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June 24, 2011

Dawg-Gone Goal Posts

I'm not sure exactly how, but yesterday my wife and I got on the subject of the 2000 Tennessee game - the night the goal posts went down in Georgia.  Certain of my response, she jokingly asked if I had been one of the celebratory fans to run onto the field after (or even during) the game (we didn't know one another at the time).

After I incessantly went on and on about the total disregard and disrespect displayed by fans that night for our stadium, players, and tradition, I asked "Why?!?  Did you run onto the field?"

My wife promptly replied that she had actually helped bring down one of the goal posts...she was kidding. 

"No," she answered sincerely, "but if I had been a few years younger and still a student...maybe I would have gone out there."

Until I viewed the 2000 Georgia-Tennessee game this morning for the first time in nearly 11 years, I had forgotten how frenzied and electric Sanford Stadium was that night... (and that an official got hit in the head by a football):

Recalling the past, I could almost see how a jubilant UGA student might have had the urge to tear down a goal post, or two...  He or she had probably been in elementary school the last time Georgia had not only defeated Tennessee (1988), but also beat a ranked team in Sanford Stadium (1991- Clemson). 

Furthermore, it seemed the rage in college football at that time was to tear down goal posts.  The local newspapers didn't help the stadium's cause the week of the game, running stories in wonder if the goal posts would come down upon a Georgia victory.

The teardown of 2000 was the first (and last) time goal posts had been brought down in Sanford Stadium.  Apparently, it nearly had initially happened after the Bulldogs' momentous 21-0 win over Alabama in 1976, but as Coach Dooley said years later, "[Some fans] got one [post] part of the way down and we asked them to stop.  They did."

Before 2000, Georgia enthusiasts had somewhat a history of bringing down goal posts; however, they simply just didn't do it, or allow it, in their own house.

Gator Bowl teardown of '76
Five weeks following the failed Alabama attempt, The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party spilled into the Gator Bowl's end zones as Dog fans tore down both goal posts after Georgia's 41-27 comeback victory over Florida in 1976.  It was thought to be the first time the Jacksonville stadium's posts had ever been dismantled and would eventually cost the Gator Bowl $2,695 for a couple new ones.

A high school football game played at the stadium following the Bulldogs' victory over the Gators was forced to use a single makeshift structure as a goal post.

Nine years later after Georgia defeated No. 1-ranked Florida in 1985, Dawg fans attempted to do the very same destruction to the Gator Bowl but were met by approximately 250 of Jacksonville's finest wielding night sticks.

The police arrested six on the field attempting to bring down the goal posts - four of the six, according to the Jacksonville police, were "highly intoxicated."  What were the other two thinking?!?

In 1931, Georgia upset New York University 7-6 at Yankee Stadium in front of 63,000 spectators.  Although the Bulldog supporters might have been small in number, they were colossal in spirit as they tore down both goal posts in the home team's own backyard.

Following the victory, parts of the Yankee Stadium posts actually rode back with the Georgia players on the team train.  In addition (and so the story goes), pieces of the goal posts had made their way out onto the street outside the stadium.  A particular UGA student struggled to carry one of these pieces, which was longer than he was, through the Bronx and back to his hotel.

Has it really been more than 30 years?
Suddenly, a New York taxicab pulled up beside him and the passenger inside offered the student a ride to wherever he needed to go.  From there, the taxi, the student, the prized piece of post, and the generous passenger - none other than UGA's Dr. Steadman Sanford - all somehow, as a newspaper reported, "rode in style to the hotel."

Then there's the most famous goal-post demolishing of all time in Georgia football history (and the only other one I can think of off the top of my head): the one which followed the capturing of the 1980 national championship.  I'm not aware of any specific details - just that the memorable moment is captured in one of my most favorite photographs.

Back to my wife's and my conversation...  She suddenly piped up, and again in jest, "What if Georgia won a national title?  Would you then attempt to run onto the field and maybe try to bring down a goal post?" 

In attempt to be humorous, I said, "No, security would be too tight."  Seriously, considering it would be evident that it only happens every three to four decades, "if I was a few years younger and still a student..."

June 22, 2011

There Were Five of Us

Four of Georgia's "Five Pioneers" from the 1971 freshman team: No. 32 Larry West, No. 35 Horace King, No. 51 Clarence Pope, and Chuck Kinnebrew at the top right.  Richard Appleby was ineligible.

Continued from Five Pioneers and Black Bulldog Quarterbacks...

Over UGA's Christmas break of 1970, the Bulldogs' football team, coming off a 5-5 season, carried out what was described as "the best move the 'Dogs have made lately," when the first group of black football players - Horace King, Clarence Pope, and Richard Appleby from Athens, Chuck Kinnebrew from Rome, and Larry West from Albany - signed with Georgia.

Seemingly, the school had come a long way since its segregated past.

Only 10 years before had U.S. District Court judge William A. Bootle ordered that the first two African Americans - Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter - be admitted into UGA.  That day in 1961, approximately 200 students had gathered at the Arch and there, while hanging a black-faced Holmes in effigy, chanted "Two, four, six, eight, we don't want to integrate."  Later that night, students flocked to the home of President O.C. Aderhold in an attempt to burn a fifteen foot high cross in his front yard.

Only a decade following this racist chaos, when interviewed, all five black football signees agreed they were "happy" at the university.  However, Kinnebrew (the outspoken one of the bunch) interestingly added that his attending college had been his parents' dream and "when my parents are happy, I'm happy."

As I indicated in an earlier post, the actual signing of the five players is well-documented in the annals of Georgia football history, however, any difficulties and hardships they encountered at the school is hardly discussed.

Prior to the group's arrival on campus and only a month after their signing, the Bulldogs had been shaken by allegations that three football players - Mayo Tucker, Bill Forehand, and Robert Honeycutt (eventual team captain of '72) - all upcoming juniors or seniors for the 1971 season and soon-to-be teammates of the five black recruits, had followed and attacked two African-American students at the Russell Hall dormitory parking lot and later "around the city."

That spring, the two black students testified against the three players in magistrate court, which referred the case to state court.  When the case was called in August of 1971, according to the Solicitor General for Athens-Clarke County, the two black students mysteriously "couldn't be found" and the case was dismissed.

In an interview with King, Pope, and Kinnebrew in the fall of 1971 (West couldn't make the interview while Appleby had been declared ineligible for the season), The Red and Black asked the three players if they specifically had encountered any problems since their arrival on campus; they all shook their heads while Kinnebrew added, "I didn't come here to be the first."

The black players always claimed they were treated fairly by the Georgia coaches; however, according to King in a 1984 interview, there were some teammates who were "rotten apples" - juniors and seniors, who would be leaving the school soon and "didn't have to face it."

In 2007, Pope recalled the group's arrival to campus in '71 when they were welcomed on the front steps at McWhorter Hall by a group of upperclassmen dressed in Ku Klux Klan attire, including a "Grand Dragon" holding a shotgun.  "It was something we didn't like," said Pope.

King has stated that he never thought of himself as a "pioneer" just because he signed to play football at Georgia - "there were five of us," he declared.

In handling the long process of adjustment and getting comfortable at UGA, each of the five signees benefited from what the previous black football players - James Hurley and John King - could not: a university in close proximity to their family and, perhaps more importantly, four others going through very similar circumstances.

"Our people usually keep pretty close," said Kinnebrew in November of 1971, "and if a prospective black recruitee asks me what it's like up here, I'll tell him like it is."

June 14, 2011

Bulldog Freshman Phenoms

HERSCHEL WALKER - the most impactful true freshman ever to play football at Georgia? 
One would think so...
I was discussing with a friend the other day how much impact Isaiah Crowell could truly have in the upcoming football season. The conversation soon turned to Bulldog freshmen first-year or redshirt that had made an impression over the years. The discussion started to grow rather lengthy, so we dropped the talk of redshirts.

Based on our chat, I decided to rank my opinion of the top 10 Bulldog true freshmen of all time.

Keep in mind, prior to World War II, few freshmen played football for Georgia's varsity and from after the Korean War through 1971, freshmen were ineligible to play. Once this eligibility was restored in 1972 through 1988 the final 17 seasons of the Coach Vince Dooley regime – just one non-specialist true freshman (cornerback Tony Flack in 1982) ever started a season-opening game while only a handful saw considerable playing time.

My selections and their rankings are not only based on how distinguished or outstanding each player was in their very first season at UGA, but also the significance of the true freshman playing over what would have been his replacement or the "average" player.

As my friend pointed out, notice what position or two most of these phenomenal true freshmen played. Citing player development from high school straight into the potential of seeing significant playing time as a Bulldog, the friend – a player during the Coach Donnan era – indicated he certainly wasn't surprised that most of Georgia's most impactful true freshmen played on the offensive side of the ball, primarily at running back.

Looks like Isaiah may already have a little something going for him before the 2011 season has even started.

By the third game of his true freshman season, Godfrey had supplanted senior Torrey Evans as the Bulldogs' starting Will linebacker...Finished the year with a team-leading 114 tackles, 4 for loss, and 3 pass breakups...Besides Nate Taylor (see Special Mention), is the only freshman to lead Georgia in tackles for a season...Named the SEC's defensive Freshman of the Year for 1992 and along with Butler, Cook, Herschel, McWhorter, Green, and St. John (see below), is one of only a handful of Bulldogs recognized as first-team all-conference as true freshman.

9) PLACEKICKERS (1970s-1980s)
The only Bulldog true freshman considered a starter the first six seasons (1972-1977) of freshmen being eligible was placekicker Allan Leavitt in 1973.  Leavitt, Georgia's first scholarship kicker and the team's initial starting soccer-style kicker, would also be the first of four consecutive Bulldog kickers to be the team's primary placekicker as a true freshman...Leavitt was followed by Rex Robinson (1977), Kevin Butler (1981), and Steve Crumley (1985)...In their freshman seasons combined, the four converted nearly 97 percent of their PATs, made an average of 12.3 field goals per season, and connected on seven field goals of 50+ yards during a time when similar kicking results were hard to come by in college football.

While running behind a constantly banged up and ever-changing offensive line, tailback Hearst led the Bulldogs with 717 rushing yards for the season while averaging 4.4 yards per carry...Had three 100-yard rushing performances in his first seven games and would eventually be named the SEC's offensive Freshman of the Year over such frosh stars as RB Errict Rhett of Florida and Auburn's QB Stan White...Georgia's dismal 4-7 season would have likely been on the order of 2-9 without the services of newcomer Hearst.
The Black Blur

Nicknamed "The Black Blur," linebacker Sylvester Boler hardly played the first half of his freshman season because of two injuries but once he entered the Tennessee game in early November, as one writer stated, he became "THE defense"...Hit Tennessee quarterback Conredge Holloway so hard, Boler "literally tore [Holloway's] head off"...Recorded 18 tackles in win over Auburn and later was named the Peach Bowl's most outstanding defensive player primarily because of bone-crushing tackles that forced two fumbles...After a 3-3-1 start, Georgia went 4-1 down the stretch with Boler in lineup...Assistant coach indicated 4-1 record might have been 0-5 without Boler and declares that the freshman, after just five games of play, was perhaps already the greatest linebacker in Bulldog history.

One of the major reasons for Georgia's tremendous improvement from its 5-6 season in 1977 to the 9-1-1 regular season of 1978 was the fact the Wonderdogs, thanks in large part to the arrival of true freshman Scott, had suddenly become somewhat of a passing threat...Scott's 484 receiving yards that season were more than twice as many as any other teammate while his 36 catches were more than three times...Scott's 26.5-yard kickoff-return average was, at the time, the second-best ever in the SEC of those with at least 20 returns...His 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown at LSU was the Dogs' biggest play in a 24-17 upset over the 11th-ranked Tigers...Named a first-team Freshman All-American by Football News.  

It's difficult to think of Carter without acknowledging a regressing Bulldog career and what might have been, but as the Bulldogs' starting freshman quarterback in '98, his play was simply spectacular...Near perfect in an upset at No. 6 LSU, completing first 15 passes and finishing 27 of 34...For season, passed for 2,484 yards, 12 TDs, and only 9 interceptions, while completing better than 60 percent of passes...Rushed for 284 yards, including 114 vs. Kentucky one of just two 100-yard rushing performances by a Georgia quarterback over the last 35 seasons...Capped year a season during which Carter turned 21 years old by leading a furious comeback victory over Virginia in the Peach Bowl...Named by the Knoxville News Sentinel and Associated Press as SEC Freshman of the Year.

4) JOHNNY COOK (1943)
Granted, because of World War II, Georgia's 1943 team was made up primarily of newcomers, so obviously it wouldn't be as difficult for a true freshman to make significant impact; however, what tailback Cook accomplished in his first season at Georgia was absolutely remarkable...At 17 years old (and 5-foot-8 and 152 pounds), led the nation in passing with 1,007 yards on 73 completions, including 8 TDs, and second on team with 361 rushing yards...Scored 13 touchdowns: 10 rushing, 2 on punt returns, 1 via kickoff return...Bulldogs' primary punter and punt returner, averaging nearly 20 yards per punt return...In first game at UGA, a win over Presbyterian in season opener, intercepted four passes on defense – a single-game SEC record which still stands nearly 70 years later.

3) ERIC ZEIER (1991)
For the first five games of his freshman year, Zeier came off the bench in relief of the experienced Greg Talley; however, as soon as Talley struggled to move the Bulldog offense early on against 6th-ranked Clemson, Zeier came on, defeated the Tigers, and would hardly leave the field for the next 3½ seasons...Passed for just under 2,000 yards while throwing only 4 interceptions in 286 pass attempts...Interception ratio of 1-to-71.5 attempts was an SEC record until broken by David Greene in 2004...Recognized as the SEC's Freshman of the Year and a freshman All-American by Football News...Primarily responsible for Georgia's prompt 9-win turnaround after back-to-back non-winning seasons by the Bulldogs...With senior Talley or junior Preston Jones taking the majority of the snaps instead, '91 team likely struggles to achieve a winning record.   

It all began on a sweltering night in Knoxville when a true freshman from Wrightsville ran over Tennessee's Bill Bates...1,616 rushing yards, nearly 6 yards per carry, seven rushes of 48 yards or more, and 15 touchdowns later, Herschel had arguably become the greatest Bulldog football player ever in just a single season...Finished third in Heisman Trophy voting despite 205-yard, three-touchdown effort against Georgia Tech not considered...If Tech game is recognized, Herschel very well becomes the only freshman to ever win Heisman...Almost single-handedly defeats Notre Dame in Sugar Bowl for national title, gaining 150 yards on 36 carries and 2 touchdowns (rest of team nets minus-23 yards in 29 plays)...Herschel had perhaps the greatest freshman season in the history of college football, however, it's a close second in my book regarding the impact it made on a Georgia team. 

1) BOB McWHORTER (1910)
I've said for some time that Herschel is the most outstanding UGA football player of all time, Charley Trippi the best all-around, but it was halfback Bob McWhorter who, in my opinion, was the program's most valuable...and McWhorter's best season was his first at Georgia in 1910.  Prior to McWhorter's arrival, the Red and Black had won just 47 of 109 combined games from 1892-1909...Nearly by himself, but with a lot of influence from head coach Alex Cunningham, McWhorter transformed Georgia football from a substandard program into one of the most respected in the South...He scored 20 touchdowns, including a single-game school-record seven against the Gordon Institute, for a Georgia team that achieved a 6-2-1 record (and losers of just six of 34 games from 1910-1913)...Without freshman McWhorter, Georgia, like the season before in 1909, probably wins just one or two games. 

  • Fred Gibson (2001)- Leads Georgia in receiving (772 yards) and kickoff returns (14-375), while averaging more than 23 yards every time he touches the ball
  • Charles Grant (1999)- During a season where he earns SEC first-team All-Freshman, Grant records 5 tackles and 3 sacks vs. Kentucky at defensive end, while rushing 3 times for 44 yards and 2 TDs as a running back. 
  • A.J. Green (2008)- In leading SEC in receiving, excellent compliment to Mohamed Massaquoi (and with similar numbers), catching 56 passes for nearly 1,000 yards and 8 touchdowns
  • Jimmy Payne (1978)- Makes 45 tackles and 8 sacks for the year as a BACKUP at defensive guard
  • John Rauch (1945)- In a new offense for Bulldogs – the "T" formation – freshman Rauch becomes Georgia's first pure passing quarterback...Does a little of everything: passes for 566 yards and 5 TDs, rushes for a touchdown, averages 43.7 yards per kickoff return, punts 14 times, catches two passes, and intercepts a pass on defense.   
  • Herb St. John (1944)- Immediately starts at left guard position for Georgia and eventually is the only Bulldog in '44 to earn first-team All-SEC honors  
  • Matthew Stafford (2006)- Although freshman numbers were far from flashy, Stafford proved he was undoubtedly talented...Guides Bulldogs to three victories in final three games, all against ranked teams...With Joe T. III or Joe Cox playing instead, Georgia maybe wins one of three. 
  • Trinton Sturdivant (2007)- Becomes first Bulldog true freshman since 1989 to start a season opener at the all-important left tackle position...Named to several first-team Freshman All-American teams
  • Hines Ward (1994)- Quarterback turned scatback starts over senior Terrell Davis beginning with third game of season...Has two 100-yard rushing performances in first five games as a Bulldog, including 137 yards on 22 carries vs. Alabama

the Ty Ty Termite
SPECIAL MENTION: Nate Taylor (1979)
Before he was known as the "Ty Ty Termite" and prior to the arrival of his son Tony – an excellent Bulldog linebacker in his own right – Nate Taylor was a 5-foot-10, 198-pound walk-on linebacker from Tift County who wanted to be a Bulldog all his life.  Taylor was only recruited by two small colleges in Alabama and offered a scholarship by Vanderbilt.  However, and get this, when Taylor arrived in Nashville to look at the campus upon the school's request, he was told by the Commodores they no longer had a scholarship for him. 

Taylor made the '79 Bulldogs team and, as one would expect, didn't play the first two games of the season.  When injuries sidelined two linebackers in the third game against South Carolina, Taylor was thrust into action in the second quarter.  In a little over two quarters of play, Taylor made 18 tackles and caused two fumbles against the Gamecocks.  A few days later, Taylor was awarded a scholarship by Coach Dooley in the middle of a practice and became a Bulldog starting linebacker.

The once-irrelevant Taylor ended his freshman season as the team's leader in tackles with 120, including 80 solo tackles...not bad for someone excluded from Georgia's 1979 media guide; not even listed in the Football Walk-ons section amongst 39 other names.

June 9, 2011

Operation Turnaround II

Twenty years ago, "Operation Turnaround" culminated with a win over Arkansas in the Independence  Bowl and a 4.5-game improvement from 1990.

At this time exactly two decades ago, Georgia was likely coming off its worst football season of the modern era.  The 1990 team finished its dismal year with a 4-7 record... and the Bulldogs were fortunate to have won that many games. 

Of course, unlike the latest edition, the '90 squad had somewhat of a legitimate excuse for its poor play as numerous injuries, players quitting, and suspensions took its toll on the team, leaving it, on the whole, extremely young and inexperienced (and with quarterback Joe Dupree - a guy who couldn't even start at Georgia Southern - starting for the Bulldogs at the end of the year). 

As the 1991 season loomed, a hopeful Coach Ray Goff and the Bulldogs deemed their upcoming campaign as "Operation Turnaround." 

Rebounding from a seven-loss year while returning eight starters on offense (not including Andre Hastings, Shannon Mitchell, Mack Strong, and true freshman Eric Zeier) and 10 starters on defense, it certainly appeared a turnaround was in order.  However, the so-called preseason experts didn't necessarily see it that way as no one predicted the Bulldogs would finish in the top half of the 10-team SEC.

Regardless, the Dogs proved any doubters wrong as Operation Turnaround was an absolute success.  Georgia achieved a 9-3 mark, including victories over 6th-ranked Clemson, LSU, Auburn, Georgia Tech, a ranked Ole Miss team, Arkansas in the Independence Bowl, and finished its vastly improved season ranked 17th in the final AP Poll.

Presently in 2011, the Bulldogs are coming off their first seven-loss year since the aforementioned '90 team.  Nevertheless, don't fret as it appears another Operation Turnaround could very well be in store for the UGA football program.  

Unlike in '91, Georgia is forecasted to rebound in a major way.  The college football previews, namely Athlon, Lindy, and Phil Steele's, all have the Bulldogs ranked 16th or higher in the nation.  Heck, even the esteemed Beano Cook believes Georgia will be playing for the national championship come January.

The BCS title game?  Following a losing season?!?  Perhaps never before, in the history of college football, has there been so much expected from a team that lost more games than it won the previous year.   

More or less, the preseason forecasts all point to the same things for a quick turnabout in 2011: a manageable schedule, a defense that should improve in its second year under Todd Grantham, an experienced offensive line that cannot be any worse, and Aaron Murray developing into one of the best quarterbacks in the nation.

Maybe add a new strength and conditioning program and a head coach on the hot seat, and all of these considerations appear to be a recipe for a legitimate shot at a championship, whether it's of the BCS type or merely a divisional title.

Notwithstanding, uncovered is an intangible reason - one you won't find mentioned in many preseason previews - why Georgia will unquestionably have an Operation Turnaround, Part II: History has shown the Bulldog Nation, when Georgia has stunk it up in football one year, the Dawgs have always responded in full force the next. 

Since Coach Vince Dooley came to UGA nearly 50 years ago, the Bulldogs have endured just six losing seasons, and none of those have come in consecutive years.  Only Ohio State, Alabama, Southern California, Nebraska, and Tennessee can also claim not posting back-to-back losing seasons during the same time period.

Furthermore, Georgia differs somewhat historically from those five traditional football powers in that when coming off a losing year, not only have the Bulldogs improved but they have bounced back significantly:

1963-1964: 4-5-1 to 7-3-1
1977-1978: 5-6 to 9-2-1
1990-1991: 4-7 to 9-3
1993-1994: 5-6 to 6-4-1
1996-1997: 5-6 to 10-2

In Georgia's five prompt turnarounds, the team averaged a whopping 3.4-game improvement from one year to the next, including 4.5-game improvements in both 1991 and 1997.  The least improvement came in 1994, when the Bulldogs were 1.5 games better than the season before.  (However, I'd like to point out, the 6-4-1 team of '94 was evidently a damn fine team, finishing ranked 13th in the entire nation according to the Billingsley Report - one of the BCS computer rankings.)

Obviously I'm being rather light-hearted.  The fact Georgia had significant improvement from one year to  the next decades ago shouldn't have any bearing on the 2011 season.  However, there must be something in the water (or Powerade, according to Coach T.) the UGA football program has been drinking...  One must admire how Georgia hasn't been a back-to-back loser since 1963 and, more notably, how the Bulldogs have responded after suffering through the rare losing campaign.

For the upcoming season, it's difficult to agree with Beano but I undoubtedly see a significant upswing for the Bulldogs.  Being the history enthusiast and believing it quite often repeats itself, I acknowledge the 3.4-game average of improvement and forecast Georgia going 9-3 this upcoming regular season.

Moreover, Operation Turnaround II, like the one from 20 years ago, should be a successful one.  And also like the first "operation" in 1991, it will remove a Bulldog head coach from the hot seat... at least, for the time being.

June 1, 2011

My Personal Despise For Clemson...

I was fortunate to grow up in Athens during the 1980s with a father a faculty member at UGA passionate about his university's athletic program first encouraging my interest in Georgia football when the two of us sat down in front of an old radio at my grandmother's in North Carolina and listened while "my God, a freshman" ran over Tennessee in Knoxville.

In other words, I was lucky enough to be introduced to UGA football during the program's greatest period.

So, maybe you can imagine, after so many consecutive wins, enduring your team's first defeat.  For me, it was when Georgia fell to Clemson 13-3 in 1981 at Death Valley the Bulldogs' lone loss in 43 straight regular-season games from 1979 to 1983.

From that very moment, at six years old, listening to the very same radio in the same house in North Carolina (now that I think about it), I grew to despise the Clemson Tigers, for they had dealt my Bulldogs, in my mind, their first loss of all time.

With the recent announcement of the scheduled games for Georgia and Clemson in 2013 and 2014, I was reminded of my opinion of the Bulldogs' biggest football rivalry for more than a decade; a one-time rivalry that perhaps some newer Dawg fans are unfamiliar with, particularly, the venom that once existed between the two schools. 

As I mentioned in my earlier post, if Georgia and Georgia Tech is recognized as clean, old-fashioned hate, the Georgia-Clemson football rivalry was simply plain hatred.  (As one Georgia banner read in the '82 season opener vs. Clemson, alluding to the Tigers' national championship from the year before, "You might be Number One but you smell like Number Two.")   

With Clemson's radio broadcast in the background, here's some footage of Georgia facing the eventual "Number One" team of 1981.  Besides a great performance from the Bulldogs' defense and a few good runs by my God, a sophomore, there wasn't much to choose from...

I have indicated for quite some time that, in my opinion, the 1981 Bulldogs, despite two losses, on paper are perhaps the greatest UGA football team of all time.  If they were to play the great 1980, 1982, or 1983 team, let's say 10 times, the '81 Dawgs would win at least seven games against each.  Nevertheless, the 1981 Clemson contest is the perfect example of how turnovers are detrimental to even the best of the best teams, especially when you have nine of them.

Georgia held a good Clemson offense to a season-low 236 total yards and a strong running game to a mere 2.0 yards per rush (and that excludes any sacks on Homer).  However, the Bulldog offense, especially its quarterback, must have been experiencing the heebie-jeebies in the Valley.

Inexplicably, Buck Belue threw five interceptions in 26 pass attempts (he was intercepted just 4 times in 162 attempts in the 10 other regular-season games) and had an ugly, blooper-like lost fumble, which literally dropped out of his hand while in mid-throwing motion.

Herschel, who had lost just one fumble in his 14 previous games as a Bulldog, surrendered two while Steve Kelly added a fourth on a punt return.  Georgia lost just 10 combined fumbles in its 10 other regular-season games.

Four years earlier, the Bulldogs had been shocked at home, losing for the first time to Clemson in 18 games played in Athens since 1914.  For other Georgia followers, true hostility for the Tigers might have started two years later when the Bulldogs, playing on the road as more than a field-goal favorite and donned in red britches, suffered a 12-7 setback in 1979.  Little older Dog fans may remember 1974 when Georgia had not lost to Clemson in 10 consecutive games, but were stunned with a 4-point loss as a 10-point favorite.  

Personally, I recall 1981 when I was first introduced to this one-time bitter rivalry while learning a valuable life lesson: You can't win 'em all (but it sure does stink when you lose).