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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).


JaxDawg said...

Possibly, the only southern team to cheat more than Clemson has been Auburn. The difference is that Clemson has never recovered after Danny Ford sunk them while AU continues to openly and proudly cheat while winning sometimes.

Deanna said...

Seems like so many of those Georgia/Clemson games in the 80s came down to a long field goal attempt as time ran out. Seems like we won most of them. (Thanks, Kevin Butler!) I was shocked when the series ended. It had been such a bitter rivalry. In my mind it seemed like not playing Tech or Auburn. Glad to see the renewal, but something tells me it won't be the same.

Patrick Garbin said...


Another Georgia banner from the '82 Clemson game: “What do you call a No. 1 Clemson team? A cheetah."

Patrick Garbin said...


I agree...I miss the rivalry as well. When the SEC schedule increased from 6 to 7 games in 1989 and then to 8 games in '92, a non-conference game that couldn't be played in Athens every year had to be dropped. For Auburn, it was GA Tech...Florida, it was Miami (Fla)...etc. So, I guess we're not alone, but that doesn't make it better. It was fun playing the Tigers EVERY year.

Anonymous said...

Wish the Clemson series could be a 2 years on, 2 years off type of schedule (even w/ 8 conf games).

Anonymous said...

Do you have the whole game on tape? I would like to see it. I'm a Clemson fan and I have always looked back with such fond memories on that game. I will always remember the Clemson placard "The only place Herschel has never been is the Clemson end zone." What a dominant defense Clemson had that year. The "Fridge" was a 300+ lb defensive machine with cat-like speed. He was amazing! Homer Jordan, Perry Tuttle, William Perry, Jeff Davis etc. what a true team of champions. I grew up in a home of GT alumni and so I have never had much affection for the Dawgs. My time at Clemson only fueled the desire to see them beat. At any rate, I respect the Dawgs but I love to see them get whipped by the Tigers! Thanks for the post.

PS It is sad when Dawg fans can't acknowledge that the Tigers whipped them fair and square in 1981. There was no cheating involved. Recruiting violations occur everywhere in every program. Most of it goes under the radar, never noticed, or is simply not reported. Georgia is no different and it is naive to think that they are. I look forward to the renewed rivalry as do the # 6 Clemson Tigers (as of 11/14/2011). Bring on the Dawgs!!!! We are ready to hunker down and take a nice wet bite out of them!!!

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the mistake: Clemson is ranked #7 in the BCS not # 6 as of 11/14/2011.

ketz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ketz said...

I will always love this team no matter what. I think that's the real heart of a true fan.

big east football

Cathy said...

I had just moved to Greenville in May of '81 from St. Simons. A friend gave us 2 tkts to the game and we sat on the hill in the end zone. I wore a red Ga. Shirt..my friend wore a black Ga. Shirt. I am a huge Hershel Walker fan and got so excited every time he got close to our end zone. We would stand and yell for him....he was such an exciting player!! I digress...we were pelted with pop corn, beer, tequila, ketchup and whatever Clemson fans had available. We got back to my car, which was a red Monte Carlo with Ga. Plates....my car was egged, nasty words written in black shoe plolish on the paint and my tag was also blacked out with the shoe polish. It's a lot worse now and needles to say, I'm not a Clemson and its personal.