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October 29, 2010

99 Yards to a Sixth Straight Win Over the Gators

I probably would have gone and jumped off that bridge (over the St. John's River) if [Florida] had...won.
- Bulldog QB John Lastinger following Georgia's 10-9 victory over the Gators in 1983

There are a handful of notable 90-plus-yard scoring drives of 10-plus plays in Georgia football history (including a game-winning one against Florida in 1981), but none are probably more meaningful or significant than the 16-play, 99-yard touchdown drive that defeated the Gators in 1983.

The game was of the utmost importance: Georgia and Florida were meeting for only the second time in history both ranked in the AP's top ten, plus, the rival teams were battling, along with Auburn, for the top spot in the SEC.

Underdogs for the first time in a regular-season game since Tennessee in 1980, Georgia was anticipated by most to finally fall victim in Jacksonville to the more talented Gators. 

It was reported in a Florida newspaper that Georgia's own Herschel Walker, who had departed for the USFL nine months earlier, had even said the Gators would win.  Come to find out, they probably should have...   

At the time of cornerback Darryl Jones' interception, giving the Bulldogs the ball at their own 1-yard line with 5:44 remaining in the third quarter, Georgia was being outgained 318 to 97 in total yardage but trailed Florida by only six points.

After nearly three quarters of unsatisfactory play (nearly three entire years some would argue), quarterback John Lastinger promptly put on quite a performance in guiding Georgia the entire length of the Gator Bowl field.

What's noteworthy about the long drive is, if you take out the 25-yard Lastinger-to-Clarence Kay pass and the added-on 15-yard penalty, 59 of the 99 yards came on 15 plays (less than an average of four yards per play); a true three yards (or four) and a cloud of dust, smashmouth exhibition that was often characteristic of the Coach Vince Dooley era. 

Also, the Bulldogs converted two of three critical third-down plays during the drive and the one third down that wasn't converted, Georgia picked up the first down on the subsequent fourth-down play. 

Finally, after 16 plays, 99 yards, and 7:26 burned off the clock, Barry Young scored from a yard out with 13:18 remaining in the game.  Kevin Butler's PAT gave Georgia a 10-9 advantage - a lead the Bulldogs would not relinquish.  However, Florida did provide a bit of a late scare...

For the sixth time in the ballgame, the Gators drove inside Georgia's 25-yard line; nonetheless, for the third consecutive trip deep into Bulldog territory, Florida came up empty when kicker Bobby Raymond missed a 41-yard field goal with 9:49 left in the contest.

In the one-point victory, the undistinguished Lastinger was suddenly celebrated as he was voted the team's MVP of the game, despite gaining just 104 yards of total offense (55 passing, 49 rushing) on 30 plays - a paltry 3.5 yards-per-play average.  Disregard "the drive" and the senior quarterback's figures - 47 yards on 23 plays, 2.0 average - are near horrifying.

But, for anyone who remembers John Lastinger, you'll recall his passing skills, or statistics, would never be confused with those of Bulldog greats Eric Zeier, David Greene, or Matthew Stafford; his versatility nowhere comparable to a Quincy Carter, D.J. Shockley, or Aaron Murray.

However, as he would exhibit a second time (by the exact same score) a little less than two months later, Lastinger was able to accomplish what counted the most - simply win ballgames, including a perfect twice in two tries against the rival Gators.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i was there. you should post the video of the smoke bomb that was thrown on the field towards the end of the game.