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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

1 comment:

Unknown said...

No mention of Dwayne Simmons? He owned them in this game! There's the poster back-story for him too...

And, the first year the Braves clinched in forever. HUGE game!