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August 28, 2009

Opening Against the Ranked

The last time Georgia was not victorious in a season opener versus a ranked opponent--a 17-17 tie at #9 Tennessee in 1968.

The Bulldogs begin the 2009 season ranked 13th in both the AP and Coaches preseason polls. Admittedly, these rankings come as a surprise to me as I thought Georgia would be ranked anywhere between 18th-20th in the major rankings. The Bulldogs finished last season #13 in the AP, lose Stafford and Moreno, and are ranked just as high in the 2009 preseason? Go figure.

Georgia opens this season at Oklahoma State--the ninth-ranked team in the AP, #11 in the Coaches. I did some delving and found that the Bulldogs have not began a season against a higher, AP-ranked opponent than OSU since hosting #5 Alabama to start the 1965 campaign. Impressively, Georgia has won five straight against the ranked in season openers. Of course, in all five games, the Bulldogs were favored to win.

The following is a listing of the 14 occasions Georgia began its season against a ranked opponent. Keep in mind, although the AP college football poll has been in existence since 1936, a preseason poll was not established until 1950. Until then, the first AP poll of the season was not released until early to mid-October. Under each game listed, Georgia's preseason ranking is noted (NR=not ranked), along with if the Bulldogs were the favorite or underdog and by how many points (for 1973 and later), and Georgia's result.

1950: #15 MARYLAND (Athens)

NR (Won 27-7)

1955: #15 OLE MISS (Atlanta)
NR (Lost 26-13)
1958: #11 TEXAS (Austin, TX)
NR (Lost 13-8)
1961: #3 ALABAMA (Athens)
NR (Lost 32-6)
1962: #3 ALABAMA (Birmingham)
NR (Lost 35-0)
1963: #3 ALABAMA (Athens)
NR (Lost 32-7)
1964: #6 ALABAMA (Tuscaloosa)
NR (Lost 31-3)
1965: #5 ALABAMA (Athens)
NR (Won 18-17)
1968: #9 TENNESSEE (Knoxville)
NR (Tie 17-17)
1976: #15 CALIFORNIA (Athens)
#16/3-point favorite (Won 36-24)
1982: #11 CLEMSON (Athens)
#7/0.5-point favorite (Won 13-7)
1983: #20 UCLA (Athens)
#15/2.5-point favorite (Won 19-8)
1988: #17 TENNESSEE (Athens)
#12/4.5-point favorite (Won 28-17)
2005: #18 BOISE STATE (Athens)
#13/7-point favorite (Won 48-13)

Georgia has a 7-6-1 record in the aforementioned games, including, as mentioned, a five-game winning streak and a seven-game undefeated streak. Let's hope this trend continues a week from this Saturday in Stillwater.

Here's a quick comment or two on each of the 14 games:

Georgia's shocking win over Maryland in 1950 would be its lone victory over a ranked opponent in 23 tries until November 1959 during a dismal decade for the Dogs.

Game against Ole Miss to open '55 season is part of a doubleheader with Georgia Tech, who played Miami (Fla) in the day affair, at Grant Field.

Bulldogs lose to Texas in 1958 season opener but find themselves a quarterback when newcomer Fran Tarkenton inserts himself into the game and soon passes for a touchdown and two-point conversion.

A disappointing coaching stint at Georgia for Johnny Griffith begins with a dispiriting start in 1961 when he has to be replaced by assistant John Gregory. Griffith is in an Athens hospital undergoing an emergency appendectomy.

The 1962 Georgia-Alabama game is known much more for the scandal it caused than the one-sided victory for 'Bama.

The 1963 season-opening game marked another blowout suffered by Griffith's Bulldogs in what would be the coach's final campaign at Georgia.

The night before the '64 Georgia-Alabama game, a group of people, including some Georgia assistants, were chatting while eating dinner. One man stated, "I came in from the airport with a one-armed taxi driver. He said he was taking the points and Georgia [to cover the spread]." Bulldog defensive coordinator Erk Russell responded, "That's how he lost his arm." Erk foretold what was to come as Coach Dooley is defeated by four touchdowns in his first game as a Bulldog.

Georgia gets its revenge against Alabama in 1965 following five consecutive defeats to the Crimson Tide by an average of nearly 26 points. The Moore-Hodgson-Taylor famed flea-flicker scores from 73 yards out and Moore connects with Hodgson for two points and the winning margin.

Down 17-9 in the 1968 opener, Tennessee scores a disputed touchdown in the final seconds and then passes for a tying two-point conversion. The game is played on Tennessee's controversial Tartan Turf and is the first college football contest held on artificial turf in the southeast.

Cal's Joe Roth throws for nearly 400 yards in Sanford Stadium; nevertheless, the Bulldogs outscore the Bears 24-3 in the second half and open the '76 season with a win.

The hometown hero, Charlie Dean, intercepts UCLA's Rick Neuheisel and returns the errant pass for a touchdown to seal a season-opening victory in 1983.

Georgia passes for only 20-something yards in the opening game of 1988; however, led by Tim Worley and Rodney Hampton, the Dogs rush for over 400 in a win over Tennessee.

Boise State's highly-touted offense is held in check and the upset-minded Broncos are devastated by the Bulldogs to begin the 2005 campaign. Georgia's 35-point scoring margin ranks as the second-highest in school history over an AP-ranked opponent.

The season-opening game against a ranked opponent I especially want to reflect upon is the Clemson game of 1982. What I remember most about the affair is not necessarily the game itself but the tremendous anticipation that led up to it. It was the first night game in Sanford Stadium in 31 years and to accommodate television, it did not kickoff until 9:11 on Labor Day night. It pitted the national champions from the two previous seasons--Georgia in 1980 and its hated rival Clemson from '81.

Seemingly, everyone in Athens, unless you were a Clemson fan, despised the Tigers with a passion. Former Bulldog All-American Craig Hertwig, better known as "Sky" around town said the week of the game, "[Clemson and the rest of the ACC] play imitation football. I even hear they're going to put up imitation grass in the stadium up there [at Clemson] so the homecoming queen won't graze on it."

At only seven-years old, I remember distinctly walking with my parents to the stadium and trying to read all the anti-Clemson banners hanging from RVs and buildings. I was puzzled by one, in particular, directed at the Tigers: "You might be Number One but you smell like Number Two." My mother had a hard time explaining to me the meaning behind that one.

Herschel's broken thumb and just 20 yards on 11 carries were non-factors as Georgia prevailed, 13-7.

August 24, 2009

A Pursuit for Two More Wins

I posted more than three months ago how it appears the University of Georgia football program should be credited with 725 victories in its history instead of the currently recognized 723 wins. As I mentioned then, Georgia hosted and defeated the "Olympians," an athletic club team from Atlanta made up of former college football players, to open both the 1908 and 1909 seasons.
Currently, official records indicate Georgia began the 1908 campaign on October 10 with a win over Dahlonega and 1909 with a tie against Citadel on October 9. However, research shows Georgia actually defeated the Olympians 29 to 5 on October 3, 1908, and 5 to 0 on October 2, 1909--both contests played exactly a week prior to what is currently on record as the 1908 and 1909 season-opening games.
I found more on the 1908 game versus the Olympians courtesy of the October 5, 1908 edition of The Red and Black. Some interesting details from the game: A whopping 300 spectators were in attendance at Athens' Herty Field, the game time was 40 minutes in length--two 20-minute halves, and Georgia's captain and starting right tackle Herman DeLaPerriere led all players with two touchdowns, scoring on 4- and 5-yard runs.
**Amusingly, it was DeLaPerriere in the game prior to this (a 6-0 win over Auburn in the 1907 season finale) who, according to author John Stegeman, drank alcohol from a flask during halftime and promptly returned the second-half kickoff "running like a crazed Indian."
For the argument the two games are not considered since they were played against a "club" team, Georgia faced "athletic clubs" from Savannah, Augusta, and Atlanta six times from 1893 to 1906. All six games are recognized by UGA and the NCAA. In addition, in November 1909, The Atlanta Constitution printed game results for southern football teams of interest through the month of October. Listed as Georgia's first game was its 5-0 win over the Olympians; it appears then the newspaper acknowledged at least one of the victories in question. Personally, I believe the two games are not accounted for simply because of an oversight made decades ago. In the early days of college football record-keeping, many mistakes were made in game results, dates, sites, etc. This is yet another example.
Currently, the Bulldogs are 11th in all-time victories in Division I-A/FBS football history...
10. Southern Cal, 766
11. Georgia, 723
12. LSU, 700

...and 13th in winning percentage.
12. Florida St., .671
13. Georgia, .646
14. LSU, .640

Adding two additional wins to Georgia's all-time record would not have much impact, raising its winning percentage from .646 to only .647 and still 41 victories behind 10th-place USC. However, for anyone interested, two more wins COULD make a difference years, likely decades, from now.
Not long ago, I spoke with Coach Dan Magill--the foremost Georgia football historian--about the "missing" victories. There was no doubt in his mind the two games against the Olympians should count. If anyone's opinion matters concerning an aspect of the history of Georgia football, it is certainly Coach Magill's.
Other UGA football bloggers have argued for seemingly better causes in the past. Notwithstanding, two more deserving wins for Georgia should appear at least semi-important to many of the Bulldog faithful. And two victories might not seem like a big deal but, as they say, a win is a win... and two more wins would be even better!

August 19, 2009

Great but Obscure Game #8

NOVEMBER 14, 1970:

The Bulldogs were having their worst season since two years prior to Coach Dooley's arrival. Auburn, led by the great Pat Sullivan (photo), had lost just one game, was ranked 8th in the nation and 20-point favorites to defeat Georgia. Nevertheless, the Dogs shocked the Tigers on the Plains by two touchdowns in a game Dooley compared afterwards to Georgia's historic upsets over Alabama and Michigan in 1965.

PREGAME: Auburn's offense entered the game ranked third in the nation, averaging more than 500 yards and 38 points per contest. Sullivan was considered one of the best quarterbacks in college football while his 273.4 total offensive yards per game was tops in the country.

Georgia had won just one of its first four games and only one of its previous nine including its final five contests of 1969. However, the Bulldogs did rebound to defeat Vanderbilt, Kentucky, and South Carolina by an average of more than three touchdowns. The Bulldogs next lost a heartbreaker to Florida 24-17, dropping their record to 4-4. Despite the .500 mark, Georgia was averaging greater than 100 more yards per game than it yielded (354-252) upon journeying to Cliff Hare Stadium in mid-November.

DETAILS: In front of nearly 62,000 spectators and representatives from the Orange, Sugar, and Cotton Bowls, who came to scout presumably only the Tigers, the Bulldogs jumped out to a 6-0 lead on their initial drive. Paul Gilbert passed to Charlie Whittemore for a 16-yard touchdown but kicker Kim Braswell missed the PAT--only his second miss of an extra point in 174 attempts dating back to his freshman year of high school.

In the second quarter, a one-yard touchdown run by Sullivan and Gardner Jett's PAT gave Auburn a brief 7-6 lead. With 9:22 until halftime, Ricky Lake (no, not that one) of Georgia also scored from one yard out and Gilbert passed to Whittemore for a two-point conversion. However, on Auburn's final two possessions of the half, Jett kicked a 31-yard field goal and Mickey Zofko rushed for a one-yard score and the Tigers led 17-14 heading into intermission.

The second half belonged to the Bulldogs. Georgia's defense held Auburn to no points after it had scored 17 in the second quarter alone. Sullivan, who had only 125 total yards after totalling 205 in the first half, threw two interceptions and lost a fumble--three critical turnovers that halted Auburn drives. He ended the contest with 320 passing yards but on 44 attempts and no touchdowns through the air.

Georgia tied the score in the third quarter on a 26-yard field goal by Braswell--his 13th of the season, tying an SEC single-season record and breaking the school record of 12 (1966- Bob Etter). In the final stanza, Jack Montgomery completed a halfback pass to Jimmy Shirer for a 42-yard gain for the Bulldogs. Soon afterwards, Lake, playing with a separated shoulder, scored on a four-yard run. Leading 24-17, Georgia capped the game's scoring with a one-yard run by Montgomery with 5:07 remaining.

PLAYER OF GAME: Besides scoring two touchdowns, Georgia's Ricky Lake led all rushers with 96 yards on 26 carries. The tough, reckless, and hard-running tailback would lead the Bulldogs in rushing for the 1970 campaign with 570 yards as a sophomore and despite missing three regular-season games due to injury. Lake was named SEC Sophomore of the Year by several media outlets and his 81.4 rushing yards per game was second-most in both the SEC in '70 and in Georgia football history (1942- Frank Sinkwich, 110.3).

As a junior in 1971, Lake was injured again for three entire games and most of another but still managed to rush for nearly 400 yards and five touchdowns. A year later, the Bulldogs were stacked at both runningback positions; Lake was moved to linebacker. He began the 1972 season as Georgia's starting Sam linebacker but, towards the middle of the season, suffered yet another injury and was lost for most of the last half of the year.

Despite missing six regular-season games and most of a couple others with injuries, Lake rushed for 963 yards in just two seasons at Georgia. This total still ranks 44th in school history through the 2008 season.

Georgia- 17 first downs, 219 rush yds, 115 pass yds, 12-6-2 passes, 334 total yds, 0 fumb. lost
Auburn- 19 first downs, 53 rush yds, 320 pass yds, 44-24-2 passes, 373 total yds, 2 fumb. lost

RUNDOWN: After a bye week, Auburn defeated Alabama and later on January 2nd, Ole Miss in the Gator Bowl. The Tigers finished 9-2 and ranked 10th in the country--team bests since 1963.

Unlike Auburn, Georgia did not benefit from its bye week, losing to Georgia Tech in the season's final game, 17-7. After rushing for 219 yards against Auburn, the Bulldogs were held to 53 versus Tech--their lowest total in years. Georgia, at 5-5, finished with a .500 record for the second consecutive season. Also unlike the Tigers, the Dogs did not go bowling in 1970; it would mark the second of only five seasons in 25 years Dooley's Dogs missed out on a bowl game.

August 16, 2009

Georgia's Greatest NFLer?

Last week I mentioned that Fran Tarkenton (photo--NFL.com) was likely Georgia's greatest player ever in the NFL. "How is it not Champ Bailey?" a reader emailed. "He is Georgia's best ever in the NFL and he still has several years before he retires." Well, he may have a few seasons before he calls it quits, I thought, and Champ certainly has had an extraordinary professional career, but is he Georgia's greatest NFLer ever?
I did some research and scanned over the 238 Bulldog players who have played in the NFL, 38 of which are still active (ranks 20th and 6th, respectively, of all colleges) and came up with my top 15 greatest NFLers from Georgia.
Taken in consideration was time spent in the NFL only (no USFL, XFL, the NBDL, etc.) and the rankings are based on a player's collective career--not necessarily how good he was at his "peak." For instance, you might be surprised Terrell Davis is ranked as low as he is. Although TD's first four years in the league are as good as any running back ever, he only played in 17 total games in three seasons following his great, four-year run to start his career. Mo Lewis, on the other hand, started at linebacker for the Jets for 13 consecutive seasons, went to three Pro Bowls, twice earned first-team All-Pro recognition, but is one you might not think would appear in these rankings despite his long, steady, productive career. Let me add the rankings only recognize the individual and does not consider any team accomplishments (i.e., playoff/Super Bowl appearances/victories).
*Denotes Still Active

1. FRAN TARKENTON (1961-78- Minnesota, NY Giants): Tarkenton held the NFL records for most passing yards and touchdowns, among others, until the mid-90s. His nine Pro-Bowl appearances are the most of former Georgia players and he is only one of two Bulldogs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In his final season of '78 at 38 years old, Tarkenton had career highs for pass attempts, completions, and yards.

2. *CHAMP BAILEY (1999-present: Washington, Denver)- Champ has had an even better NFL career than I thought... He has gone to the Pro Bowl in eight of his 10 seasons, missing only his rookie year and in 2008 when he suffered an injury. Bailey's 43 interceptions ranked third among active players; 10 of those came in 2006, leading the league...In six seasons he has earned some sort of All-Pro recognition.

3. JAKE SCOTT (1970-78: Miami and Washington)- Scott is a peculiar and mysterious individual who abruptly left Georgia following his junior year because of, reportedly, any number of reasons. He also departed from the NFL early after only nine seasons, intercepting seven passes in his final campaign...49 career interceptions and a punt-return average of more than 10 yards per return...Five Pro-Bowl appearances.

By the way, if you get a chance, read this excellent article on Scott. Written a few years ago leading up to his honorary appearance at the 2006 Georgia-Georgia Tech game, this must-read reveals insight about Scott's distinct and unusual life on and off the football field.

4. LEN HAUSS (1964-77: Washington)- Hauss is likely Georgia's greatest NFLer that many have never heard of... Only a ninth-round selection in 1964, Hauss started immediately for Washington and for the next 14 seasons, anchored a great Redskin offensive line...Five Pro Bowls and seven-time 1st or 2nd-team all-conference.

5. HERSCHEL WALKER (1986-97: Dallas, Minnesota, Philadelphia, and NY Giants)- I've said for some time that just as much as it can be argued Herschel is one of the greatest college football players of all time, it can be suggested he was one of the most undervalued players ever in the NFL. Herschel currently ranks eighth all time in the NFL with 18,168 career all-purpose yards. This total excludes his three seasons in the USFL where he was the league's best player in its three-year existence.

6. CHARLEY TRIPPI (1947-55: Chicago Cardinals)- One of the league's best players during the 1940s and 50s, Trippi, along with Tarkenton, are the only Bulldogs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. During career, for at least one season, Trippi led the Cardinals in rushing, passing, receiving, kick returns, punt returns, and/or punting...Tied for 11th in NFL history in career rushing average (5.1) among non-quarterbacks.

7. BILL STANFILL (1969-76: Miami)- In only eight seasons in the NFL, Stanfill was a five-time Pro Bowler and four times earned all-conference recognition.

8. *HINES WARD (1998-Present: Pittsburgh)- The Steelers' steady, possession receiver for more than a decade, Ward has caught 69 or more receptions every season since 2001...Four-time Pro Bowler and has been recognized as AP 2nd-team All-NFL in three seasons...Ranks 22nd all time in career receptions entering the 2009 season.

9. MO LEWIS (1991-2003: NY Jets)- In 13 seasons as Jets starting linebacker, Lewis recorded 1,012 tackles, 221 assists, 52.5 sacks, 26 forced fumbles, and 14 interceptions (four returned for TDs)...Three Pro-Bowl appearances and was an Associated Press 1st-team All-Pro in 1998.

10. *RICHARD SEYMOUR (2001-Present: New England)- Seymour has started along the Patriots' defensive line since the beginning of the team's successful run in 2001. Seymour, Champ Bailey, and Terrell Davis are the only three Bulldogs to earn AP 1st-team All-Pro in three or more seasons...Five-time Pro Bowler.

11. RAY DONALDSON (1980-96: Colts, Seattle, Dallas)- Besides Tarkenton and kicker John Kasay's 18 seasons in the NFL, Donaldson's 17 is the most of any Georgia alum...15 seasons as a starting center...Six-time Pro-Bowler and five seasons earning some sort of All-Pro recognition.

12. TERRELL DAVIS (1995-2001: Denver)- Only a sixth-round pick in '95, Davis averaged more than 1,600 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns during his first four seasons. Injuries slowed his next three years and ultimately forced Davis into early retirement following 2001. Despite his shortened career, Davis is considered by many a borderline Hall of Famer.

13. GARRISON HEARST (1993-98, 2001-04: Cardinals, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Denver)- Despite seeing significant playing time in just seven seasons because of injuries, Hearst amassed nearly 8,000 rushing yards during his NFL career...A two-time AP Comeback Player of the Year...Made Pro Bowl two times and was recognized as 1st-team all-conference in 1998.

14. JIMMY ORR (1958-70: Pittsburgh, Baltimore)- The 291st pick of the 1957 draft, Orr had more than 900 receiving yards as a rookie...Would become one of the best receivers during his time...Ranks fourth in NFL history in career yards per touch (19.4).

15. GUY McINTYRE (1984-96: San Francisco, Green Bay, Philadelphia)- Starting in only seven games his first four years in the league, McIntyre became a full-time starter at offensive guard in 1988 and from 1989-1993 made the Pro Bowl in all five seasons...First-team all-conference 1990-1992...Of 13 teams McIntyre played on, all but one (1991 49ers, who went 10-6 but missed the postseason) made the playoffs.

Hon. Mention: *JOHN KASAY (1991-Present: Seattle, Carolina)- Kasay edges Kevin Butler as the greatest NFL kicker who played at Georgia...18-season career and counting, including every game for Carolina since franchise's beginning in 1995. Kasay currently ranks 7th in NFL history in career field goals made, 11th in points scored, and 17th in field-goal accuracy.

Besides Butler, other ex-Bulldogs who just missed the list: Mike "Moonpie" Wilson, Randall Godfrey, Rodney Hampton, Bobby Walston, and Marcus Stroud.

In his email, the reader also mentioned that the biggest NFL bust who played at Georgia "was no doubt Johnathan Sullivan or Matt Stinchcomb." He has a good argument but no Bulldog should ever be identified as a "bust." I'd allege the biggest NFL "disappointment," let's say, who played at Georgia was probably Lindsay Scott or Bernard Williams... but that's maybe another post for another day.

August 9, 2009

Great but Obscure Game #7

OCTOBER 5, 1991:

Georgia's memorable victory over Clemson in 1991 is somewhat hidden in obscurity since it came during a forgettable era of Bulldogs football. The '91 campaign was one of only three winning seasons for Georgia during an eight-year (1989-1996) span. However, the win was certainly historic in Bulldog football lore. Following the victory over Tennessee in the 1988 season opener until hosting the Volunteers again more than 12 years later in 2000, the win over the Tigers was the lone Georgia victory in Sanford Stadium against an AP-ranked opponent in 14 games (1-13 record). The Bulldogs were also an eight-point underdog to Clemson. Since "accurate" college football point spreads were made available in 1973, it remains the biggest upset victory for Georgia in Sanford Stadium.

PREGAME: Coming off four consecutive 10-2 seasons, Clemson seemed even better than before in 1991. The Tigers were undefeated at 3-0, including an exciting 9-7 win over Georgia Tech the week prior, ranked 6th in the country, and had the best defense in the nation, allowing less than 157 yards per game.
After a 4-7 mark in 1990, including a crushing 34-3 loss at Clemson's Death Valley, Georgia labelled the '91 season as "Operation Turnaround." Things rapidly turned around for the Dogs due in large part to quarterback
Eric Zeier (photo). Although the true freshman had yet to start through four contests, in each game, he quickly relieved senior starter Greg Talley and had guided Georgia to a 3-1 start.
DETAILS: In a rare night game at sold-out Sanford Stadium, the Bulldogs and Tigers had battled to a 3-3 tie towards the end of the opening quarter. Clemson's Ronald Williams took a handoff and began streaking untouched for an apparent, long touchdown. After gaining 50 yards or so, Williams was caught from behind by Georgia's Mike Jones, who knocked the football loose. George Wynn recovered the ball for the Bulldogs at their own 27-yard line for a game-changing turnover.
A quarter later, starting from Georgia's 43-yard line, Zeier completed a 49-yard pass to Arthur Marshall. On the next play, Andre Hastings caught an 8-yard touchdown and the Bulldogs surprisingly led 10-3 at the half.
Early in the final quarter with Georgia leading 13-6, Zeier and Hastings hooked up again for another touchdown. With less than five minutes remaining in the game, Clemson cut its deficit to 20-12 with a touchdown pass of its own. However, a few minutes later, the Tigers would turn the ball over on downs on their own 15-yard line. Three plays later, Garrison Hearst rushed for a 1-yard score and the Bulldogs would prevail, 27-12.
PLAYER OF GAME: Zeier spelled Talley on Georgia's third possession and completed 15 of 33 passes for 249 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. He led the Bulldogs offense to 360 total yards--better than 200 more than the nation's #1 defense was allowing. After Zeier's performance against the Tigers, he no longer platooned with Talley and became Georgia's starter the following week. He started the next 41 games at quarterback for the Dogs through his senior season of 1994.
In 1991, Zeier threw for nearly 2,000 yards and was named SEC Freshman of the Year. His 11,153 career passing yards still rank as the fourth-highest in SEC history and 24th all time in NCAA Division I-A.
Georgia- 15 first downs, 77 rush yds, 283 pass yds, 38-17-0 passes, 360 total yds, 1 fumb. lost
Clemson- 16 first downs, 149 rush yds, 246 pass yds, 38-19-3 passes, 395 total yds, 2 fumb. lost
Rushing: (GA) Hearst 20-41; Strong 5-24; Ware 8-23 (CU) R. Williams 13-100
Passing: (GA) Zeier 33-15-0-249; Talley 5-2-0-34 (CU) Cameron 38-19-3-246
Receiving: (GA) Marshall 6-128; Hastings 5-54; Strong 2-58 (CU) Ryans 5-95
RUNDOWN: Clemson was upset again the following week when it was tied by Virginia, however, the Tigers won their final six games and finished the regular season 9-1-1 and ranked 13th nationally. By the end of the year, Clemson's loss to Georgia marked the third time since 1978 that the only defeat suffered by the Tigers during the regular season came to the Bulldogs.
Georgia would split its next four games, including a loss to Vanderbilt (a 15.5-point underdog at home) where, unlike before, Zeier was actually replaced by Talley because of his sub-par play. Nonetheless, the Bulldogs rallied to win its final three games against Auburn, Georgia Tech, and Arkansas in the Independence Bowl to finish 9-3 and ranked 17th in the final AP poll. "Operation Turnaround" had been a great success!

Part of the Great but Obscure games in Georgia football history... Previous games in series: #6- 1985 vs. Florida, #5- 1956 vs. Miami, #4- 1940 vs. Georgia Tech, #3- 1986 vs. Auburn, #2- 1974 vs. Florida, #1- 1936 vs. Fordham

August 7, 2009

Will He Start in Week One?

As NFL training camps are in full effect, there are several questions concerning ex-Georgia Bulldogs: When will Knowshon finally sign with Denver? Will Thomas Brown make the Falcons roster? And, most importantly, what are the juicy details as to these photos of Matthew Stafford and his "friends"? Well, some may feel a bigger question regarding the NFL Draft's #1 selection might be if he will start out of the gate at New Orleans on September 13th. Stafford is apparently on the fast track to becoming the Lions eventual starting quarterback but if he'll start in week one is the question.
Another question: Had a Georgia Bulldog quarterback drafted into the NFL start for his team in week one of his very first season? I could only think of one possibility--Quincy Carter for Dallas in 2001. So, I decided to end my brief hiatus as a "research/stat geek" and started back on duty.
Since the inception of the NFL Draft, there have been 11 Georgia quarterbacks drafted prior to Stafford's selection in 2009. Of these, only six saw playing time under center in their rookie seasons but two of those started for their teams in week one. A breakdown of these 11 Georgia quarterback draftees and their NFL rookie seasons:
  • D.J. SHOCKLEY (2006- 7th round, 223rd pick by Atlanta): Injured for his rookie season, Shockley has primarily remained the Falcons #3 quarterback and has yet to take a snap in a regular-season game.
  • DAVID GREENE (2005- 3rd round, 85th pick by Seattle): Seattle's #3 quarterback during its Super-Bowl season of 2005, Greene recently decided to retire following a four-year NFL career without seeing any playing time.
  • QUINCY CARTER (2001- 2nd round, 53rd pick by Dallas): Carter started his first NFL game to open the 2001 season for Dallas. Granted, against an excellent Tampa Bay defense, Carter was horrid in his initial professional appearance, throwing for only 34 yards on 9 of 19 passing and two interceptions, in a 10-6 loss. Carter would start seven more games as a rookie and 34 times in a four-year career, including all 16 for the 2003 Cowboys, who went 10-6 and made the playoffs. The steady demise of Carter's football career and his life, in general, has been well documented.
  • ERIC ZEIER (1995- 3rd round, 84th pick by Cleveland): Zeier sat behind Vinny Testaverde in Cleveland before finally starting in game eight of his rookie season in 1995. In a 29-26 victory at Cincinnati, Zeier completed 26 of 46 passes for 310 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and even rushed for 44 yards on eight carries. Zeier started the next three games for the Browns, losing all of them. In five seasons with two franchises, Zeier played in 28 games (12 starts) and passed for 3,520 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions.
  • WAYNE JOHNSON (1989- 11th round, 296th pick by Indianapolis): Although a starter for only one season at Georgia, Johnson was big and strong-armed and thought possibly to be fit for the pros. Nevertheless, he would never make an appearance in an NFL game.
  • MATT ROBINSON (1977- 9th round, 227th pick by the Jets): Rookie Robinson started on just one occasion during his first season--the Jets' 11th game against Pittsburgh's "Steel Curtain" defense. Robinson was just 7 of 19 passing for 80 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions, and replaced by Richard Todd in a 23-20 loss. Robinson would be the Jets starting quarterback a year later and Denver's in 1980.
  • LARRY RAKESTRAW (1964- 8th round, 112th pick by Chicago): After being drafted following his senior season of 1963, Rakestraw did not play in the NFL until 1966, appearing briefly in just one game. Rakestraw did start the season-opening game for the Bears in 1967, completing 7 of 13 passes for 89 yards and one interception in a 41-13 loss. Starting just three more games over two seasons, the Bears losing all three, Rakestraw retired following the 1968 season.
  • FRAN TARKENTON (1961- 3rd round, 29th pick by Minnesota): In the first game ever in Vikings history, Tarkenton did not start for Minnesota but wound up being the game's standout player. Relieving teammate George Shaw, Tarkenton completed 17 of 23 passes for 250 yards, four touchdowns, and rushed for a touchdown in a 37-13 win over Chicago. The rookie quarterback's performance led to his starting the following week against Dallas. Tarkenton could not duplicate his initial performance as he struggled against the Cowboys, completing just one-third of his 24 passes for 117 yards and two interceptions in a 21-7 loss. The poor outing would be one of only a few in a brilliant, 18-season career. Tarkenton still remains one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history and likely Georgia's best player ever, quarterback or otherwise, in the professional ranks.
  • CHARLEY BRITT (1960- 3rd round, 25th pick by LA Rams): Britt, who was Georgia's starting quarterback during its 1959 SEC championship season, was drafted as a quarterback but never played the position in the NFL. Playing exclusively at defensive back, Britt intercepted 14 passes in five seasons, including five (one returned for a touchdown) as a rookie in 1960.
  • ZEKE BRATKOWSKI (1954- 2nd round, 17th pick by Chicago): "The Brat," who left Georgia as the NCAA's all-time leading passer, started in Chicago's first game of the quarterback's rookie season. Bratkowski, still today, holds the three-season record in college football for most interceptions thrown (68) and continued the trend in the NFL when he combined with teammate George Blanda to toss six interceptions against Detroit. The pair did pass for 345 yards and Bratkowski threw a first-quarter, 64-yard touchdown but the Bears were defeated soundly by the Lions, 48-23. Bratkowski was immediately benched but started the final four games of the '54 season--all Chicago wins. Zeke would later be the LA Rams' primary quarterback in 1961 and 1962 but is best known for his backup role to Bart Starr on the championship Green Bay teams of the 1960s and his extended assistant-coaching career in the NFL.
  • JOHNNY RAUCH (1949- 1st round, 2nd pick by Detroit): Drafted by Detroit, Rauch played for the New York Bulldogs/Yanks in 1949 and 1950, passing for nearly 700 yards and seven touchdowns coming off the bench. Rauch finally got his first start in the season opener of 1951 but he and the Yanks were crushed by the LA Rams, 54-14. New York passed for only 63 yards while opposing Rams quarterback Norm Van Brocklin threw for 554 yards and five touchdowns. Rauch was ejected from the game late in the first half for throwing a punch. He would start the next two games for the Yanks--both losses--but was playing for Philadelphia by the end of the year. The professional playing career of Rauch, arguably Georgia's greatest quarterback of all time, ended in disappointing fashion after only three seasons but he would become a head coach in the league from 1966-1970.

If Stafford does become only the third Georgia quarterback to start in week one of his rookie season, let us hope, as Bulldog faithful, he has better results than his two predecessors--Zeke Bratkowski and Quincy Carter. Stay tuned...

August 4, 2009

Kerwin's Infamous Feat

In my last post, I stated Florida quarterback Kerwin Bell's (photo) 408-yard passing performance against Georgia in 1985 is likely the only time in SEC and perhaps NCAA football history a player threw for 400 yards or more in a single game but yet his team did not score a single touchdown. I even went so far as speculating such in two of my books, although I did not have definite proof.
As much as I am a writer, admittedly, I am more so a research and stat geek. I decided to investigate if the 400+ passing yards/no touchdowns feat had ever been done before or after in the SEC since accomplished by the Gators and Bell, mustache and all, against the Bulldogs.
There have been fifty-nine 400-yard passing games from 31 different quarterbacks in SEC history and no other time has Bell's dubious achievement occurred. In fact, never has less than two touchdowns been scored by an SEC offense quarterbacked by a 400-yard passer. Of these passing performances, next to Florida's three points against Georgia in '85, the second-lowest point total is 14 scored by Mississippi State against Alabama in 1978. In the game, Mississippi State's Dave Marler passed for 429 yards in a 35-14 loss to the eventual national champions. More "enchanting" facts regarding the 400-yard individual passing games in SEC history:

  • Georgia Bulldogs achieved the first and latest of these performances: 1963 Larry Rakestraw (407) vs. Miami (Fla) and 2008 Matthew Stafford (407) vs. Georgia Tech.

  • Kentucky quarterbacks have passed for 400+ yards the most (15) followed by Georgia (12) and Florida (10). Of the fifty-nine 400-yard passing performances in SEC history, nearly 63% of the time it has been accomplished by a quarterback from one of these three schools.

  • The average points per game scored by an SEC squad with a 400-yard passer is 36.6. However, these quarterbacks have a losing 28-31 record in games they pass for 400+ yards.

  • SEC quarterbacks with three or more 400-yard passing games: Seven by Eric Zeier (GA) and Tim Couch (UK), four by Danny Wuerffel (UF), and three by Jared Lorenzen (UK), Andre Woodson (UK), Steve Taneyhill (SC), and Peyton Manning (UT).

  • Arkansas is the only SEC team to not have a 400-yard passer. Although the Hogs have only been in the conference since 1992, no Arkansas quarterback has accomplished the feat in their entire history. Alabama and Auburn quarterbacks have each produced just one 400-yard game.

Georgia's 400-yard passing performances:

  • Besides Zeier's seven, and two from Cory Phillips, three Bulldogs have each thrown for 400 yards in a game on one occasion: Rakestraw, Stafford, and 1997 Mike Bobo (415) vs. Georgia Tech.

  • Georgia has a 7-5 record in its 400-yard games while seven of these performances have come against SEC schools.

  • Six times an SEC quarterback has thrown for 400 yards AGAINST Georgia. Four of these came in just a 25-game stretch from 1999-2001: 1999 Dusty Bonner (UK), 1999 Ben Leard (AU), 2000 Jared Lorenzen (UK), and 2001 Rex Grossman (UF).

In conclusion, mystery solved; Bell's infamous 400+ passing yards/no-touchdown feat against the Dawgs in '85 is the only one of its kind in SEC history. Now, if anyone is dying to know if it has ever occurred any other time in the history of college football, you're going to have to do the research yourself. I'm tired of being the research/stat geek for the time being...