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March 30, 2010

Stopping the Streak

Pictured is Sewanee's McGee Field, where Georgia halted a seemingly unstoppable unbeaten streak in 1914.  

I was recently checking out ghostoferkeussell's YouTube page of old UGA football video clips and found the celebrated tie at Auburn in 1994

Although our team acts like we won the SEC title following the 23-23 draw, the result was undoubtedly a moral victory for the Bulldogs.  Entering the game, Georgia had lost as many as it had won dating back to the start of the previous season and was a 12.5-point underdog that night on the Plains. 

The Tigers were undefeated and ranked third nationally in the AP Poll. (Not sure what poll narrator Chuck Dowdle was looking at, stating Auburn was "number five."  The Tigers weren't ranked in the Coaches poll at the time since they were on probation.)    

Furthermore, Auburn had won 20 games in a row before the Dawgs ended its long-standing streak.  Currently, the Tigers' 20-game winning streak is tied for the fifth longest in SEC history.

In regard to winning/unbeaten streaks, breaking Auburn's in '94 is likely the second-most impressive in UGA football history.  Georgia's most monumental is one  you've likely never read or even heard about, especially since it took place nearly 100 years ago.

As I recently posted, the Sewanee Purple Tigers were recognized as one of the best programs in college football a century ago.

From 1898-1910, Sewanee compiled a remarkable 85-15-7 overall record (.827), including a 6-0 mark against Georgia, and captured three S.I.A.A. championships.  The undefeated championship squad of 1899 was recently recognized as the greatest southern college football team of all time in Tony Barnhart's book, Southern Fried Football.  

Five years prior in 1894, the Tigers began a streak of 55 games where they were not defeated on their home field, winning 51 games and tying four.

Hardee Field (renamed McGee Field in 1977) - the oldest football field in the South and fourth-oldest in the country -  was home of the Purple Tigers.  There the 55-game unbeaten streak began with a 30-4 win over Nashville in 1894 and would not end until 20 years later with a 7-6 setback to Georgia.

On October 10, 1914, it rained all morning at Sewanee and by game time, Hardee Field was a sea of mud.  The sluggish tract would benefit the Red and Black the entire contest, slowing down the quicker Purple Tigers.

As usual, it was speculated Sewanee would dominate its visiting foe.  Three Purple Tigers would earn All-American recognition that season while the Red and Black's lone All-American in 1914 - quarterback Dave Paddock - would not play that year until the following week against North Carolina.  The diminutive Ed Dorsey, described as "108 pounds of pepper and nerve," was serving as Paddock's replacement.

On Georgia's second possession of the game, Tom Thrash scored on a short run.  John Henderson's PAT gave the Red and Black an early 7-0 lead.

The game was described as "uninteresting," for the most part.  Each team attempted several forward passes - considered "trick plays" - but none were completed.

The Purple Tigers finally ignited some excitement when All-American "Robert" Lee Tolley rushed for a 4-yard touchdown in the third quarter.  However, the same Sewanee star missed the all-important extra point, which would eventually cost his team the game and its unbeaten streak.

Sewanee's streak "on the Mountain" is especially noteworthy considering the team had 13 different head coaches during the 20 seasons and suffered 33 losses at away and neutral sites during the unbeaten stint.

A 32-game home winning streak (1901-1911) by Sewanee during its unbeaten streak would be the 17th longest in college football history if it was recognized by the NCAA.  The 55-game home unbeaten streak would likely rank in the top five of all time.

After the 7-6 upset at Sewanee, Georgia, for whatever reason, was not quite the same team, losing five games in a row before tying Auburn in the season finale to finish with a 3-5-1 record.  In his eight seasons as the Red and Black's head coach, it was the only losing year endured by Alex Cunningham.

Sewanee, on the other hand, basically picked up where it left off, recording a 29-4-3 mark at home over the next 12 years.  In fact, the Tigers made such an impact on the gridiron, they were eventually asked to be one of the Southeastern Conference's original 13 members in 1933.

It's then Sewanee began another extraordinary streak of losing every one of its conference games as a member of the SEC - 37 in a row over eight seasons.  Following the 1940 campaign, the school dropped out of the conference.  Today, the Tigers compete at the Division III level.   

March 26, 2010

Who's Tailback U.?

In 1941 "Flatfoot Frankie" Sinkwich became only the second 1,000-yard rusher in college football history.  A year later, he was the first Heisman winner from the Southeast. 

A few days ago, I overheard on a sports-talk radio station a discussion on the possibility of Washaun Ealey or Caleb King rushing for 1,000 yards this upcoming season.

Added was the fact Georgia had only 12 individual 1,000-yard rushing performances and, of those, nearly half (five of 12) were achieved by Herschel Walker (1980-81-82) and Knowshon Moreno (2007-08) alone.

Georgia?!?  Only 12 1,000-yard rushers?  The school recognized by some as "Tailback U."?  The sports-talk hosts couldn't believe it.

They must have read the AJC that morning and Tim Tucker's article on the very subject.

I want to respectfully clarify some things from a historical perspective.  First off, don't worry Dawg fans; the moniker "Tailback U." can arguably still be in use since, in reality, only 12 1000-yard rushers ain't too shabby.  Secondly, 12 should actually be 13.

Frank Sinkwich was Georgia's first 1,000-yard rusher, gaining 1,103 yards in 1941, and college football's second after Colorado's Byron "Whizzer" White had 1,121 in 1937.  There wouldn't be another Bulldog accomplish the feat for 35 years.

From 1937 - the first year the NCAA considered individual statistics "official" - through 1964, a span of 28 seasons, there were only fifty-one 1,000-yard performances in college football.  The fact there were only four 1,000-yard rushing seasons  from 1937 through 1969 from players on the current 12 SEC teams is even more revealing.  In comparison, there were 53 1,000-yard rushers in the FBS (five from the SEC) in 2009 alone.

Georgia's thirteen 1,000-yard rushing performances by 10 different individuals are actually substantial amounts considering the feat rarely occurred until the 1970s.  Twelve of the Bulldogs' 13 have happened since 1976, or in a span of only 34 - an appropriate number - seasons. 

Georgia's total of thirteen 1,000-yard seasons ranks tied for fourth amongst SEC teams.  Its total of 10 different players who've rushed for 1,000 yards is tied for third.

Auburn, 16 (12)
Tennessee, 15 (14)
Alabama, 14 (10)
Georgia, 13 (10)
Arkansas, 13 (8)
LSU, 12 (8)
Florida, 10 (7)
Miss. State, 10 (7)
Kentucky, 8 (6)
South Carolina, 7 (5)
Ole Miss, 6 (4)
Vanderbilt, 3 (3)

Why was it unusual for a rusher to gain 1,000 yards  until the last few decades?  The main factor is simply teams play more games now than they once did.  In addition, the average number of rushing attempts had increased by the 1970s while the number of yards per rush is  still growing.

In 1938, college football teams ran the ball an average of 41 times per game for 3.4 yards per gain.  By the mid-1970s, rule changes had been established to extend the game, allowing more plays.  Also at that time, most teams handed the football to fewer individuals than before, allowing durable rushers a better chance to gain 1,000 yards.  In 1975, teams rushed an average of 52 times per game for nearly 4.0 yards per gain.

Although today's game exhibits more passing than ever, the number of yards per rushing play is at an all-time high.  In 2008, FBS teams averaged 4.22 yards per rush. 

More significantly, most teams in recent seasons play 13 or 14 games a year.  For some Dawg fans, the 1970 season - a campaign when Georgia played in only 10 games - wasn't that long ago. 

Forty years later, it'll be interesting to see if a Bulldog, or two, will join Georgia's distinguished but extensive (and hopefully growing) list of 1,000-yard rushers:

•1,891 - Herschel Walker, 1981
•1,752 - Herschel Walker, 1982
•1,616 - Herschel Walker, 1980
•1,547 - Garrison Hearst, 1992
•1,400 - Knowshon Moreno, 2008
•1,334 - Knowshon Moreno, 2007
•1,324 - Musa Smith, 2002
•1,312 - Willie McClendon, 1978
•1,216 - Tim Worley, 1988
•1,103 - Frank Sinkwich, 1941
•1,059 - Rodney Hampton, 1989
•1,058 - Kevin McLee, 1976
•1,016 - Lars Tate, 1987

March 22, 2010

Old School Recruiting

Tim Worley arrived at Georgia in 1985 as one of the South's top recruits.  Despite playing in only 26 regular-season games during his career as a Bulldog, Worley's 2,038 rushing yards currently rank 11th in school history.

For a period of 10-15 years, from the age of about six until I knew better, I would buy every preseason college football magazine that was released, and I mean all of them.

My parents are in the process of cleaning out their home - the house I grew up in - and I just received a huge load of boxes containing my old stuff, including these football magazines, and I mean all of them.

I was looking through several of these, primarily the Lindy's annual edition, and came to a couple of conclusions on recruiting: Based on its magazine coverage, recruiting wasn't nearly as meaningful to college football fans two-to-three decades ago as it is today.  And, Georgia recruited as well then as it has the last decade, at least, according to recruiting rankings.

Apparently, one of the first individuals to cover college football recruiting was Joe Terranova in the 1970s.  By 1982, Terranova's coverage was being featured in Sports Illustrated while he  was "considered by many as the foremost authority on recruiting in the country."  Call him the Jamie Newberg of yesteryear.

It was in 1982 that Terranova's recruiting feature was part of the premier issue of Lindy's SEC Football Annual.  It was that season's Bulldog recruiting class that was recognized by Terranova as the very best in the nation, ahead of Notre Dame, Texas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska.

Less than four years later, this class, on the whole, was considered a bust.  In December of 1986, when fifth-year seniors were what remained of that particular recruiting class, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran a story titled, Bulldogs' ill-fated class of '82: The recruits fell short of great expectations.

Just below are the Georgia newcomers of 1982 that were considered then by Terranova as "blue chip" prospects.  The players are listed by position ranking.  For example, Terranova thought of Gerald Browner as the fourth-best lineman prospect (both offensive and defensive linemen were listed together under "Linemen").

It's interesting (and unfortunate) to note that of these eight blue chips, four did not letter a single season at Georgia due to a prompt transfer or poor academics (Browner, Harris, Sorrells, Cornish) while just one (Flack) started for the Bulldogs more than two seasons.

#4 Line- Gerald Browner (Atlanta)
#5 DB- Tony Flack (Greensboro, NC)
#6 QB- Jamie Harris (Danville, VA)
#11 WR- Tyrone Sorrells (Buford)
#20 Line- Cedric Cornish (Warner Robbins)
#26 RB- Keith Montgomery (Stephens Co.)
#26 Line- Keith Johnson (Ocilla)
#27 Line- Jay Floyd (Hartwell)

In measuring Georgia's recruiting over a five-year span, below are the Bulldogs' top newcomers (according to Terranova) for the 1983-1986 classes, as well.

Terranova wasn't consistent year-to-year in the Lindy's annual as far as the significance of the rankings (i.e., in the nation, SEC, the entire South).  I've explained the rankings under each year along with Georgia's recruiting ranking in the SEC.

For what it's worth, the Bulldogs' average recruiting ranking in the SEC from 1982-1986 was 2.4.  In comparison, according to Rivals, Georgia's average recruiting ranking in the SEC for the past five years (2006-2010) is 4.0.

I know that's like comparing apples to oranges...  The SEC had 10 teams then compared to the current 12, two different recruiting services are being examined, and more SEC schools rank towards the top nationally in recruiting in recent years than they did during the 1980s (Georgia's national average ranking from 2006-2010 is an impressive 8.2).

As far as how the 1983-1986 top Bulldog recruits panned out at Georgia, for those Dawg fans who remember the 1980s, decide for yourself.

Player rankings aren't nationally, like '82, but of only the newcomers heading to SEC schools.  Only the top 10 at each position are listed.  Georgia's class ranked 3rd in the SEC behind Auburn and LSU.

#1 LB- Henry Harris (Decatur)
#4 RB- David McCluskey (Rome)
#5 Line- Jimmy Holton (Bainbridge)
#6 LB- Steve Boswell (Warner Robbins)
#9 DB- Elbert Manning (Norcross)
#9 Line- William Tang (Douglasville)

Like '83, newcomers ranked amongst only those heading to SEC schools and only the top 10 at each position are listed. Georgia's class ranked 2nd in the SEC behind Auburn.

#2 RB- Cleveland Gary (Indian Town, FL)
#2 WR- Anthony Clincy (Fullerton, CA)
#3 QB- Wayne Johnson (Columbus)
#3 RB- Lars Tate (Indianapolis, IN)
#3 WR- Cassius Osborn (Statesboro)
#3 TE- Ronnie Smith (Forsyth)
#4 DB- Michael Willis (Garland, TX)
#5 Line- Wycliffe Lovelace (Clewiston, FL)
#6 DB- Aaron Chubb (Rockmart)
#8 QB- Bobby Wilkes (Brunswick)
#10 QB- John Thomas (Milledgeville)

Ten Georgia players are ranked according to position in Tarranova's "Southland Super Seventy-Five."  Besides the SEC, the "Southland" included players going to Georgia Tech and southern independent schools (i.e., South Carolina, Florida State, Southern Miss, etc.).  Georgia's class ranked 2nd in the SEC behind Alabama.

#2 RB- Tim Worley (Lumberton, NC)
#3 RB- Keith Henderson (Cartersville) 
#5 QB- Joey Hester (Cairo)
#5 Line- Curt Mull (Lake Brantley, FL)
#8 DB- Doug Samuel (Sarasota, FL)
#9 Line- Paul Giles (Monroe)
#16 Line- Chris Warren (Dawson)
#21 Line- Nick Fotos (Piedmont, SC)
#24 Line- Eric Johnson (Tulsa, OK)
#25 Line- Todd Wheeler (Rome)

Like '85, Georgia players (5) are ranked according to position in the "Southland Super Seventy-Five."  However, unlike the year before, the top 75 for 1986 were solely newcomers from the South, regardless of what school they were attending. Three of Georgia's Super 75 were also ranked amongst Tarranova's "National Blue Chips."  Georgia's class ranked 4th in the SEC behind Alabama, Auburn, and Florida.

#3 Line- Hiawatha Berry (Winder)
#4 LB- Brent Collins (New Market, TN): #5 LB nationally
#4 DB- Mark Fletcher (Kennesaw): #13 LB nationally
#7 RB- Alfred Rawls (Rochelle): #22 RB nationally
#8 LB- Bryan Magee (Cleveland, TN)

Within a couple weeks, I'll put together and post a similar listing for the five Georgia recruiting classes (1987-1991) that followed. 

March 19, 2010

1910: Trickery on the Mountain

Continued from The Night UGA's Campus Shook...

After Georgia's memorable victory against Alabama  in 1910, subsequent wins over Tennessee and Mercer followed.  In early November, the Red and Black was in a position it had never been before in 19 years of playing football - 5 and 0, outscoring the opposition by an unbelievable 258 to 5 score, and regarded as one of the top teams in the country.

Georgia’s next opponent, Sewanee, had been relishing in success since it began playing football in 1891.  Like the Red and Black, the Purple Tigers were also considered one of the best teams in the nation, but had been for quite some time, having suffered defeat just 14 times in 104 games since the start of the 1898 season.  This included Sewanee’s acclaimed team of 1899, who recorded a perfect 12-0 record, including five wins in a six-day period - all by shutouts and on the road.  The Purple Tigers were also amidst a 55–game home unbeaten streak "on the Mountain" that would not come to an end until 1914.

As expected, Georgia trailed 15-6 late in the game but had the ball on Sewanee’s 30-yard line.  Darkness and a thick fog had settled in and the contest was expected to be called by officials at any moment.  The Red and Black needed a quick score and innovative Alex Cunningham was just the coach to call a play appropriate for the occasion.

George Woodruff (Photo: UGA Sports Communications) dropped back to pass and lofted the “ball” downfield.  Barely able to see through the fog, Sewanee desperately tried to defend the Georgia receivers as it tried to spot the thrown ball.  Much to their chagrin, what was thrown was not a football but Woodruff’s headgear.  Just as the Sewanee defenders realized they were victim of chicanery, they watched as quarterback Hafford Hay, with the actual ball in tow, raced untouched for a touchdown.

The night before, the Red and Black had left Athens by train bound for Sewanee.  The all-night trek endured several delays and the Georgia squad did not reach its destination until immediately prior to game time.  The tired team arrived to a water-laden Hardee Field, an immersing dense fog, and at the home of a team that had not been beaten on its own turf in more than 17 years.

The Purple Tigers’ 15-0 fourth-quarter advantage was highlighted by an 85-yard run by All-Southern Alvin “Chigger” Browne in the opening stanza.  With seven minutes remaining in the game and the fog at its thickest, Bob McWhorter returned a Sewanee punt 80 yards for a score.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Purple Tigers fumbled and Georgia was given a scoring opportunity in Sewanee territory.  On the very next play is when Coach Cunningham caught the Purple Tiger defense off guard with the trickery.

Shortly after Hay strolled over the goal line for the touchdown, the game was called because of fog and darkness.  After dominating most of their opponents for decades, it was reported the Purple Tigers were “glad to grope its way off the field” with a 15-12 victory.

Georgia had stunned Sewanee just as it had all of college football the entire season.  And although the Red and Black might have suffered its first loss of the season, Georgia executed arguably the greatest trick play in the history of football.

The majority of this post is an edited version of a story from my book, The 50 Greatest Plays in Georgia Bulldogs Football History.

March 16, 2010

Great [Jake] Scott!

Jake Scott takes back a punt 90 yards for a touchdown against Tennessee in the 1968 season opener.  Six weeks later against Kentucky, he'd return two interceptions for scores.  (Photo: Hargrett Library)

I saw where Jake Scott was recently one of three former Bulldogs announced by the National Football Foundation (NFF) as a possibility for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.  For Scott, this nomination is undoubtedly deserving but, at the same time, certainly surprising based on his past.

I first heard of Scott decades ago when my dad and I once drove by the Georgia Coliseum (now known as Stegeman Coliseum) on UGA’s campus and he told me about the Georgia football player who had driven his motorcycle up and over the basketball arena. As a kid, I was instantly intrigued with the former All-American safety.

"The Snake," his nickname in college, has been recognized by Coach Vince Dooley as the most athletic player he ever coached. Scott's 16 career interceptions and four non-offensive touchdowns (three on interception returns, one via punt return) both remain school records more than 40 years after his collegiate career ended - a career of just two seasons on Georgia's varsity.

It was Scott's junior year of 1968 and final season as a Bulldog when he first began his disassociation with the school, lasting until just over three years ago. As the story goes, after Georgia had defeated Georgia Tech to complete an undefeated 8-0-2 campaign, team members wanted to go to the Orange Bowl for an outside shot to play for a national championship. Representing the players, Scott went to Coach Dooley carrying oranges, requesting a trip to the bowl game in Miami.

There was one problem: without consulting his team, Dooley had already agreed and signed on to play in the Sugar Bowl, not for a chance at a number-one ranking but versus the number-two team in the Southwest Conference. It's a move Dooley regrets today.

Around the same time, Scott earned the SEC's player of the year award but did not even attend the banquet to accept the trophy.

Following the 1968 season, Scott negotiated a contract with the Canadian Football League and then visited Dooley again at his office. This time, however, Scott didn't have oranges in hand but instead demanded to be paid or he was leaving prior to his senior season. This occurred when an early departure for the pros, unlike today, was extremely rare.

Dooley denied Scott. So, the Snake was off to Canada with teammate Brad Johnson, riding in a pair of Corvettes the two had purchased. Dooley was incensed but directed his anger, at least on the surface, towards the British Columbia Lions - the team that signed Scott.

"I dislike and protest [the Lions'] negotiations with Jake," Dooley said in March of 1969.

After one season in the CFL, Scott finally made it to Miami and the Orange Bowl, playing for the Dolphins of the NFL. There his extraordinary play on the gridiron continued, as well as his mysteriousness, aloofness, and dislike for his head coach. This time, the coach, like Dooley, was another soon-to-be legend - Don Shula.

From the time he retired from professional football following the 1978 season to the present, one can likely count on a single hand the number of times Scott has been interviewed. This article, written by Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, is certainly telling and a must read.

The piece was printed shortly before Scott's role as the Bulldogs' honorary captain against Georgia Tech in 2006. That appearance was his first associated with UGA in nearly 40 years and, by no coincidence, not too long after Dooley's dismissal as the school's athletic director.

As Hyde's article indicates, this year is not the first time Scott has been a possible inductee into the Hall of Fame. In 2001, Dooley wanted to lobby for Scott to enter the Hall under one condition: he would show up for the induction ceremony. Communicating through Bill Stanfill, a former Georgia great who had played with Scott at both Georgia and Miami, word was sent to Dooley there was no interest.

Although members of the NFF (which you or I can be a member of for a small fee) vote for the candidates worthy of the Hall of Fame, the Hall's Honors Court actually selects the class. As is the case with many things, there can be politics involved in which players get inducted.

Vince Dooley has been a member of this Honors Court for years and, as someone “in the know" recently told me, “carries a 'big stick' in the NFF with his clout with the AFCA (American Football Coaches Association) and NCAA."

With that being said, it'll be interesting to see if Jake Scott is inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame this year. His performance on the football field warrants induction; however, because of the manner he has conducted himself in the past, any football accomplishments may not matter.

If he doesn't become a member of the Hall, frankly, Scott probably won't give a rip. If he does, more so than thoughts of him riding over the coliseum on a motorcycle, I'd be more intrigued in seeing if he shows up for the induction ceremony.

March 11, 2010

One-Hit Wonders

Good thing the Dawgs (and Wyoming) had to face this guy just once...

While gathering information on Heisman Trophy finishers for my article on the third-best SEC program of all time, I noticed that Auburn's Rudi Johnson finished 10th in the trophy's voting in 2000. I then came to the realization that Johnson played for the Tigers for only a single season, but what a season it was.

Johnson came to Auburn after two years at a junior college in Kansas. In 2000, he finished first in the SEC, and ninth nationally, in rushing, gaining more than 1,500 yards for the season. Unfortunately for Georgia, Johnson bowled over the Bulldogs that year to the tune of 152 yards on 34 carries in a 29-26 Auburn win in overtime.

Thankfully for Georgia and the rest of the conference, Johnson's stay on the Plains was for just one season, as he declared early for the NFL Draft.

Remembering Johnson got me wondering whether there were any Georgia players in history who were one-hit, or one-season, wonders.

In other words, have there been any Bulldogs who were standouts in their lone season in Athens? Or, has there been anyone who may have played for more than one season at Georgia, but any contributions came in only a single year?

Georgia's one-hit wonders aren't nearly as memorable or distinguished as Auburn's Rudi, or this Rudy, but you may have heard of some of these Dawgs.

The top five one-hit wonders in Georgia football history:

5) MARK VINCENT (1987)
When Southern Methodist's football program was handed the "death penalty" in 1987, two Mustangs soon headed east for Athens—transfers Shelly Anderson and Mark Vincent.

Vincent, who had just one year of eligibility remaining, almost decided to stay at SMU to finish his degree, but the lure of playing football at tradition-filled Georgia, compelled him to become a Bulldog. Plus, unlike other schools who promised the transfer he would become an immediate starter, assistant Ray Goff told Vincent he would have to compete for a spot in Georgia's defensive backfield. Vincent respected Goff's honesty and integrity.

A two-year starter at SMU, Vincent promptly started for Georgia's "Junkyard Dogs II" defense of 1987 at right cornerback. He immediately fit in with the team and was recognized as an intelligent, team player. By the middle of the season, Vincent was considered one of the leaders of the Bulldogs' defense.

Vincent finished the season tied for the team lead in interceptions with three (he made only one interception in three years combined at SMU), including two against Ole Miss. In addition, he was the only member of Georgia's secondary to start all 12 games.

4) HAFFORD HAY (1910)
Along with Bob McWhorter (UGA football's first All-American) and Coach Alex Cunningham, Hafford Hay left the Gordon Institute for UGA in 1910 and played an integral role in immediately turning around Georgia's football program.

Hay, the Red and Black’s starting quarterback in eight of the team’s nine games, was considered “heady” under center and a standout on defense. Although a neophyte, it was said he ran the squad like a veteran. Despite Hay’s small stature, he was also recognized as a dangerous broken-field runner.

In addition, Hay served as Georgia’s sole placekicker, converting 33 point-after touchdowns. Against Mercer, he kicked a field goal—an extremely rare occurrence in football at that time. Hay also tallied four touchdowns on the season, scoring a total of 56 points—second best on the squad behind McWhorter’s 100.

Nothing is known regarding Hay following the Red and Blacks’ successful 1910 season. He lettered for just the one season and did not return the following year.

After quarterbacking one of Georgia’s greatest teams, the cool, field general seemingly disappeared, leaving the Red and Black faithful to wonder, where have you gone, Hafford Hay?

I know I'm cheating a little by putting Verron Haynes of 2001 on this list. The fullback from Brooklyn and transfer from Western Kentucky did make some contributions to Georgia's 2000 squad as a junior, starting two games and scoring touchdowns against Ole Miss and Virginia in the O'ahu Bowl. However, few were familiar with the seldom-used blocking back prior to 2001, specifically the Tennessee game and his game-winning play.

Two weeks following his memorable touchdown catch, Haynes rushed for 86 yards against Kentucky, caught three passes for 73 yards, and scored three touchdowns. By the end of the season, with Musa Smith hampered with injuries and Jasper Sanks kicked off the team, Haynes had been switched from fullback to tailback and was Georgia’s primary running threat.

In the Bulldogs’ final four games, including the Music City Bowl against Boston College, Haynes had one of the best stretches running the ball in Georgia football history, averaging more than 163 yards on 29 carries per game and scoring a total of five touchdowns. His 691 rushing yards, not including 132 in the bowl game, led the team in 2001.

Haynes’ best rushing performance was 207 yards on 39 carries against Georgia Tech. In the past 65 seasons, he is one of only eight Bulldogs to rush for 200+ yards in a single game.

2) JOHNNY COOK (1943)
World War II prohibited eight of the SEC's 12 teams from playing football in 1943. After considering also dropping the sport only a day before its opening game, Georgia decided to go ahead and play its season despite consisting of primarily 17-year-old freshmen too young for the War's draft.

In a surprising, 25-7 upset victory over Presbyterian, the Bulldogs realized they might be better than originally forecasted and found their next star player in the process—Johnny Cook.

Cook, "Rome's [Georgia] gift to Athens," was a spectacular forward passer, reminiscent of the Heisman Trophy-winning Frank Sinkwich from the season before.

He was also effective when handling the football, scoring four first-half touchdowns in a 46-7 thrashing of VMI later in the season. Cook's four scores included a 78-yard rush and 80-yard punt return and would not be bettered at Georgia until more than 50 years later (Robert Edwards scored a modern-school record five touchdowns vs. South Carolina in 1995).

Cook, the lone first-team All-SEC selection for the 1943 Bulldogs, led the nation in passing, completing 73 of 157 passes for 1,007 yards and eight touchdowns. He also added 361 yards and nine scores rushing and was tied for fourth in the nation in scoring, tallying 72 points on 12 touchdowns (nine rushing, two on punt returns, and one via a kickoff return).

Soon after the season, Cook followed the same path as many of the young men of his time as he was drafted into the military. He would not return to the University until just prior to the start of the 1946 football season. However, instead of returning to Georgia’s lineup as its star tailback, Cook found himself primarily sitting on the Bulldogs’ bench during the year, as there was overwhelming depth in the team’s backfield. After finishing second in the SEC in scoring as a mere freshman in 1943, Cook did not score a single point in his second and final year as a Bulldog.

Regardless, to date, Cook remains the only Bulldog ever to lead the country in passing and, besides the great Sinkwich, the only Georgia player to finish in the top 10 in both passing and scoring the same season.

Pulpwood Smith, the 1982 Class AAAA Back of the Year in Georgia for Coffee High School, got his nickname from when he was a youngster and helped his dad—a pulpwooder—at his job.

Smith was drafted by the California Angels in high school but spurned baseball to sign with Texas A&M to play football. With controversy stemming from A&M's signing of running back George Smith (also of Coffee High and a story within itself), Pulpwood elected to go to Georgia instead.

As a freshman in 1983, Smith played in just one game, rushing for 25 yards on four carries against Kentucky. That offseason, he worked his way up Georgia's depth chart to the starting fullback position by the season opener of 1984.

Against Southern Miss to open the campaign, all eyes were on freshman tailback and future NFLer Lars Tate—the top running back prospect in the nation. Instead, it was Pulpwood who captivated the Sanford Stadium crowd, bursting for a 50-yard touchdown in the third quarter of a 26-19 Georgia victory.

Three games later against Alabama, Pulpwood ran for a 44-yard touchdown on the fourth play of the game, and on Georgia's next possession, added a 34-yard score on a burst up the middle. Two weeks later against Vanderbilt, Smith had a 47-yard touchdown run. Smith's long, scoring jaunts were reminding some of another Bulldog back, Herschel Walker, who had played just a couple years earlier.

Smith finished the year leading the team with 665 rushing yards and four touchdowns, and was recognized by Coach Vince Dooley as the team's best player. Nevertheless, during the spring of 1985, Pulpwood was declared academically ineligible and was dismissed from school, never to play football again between the hedges.

From November 1983 to mid-October 1985, a span of 20 games, Georgia had just two individual, 100-yard rushing performances, both coming from Pulpwood.

Through the 2009 season, there have been exactly 99 Bulldogs rush for 400 or more career yards at Georgia. Of all these, only four have a better yards-per-carry average than Pulpwood (5.96).

Because of Smith's catchy nickname and his (well, someone pretending to be him) game previews (Warning: Rated R), his name is recognized today (albeit for unconventional reasons) by many Bulldog fans who never knew of Pulpwood's football career at Georgia—a brief career unfortunately cut short.

Have I missed anyone? Can you think of any other Bulldogs who were one-hit wonders?

March 8, 2010

1910: The Night UGA's Campus Shook

Georgia opened its 1910 campaign by thrashing Locust Grove, 101 to zero; the 101-point total and scoring margin both remain single-game school records 100 years later. 

Locust Grove was indeed a "preparatory school" but, as mentioned in my previous post, this was a Georgia team that had averaged only 3.3 points in its previous 14 games.

The 101 points were more than the Red and Black had scored in its last 16 games combined, spanning nearly two entire seasons.  In fact, with its first three touchdowns versus Locust Grove, Georgia scored nearly as many points against the Cadets in the first six minutes of play (18) than it did during the entire eight-game, 1909 season (19). 

And the reason for Georgia's sudden good fortune?

Coach Alex Cunningham (Photo: UGA Sports Communications) and halfback Bob McWhorter had come to UGA from the Gordon Institute.  Cunningham implemented preseason practices starting a full two weeks prior to any other Georgia team.  The innovative coach also executed player substitutions in games like few had ever seen in football, especially in the South.

McWhorter would simply become the most valuable player in UGA football history.  His spectacular play began immediately, scoring five touchdowns against Locust Grove.

Against Gordon, McWhorter crossed the goal line seven more times in the Red and Black's second consecutive blow-out victory—a 79-0 win.  Georgia's Cunningham, McWhorter, and quarterback Hafford Hay, who had also played for Gordon the year before, had no trouble whatsoever against their old teammates in a game called in the third quarter.

Next on the schedule was Alabama, who had not lost to Georgia in five straight games, outscoring the Red and Black 72-11 in those meetings.  Alabama also sported a 2-0 record while the game was being played on the road in Birmingham.  It was Georgia's first true test of the season.

Nevertheless, once again the Red and Black held its opponent scoreless while McWhorter ran wild in a 22-0 Georgia win.  McWhorter had two of the team's four touchdowns, scoring "on a delayed pass through the center" in the second quarter and on a 30-yard end run in the third.

In the final quarter with Georgia leading 16-0, McWhorter's replacement, John Slater, picked up an Alabama fumble and returned it 85 yards for a touchdown.

The victory celebration in Athens that followed on UGA's campus was like none other before or in the 100 years since.

Reserve player Charley Wall, who did not travel with the team to Birmingham, later wrote to author and historian John Stegeman, describing the big bash. 

After receiving word of Georgia's triumph over Alabama in a telegram, Wall was part of a group of about 200 boys who began building a bonfire in the middle of the Red and Black's home field of Herty Field. 

The wood and boxes to build the fire came from downtown, including the final load, which contained a barrel of gasoline.  All the gas was carried up the pile from person-to-person in buckets and then poured on top of the contents. 

While the band played "Glory to Old Georgia" and partiers performed a "snake dance" around the field, a match was struck and thrown onto the pile.

BOOM!  "That was it!" said Wall.  "The gas-saturated air went off like gunpowder, and blew out every window pane in New College, Moore College and Candler Hall, and also some in the Beanery downhill from the field."

Like many others, Wall was in the snake dance and fell over with the blast.  He was not severely hurt but the same could not be said about everyone.  A boy named Michaels, a student who actually started the bonfire, was unfortunately hospitalized for quite some time.

March 5, 2010

Who's the 3rd-best team of all time in the SEC?

To me, it seems Alabama and Tennessee are practically givens as the first and second-best football programs of all time of current SEC members, in terms of historical success.

With that being said, I attempt to find out the answer to the title of this entry by using eight different measurements.  You can read my article at the Bleacher Report.

I discover, more so than the third position, who the 12th and worst SEC team in history is probably more debatable. 

March 3, 2010

In case you thought he could only run the ball...

I had a reader email me this YouTube clip of Herschel Walker's two touchdown receptions against Florida in 1981. 

This game from 29 years ago is one of my first clear memories as a Bulldog fan.  Nearly three decades later, while Georgia has dropped 17 of its last 20 to Florida, memories of Walker running by and through Gators are becoming even more cherished.

Seeing these two catch-and-runs for scores remind me of how versatile Herschel could have been for Georgia.  He was a good kick returner and gifted receiver out of the backfield but was hardly given the chance at either during his three seasons.  

Coach Dooley has said before he would've loved to have Herschel return every kickoff.  However, how can you expect a player to run back every kick and then hand him the ball 30-to-40 times each game? 

The same was true as far as throwing to Walker more often.  Dooley believed Herschel would've become absolutely exhausted or maybe more prone to injury, so the "Goal-line Stalker" was primarily used as only a rusher. 

Herschel had three touchdowns receiving in his 33 regular-season games as a Bulldog—these two against Florida and a 64-yard score versus Kentucky a year later.  Like the two against the Gators, the one at Lexington in 1982 was mostly Herschel running for a touchdown after catching a short pass.

For his career, Walker caught just 26 passes for 243 yards.  More than half of his receiving yardage came in only two games—Florida in 1981 (55) and Kentucky in 1982 (79).  He also ran back only 14 kickoffs for 247 yards.

Of Herschel's 5,749 career all-purpose yards (currently ranks 4th in SEC history), 5,259 yards (still ranks 1st), or more than 91 percent, came via rushing.  Of the 26 players in Division I-A/FBS history who gained 6,000+ career all-purpose yards, only two (Wisconsin's Ron Dayne and Pittsburgh's Tony Dorsett) had a greater portion of their yardage by way of rushing than Herschel.

Once he got to the USFL and later NFL, unlike at Georgia, Walker was used equally in all three facets—rushing, receiving, and returning.  However, it's Herschel's "versatility" for five professional teams over 15 seasons that will ultimately keep him from ever being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, although he arguably belongs.

There was one thing Herschel surprisingly couldn't do... pass the football, at least on the two attempts he had while at Georgia—an incompletion resembling a wounded duck against Notre Dame in the '81 Sugar Bowl followed by an interception thrown to a Kentucky defender the next season.

Nevertheless, he could've done just about anything else asked of him.  Georgia primarily chose to simply hand Herschel Walker the ball over and over and watch him run.  And run he did. 

Against Clemson in 1982, Walker played sparingly, carrying the ball just 11 times while nursing a broken thumb. 

“Coach Dooley told me to go in as a decoy,” he said following the 13-7 season-opening victory. “I just wanted to help the team even if it was only running onto the field to pick up the kicking tee.”

Let's face it, if Herschel was to do it, it probably would've been the best display of picking up a kicking tee Georgia football had ever seen.