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July 25, 2010

What If in '80...

In December of 1980, Erk was supposedly just an eyelash away from instructing more than just his Bulldog defenders.

I was catching up on my blog reading yesterday and discovered Bill King's (Junkyard Blawg) mention of ESPN raising the question, What if Lindsay Scott hadn't scored against Florida in 1980?

Like Bill, I prefer not to think of "what if" scenarios; dealing with "what is" can be challenging enough.  Although, the thought of Run, Lindsay, Run not transpiring caused me to contemplate another "what if" concerning that very same season - one that would have drastically changed the foundation of Georgia football for years afterwards. 

In early December of 1980 and only two days after Georgia had defeated Georgia Tech to complete a perfect 11-0 regular season, it was announced by The Birmingham Post-Herald that Vince Dooley was leaving UGA and heading to Auburn to replace the resigning Doug Barfield.  Citing sources, the newspaper declared Dooley had decided to return to his alma mater when he was also promised the athletic director position.  Reportedly, Auburn was offering a contract of anywhere from $1 million for five years to $1.8 million for eight - a nice chunk of change 30 years ago for an Athletic Director/Head Football Coach.

With the Sugar Bowl less than a month away, who would replace Dooley immediately began being discussed.  The logical and leading candidate was defensive coordinator Erk Russell - Dooley's top assistant since they arrived together to Georgia nearly 17 years before.

If Dooley was going to leave for Auburn, Russell stated that he "would like very much to have the head coaching job [at Georgia]."

At the time, Dooley was UGA's co-athletic director along with Reid Parker.  There had been rumblings for quite some time that the Bulldog coach was unhappy sharing the position with Parker; he wanted it all for himself.  (Dooley has always denied this rumor.)  At Auburn, he could have it all.  

Nevertheless, just two days after the Birmingham newspaper shook the Bulldog Nation, Dooley announced he was staying in Athens.  While most Georgia football followers breathed a sigh of relief, others had been confident all along Dooley wouldn't quit on the team with a chance for a national championship only weeks away.

"I knew he wouldn't leave," said an 18-year-old Herschel Walker.

And the rest, as they say, is history:  Georgia won the national title, Parker promptly retired with Dooley taking over as the school's sole athletic director, while Russell soon became the head coach of a dormant but, apparently, a sleeping giant of a football program in south Georgia.    

What if Vince Dooley had accepted Auburn's offer following the 1980 regular season?

What's certain is Russell would have coached Georgia in the Sugar Bowl and Vince Dooley, not Pat Dye, would've been Auburn's new coach in 1981. 

My guess is Russell would have likely coached the Bulldogs for about as long as he'd eventually coach at Georgia Southern (through 1989) while Eagle football doesn't have nearly the immediate success it achieved while under Erk. 

In only his third season at Auburn, and 26 long years after the Tigers' last conference championship, Pat Dye captured an SEC title and within six seasons, he had won three more.  From 1983-1990, Dye defeated Georgia in seven of eight meetings. 

Among other things, Dye's quick rise to the top had much to do with his ability to successfully recruit the state of Georgia - something Dooley might have also been able to accomplish on the Plains.  

However, as the head coach of Auburn, would Dooley been able to win four SEC titles in a seven-season span and defeat Georgia (with Erk at the helm) on almost an annual basis?

In addition and here's something really to consider...  If Erk takes over for Dooley just prior to the '81 Sugar Bowl, Ray Goff, for several reasons, most likely isn't Georgia's head football coach just eight years later.  And I don't have to remind most of you about the Bulldogs' struggles during the Goff era.

Following Dooley's announcement that he'd remain a Bulldog, Russell was quoted as saying, "It's the best thing that could happen."  Erk was undoubtedly correct in regard to the future of football at Georgia Southern and maybe even Auburn.  

Was it the best thing that could have happened to UGA football?  Well, decide for yourself...

July 20, 2010

You don't tug on Superman's cape, You don't spit...

Shortly after I posted my clip from the 1978 Georgia-Georgia Tech thriller, ghostoferkrussell contacted me, asking if the video was from when Tech's Eddie Lee Ivery was injured against the Bulldogs. 

It was the same game; one featuring not your run-of-the-mill football injury.

Evidently, there were some Jacket fans who believed Coach Dooley ordered his Wonderdogs of '78 to perform a "code red" and purposely harm Tech's, at the time, greatest running back in team history.  I had never heard of such controversy and decided to investigate the enemy's accusations. 

Ivery's ankle injury occurs just prior to the four-minute mark of the clip:  

The injured ankle would be detrimental to the Yellow Jackets in 1978. 

Leaving the game in the third quarter, Ivery already had more than 160 yards rushing.  If he had not been forced out with the injury, admittedly, there's a good chance Georgia Tech would have defeated the Bulldogs. 

A little more than three weeks later, Ivery would also miss the Peach Bowl.  Against Purdue, Tech was held to 12 net yards rushing on 33 rushes after averaging more than 200 rushing yards per contest and nearly five yards per rush during the regular season.  Ivery's replacement, Bucky Shamburger, was limited to 20 yards on 13 carries in a 20-point loss to the Boilermakers. 

More than 30 years later, there are still some ticked-off Techies, who adamantly allege Dooley's "Code Red."  As one blog poster stated:
I am not saying we would have beaten Purdue with Eddie Lee, but losing him to the cheap shot in athens took a lot of the wind from the sails. I still suffer from the dry heaves because of that.
From another Jacket poster:
Georgia has a long tradition of thuggery.  Georgia fans threw rocks at Tech players & fans after Tech won the first game of the series in Athens in 1893.  Dooley issued a “Code Red” and a “Bounty” for any player knocking Eddie Lee Ivery out in 1978 enabling Georgia to win 29-28 & this player boasted about it afterwards.
Let me first add that in the 1893 game, the contest's umpire made several questionable calls against Georgia.  Come to find out, he was the brother of Georgia Tech’s trainer.  Also, the Tech squad had several players who did not even attend the school, including a Leonard Wood.  Wood was a 28-year-old lieutenant surgeon in the U.S. Army.

With my team facing such unfairness,  I might have thrown rocks as well.

Although the camera pans away from the play soon after Ivery is tackled, there is no evidence from the video clip of a cheap shot.  After  extensive research, I personally cannot find anything mentioned in a newspaper or the like of a late hit, cheap shot, Code Red, or bounty, and I certainly have never heard of a Bulldog player later boasting about it.

If anyone does know of any evidence, please let me hear from you.

What was evident was the "thuggery" by the Yellow Jackets just three years later in Atlanta.

During the 1981 meeting between the Bulldogs and Jackets, the behavior of the Tech fans in the stands and players prompted Georgia cornerback Dale Williams to say, "They were using their mouth more than their shoulder pads the whole game.  I couldn't believe some of the things that went on out there today."

Safety Steve Kelly added, "You really had to be careful. [Tech] took some unnecessary shots when the play was over."

"On the final drive, [the Yellow Jackets] were spitting on us," said Georgia quarterback Buck Belue.

The rivalry might have been old-fashioned, but clean?

That was the straw that broke the Bulldog's back! With Georgia already drubbing Tech 37-7 late in the game, Dooley, at the request from the team, replaced his reserve offense and reinserted his starters. This included The Man of Steel, who had already called it a day.

"We wanted to cram the ball down their throats, and we did," said Belue. The senior quarterback added that it was the first time he had ever seen the eyes of the normally mild-mannered Walker "light up." 

Nearly three decades after the game, rarely will you hear a Bulldog complain about Tech's undeniable and confirmed, low-rent misconduct from 1981. Instead, you'll hear about Superman's 225 yards and four touchdowns in a 44-7 blowout on the Flats.

July 17, 2010

Just Average ATS

I was with a friend the other day when it was announced Bobby Johnson was stepping down from Vanderbilt.  Upon Johnson's overall record being mentioned, my buddy remarked, "that's the best damn 29 and 66 record there ever was in football," insinuating Johnson and Vanderbilt's reputation to strain their potential. 

My first inclination was to agree with my friend. 

The ex-coach and his Commodores have been perceived by most of the college football public as overachievers, but is this perception valid?  And where has Coach Richt's teams stacked up as far as achieving what was expected from them?

I've been infatuated with point spreads in sports since I was a kid, believing their significance goes far beyond a gambling-related figure.

It's a fairly simple concept...  Let's say Georgia is a 29-point favorite over Louisiana-Lafayette by kickoff of the season opener.  According to the line setters, the betting public, and the tons of money that has been wagered to move the line to where it closes, the Bulldogs should win by around 29 points.  Any scoring margin lower would indicate to me they underachieved; any exceeding margin is an overachievement.

In the eight seasons Johnson was at Vanderbilt (2002-2009), his teams won at exactly a .500 clip - 43-43-3 - against the spread (ATS).  This is evidence to me that, on the whole, Johnson's teams didn't necessarily play above or below but right at their potential.

Since 2002, Georgia has been on an ATS roller coaster, so to speak. Peaks were recording an impressive 10-3 ATS in '02 and 13-5-1 beginning with the upset on the Plains, through the 2007 season, and until the fifth game of the '08 campaign.

However, just as the Bulldogs were rolling against the number, they dipped like they never had before in the nearly four decades of college football point spreads, covering just four of 18 games, beginning with the 2008 'Bama blackout until the Auburn game a year ago.

In the end, the Bulldogs, like most of the SEC, registered an ATS record around .500 from 2002-2009:

1t. Kentucky, 50-42-1
1t. Ole Miss, 50-42-2
3. Auburn, 51-44-1
4. Florida, 53-46-2
5. Georgia 50-47-3
6. Arkansas, 49-47-1
7t. Tennessee, 50-50-2
7t. Vanderbilt, 43-43-3
9. Alabama, 48-50-4
10. LSU, 47-49-5
11. South Carolina, 44-49-2
12. Miss. State, 36-52-1

One might expect that nearly all teams, over a significant stretch of time, would have an ATS record around .500.  This isn't necessarily accurate.  Since 2002, there have been plenty of other FBS teams like Mississippi State, who have played well below what was expected. 

Whereas there have been quite a number of overachieving squads.  The top ATS teams the last eight seasons: Connecticut (54-35-2), Boise State (60-39-1), Ohio State (60-40-1), Iowa (58-39-1), Rutgers (54-38-1), Utah (56-40-1), and Virginia Tech (58-42-1).

To conclude, Bobby Johnson, like Georgia and most every other SEC team, met expectations the last eight seasons but certainly didn't exceed them.  

Perhaps more importantly, if you happen to have been wagering on SEC football the past several years, hopefully you've been  playing against the Bulldogs of StarkVegas.   

July 12, 2010

Game Clinchers Forgotten By Many

My only responsibility was to cover the tight end...I was sent in just to cover him.
- Georgia's DAVID ARCHER following his game-clinching interception against Georgia Tech in 1978

The Flea-flicker against Alabama in 1965 and Appleby-to-Washington versus Florida 10 years later - two plays recognized among the greatest in Georgia football history. 

While these two plays are also considered "game-winning," the 1965 Alabama and 1975 Florida contests were far from over.  After the plays transpired, although it is rarely mentioned, more than three minutes remained in both games - an eternity. 

Following the flea-flicker, Georgia first had to convert a two-point conversion to take an 18-17 lead.  Then the Crimson Tide mounted a drive to the Bulldogs' 26-yard line, only to miss a 42-yard field goal that would have won the game with 14 seconds left.

Following Georgia's 80-yard miracle versus Florida in 1975, the Gators (trailing 10-7) would possess the ball on offense twice, reaching the Bulldogs' 36 and 21-yard lines.  In an attempt to tie the game with only seconds remaining, the latter drive resulted in a 38-yard failed field-goal try.

The 1978 Georgia-Georgia Tech game was a very similar event - an acclaimed Bulldog win remembered primarily because of a great play, coming with still minutes remaining.  What's nearly forgotten is another play - the one that clinched or decided victory.

Trailing 28-21 to the Yellow Jackets, Georgia faced fourth down from Tech's 42-yard line with just under three minutes remaining.  Freshman quarterback Buck Belue passed to Amp Arnold for a touchdown and then the duo hooked up again on an option pitch, scoring the two-point conversion and giving the Bulldogs a 29-28 lead. 

Most Bulldog followers, who can remember 1978 or have seen the great moment-like videos on UGA football, are all too familiar with the "game-winning" Belue-to-Arnold play(s) against the Jackets.  Forgotten by many is what would soon take place...

With 2:05 left and only needing a field goal to win, another newcomer quarterback - Tech's Mike Kelley, drove the Yellow Jackets from their own nine-yard line to Georgia's 37 in just five plays.  After throwing incomplete on first down, Kelley was intercepted by a diving, seldom-used David Archer on the 28-yard line with about a minute remaining.

When I say Archer was seldom-used, that's putting it lightly.

About four months ago, I identified my opinion of Georgia football's all-time One-Hit Wonders, or players who were standouts in their lone season as a Bulldog OR where any contributions came in a single year during a multi-season career.   

David Archer is most likely the truest, One-Play Wonder in the history of Georgia football.  If anybody can think of a better example, I'd certainly like to hear it.

Archer, another freshman, was not only in for his first (and only) play of the game but he was making just his second appearance all year.  Three games before against VMI on Homecoming, Archer was sent in for only a few plays during a 41-3 rout of the Cadets.  Four weeks later and only because Georgia needed more support in its secondary, he was sent in to strictly cover Tech's tight end.  

Archer's sensational interception would turn out to be one of his few plays and the final one as a member of the Bulldogs' varsity.  So, when announcers Al Michaels and Lee Grosscup declared Archer was "only a freshman" making his "first interception of the season," his appearance and play against the Jackets meant much more than that...

Frosh quarterbacks Belue and Kelley would go on to have distinguishable, collegiate careers.  Belue is still arguably one of the top-10 quarterbacks in Bulldog history and the only one to guide the team to an undisputed national title.  The next two times Kelley faced Georgia (1980, 1981), he'd pass for a combined 616 yards and, following his departure from The Flats in 1982, would remain the school's all-time leading passer for nearly a decade.

However, the other star freshman of the 1978 intrastate clash would only see action on Georgia's junior varsity the following season.  After not playing football in 1980, Archer would transfer to West Georgia (playing its first year of organized football since 1958) and start at, of all positions, quarterback for the school.

After a playoff appearance in 1981, Archer would guide the Braves to a Division III National Championship in 1982. 

Even today, David Archer still holds several passing and total offensive records at West Georgia.  While more than 30 years before, his interception as a Bulldog, although forgotten by many, was the game clincher in an affair still considered by some as the most exciting college football game ABC-TV has ever broadcasted.

July 7, 2010

Get the Ball, Part II

The Bulldogs force a turnover in 2009 - a rare occurrence indeed the last two seasons.

The problem in yielding as many points as the Bulldogs' defense did the last two seasons wasn't necessarily that Georgia allowed the opposition to consistently move up and down the field, but rather being inefficient in other aspects of defensive play: penalties, the opposition's field position, and above all, forcing turnovers.

In 2008-2009 combined, Georgia's defense allowed only 325.7 yards per game (6th in SEC) but 25.2 points per game (10th in SEC). Listed is the SEC ranked by yards yielded per game (first parenthesis) followed by the ranking according to points allowed per contest (second parenthesis):

(1) Alabama (2)
(2) Florida (1)
(3) Tennessee (4)
(4) South Carolina (6)
(5) Ole Miss (3)
(6) Georgia (10)
(7) LSU (5)
(8) Vanderbilt (7)
(9) Kentucky (8)
(10) Miss. State (11)
(11) Auburn (9)
(12) Arkansas (12)

It would be expected that rankings for yards yielded and points allowed would nearly parallel one another since, for the most part, the two go hand in hand. And for 11 of the conference's 12 teams, the rankings are similar. The one exception is Georgia, and the primary reason for the discrepancy between rankings was the Bulldogs' inability to force turnovers.

A year ago, I posted that in order for Georgia to be successful in the 2009 season, it would have to force many more turnovers than the Bulldogs did in 2008 (16).  Last season, Georgia would actually gain less (12) and the Dawgs recorded their worst season in 13 years.

Some quick math reveals that Georgia has forced only 28 turnovers the last two seasons combined.  To give you an idea of how inconceivably low that total is, consider:

* From 2002 through 2007, Georgia averaged 27 turnovers gained per season.

* The 1.08 turnovers forced per game in 2008-2009 is by far the lowest two-season average in UGA history since official statistics began being kept 64 years ago.  Notably, four of the Bulldogs' five lowest two-year turnover averages since 1946 have transpired during the last six seasons:  

1.08 (2008-2009)
1.62 (2007-2008)
1.77 (2003-2004)
1.84 (2004-2005)
1.86 (1995-1996)

* The 1.08 turnovers forced by the Bulldogs ranked dead last (tied with Fresno State) of the 120 teams in the FBS.

Excluding Georgia, there were only 10 other FBS teams who forced only 35 turnovers or less in 2008-2009.  These teams combined for a record of just 74-171 (.302) while just one of the 10 (Fresno State) had a winning record.  The fact the Bulldogs registered an 18-8 (.692) mark during 2008-2009 while forcing just 28 turnovers reveals how proficient the Bulldogs were in other facets of the game aside from gaining turnovers.  

Georgia's lack of gaining turnovers could translate to a reversal of fortune in the near future.

I am one who believes in the law of averages.  If the Bulldogs forced an average of 27 turnovers per year over a six-season span, only to gain 16 and 12 respectively in consecutive seasons, a forthcoming increase in forced turnovers is due to occur and soon.

Of course, the law of averages isn't a certainty with everything related to Bulldog football.  Case in point: Georgia's results against Florida the last two decades.

Some in the media feel that a weakness for Georgia in 2010, along with a new defensive coordinator and scheme, will be the fact the Bulldogs were atrocious on defense last year.  The defense wasn't exactly "atrocious," as the Orlando Sentinel labels it.  As I've described, it primarily just had a really difficult time forcing turnovers.

I feel the new 3-4 scheme coached by an aggressive, fiery defensive coordinator in Todd Grantham should alone improve the Bulldogs on the defensive side of the ball compared to the previous two seasons.  Nevertheless, the Georgia defense will need to exhibit something we haven't seen from it since 2007 - getting the ball.

So, I'll try this again...

In order for Georgia to be successful in the 2010 campaign, it will need to force many more turnovers than it did in 2008 and 2009.

This time around, I believe the Bulldogs can finally reverse their recent and hindering lack of turnovers trend.

July 6, 2010

Are You the Smartest?

I wanted to give a plug to a game I have really enjoyed since I began playing last November.  The great thing about The Smartest Bulldog is that you earn points for just playing, which eventually can be redeemed for great prizes

I have a friend who knows very little about the history of and current news on UGA athletics; however, she recently had earned enough points to receive a Smartest Bulldog T-Shirt in the mail.  It's FREE to play; just sign up at the site.

The good folks at Smartfolks have recently launched six new games for other schools:

So, if you're a Bulldog backer or have any Tiger, Tide, Gator, 'Nole, Jacket, or 'Cock friends, spread the word about the game and let's see who is the smartest...

July 3, 2010


I try to be a little different than other UGA sports blogs, posting almost exclusively from a historical perspective.  So, when the Damon Evans issue arose, I initially wasn't going to touch on it.  There are plenty of other excellent blogs out there posting all details and their opinions.  However, since receiving a few inquiring emails from readers, I decided to post my thoughts (albeit brief). 

When commenting on the matter, a revered friend of mine indicated that the "old version" of him would have been outraged with the news and would have railed Damon: how could he do this to himself, to my university, to my athletic program, etc.  Due to past experiences in life, my friend has since changed his tune, so to speak, and now can sum up his feelings on the matter in merely a couple of words: how sad...

My thoughts exactly. 

I have a nine-month-old daughter and three-year-old son and I've already instilled in my oldest that there is NOTHING more important than family.

No matter what my opinion is of Damon Evans, what he did, if he should be fired, his reflection upon my alma mater, etc., my first and primary thoughts are of his poor wife and two children.  How sad it must be for them, currently and forever dealing with the actions of their husband and father.
I hope and pray that they, first and foremost, can eventually find some sort of peace in the distress brought upon by this unfortunate incident.