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January 13, 2010

West Bound and Down

Georgia will play at Colorado in 2010—the third consecutive season the Bulldogs will travel west outside the southeast for a regular-season game. (Photo: GeorgiaDogs.com)

Based on its title, did you think this post was going to be about Lane Kiffin scurrying off to USC?  Amongst all the latest talk about who's no longer at Tennessee and who's going to be the Bulldogs' defensive coordinator, there has been a little bit of buzz on the blogs recently regarding Georgia's trip to Boulder this October.

The Colorado Dawgs have set up a blog about the Bulldogs coming to Boulder—the game, the area, where to stay, etc.  From what I hear, unless you want to pay $300+ a night or stay far from Folsom Field and campus, you better act on getting a room with the quickness.

The Bulldogs' latest travels outside the southeast are rather intriguing to most fans because, until recently, they simply did not happen.

For 40 consecutive seasons, from 1968 through 2007, Georgia did not play a single regular-season game outside the southeast and only twice (Tulane in 1970 and 1972) faced a school on the road who was NOT a member of the SEC, Georgia Tech, Clemson, or South Carolina (joined SEC in 1992).

By the 1968 season, the Bulldogs had recently established home-and-home rivalries with Clemson and South Carolina on a yearly basis (for the most part) while Georgia Tech had been an annual opponent for quite some time.  It was also established, whether five or more home games for a 10-game regular-season schedule (until 1971) or six or more home games for an 11-game schedule (1971-2001), the Bulldogs must host a certain number of opponents each year.

From 1968 to 1987, the combination of having to play six or more conference games, five then six or more home games, Florida in neutral Jacksonville, and non-conference foes Clemson, South Carolina, and Georgia Tech every year, left little to no room to play a home-and-home series with a non-conference opponent other than the aforementioned three.

Instead, it resulted in Georgia having two home games each season to play a Division I-AA squad or the likes of Virginia, Oregon State, Baylor, or teams that did not require the Bulldogs to reciprocate and later travel to the opposition's place.

In 1988, an additional SEC game was added to the schedule (Clemson was dropped on a yearly basis).  Four years later, Georgia was playing eight conference games.  From 1992-1993 and 1996-2001, excluding when Florida was played home-and-home in 1994 and 1995, the Bulldogs' schedule was rather basic: eight conference games and Georgia Tech—four of these nine opponents at home, four on the road, and Florida in Jacksonville—and two perceived home victories (Whoops!).

By 1992, the only practical way the Bulldogs could play away from home against a team other than Georgia Tech or one not belonging to the SEC was if a 12th game was ever added to the schedule or hope Jacksonville's Gator Bowl needed more renovations.

The NCAA allowed Division I-A schools to schedule a 12th regular-season game in the 2002 and 2003 seasons and then permanently, for now, in 2006.  This allowed Georgia to schedule several home-and-home series with challenging, non-conference opponents the Bulldogs did not traditionally face.

Georgia played Clemson in 2002 and 2003, followed by Colorado (2006, 2010), Oklahoma State (2007, 2009), and Arizona State (2008, 2009).  The Bulldogs are scheduled to play Louisville in 2011 and 2012, followed by Clemson (2013, 2014) and Oregon in Eugene in 2015 and Athens in 2016.

Playing a regular-season contest outside the southeast was once a regular occurrence for Georgia football, first traveling to Navy in Annapolis in 1916—a 27-3 victory for the host Midshipmen.  The Red and Black’s only score was a field goal by Bill Donnelly drop-kicked from Navy’s 25-yard line.  Apparently, the highlight of the trip was the team’s visit to a burlesque show the night before the game where a “big time” was had until a 9:30 PM curfew.

From then until 1968, Georgia played 39 regular-season games outside the southeastern United States, at least one every season from 1921 to 1942, and faced three of these "intersectional" opponents during both the 1931 (at Yale, New York U., and Southern California) and 1953 (at Villanova, Texas A&M, and Maryland) seasons.

Georgia recorded just a 15-22-2 mark in these 39 games but was 13-7-2 from 1930 to the 1953 game against Villanova in Philadelphia.  Along with that particular contest, here are details regarding a few other noteworthy Georgia games played far beyond familiar territory:

October 8, 1927: Georgia 14, Yale 10
Many Georgia fans are accustomed with the 1929 game against Yale—a 15-0 UGA win where Catfish Smith scored all the points in the first game at Sanford Stadium.  However, the win over Yale two years earlier was perhaps more significant; it was the Bulldogs' first win over the Eli in five tries, resulting in the championship season of the acclaimed "Dream and Wonder Team."

Playing in the famous Yale Bowl, Georgia was considered a 14-point underdog while there were even odds the Bulldogs would not even score. Within the first five minutes of the game, Georgia beat those odds when H.F. Johnson threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to “Chick” Shiver.

In the second quarter with the score tied at 7-7,  Yale’s Duncan Cox kicked a field goal from Georgia’s 22-yard line.  In the closing minutes of the first half, Georgia's Frank McCrary scored on a two-yard run.  Johnson’s successful PAT was a result of his kick first hitting a Yale defender and somehow sailing over the crossbar (1927 was the first season of goalposts being located behind the end zone instead of on the goal line in college football).  Georgia led 14-10 at halftime.

Late in the game, Yale’s Stewart Scott caught a pass in the end zone on fourth down but was ruled out of bounds, giving Georgia the ball on its own 20-yard line. The Bulldogs ran two plays and time expired for a monumental win.

November 21, 1936: Georgia 7, Fordham 7
The Bulldogs' win at Fordham was their first game against an AP-ranked opponent.  It would be four more attempts and nearly five years before they would have another non-losing performance against a ranked team.  Read details about Georgia's "winning" tie in my "Great but Obscure" game series.

September 19, 1953: Georgia 32, Villanova 19
Villanova normally played its home games at its on-campus Villanova Stadium but on occasion, to draw bigger crowds, would host a non-eastern-region team, like Georgia in 1953, at Philadelphia's Municipal Stadium.  A crowd of nearly 100,000 (official records note 97,803 spectators, newspapers reported 97,802—curiously, a difference of one spectator) witnessed the Wildcats, led by '52 All-American Gene Filipski, jump out to an early 12-0 lead only to see the Bulldogs score 26 consecutive points.

Georgia limited Filipski, who rushed for nearly 100 yards per game and 6.4 yards per carry the season before, to 38 yards on nine carries.  Bulldog quarterback Zeke Bratkowski completed 10 of 18 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns and fullback Bob Clemens rushed for 118 yards on 13 carries in a 32-19 Georgia victory.

So, why would so many people show up to a football game against two below-average teams?  (Villanova finished the year with a 4-6 record.  Georgia, following a 2-0 start and No. 18 national ranking, ended its '53 season with a 3-8 mark, to date, the most losses for the Bulldogs in a single year and their worst campaign since going 1-5 in 1905.)

The Acme food chain bought 60,000 of the tickets and distributed them free to grocery store customers in the Philadelphia area.  The attendance of the "Supermarket Bowl," at the time, the largest crowd for a season-opening college football game and a record Eastern football crowd excluding Army-Navy meetings, would be the largest crowd for a Georgia football game for more than 44 years until it played in front of 106,656 at Tennessee in 1997.

November 4, 1967: Houston 15, Georgia 14
Georgia’s first appearance on artificial turf and in a dome stadium ended in a heart-breaking defeat. The attendance for the '67 Georgia-Houston game at the newly constructed Astrodome was 53,356—the most at the site for a sporting event in the dome's more than two-year existence and second most for all events behind an earlier appearance by evangelist Billy Graham.

The Bulldogs entered the game with a 5-1 record and ranked No. 5 in the nation but were without the services of safety Jake Scott and two backups, who were suspended for curfew violations.  The loss of the great Scott was evident as the Cougars drove up and down the field the entire night but, through the first three quarters, had not scored a single point.  Seemingly, just as Houston would threaten to score, it would turn the ball over; the Cougars committed six turnovers for the game, including five fumbles.

Meanwhile, the Dogs led 14-0 heading into the final quarter on Kirby Moore and Kent Lawrence touchdown runs; the scores were set up by a Houston penalty and a 71-yard interception return by Terry Sellers.

In the fourth quarter, the Cougars scored two touchdowns, the second on a long, Dick Woodall touchdown pass with 4:29 remaining in the game.  Houston fullback Paul Gipson rushed for 229 yards (the fourth-most individual rushing yards against Georgia in a single game) and the game-winning two-point conversion around left end as the Cougars narrowly won, 15-14.

Note: (let's end this post on a "winning" note) The following season at home in Athens, Georgia would somewhat get its revenge with a fourth-quarter comeback of its own against the Cougars.  Despite 532 total yards by the end of the game, including 230 rushing by Gipson (third-highest ever against Georgia), Houston held only a 10-0 fourth-quarter lead.

Georgia sophomore quarterback Mike Cavan first tossed a seven-yard scoring pass to Brad Johnson and later, in under two minutes, led the offense on a nine-play, 69-yard drive to Houston's 22-yard line.

With only seconds left, Jim McCullough kicked a 38-yard field goal and the Bulldogs were lucky to escape with a 10-10 draw.

Along with Clemson in 1983, the 10-10 tie with Houston ranks at the top of my list of Georgia's "we should have gotten beat but somehow we tied" games of the modern era. 

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