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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.

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