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November 12, 2010

Miracles on the Plains

It's common knowledge among Bulldog backers that Georgia has been quite successful in the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry when playing on the Plains.  Since 1966, the Bulldogs are 13-7-2 at Auburn.  But what's even more impressive is what has transpired when the odds have been really stacked against the Dogs. 

During the same time period, Georgia has an astonishing record of 4-1-1 at Auburn when designated as a decided underdog of 10 points or more.  In fact, since 1970, five of the Bulldogs' nine biggest upsets - a Georgia win or tie, coming as a 10-point underdog or more - have occurred in the Tigers' own backyard.

Of the Bulldogs' five major upsets at Auburn during the last 40 years - 1970, 1986, 1994, 1996, and 2006 - here is my, along with a number of dampened Dawg fans', most memorable miracle on the Plains (which is in unfortunately VERY poor quality and minus Steve Boswell's game-clinching interception and Jordan-Hare Stadium turning on its water hoses):

1986: GEORGIA- 20 (6-3 record, 10.5-point underdog)
AUBURN- 16 (8-1 record, No. 8 ranking)

I go into greater detail about this upset in my GREAT but OBSCURE game series posted roughly a year and a half ago...

To me, what's so noteworthy about the 1986 miracle is Georgia would have been an even bigger underdog - much more than 10.5 points - if the "line setters" were aware that little-used, sophomore Wayne Johnson, who had thrown all of four passes that season, was replacing starting quarterback James Jackson. 

In what would be the Bulldogs lone victory over the Tigers in an eight-game span (1983-1990), Johnson was the star, completing 6 of 7 passes while responsible for both Georgia touchdowns.

1970: GEORGIA- 31 (4-4 record, 20-point underdog)
AUBURN- 17 (7-1 record, No. 8 ranking)
The biggest of the five upsets at Auburn, the 1970 meeting matched a Bulldogs team - who, with Georgia Tech looming, was looking at a certain losing season - against a Tigers squad - who was dreaming of the possibility of playing for a national championship.  

Georgia's Ricky Lake, the eventual SEC Sophomore of the Year, rushed for nearly 100 yards and two touchdowns.  Auburn's Pat Sullivan, one year shy of bringing home the Heisman, passed for 320 yards but threw no touchdowns and committed three costly turnovers - two interceptions and a fumble.  This shocking victory was also part of my GREAT but OBSCURE series...

1994: GEORGIA- 23 (5-4 record, 12.5-point underdog)
AUBURN- 23 (9-0 record, No. 3 ranking)
This upset might not have been a victory but it sure did seem like one, and certainly was a much better experience than kissing your sister...  The Tigers had won 20 games in a row and had a 23-9 lead late in the third quarter until Eric Zeier tied the contest with two touchdown passes.

The draw was the highlight of an otherwise disappointing season - one featuring a one-point loss at Alabama, a setback on Homecoming to Vanderbilt, and a 38-point blowout loss to Florida in Gainesville.

The main features of Georgia's celebrated tie were 113 yards rushing by Terrell Davis and Auburn's Matt Hawkins' two missed kicks - an early PAT attempt that was blocked by Phillip Daniels and a 44-yard field-goal try that just missed wide with 13 seconds remaining.

1996: GEORGIA- 56 (3-5 record, 10-point underdog)
AUBURN- 49 (7-2 record, No. 20 ranking)
The 100th meeting of the old rivalry was also the first ever overtime game in SEC football history; the Bulldogs certainly had to rally to get to the extra periods.

Trailing 28-7 in the second quarter, Georgia slowly but surely began its comeback.  Down 28-21 with one second remaining in the game, quarterback Mike Bobo completed a miraculous 30-yard touchdown to Corey Allen, forcing overtime.  Three Robert Edwards' touchdowns and four overtimes later, the Bulldogs had prevailed 56-49, capturing their first win over an AP-ranked opponent in 15 tries since their 1992 bowl game.

Notably, Georgia's top two standouts - Bobo (360 passing yards on 37 attempts, 0 interceptions) and Edwards - had both been originally benched for turnovers, sitting out the first quarter and a half of the ballgame.

2006: GEORGIA- 37 (6-4 record, 11.5-point underdog)
AUBURN- 15 (9-1 record, No. 5 ranking)
Similarly to the game from more than a quarter-century before in '70, Georgia - losers of four of its previous five games - was seemingly in a downward spiral while Auburn still had hopes of a national title.

It was arguably quarterback Matthew Stafford's best game as a Bulldog of an eventual brilliant, three-season career.  The true freshman had his coming-out party on the Plains, throwing for 219 yards and a touchdown on 14 of 20 passing and rushing for 83 yards (the most by a Georgia quarterback in eight seasons) and a touchdown on seven carries.

Kregg Lumpkin's 105 rushing yards and Tra Battle's three first-half interceptions - one returned for score - were also huge contributions in the 22-point victory that was really never in question.  To date, the win is just the second for Georgia against AP top-five teams in more than 25 years


Anonymous said...

Garbin...I may still have a T-shirt that Bama fans produced after the '86 game. It reads "If you can't beat 'em, hose 'em"


Patrick Garbin said...

That's definitely a keeper (and one old t-shirt)...I may need to borrow it from you sometime.