of state patrolmen and Athens' finest."

After Gross emerged with the ball, a bench-clearing brawl ensued between the teams, forcing numerous members of the State Patrol and Athens police to eventually restore order. Still, the question remained, which team possessed the ball?

First, game officials awarded Auburn first down on its own 45-yard line, prompting the majority of the Sanford Stadium crowd to boo, while Georgia players and coaches were left questioning the ruling. The officials were unable to explain to the Bulldogs why it was Auburn's possession, so they changed their mind, and gave Georgia the ball at the Tigers' 45-yard line.

Incensed, Auburn head coach "Shug" Jordan came out onto the field, followed by Georgia's Vince Dooley, who had played and coached under Jordan. The officials again convened, and soon came to the same ruling as just before: Georgia's ball.

Following what was said to be "one of the craziest situations in college football," it was reported at least three on-field fights occurred between Georgia and Auburn players before the third quarter had even ended. Overshadowing junior Horace King's 113 rushing yards on 16 carries and a Georgia defense led by freshman linebacker Sylvester Boler which limited the Tigers to 142 total yards, "Punt Auburn Punt," a play eventually setting up the final touchdown of the contest, was the highlight of a 28-14 victory for the Bulldogs.

Evidently, "the officials headed for higher ground as soon as the game ended and could not be reached for an explanation of their ruling." However, it was rumored that since the second punt had hit Georgia's Ansley behind the line of scrimmage, even though Auburn's Gross had recovered the ball, he would have had to advance the ball past the first-down marker for the Tigers to regain possession. 

As far as Dooley and Shug, they still were left unable to explain the ruling, but did agree they had never seen anything like it before. 

"One of the officials just came over to me and said one of our players touched the ball, and it had been kicked twice," Dooley said following the game. "I didn't [understand the ruling]. I don't think anybody did."

And, even still today, I doubt there are many who truly do...


Derby Home Rentals said...
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Will H said...

Just read your post. I have looked for years to ruun across the story and photos. I know the punter.