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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.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for bringing back old memories. I remember this game as if I saw it yesterday. I look forward to viewing more of these exciting moments from the past. Keep them coming! I get tired reading blogs that are essentially talking about the same current happenings.
Old Dawg

Anonymous said...

Coach Dooley has often spoke of Billy Cloer - a 150-lb player who played for only one season (1965, I think) and barely. He reccovered an onside kick vs. UNC that year in the 4Q with GA down a point. It was a big play in a big win by a guy who would never be heard of agsin in GA fball history.