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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?


Anonymous said...

The time, in Texas, is the same as the time in Florida (at least for the 1983 Dogs).

Anonymous said...

And I have to answer... in Texas, the time will always be 10-to-9.

Tex Noel said...


(From your post)...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.

Remember that the 1980 the Dawgs were 12-0-0 and the National Champions.

vs Clemson:
1980 UGA 20-16, game 3
1981 UGA 3-13, game 3*
1982 UGA 13-7, game 1

*Clemson's National Championship Season.

And which school has been #1 the most???

Time in Texas---it's football time!!