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August 24, 2011

Simply Red

Upon the unveiling of the new football uniform last Saturday, a portion of the Bulldog Nation was simply appalled.  I, for one, expecting what had been circulated about a month or so ago, felt the new attire, besides appearing very red, actually looked worse than what had been rumored.  Red tops AND red britches?!?

As a kid, I enjoyed those handful of times during the 1980s when Georgia wore its red pants with white jerseys; it was a nice change from the norm and something different (yet not nearly as different as the new uniform...not even close). 

Although resulting in defeat, perhaps the most intriguing and exciting red-britches Bulldog game was the 1987 Clemson contest.  The Dawgs and Tigers met in Death Valley both with 2-0 records; Georgia was ranked 18th in the AP Poll while Clemson was 8th. 

Adding some color to the contest, both squads entered wearing their alternate pants: Georgia donning red instead of silver, Clemson in orange instead of its common white.  Dressed in their red britches, the Bulldogs had not lost a game in seven consecutive tries while the Tigers were 11-1 since debuting their orange pants in 1980.  Something had to give...

Coach Danny Ford got his wish as the Tigers would indeed "quit playing Georgia for a while."  When the Bulldogs added a seventh conference game in 1988 (and an eighth four seasons later), the yearly Georgia-Clemson football rivalry came to an abrupt end as the schools would meet just six times over the next 24 years.

In 1987, the Tigers ended the annual series in heart-breaking fashion as placekicker David Treadwell beat Georgia with a field goal in the final seconds for the second consecutive year.  Albeit in defeat, a few relatively fresh-faced Bulldogs stood out among the rest.

In his first and only season at Georgia, senior cornerback Mark Vincent intercepted his first pass as a Bulldog at Clemson.  After three years at SMU, Vincent had left the Mustangs for Athens after the program had received the much-publicized "death penalty" from the NCAA.  Vincent tallied two more interceptions two weeks later at Ole Miss, became an instant leader of Georgia's defense, and in my opinion, is one of the Bulldogs' all-time One-Hit Wonders.

Although receiver/returner Nate Lewis had played sparingly his first two seasons at Georgia and had never returned a punt, he emerged in the preseason of 1987 as the team's primary punt returner.  Highlighted by the 76-yard touchdown against the Tigers, Lewis averaged an impressive 13.9 yards per punt return as a junior.  In becoming one of program's most notable all-time transfers, Lewis was unfortunately forced to leave school just prior to that season's Liberty Bowl appearance.

Before his impressive fourth-quarter touchdown run in the Valley, tailback Rodney Hampton had carried the ball just 15 times in nearly three entire games as a Bulldog.  The true freshman from Texas was required to be patient backing up senior starter Lars Tate, who entered the Clemson game as the leading rusher in Division I-A football (350 yards in two games). 

As Tate sat with an injury two games following the Clemson loss, Hampton broke the school's single-game record with 290 all-purpose yards against Ole Miss.  By season's end, the newcomer had a team second-best 890 rushing yards and would end his career in 1989 as the school's third all-time leading rusher behind Herschel Walker and one-time teammate Tate.

Of the 15 games Georgia has worn 
red britches, the most (3) have come at 
Clemson: 1979 with Lindsay Scott,
1985 and 1987.
Prior to the upcoming season opener against Boise State, the 1987 Clemson game was one of the final times the Dawgs donned their red britches.  The September 3rd contest will mark just the 16th game in history Georgia has worn the red bottoms:
1978: at South Carolina (loss), at Kentucky (win), Florida in Jacksonville (win), at Auburn (tie) 
1979: at Clemson (loss), at Ole Miss (win), at Vanderbilt (win)
1980: at Tennessee (win)
1985: at Clemson (win), Ole Miss in Jackson (win), at Vanderbilt (tie), Arizona in Sun Bowl (tie)
1987: at Clemson (loss)
1988: at Miss. State (win), at South Carolina (loss)  

In just over a week, while the Bulldogs will be wearing red pants for the first time in 23 years, they will reveal a red top-bottom combo for the first time in Georgia football history.  As I've mentioned, the fact I'm somewhat of a traditionalist coupled with the Dawgs seldom changing their look over the years, for some folks like me, an all-red look can be difficult to accept.

Nevertheless, it really doesn't matter how I or most anyone else feels concerning the team's new attire.  As long as the Bulldogs look good in performance - something that has been rarely evident the last three seasons - I'd welcome almost any type change in uniform.

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