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August 31, 2010

A Fine Replacement

The 2010 Georgia football season kicks off in just four days.  Whenever I think of season-opening games in Athens, I cannot help but to recall one of my first attended, most memorable, and favorite season openers at home for Bulldogs football.

I recently posted on Amp Arnold - a Hometown Hero of Georgia football - but perhaps the best example of hometown Bulldog heroics, particularly in a season opener, is Athens' own, Charlie Dean.

Dean started in the defensive backfield as a sophomore in high school on Clarke Central's state championship team of 1977.  Two years later, Coach Billy Henderson had moved him to quarterback, where he guided the Gladiators to their second state championship in three years with Dean picking up All-State honors along the way.

Upon arriving to UGA, Dean was moved back to his old position and would play sparingly over his first three years as a Bulldog, recording just 10 combined tackles in 1981-1982 after playing exclusively on the JV squad during Georgia's national championship season of 1980. 

Dean would finally get his big break, but it would come at the expense of  Bulldog standout Jeff Sanchez in the form of a broken arm.

During spring practice of 1983, Sanchez - an All-SEC safety in 1982 - closed in on tailback Melvin Simmons, who was running a toss sweep during a scrimmage.  Sanchez's arm got caught between Simmons' shoulder pads and the helmet of, of all people, Charlie Dean, who was trailing teammate Sanchez for a gang tackle.  Sanchez's arm would break in a collision and he would be forced to miss the entire '83 season.

The player that inadvertently broke Sanchez's arm would ironically be his replacement at Georgia's lone safety position.  Dean would have to take the place of an All-American candidate, who had only one less interception in 1982 (9 - second-most in the nation) than Dean had career tackles.

In being named the "Biggest Defensive Surprise of the Spring," Dean apparently made the most of the unforeseen opportunity, at first.  However, during summer practices, Dean's performance slipped and Coach Dooley momentarily thought of dropping him from the first team to make room in the defensive backfield for an even more inexperienced Gary Moss, who had to yet to a play a down on the Bulldogs' varsity.

Georgia had already lost the great Herschel Walker to the pros and now its unsettled defense - a unit that returned just four starters following Sanchez's injury and a suspension handed down to Stan Dooley - was forced to face a pass-happy, defending Rose Bowl champion UCLA team in the opener at Sanford Stadium.

In an ugly game, which featured a sporadic, driving rain, a 12-0 second-quarter lead for the Bulldogs was only 12-6 with just over two minutes remaining and with the Bruins knocking on the door inside Georgia's 10-yard line.  The Dogs forced UCLA to turn the ball over on downs and it appeared Georgia had escaped with a victory.  But the Bruins weren't finished yet.

Unable to move the ball from deep in their own territory, the Bulldogs were forced to punt after just three plays and took an intentional safety so not to give UCLA good field position.  Nevertheless, behind the direction of quarterback Rick Neuheisel, the Bruins soon were in great position at Georgia's 31-yard line with 33 seconds left.

Then Charlie Dean came to the rescue.

Neuheisel first looked to throw deep but couldn't find anyone open, which seems almost inconceivable since Georgia's game-clinching play came with only 10 Bulldogs on the field.  So, the future NCAA Basketball Tournament pool participant decided to pass short instead for his tight end, Paul Bergman.

Dean may have been somewhat inexperienced to big-time football but he knew enough to bait Neuheisel by laying off Bergman, and just as the quarterback threw, Dean closed in and made a big-time play.

By the way, why does Dean get credit for only a 69-yard return?  It's always been recognized as a 69-yarder and listed that way in Georgia's records.  While the play was from the 31-yard line, Dean intercepts the pass at his 26 (maybe the 27), returning it for a 74-yard return.  I always thought an interception return starts from the actual return, not the original line of scrimmage.  Am I missing something here?  But I regress... 

You gotta love what Keith Jackson says (almost as much as Coach Dooley's red Gilligan hat) soon after Dean's 69- or 74-yard return: "The hometown boy does it... Charlie Dean...a senior from Athens, Georgia."      

The hometown boy did finally do it as a Bulldog, and how.

August 29, 2010

Only Because You Asked...

My newest book on Bulldogs football - Historic Photos of University of Georgia Football - is being released early this week.  Since, and only because, a couple of readers emailed me, asking for information about the book, I'm posting its ordering details.

First off, the book is exactly what the title entails - 200+ archived photographs of UGA football, spanning from 1892 through, appropriately so, the 1980 season.  My writing primarily consists of only a few short chapters and extended captions for all photos; the photo-heavy book is certainly one for the coffee table.

You can find the book's sales sheet HERE and there is also some information about it at my WEBSITE.

So, if interested, you can visit your local bookstore and find it for $40.  Or, you can order from me at a bit of a discount for just $29 (plus $3 if I ship it).  If you so desire, I'll even sign it free of charge.

Please email book@patrickgarbin.com for any requests.

By the way, it makes a great, um, Georgia Football Season Opener gift for all the Bulldogs in your life... 

August 25, 2010

My God, a Freshman!

In great anticipation of the 2010 football season kicking off in just a little over a week, I wanted to post video from arguably the most memorable (for several reasons) season-opening game in Georgia football history.

Most of us have heard countless times Larry Munson's version of Herschel Walker's first touchdown.  However, until a friend sent me the video, I had never heard a different version, in particular, by an opposing announcer.  (I'm pretty sure that's Tennessee's John Ward narrating the clip for some type of UT football highlights reel/show.)

I'm putting Herschel in...Don't be afraid to let him carry the ball.
- Coach Vince Dooley to offensive coordinator George Haffner in the second quarter of the 1980 Tennessee game

Talk with most any Bulldog fan who attended that game in Knoxville 30 years ago and they'll usually mention two things: 1) Seeing Herschel Walker for the first time and 2) how dadgum hot it was that night in Neyland. 

Although the official gametime temperature was 87 degrees at kickoff, because of the humidity, it supposedly felt like triple digits.  As one of my relatives recalls, "I felt like I was literally sitting in fire... and when it was 15-to-nothing, they were the flames of Hell!" 

It sure didn't help (and I'm sure you've heard this from some of those that were in attendance) that the stadium's concessions apparently ran out of ice that night.  At some point, the only Coca-Colas to drink were ones straight up.

Everyone recalls Bill Bates getting bulldozed by Herschel but it was also Bates who fumbled the Bulldog punt, leading to the craziest, most hard-earned two points most will ever witness.  Walker's first touchdown is legendary but it was the Georgia safety that was the game changer, swinging the momentum finally in the Bulldogs' favor.  

The recruitment of Herschel Walker is a story in itself.  An NFL scout suggested that Herschel, besides Earl Campbell six years earlier, was the only high schooler that could have skipped college altogether and played immediately on the professional level.  However, there was one, small question concerning the youngster from Wrightsville...

Herschel had played Class A high school football - the lowest and smallest level in the state.  The average weight of Johnson County's offensive line Walker's senior year was a scant 150 pounds - 60 to 65 pounds less than Herschel weighed.  Could one playing on the Class A level make the transition to big-time, SEC football?

During the freshman's initial practices as a Bulldog, it certainly didn't seem so.  There were some left wondering if Georgia had been fooled by the hype surrounding Walker.  He was far from spectacular in practice, in fact, so average that Coach Dooley believed that instead of a freshman phenom, Georgia might have landed merely a "big, stiff back."

Entering the Tennessee game, it is widely well-known that Herschel was the third-string tailback behind Donnie McMickens and Carnie Norris.  What many don't realize is Walker was nearly the fourth stringer if not for Matt Simon, the team's leading rusher in 1979, suffering a hip pointer in the early summer. 

Few third- or fourth-string true freshmen play as early as the second quarter of their first game, like Walker did.  Dooley has always claimed he put Herschel in the game simply on "instinct."  Maybe, but part of the coach's instinct may have been McMickens and Norris combining for only 39 yards on 12 carries coupled with a 9-0 deficit.  

Early on, there were flashes of Herschel being a suitable player: a couple of good runs, a nine-yard reception, an alert recovery of a teammate's fumble, but nothing that affirmed he was ready to start at tailback, much more, carry the Bulldogs' offense.  That is, until he plowed through Bates and split two other would-be tacklers on into the end zone.

Following Herschel's touchdown, running backs coach Mike Cavan - the  assistant primarily in charge of the recruitment of Walker - declared, "I don't want to hear anything else about Class A football."

On a team with several concerns, its star recruit had suddenly answered a few questions of some of the critics. This freshman was undoubtedly special, playing on a team that would turn out to be the program's most special of them all.

One thing was especially clear: There was no question that Georgia had a new, first-string tailback.

August 21, 2010

A Peculiar Poll Position

Georgia football is in a preseason position it hasn't been in since not long after the above hiring.  (Photo: GeorgiaDogs.com)

The AP Poll was just released and the Bulldogs find themselves at an unfamiliar standing, ranking towards the bottom of the preseason poll.  Georgia's number-23 ranking is its lowest since the 2001 season when the Bulldogs entered Coach Richt's first year unranked.  Nevertheless, don't fret Dawg fans; Georgia football has a long history of its preseason ranking having little to no similarity to its final position in the AP Poll.

It all started 50 years ago...  The Bulldogs were coming off an SEC championship season of 1959 and a No. 5 national ranking - their first AP final poll appearance in 11 seasons.  Returning most of its team, including Fran Tarkenton and All-American Pat Dye, Georgia was positioned at 13th by the Associated Press pollsters.  It was the first time the Bulldogs were preseason ranked since the AP first released preseason rankings in 1950.

En route to a disappointing 6-4 season, a favored Georgia team dropped its season opener to Bear Bryant's third Alabama squad by 15 points, falling out of the poll where it remained unranked for the next five-plus years. 

After three final poll appearances after not being ranked in the preseason (1959, 1966, 1968) and three times ranked in the preseason but not finishing in the rankings (1960, 1967, 1969), in 1971, Georgia started (18th) and ended (7th) the same season ranked for the first time.  However, there has been much inconsistency between where the Bulldogs began and finished many of their seasons as it relates to rankings. 

The 1975 Bulldogs were suppose to be even worse than the six-loss team from the year before, but led by a "Junkyard Dogs" defense, Georgia won nine games and achieved a top-20 ranking.  The 1978 team was forecasted to be dreadful; one media outlet predicted Georgia's game with Vanderbilt that year would decide who was the ninth-best team in the 10-member conference.  Instead, the "Wonderdogs" shocked the nation, recording a 9-1-1 regular-season mark and an eventual No. 16 final ranking.

Georgia's national championship team of 1980 started off ranked only 16th.  Of course, few writers knew how much an impact a freshman from Wrightsville would have.  In fact, during the Bulldogs' historic run from 1980-1983, their average ranking in the preseason was 12th but they finished higher in  each of the four seasons, averaging a ranking of better than 4th.

Recently, in five of Coach Richt's first seven seasons, the Bulldogs exceeded their AP Poll expectations.  Notwithstanding, the last two years have been disappointments, ranking No. 1 in the preseason two years ago and 13th last season, only to finish 13th in 2008 and not ranked at all last year.

In the distant past, there were other unfortunate letdowns: The 1977 Bulldogs returned two backs - Kevin McLee and Willie McClendon - from the '76 SEC title team, who would finish their careers ranked first and third in rushing at the school, and three other players recognized as All-Americans, but the team handed Coach Dooley his only losing season in 25 years.  Of course, no one imagined the '77 Dogs, who were preseason ranked 19th by the AP, would lose a school-record 35 fumbles and end their season playing a quarterback who was the sixth-stringer in summer practices.

In 2000, Jim Donnan made the infamous quote: “I’ve been waiting 55 years to be the head coach of a football team that has this much potential, and I guarantee you that we’re going to get it done.”  The AP writers seemingly agreed with the coach, ranking the Bulldogs 10th in the nation.  What followed was a four-loss campaign, a number-20 final ranking, and Donnan losing his job. 

Three other Georgia teams - 1969, 1979, 1993 - started their seasons ranked 13th or better only to finish unranked and with a record of 6-5 or worse.

So, how does Georgia's varying beginning and ending rankings from past seasons relate to the current Bulldogs that kick off in two weeks?  Probably very little, if at all.  But, for those who might be feeling somewhat down regarding the lowly 23rd ranking, perhaps, here's a little comfort:

Besides the fact that Georgia has finished eight seasons in the AP Poll when they weren't ranked in the preseason...  Of the seven seasons the Bulldogs were preseason ranked from 16th to 25th, they actually finished ranked higher in five of the seven years.

A few months ago, I showed that Georgia returning only a handful of starters on defense - something the media has pointed out ad nauseam - has no real historical significance.  Now, it also appears that media members, at least those that have voted in the preseason AP Poll, historically have had a difficult time assessing the Bulldogs in the preseason. 

Let's hope this is the case for 2010 as well.

August 16, 2010

When the Butler Did It (the first time)

A couple months ago, I posted a video clip from Georgia's 1985 game at Clemson and commented on the bitter hatred that existed in this one-time, preeminent Bulldog football rivalry. 

Just two years prior, the same two teams had met in the same Valley, but the game was most unlike the meetings that came before or followed in the series.  The 1983 affair featured a passing Georgia squad, whose running game had been stymied, and an unusual finish  involving a duel of mile-long field-goal attempts, ending in a tie game - a result that seemed to shockingly cease much of the aforementioned hatred, that is, momentarily.

When I get home, I'm going to French kiss my sister, and I don't even have one.
- a UGA grad following the Bulldogs' 16-16 tie in Death Valley

Entering the 1983 Georgia-Clemson contest, the 11th-ranked Bulldogs were fresh off a thrilling win over UCLA and were actually a slight favorite to defeat the Tigers in their own backyard. 

Clemson was on probation - the reason the game was televised by Raycom/ESPN on a tape-delay basis - and had lost to Boston College by 15 points the week before.  These Tigers seemed far separated from the ones that had won the 1981 national championship while handing Georgia its only regular-season loss from 1980-1982.

Some details of the game can be found in a great post by Kyle King a while back.  In a nutshell, a 6-0 Bulldog lead in the second stanza suddenly was a 16-6 Georgia deficit only a quarter later.  Clemson's 10-point lead should have actually been greater but two Terry Hoage blocked field goals kept the Dogs reasonably close.

As one would imagine, the Bulldogs sorely missed Herschel Walker.  Georgia averaged a lowly 2.9 yards per rush in its first two games of 1983 while its 299 combined rushing yards against UCLA and Clemson were the team's lowest in consecutive games during a season since the second and third games of 1979.

Trailing by 10 points with a struggling running game, the Bulldogs were forced to throw the football.  Coach Dooley promptly benched senior quarterback John Lastinger in favor of an inexperienced Todd Williams - a sophomore who entered the year having attempted just seven collegiate passes. 

In the final quarter, the Georgia offense resembled the BYU Cougars of the time, passing on nearly every down.  For the game, Williams completed 11 passes for 169 yards with 10 of those  for 157 yards coming in the fourth quarter alone.  The Bulldogs' 16 completed passes for the game was one of the highest completion totals in school history before the arrival of Eric Zeier eight years later.

Another one for the record books was the 12 combined field-goal attempts by the two teams (each made 3 of 6 attempts), which was an NCAA record for more than 23 years until 2006.  The final two of the 12 tries came in an unconventional ending of Clemson's Donald Igwebuike failing on a 68-yard game-winning attempt, Georgia flipping the field, and then the Bulldogs' Kevin Butler missing a 66-yard attempt - all occurring in the final seven seconds of the game. 

Butler missed only five field goal tries the entire 1983 regular season, three of which came against the Tigers.  Nevertheless, he made his most important attempt - the game-tying 31-yarder, capping a tremendous Bulldog rally for the 16-all draw.  As Kyle posted, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution declared the next day, "The Butler did it," a year and five days before the Bulldog kicker would really do in the Tigers.

Soon afterwards, a newspaper article indicated, because of the non-decisive outcome between the opposing teams, there was surprisingly an apparent lack of animosity between opposing fans.

"Clemson fans were nicer today they've ever been," said one Bulldog fan.  "We got more static from Tech people at the Simon and Garfunkel concert at Grant Field this summer," stated another.

At eight-years old, I personally remember having a rather difficult time dealing with the tie to the hated Tigers...almost as much of a struggle as the kid towards the end of the video, attempting to get Danny Ford's autograph.  Remember, Georgia had kicked off each of its last three January 1st bowls with a chance at a national championship. 

How are we going to play for a national title, I recall wondering, when we can't even beat a team that lost to Boston College.

Despite my pessimism and color-man Kevin Kiley's belief that the draw was a "setback" for Georgia, the Bulldogs would do just fine in 1983.  There would be no championship but achieved was a 10-1-1 mark, a Cotton Bowl victory, and a number-four national ranking for one of my, and many other Bulldog fans', favorite Georgia teams.

Remembering the '83 Bulldogs, I have to ask, what time is it in Texas?

August 12, 2010

Just Win, Baby!

Welcome to the Nutt House, Jeremiah Masoli!

Not long after SI's Stewart Mandel wrote an article on Ole Miss' Nutt being "dirty," I was asked by Covers to write a piece on other filthy college head football coaches - those, like Nutt, that have proved they'll do anything for a victory.

You can read my story HERE.

Since researching and writing the article, my appreciation for Coach Richt has grown even further.  For those that want Richt's head following an occasional eight- or nine-win season, remember, Georgia's football program could be much, much worse off.

August 7, 2010

I'll Buy That For A Dollar

Only an early touchdown favorite in Boulder?

I recently received Phil Steele/Northcoast Sports' latest edition of the Power Sweep newsletter in the mail.  Not that I wasn't ready for football season to start but when I see that lines have already been set for most of Georgia's 12 upcoming games, the 2010 season cannot kickoff fast enough.

Nearly two months ago, I posted the Golden Nugget Casino's "Games of the Year," five of which featured GeorgiaPower Sweep lists the Las Vegas Hilton's "Marquee College Game Matchups," which include the Nugget's five Bulldog games plus two more.

Some thoughts on Georgia's early, seven-lined games for 2010:

Georgia being a slight favorite in Columbia confirms what I forecasted in February when looking over the 2010 schedule: If the Bulldogs were to play any of their opponents today, they would be favored in all but two (Florida, Auburn) games.  However, I knew the South Carolina line would be extremely close to even. 

Regardless of the point spread, this game's total is something to consider.  Prior to last season, for 11 consecutive years, Georgia and South Carolina combined to score 38 points or less.  With a freshman signal caller playing on the road, yet another defensive struggle is a very good possibility.    

A friend and I were just discussing how we could see this year's Arkansas being last season's Ole Miss: highly-touted with seemingly lots of promise, while possessing a Heisman-candidate quarterback but, in the end, they wind up with the exact same record as the year before.  The Razorbacks had eight victories a year ago and I feel they'll probably win around the same in 2010.

As I blogged back in June, this team has been dreadful at opponents' home stadiums the last two years.  In 2009, quarterback Ryan Mallett was especially awful in away games.  When they face Georgia, the Razorbacks will be riding a seven-game losing streak in away games.  They should leave Athens having dropped eight in a row, losing to the Bulldogs by at least 10.

After taking nearly a week off and dropping some serious coin to go watch Georgia in Boulder, the Bulldogs better not make me distressed over a touchdown or less game, especially to a team that has won just five of its last 21.  I expect this line to be in the double digits by kickoff. 

Whoa, that's a lot of points!  Even more puzzling is that the Nugget had Georgia as just a 7-point favorite.  The last two times the Bulldogs were a 12 to 13-point favorite over the Volunteers, Georgia was upset at home in 2004 and four years later, a bad Tennessee team with Nick Stephens at quarterback gave us a scare.  When facing the Vols, more than 10 points is too much for the Dogs to give, no matter the caliber of the two squads.

As I mentioned in my previous post, for several reasons, as long as this spread is at 7 or less, I wouldn't touch it if I was a Dawg fan.  Now, if Georgia was a 7.5-point underdog or more...

If I was to point to the game on the schedule I'm scared of the most, it's this one.  Playing on the Plains with a four-game winning streak in the series won't be easy.  Perhaps unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the SEC East title may be on the line with this game's result. 

No way we lose to the Techies twice in a row Between the Hedges.  Of course, I said the same thing back in 2000.  Richt should improve to 9-1 against the Jackets; whether the victory will be by more than four points is anyone's guess.

Other Georgia-related odds listed in the current Power Sweep: The Bulldogs are 13:2 to win the SEC (fourth-highest in conference) and 40:1 to win the BCS Championship Game (tied for 16th-highest in nation, including a 15:1 "Field").  Speaking of the national championship...

Besides putting out the very best college football preview magazine, Steele is also known for being a rather proficient pigskin prognosticator.  He favors nine OVER win totals (the top two being Auburn and Miami (FL) OVER 8.5 wins) and seven odds on teams to win the national title (Oklahoma at 7:1 being his favorite).  Steele's college football future bets returned 73% on the initial investment a year ago. 

Georgia is one of Steele's recommended national championship future bets for this season, indicating if he had $10K to spend, $100 would be placed on the Bulldogs (at 40:1) to win the BCS title.

If Georgia is fortunate enough to reach the championship game, I, like many Bulldog followers, would gladly take time off work, plunk down some serious cash, and head out West like we had three months earlier for Boulder.  For a trip to Glendale, AZ, however, I wouldn't mind sweating out a Georgia victory of a touchdown or less.

August 2, 2010

Hometown Hero

A few days ago, I saw where Bernie's Dawg Blawg posted a piece on Anthony "Amp" Arnold and I wanted to post a follow-up of sorts. 

Like Bernie, I too grew up in Athens, so I tend to follow more closely Bulldogs from the Classic City.  Also, I've blogged about freshman David Archer's interception and Eddie Lee Ivery's injury from the '78 Tech game, the least I can do is post video of Arnold's game-winning touchdown and two-point conversion.

I looked up and here came the ball. All I had to do was catch it and cruise.

- Amp Arnold

Amp was an extraordinary quarterback at Cedar Shoals High but was immediately switched to wide receiver when he came to UGA in 1977.  A tremendous athlete, Arnold was also recruited by Louisville to play basketball.

Entering his freshman year, Arnold stood at 6' 0", 170 pounds and could flat out fly, running a 4.4-40.  Charlie Whittemore, the Bulldogs' receivers coach from 1978-1990, said he was the quickest receiver he ever coached.  That's saying a lot, considering the speedsters under Whittemore: Lindsay Scott, Chuck Jones, "Fast" Freddie Lane, Cassius Osborn, Arthur Marshall, Andre Hastings... 

Amp (1977-1980) is one of only a handful of Bulldogs to rank fourth or better at Georgia in receiving for four consecutive seasons, culminating with a team-high 20 catches for the 1980 national champions.  Arnold's 54 career catches (948 yards, 6 TDs) was eighth all-time at the school upon his departure from Georgia while he also added 258 yards and two TDs rushing during his Bulldog career. 

As a sophomore in 1978, Amp exhibited the passing prowess that made him an All-State quarterback in 1976, completing a 44-yard touchdown to Lindsay Scott against Florida - the difference in a 24-22 victory over the Gators.  Three weeks later against Georgia Tech, Arnold would throw the football again, completing a 20-yarder to tailback Matt Simon (announcer Al Michaels mentions the play towards the beginning of the video clip).

Soon thereafter, Arnold would be on the receiving end of a pass - the celebrated 42-yard touchdown from freshman Buck Belue on fourth and three, pulling the Bulldogs within a point of the Yellow Jackets, 28-27.  Arnold would follow that up by taking an option pitch from Belue and waltzing into the end zone for the game-winning points.

As a senior, Arnold and the rest of the Bulldogs faced Notre Dame in the 1981 Sugar Bowl with the possibility of Georgia's first undisputed national championship on the line.

Leading 17-10 with just over two minutes remaining,  the Bulldogs faced a third and seven on the 50-yard line.  Having yet to complete a pass in 12 attempts (Belue 0 for 11, Herschel Walker 0 for 1), Georgia desperately needed a first down and would undoubtedly have to throw the ball to pick it up. 

Arnold caught a short pass from Belue on a rollout, picking up seven yards, barely the first down, and moving the chains.  The Bulldogs could now run out the clock and start their celebration.  

A little more than two years after being part of one of the greatest plays in Georgia football history, Arnold caught his team's lone completion in the program's greatest win.  The seven-yard reception is also arguably one of the most clutch catches in the annals of Bulldog football.

Not a bad way to end a collegiate playing career...