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June 7, 2010

THE Game

I still can't get over these people going wild.  The whole town is about crazy.
- Georgia tailback Hal Bissell, several days prior to the 1971 Georgia-Auburn game

Ask some older Dawg fans about the 1971 Georgia-Auburn game - "The Game" according to Tigers play-by-play radio man, Gary Sanders - and they remember it for the atmosphere more so than the contest itself (and especially the outcome).

According to many, it remains the most highly anticipated and hyped Georgia football game in Athens in recent memory, encompassed by an immeasurable pre-game party.  Perhaps only the 1976 Alabama game was bigger.    

In front of 62,891 spectators at Sanford Stadium, the largest crowd ever to see a sporting event in the state at that time, the Bulldogs were down 14-0 early but rallied and trailed only 21-20 with 11:46 remaining in the game.  Nonetheless, Auburn added two fourth-quarter touchdowns for a 15-point victory.

The Bulldogs rushed for 311 yards (passing for just 18), led by sophomore quarterback Andy Johnson's 163 on 23 carries.  Tailback Jimmy Poulos added 83 yards on 21 rushes.

Georgia entered the game with arguably the best defense in the nation, yielding only 212 yards and 5.9 points per game.  Against the Tigers and their star quarterback Pat Sullivan, the Bulldogs surrendered 367 and 35, respectively.

Georgia's efforts on pass defense against Sullivan were futile, similarly to Auburn's attempt to give "Shug" Jordan a victory ride following the game.  Sullivan likely clinched the Heisman Trophy that day, completing 14 of 24 passes for 248 yards and four touchdowns.  His favorite target, Terry Beasley, caught four passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns.

As they prepared to board the game bus trip back to McWhorter Hall, the disheartened Bulldogs, realizing that their chance for an undefeated season had ended, moped around their locker room.

Perhaps the only assured individual in the room, defensive coordinator Erk Russell, suddenly boomed, "Hold your head up, men!" 

The Bulldogs responded, winning their final two games against Georgia Tech and North Carolina (Gator Bowl) by four points each to finish with an 11-1 record and number-seven ranking. 

Auburn, on the other hand, lost its last two contests, ending the Tigers' 1971 campaign with a 9-2 mark and ranked below Georgia at 12th.  


Anonymous said...

I was there, and my best memory, was two new highway patrol cars that had been parked next to the fence on the east end. Fans with no tickets (and there were thousands of them) had stood on the hoods, roofs, and trunks. The were all caved in, and covered with mud and beer cans.

Newton County Dawg said...

I had just pledged a fraternity and we were required to take turns riding around the Holiday Inn all night blowing our horns to keep the Auburn team from sleeping the night before the game. The entire town was absolutely crazy all night long. Streets were blocked and there was some streaking going on as well. It was absolutely the craziest time I have ever seen in Athens, including the 1976 Alabama game when we humiliated the Bear with Ray Goff and the veer offense.