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July 31, 2009

Great but Obscure Game #6

Coach Dooley says the Bulldogs are three seconds from upsetting the top-ranked team in the country.

NOVEMBER 9, 1985:

The Bulldogs' victory over Florida in 1985 might be the best example of one of the greatest wins in the school's football history but yet, for the most part, it is largely undistinguished. The Gators were on probation and although ranked number one by the writers, Florida was ineligible to appear in the other major rankings--the Coaches/UPI poll. Because of the probation the game was not televised; only radio listeners would hear of Georgia's momentous upset. For the Bulldogs, it would be their seventh but final win of the season; the '85 campaign was far removed from the success Georgia enjoyed in the early part of the decade. Regardless, the Bulldogs' 21-point handling of the Gators remains Georgia's only victory ever, in all of its years of success, over a top-ranked team in the AP poll.

PREGAME: In 1984, probation-bound Florida had achieved a 9-1-1 mark, including a 27-0 drubbing of Georgia (the Bulldogs first loss to the Gators since 1977). By the end of the season, several polls recognized by the NCAA had chosen Florida as national champion. A year later, the Gators were regarded as even better than before. Led by a dominating defense, a Heisman-Trophy candidate at quarterback in sophomore Kerwin Bell, and an offensive line nicknamed the "Great Wall of Florida," the Gators entered the game with a 7-0-1 record and ranked #1 in the AP for the first time in their history. Georgia had stumbled out of the gate with a loss to Alabama but had not suffered defeat since. The Bulldogs were 6-1-1, ranked 17th, and four-point underdogs in the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party."

DETAILS: With 5:24 remaining in the first quarter, Georgia freshman Keith Henderson raced up the middle for a 76-yard touchdown and an early Bulldogs lead. A quarter later, on the exact same play, Henderson got the same result, streaking for a 32-yard score. Meanwhile, Florida missed two field goals before Jeff Dawson successfully kicked a 36-yarder. However, Georgia's Steve Crumley kicked a field goal and built the Bulldogs' shocking lead to 17-3 late in the first half. In the second half, Florida's Bell continued to move the Gators up and down the field but they could not get within striking distance to score. Finally, Florida drove 91 yards midway through the final stanza to Georgia's seven-yard line before John L. Williams lost a fumble recovered by Bulldog linebacker Steve Boswell. Two plays later, Georgia ran a toss sweep with freshman Tim Worley. Running through a hole and breaking a tackle, Worley eventually distanced himself from the Florida defenders and crossed the goal line for a spectacular, 89-yard touchdown. Worley's long jaunt is considered one of the greatest plays in Georgia football history and remains tied for the longest rushing touchdown in school history. With the 24-3 upset, the Bulldogs knocked the Gators off from atop the AP poll while also ending their 18-game unbeaten streak.

PLAYER OF GAME: Certainly a case can be made for any of Georgia's two freshman tailbacks as the player of the game. Henderson led all rushers with 145 yards on just nine carries and two touchdowns. Worley rushed only seven times for 104 yards, 89 of which came on his memorable scoring run. The duo spearheaded a Bulldogs rushing attack that gained 344 yards against the 10th-best rushing defense in the nation.
Notwithstanding, it was Georgia's aggressive and harassing defense, led by end Greg "Muddy" Waters, who put constant pressure on Bell while keeping the highly-touted quarterback and the Gators out of the end zone. Waters had 13 tackles, broke up two passes, and recorded one of five sacks of Bell. Bell threw for a then school-record 408 yards (4th-most ever surrendered by a Georgia defense through the 2008 season) but could lead Florida's offense to only a mere field goal. It is likely the only time in SEC and perhaps even NCAA history a quarterback passed for more than 400 yards in a single game but his team did not score a single touchdown.
Georgia- 13 first downs, 344 rush yds, 31 pass yds, 8-3-0 passes, 375 total yds, 0 fumb. lost
Florida- 23 first downs, 28 rush yds, 408 pass yds, 49-33-1 passes, 436 total yds, 2 fumb. lost
Rushing: (GA) Henderson 9-145; Worley 7-104; Tate 6-58 (UF) Williams 12-42
Passing: (GA) W. Johnson 6-2-0-25; J. Jackson 2-1-0-6 (UF) Bell 49-33-1-408
Receiving: (GA) Lane 1-17; Smith 1-8; Osborn 1-6 (UF) Williams 12-103
RUNDOWN: Florida would rebound from the loss to win its final two games of the year and finish with a second consecutive 9-1-1 record. The Gators would not go bowling because of their probation but did finish fifth in the final AP rankings. Georgia, on the other hand, quickly fell from grace. After climbing to #12 in the country after the Florida win, the Bulldogs dropped their final two regular-season games to Auburn and Georgia Tech and tied Arizona in the Sun Bowl (Georgia was favored in all three games) to finish with a disappointing 7-3-2 record. Nevertheless, for its game against the number-one squad in college football, Georgia had been "a total team," according to Coach Vince Dooley. "I don't know how you play any better. Everybody was superb."


Anonymous said...

Very surprised to see this show up as an "obscure game". Just the fact that it was an upset of a number 1 team and, additionally, the fact that it was Ga/Fla makes it by definition not obscure. I was at the game and it was the single most amazing game I have ever seen in person. I will concede the fact that it was not televised would have limited national awareness, but ABC featured it in their football coverage afterwards when Jim Lampley commented on the two freshmen backs for Georgia (I wish I could remember the quote).

Anonymous said...

I was there as a UGA student. IT WAS CRAZY!!! At the end of the game we tore down the chain link fence to get on the field, and the cops retreated to the goalposts. Since they wouldn't let us have the posts, someone brought out a shovel and we started digging up turf to take home. I left with a bag that had some GA red, FLA blue, and the 50 yard line. We kept everyone awake on Jekyll Island that night all night long. Even streaked down the beach!!! TDD