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October 22, 2010

Return to a Onetime Ritual in Lexington

Ask many of the long-time followers of the Bulldogs what their favorite road trip use to be and you'll often hear about the journeys to Lexington to watch Georgia play Kentucky at night.  Georgia fans would watch horse races at Keeneland during the day and their Dogs at Stoll Field, and later Commonwealth Stadium, in a nighttime affair.

From 1965-1996, Georgia played in Lexington 17 times, 14 of which were night games.  Of the three games that were played during the day - 1972, 1984, and 1988 - two would have been played at night if television hadn't interfered and moved the start time.

Since 1996, however, all of the Bulldogs' games at Kentucky have been played during the daytime, that is, until tomorrow night when the teams kickoff under the lights - a return to a onetime, every-other-year ritual for Georgia football and its fans.

There are a handful of memorable plays I recall from the nighttime Dawgs-Cats clashes in Lexington:

Tom Saunders' late fumble recovery securing a 24-20 Georgia win in 1974, [of course] Rex Robinson's last-second field goal to nip the Wildcats four years later, Buck Belue's 91-yard scoring pass to Amp Arnold during the national championship season of '80, Carlos Yancey intercepting a late 'Cat pass in Dog territory for a 34-30 victory in 1994, and Herschel's great run after the catch for a 64-yard touchdown in 1982.  

The '82 meeting was suppose to be anything but a struggle for Georgia.  The Bulldogs entered the game undefeated and ranked third in the country.  The Wildcats, on the other hand, had a winless 0-5-1 record, were averaging merely eight points per game, and were a three-touchdown underdog at home to Georgia.

Early in the second quarter, Kentucky was shocking the Bulldogs by a 14-3 score, having tallied more points in the first 17 minutes of the contest than the Wildcats would in any game that entire season.

And then, as he had done several times before, Herschel saved the day.  His Bulldog teammates rallied as well, scoring 24 unanswered points for a 27-14 win.

"Who knows," offered Georgia offensive line coach Alex Gibbs following the victory, "this is just a crazy football team."  Indeed, it was a crazy football team, that got a scare in Lexington by a dreadful squad, but would eventually be playing for a national title a little over two months later.

It wasn't the first scariness or craziness a Bulldog coaching staff had to endure on an excursion to Kentucky.  

Immediately after the 1974 team's chartered plane from Atlanta landed in Lexington, the FBI and the airport's bomb squad quickly boarded the airplane.

In mid-flight, apparently renowned defensive coordinator Erk Russell went to relieve himself.  However, the coach got much more than he bargained for in the bathroom when he observed writing on the mirror, in soap, indicating there was a bomb on the plane.    

Erk promptly alerted the flight staff, who relayed the coach's message to the airport's Blue Grass Field security.

With the passengers still aboard and not allowed to leave the grounded plane, a thorough search was conducted of the vessel and passenger interrogations administered by the FBI. 

Regardless, no one in the traveling Bulldog party or anyone else confessed then or has since of scribbling the threat, "There is a bom on this airplain"... and I don't blame them. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i thought i'd heard most Erk Russell stories but that might be one of the fuunniest--wouldn't u know that Erk would be involved in something like that??? hilarious. Great video too--can watch Herschel all day!