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March 31, 2012

"Tight End U"?

There was much, much more to tight end Richard
Appleby than his "Appleby to Washington" pass
to defeat Florida in 1975.
After Thursday's news of more team suspensions, I was tempted to post a rant similar to ones I posted a couple years ago; how it's evident UGA's football program is filled with more than its fair share of greedy players who put "ME" before "team," and the inmates are apparently running the asylum again.  However, for at least the moment, I refuse to revisit the disappointing 2008 to 2010 campaigns, and will post on a much lighter note...

Before the recent disheartening news, there was some discussion last week regarding the battle for the Bulldogs' starting tight end position, while Bill King reminded me how Georgia was dubbed "Tight End U" by Rivals.com just prior to the start of the 2011 season. 

I recall when the Bulldogs were once considered by some as "Tailback U."  There was even a VHS video released appropriately titled "Tailback U. ~ Georgia's Greatest Running Backs."  After Garrison Hearst left following the 1992 season and the Bulldogs were rushing the ball fewer times than any team in I-A football by 1994 (which actually resulted that season), the title was for the most part thrown to the wayside for another label -- "Air Georgia."

For some time now, the Hurricanes of Miami (Fla) have claimed the title of "Tight End U."  Followers of Stanford, Southern California, and Wisconsin have also linked their schools with the same moniker.  However, following a bit of research, I discovered there is certainly some merit behind Rival's claim.

In spring practice of 1968, Georgia moved from a rollout-type offense to more of a pro-style, where the quarterback would primarily drop back into a pocket to pass instead of rolling out.  With this change, the Bulldogs featured a "tight end" position for the first time. 

Georgia's first starting tight end was the great Dennis Hughes, who was hardly used as a blocker, would switch to the split end position in 1969, and graduated as the school's all-time leader in receiving yards.  After Hughes and until the Bulldogs became "Air Georgia" nearly a quarter-century later, a typical Bulldog tight end was basically used as an extra offensive lineman that would get an occasional pass thrown his way.

When Ray Goff and especially Jim Donnan began to open up the passing game during the 1990s, the tight end position became a major part of Georgia's offensive arsenal.  In 1997, Donnan began often using a TWO tight-end offense (in lieu of a second running back) -- a trend which has continued for 15 years throughout the Coach Mark Richt  era.

Speaking of 1997, from that year through 2011, SIX different Georgia tight ends have earned 1st- or 2nd-team All-SEC recognition for a total of NINE times

Beginning with Ulysses Norris in 1979 and including Orson Charles -- one of the top tight end prospects for this year's NFL Draft --  NINE Bulldog tight ends have been drafted

Beginning with Hughes in 1970 to the three Georgia tight ends that were in the NFL in 2011 -- Ben Watson, Leonard Pope, and Randy McMichael -- 14 former Bulldogs have played at least one regular-season game in the league at the tight end position.

Based on their performances at Georgia, both as receivers and blockers, I've attempted to rank my opinion of the top 10 Bulldog tight ends of all time.  Prior to my research, I initially believed Larry Brown and Shannon Mitchell would place 1-2 in my rankings but yet, in the end, both didn't even crack my top five.  This, coupled with the facts mentioned just above, is perhaps testament why Georgia undoubtedly could lay claim to the distinguished title of "Tight End U"...

Randy McMichael following the victory at Tennessee
in 2001.
#1  RANDY McMICHAEL (1999-2001): In 2001, McMichael became only the third Bulldog ever to be recognized as a first-team All-SEC tight end (after Hughes in 1968 and Mitchell in 1993).  Despite Georgia often using a two tight-end offense, McMichael started only 21 games for his career with standouts Jevaris Johnson and later Ben Watson present.  However, his 90 catches rank third all time for a Bulldog tight end (behind Mitchell's 99 and Charles' 94) while, most evident, the man would flat out catch anything thrown his way... Remember McMichael's consecutive catches on the winning drive in Knoxville in 2001?  I'm sure Tennessee does...  

#2  LEONARD POPE (2003-2005): Pope saw significant action in only two seasons (2004 and 2005) before declaring early for the NFL.  Remarkably, in becoming the first two-time first-team All-SEC tight end at Georgia, Pope was first-team all-conference for each of those two seasons.  Pope became the fourth Bulldog tight end to total 1,000+ receiving yards for a career while his 10 career touchdown receptions tied a school record for the position.  

#3  RICHARD APPLEBY (1973-1975): Appleby remains one of just a few players -- and the only tight end -- to ever lead Georgia in annual receiving for three consecutive seasons.  As a sophomore in 1973, Appleby was briefly moved to split end before being moved back to tight end after the Bulldog offense realized how much he was missed as a blocker.  As a senior in 1975, Appleby was discovered to be quite a rusher, carrying six times on end-arounds for nearly an 11-yard average, and for one play against Florida, a gifted passer as well.

#4  ORSON CHARLES (2009-2011): Although not considered much of a blocker, Charles set or tied school career records for the most receiving yards (1,370) and touchdown receptions (10) by a tight end.  In 2011, he became only the third Bulldog tight end in history to earn All-SEC recognition twice for a career and only the second ever to be selected as a first-team All-American.  In addition, less than four weeks from now, Charles will likely become the second-highest selected Georgia tight end in an NFL Draft behind Ben Watson, who was the 32nd pick in the 2004 Draft. 

#5  TROY SADOWSKI (1985-1988): Sadowski was the first Georgia player of only two all time to be considered a four-year starter at tight end.  Known more for his excellent blocking skills, opening holes for the likes of Lars Tate, Tim Worley, Keith Henderson, and Rodney Hampton, Sadowski caught only 42 career passes, including just 14 in 1988 when he was selected by the Walter Camp Foundation as Georgia's initial first-team All-American at the position.  The consensus All-American tight end that season -- Iowa's Marv Cook -- made 55 receptions, or nearly four times as many as Sadowski; that's how highly the blocking of the Bulldog tight end was regarded. 

6) Larry Brown, 1995-1998; 7) Shannon Mitchell, 1990-1993; 8) Norris Brown, 1979-1982; 9) Ben Watson, 2001-2003; 10) Clarence Kay, 1980-1983

Ulysses Norris -- half of the "Two-headed Tight-End
Monster" -- catches a touchdown against Florida in 1976.
** From 1976 to 1978, Ulysses Norris and Mark Hodge made up Georgia's "Two-headed Tight-end Monster."  For three consecutive seasons, the tight-end pair was used interchangeably and primarily as blockers for a potent Bulldog ground game.  As previously mentioned, although Norris would be drafted into the NFL, neither of the two were ever selected All-SEC, although both were deserving and likely took votes away from one another.  For their careers, Norris and Hodge combined for 54 receptions, NINE of which were for touchdowns.

** Aaron White started only 18 games at tight end from 2008 through 2011, making just 34 career receptions for 512 yards.  Yet, along with Pope, Charles, and Norris Brown, White's 10 touchdown receptions are tied for the most all time by a Georgia tight end.

March 23, 2012

Crackers, and Wildcats, and Dawgs! Oh, my!

Before there was Uga,
Georgia was represented
by, yes, Stinky...
It's somewhat hard to believe that before Georgia was the Bulldogs, it was the Crackers and Wildcats.  It's also difficult to imagine any Bulldog mascot besides our beloved Uga, especially one named "Stinky," and there was actually an "official negro mascot of the Georgia Bulldogs."

For decades, there has been some debate regarding the origin of UGA's "Bulldogs" nickname and its Bulldog mascot.  Similarly to my "History of the UGA Football Helmet" (right panel), I've attempted to put together a detailed History of UGA's Nickname and Mascot, which can be found at my website.

Like my helmet site, if you have any additional details/information on Georgia's nickname/mascot or believe I've made some sort of error or omission, please email me at patrick@patrickgarbin.com or comment directly to this post. Thanks.

March 15, 2012

UGA Basketball Bewilderment

On the whole, over the last several years,
UGA basketball has been at its worst since
Coach Guthrie's slacks were in style. 
As I watched Georgia get dismantled by Vanderbilt in the second half of the SEC Tournament's second round, painfully witnessing the Bulldogs' 2011-12 season come to an end, I had a couple recurring thoughts I've had over the last eight to ten years regarding UGA's men's basketball program:

Man, we hardly have any good players AND How is it that (we hardly have any good players)?!?

Georgia has now achieved just one winning season -- last year's NCAA Tournament team -- in its last five years, and just two winning campaigns in its last eight.  Folks, that's a dismal stretch that hasn't been endured by the program since the five losing seasons that were the Coach John Guthrie era during the 1970s.  In my last post, I poked a little fun at Auburn for its lack of success in recent years; however, the fact of the matter is Georgia hasn't fared much better than the Tigers. 

Listed is each SEC team's regular-season conference victory total over the last decade (2002-03 through 2011-12), along with the number of NCAA Tournament appearances during the same period:

Kentucky- 121, Nine
Florida- 105, Eight
Tennessee- 97, Six
Miss. State- 92, Five
Vanderbilt- 85, Six
Alabama- 83, Five
LSU- 78, Four
Arkansas- 63, Three
Ole Miss- 63, None
GEORGIA- 59, Two
S. Carolina- 58, One
Auburn- 57, One  

The Bulldogs' 59 conference victories rank 10th of 12, while they are one of only four teams in the SEC to appear in two or less NCAA Tournaments.

Around this time a year ago, I posted the obvious of how the addition of only one or two impact players can completely turn around a college basketball program.  Unfortunately for Georgia, while the Bulldogs may have added an impact player in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for this year, they lost TWO in Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie to the NBA Draft. 

Georgia basketball can ill afford to lose talented players since it has been repeatedly proven, for whatever the reason, the Bulldogs simply cannot recruit.  In fact, they have had a difficult time recruiting, particularly in-state prospects, since Coach Hugh Durham left more than 15 years ago.

It absolutely blows my mind that of the approximately 30 high school recipients of "Mr. Georgia Basketball" since the award's inception in 1983, only TWO signed with the Bulldogs.  The first -- Wayne Arnold from Berkmar High -- played in only 10 games during the 2002-03 season before being dismissed from the team.  The latest -- current player Marcus Thornton -- has averaged roughly two points and three rebounds per game while shooting 30 percent from the floor in his two seasons. 

In addition, of the 19 McDonald's All-Americans from the state of Georgia from 1993 through this year (excluding uncommitted Tony Parker of Lithonia, who is doubtful to become a Bulldog), only ONE -- Caldwell-Pope -- signed with UGA.  This poor stretch of recruiting first-rate talent comes on the heels of the aforementioned Durham remarkably signing 10 McDonald's All-Americans from 1979 to 1992.

According to Scout.com and its last seven years of team recruiting rankings (2005 to 2011), Georgia is the ONLY team from the SEC not to sign an upper-tier class; "upper-tier" being the top 25 or 35 recruiting classes (depending on the year) in the nation, and "not to sign" meaning not even once during the entire seven-year period.

Each SEC team is listed following its number of Scout "upper-tier" recruiting classes from 2005 to 2011:

7- Florida; 6- Kentucky; 4- Alabama; 3- Tennessee, Miss. State, Arkansas; 2- Vanderbilt, LSU, South Carolina, 1- Ole Miss, Auburn; NONE- Georgia.

If a program has had a difficult time recruiting like Georgia, Auburn, Ole Miss, etc., and vice versa (Kentucky, Florida, etc.), there is a direct correlation to their performances on the basketball court during roughly the same extended period of time.  This comes to no surprise and obviously makes sense. 

Over the last decade, Georgia's lack of recruiting, and thus sub-par on-court performance, can perhaps be blamed on a number of things, including Jim Harrick placing the program on probation and four different head coaches in a span of only eight seasons. 

Notably, I discovered another piece of information that perhaps has little relation, if any at all, to the performance of the Bulldogs' basketball team, but something I found somewhat intriguing.

According to the Office of Postsecondary Education, the program generated more than $42.2 million in revenue during the last six years of 2005-06 through 2010-11, while reporting $25.5 million in expenses over the same period, for a net profit of $16.7 million.

In looking at the net profits of all 12 SEC men's basketball programs during the same six-year period, the rankings from top to bottom are more or less similar to the results of the SEC's recruiting/performance rankings above.  However, two positions stand out: Florida's $9.1 million in net profit ranks next to last, or 11th in the conference, while Georgia's $16.7 million surprisingly ranks rather high at 6th.

Evidently, the Gators' men's basketball program has generated a lot of money over the last six years ($56.0 million), but it spends a lot of this revenue ($46.9 million in expenses).  On the other hand, only three basketball programs spent less money than UGA (LSU, Ole Miss, and Miss. State), and the Bulldogs "benefited" with a net profit that ranks in the upper half of the conference.  

This leads me to wonder why Georgia's men's basketball program, unlike Florida's, needs such a substantial profit, especially when Bulldog football was recently the second-most profitable program of any school in the country and in any sport.

Surely, I must be missing something... but this I do know: 

I'm not an economist (but I did obtain, barely, a degree in Finance from the Terry College of Business) but it seems a little odd to me when a product, or UGA's men's basketball program in this case, has been rather profitable compared to its competition, yet its performance has been one of the worst, if not the worst, in comparison to the same group.

March 9, 2012

An NCAA Infraction-Filled History

For $1,000 in 1955, Auburn received a $2,000 fine and
probation from the NCAA, while losing a bowl game and
ultimately the Beaube twins.
Unless you've been living under a rock the past 24 hours, you likely heard the news of the point-shaving scandal shaping up on The Plains.  Of course, Varez Ward's connection with any wrong doing is currently under investigation, but there does seem to be some compelling evidence against the Auburn guard.

Consider that in the two games being called into question, Ward turned the ball over a combined seven times in 17 minutes while averaging only 7 points per 40 minutes of play.  On the contrary, against the three opponents between the two games being investigated, the sophomore combined to lose only three turnovers in 87 minutes while averaging more than 24 points per 40 minutes of play.  Things that make you go "Hmmmm"...

It appears the circumstances surrounding Ward could quite possibly be yet another entry in a long list of Auburn infractions dating back to when the NCAA began tracking major violations in the 1950s.  About a year ago, Kyle King at Dawg Sports thoroughly recounted the history of the Tigers' cheating ways.

It all began in 1955 when assistant Hal Herring gave each of the Beaube twins high-school standouts Harry and Robert $500 to come play football at Auburn.  The money was returned, the Beaubes would instead attend school and play at Tulsa, and the Tigers would be placed on probation in January of 1957.  Auburn would run through its regular-season schedule that year unscathed; however, because of the probation, there was no bowl game for the Tigers and no undisputed national championship.

Since then, you'll notice that most of the Tigers' infractions have been football related.  Perhaps you can also see why Auburn is considered to have one of the "dirtiest" programs in the history of college football.  The last time the NCAA caught the men's basketball program at the school committing major violations was in 1991 when, at the same time, the Tigers' tennis program (of all teams) was placed on probation as well.

Now, Auburn's Eric Ramsey reportedly receiving more than $9,000 more than 20 years ago might be one thing, as is Cam Newton getting between $100,000 and $180,000... Well, um, that one hasn't officially made it on the list of infractions yet.  But personally, it's difficult for me to condone any college athlete who receives a little cash under the table here and there.

As one former Georgia player once informed me, and all I care to disclose is that he played during the Wally Butts era, "Sure, I received a little pocket money while I was playing; most of us did.  And [the players] continue getting it today..."
The testimony of "The Rifleman," Chuck
Person, that he received money was
one of Auburn's violations the last time its
basketball program was in major trouble. 

Nevertheless, point shaving is a whole different animal the most despicable way of cheating in athletics which, if true, would be the absolute worst of Auburn's numerous violations.  It's one thing to accept money in order to feed oneself, take a girl out, put gas in the car, buy clothes, or, er, be given a Trans Am.  It's something else to accept money to play poorly and/or lose purposely.

So, if Ward is found to have shaved points, what could be the consequences for the basketball program at Auburn?

There is a historical precedent for shaving points in men's college basketball.  In 1951, 32 players in 86 separate games involving seven schools, including City College of New York (CCNY) and Bradley the championship final teams of the 1950 NCAA Tournament – were accused of point shaving.  A year later, three players from the 1948-49 Kentucky team confessed to throwing a game against Loyola that season.  Soon afterwards, Kentucky All-American Bill Spivey was found to have accepted money from a Brooklyn gambler to shave points during the 1950-51 season.

In 1961, players from 32 schools were arrested for fixing 43 games.  However, since then, only an average of roughly one team per decade has been discovered to be involved in point shaving, including the 1978-79 Boston College squad, 1984-85 Tulane, 1993-94 Arizona State, 1994-95 Northwestern, and Toledo in 2004-05 and 2005-06.

The aftermath of point shaving has been rather detrimental.  Within a few years after winning both the postseason NIT and NCAA Tournament in the same season in 1950, CCNY was no longer a prominent program and today plays on the Division III level.  Kentucky would obviously rebound from its multiple shaving violations, but it came after having to cancel its entire 1952-53 season.

More recently, Tulane would be compelled to cancel four consecutive basketball seasons from 1985-86 to 1988-89.  After having reached six straight national postseason tournaments from 1990 to 1995, Arizona State would not go to the "Big Dance" again until 2003.  Following a trip to the NIT in 1994, Northwestern would win an average of a mere seven games per year over the next four seasons.  And finally, after Toledo averaged 19 wins per season from 2004 to 2007, the Rockets won just 26 combined games over the next four years through last season.

In Auburn's case, it would be difficult to get much worse than the Tigers' two winning years and no NCAA Tournament appearances over the last nine seasons.  Regardless, for an athletic program that has an infraction-filled history, Auburn's very worst violation of all time or, of the cases where the Tigers were actually caught could have transpired only a month ago.

Above all, I'm left wondering why Ward couldn't have been on the take when the Tigers faced and defeated Georgia on February 1st...

March 8, 2012

Unknown Heroes of the "Deep South's..."

After practically unknown Wayne Johnson led Georgia to an upset over Auburn
in 1986, the Tigers decided to turn their water hoses on the Bulldog faithful. 
Although it appears things might be looking up for keeping the Georgia-Auburn football series intact, the mere thought of the "Deep South's Oldest Rivalry" ending is rather upsetting.  Besides being ancient, Georgia-Auburn is unique because the series is nearly dead even and one with seemingly little homefield advantage for either team.

In addition, what makes the rivalry even more special to me is that it often seems an uncelebrated, unknown player comes out of nowhere to star for the Bulldogs.  Granted, Auburn has had its fair share of these type of performances in this series as well, but Georgia's have been near legendary.

I've chronologically recounted my top ten unknown Bulldog heroes of the past 50 years in the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry, starting with one from exactly a half-century ago.  Although the names of some of these Georgia players may be forgettable, their performances in this storied rivalry are quite memorable.

DON PORTERFIELD (1962): Porterfield wasn't figured to make much of an impact, if any at all, when a 2-3-3 Georgia squad played at 6-1 Auburn in 1962.  In the games the little-used halfback had appeared in during the season, he mostly saw spot duty and often played with injuries.  However, in a 30-21 upset on the Plains the biggest victory of the three-season Coach Johnny Griffith era Porterfield caught touchdown passes of 15, 13, and 4 yards from quarterback Larry Rakestraw.  The sophomore's three-touchdown performance against the Tigers would equal half the number of scores he would total for his entire three-year varsity career.
Fullback Brad Johnson tears through the Auburn
defense... the FIRST time in 1966.

BRAD JOHNSON (1966 and 1968): Through his first eight games as a member of Georgia's varsity, Johnson had been regarded as simply a good blocker and a suitable backup to standout fullback Ronnie Jenkins.  Nevertheless, in a 21-13 win over Auburn in 1966, clinching Coach Vince Dooley's first SEC championship, the sophomore reserve unexpectedly rushed 13 times for 99 yards and a touchdown.  Johnson's rushing total against the Tigers nearly equaled his rushing yardage for the season entering the game. 

Two years later at Auburn, it was Johnson again starring in the Bulldog backfield (he missed the '67 game with an injury).  Helping capture a second conference title for the Dogs in three years, the senior fullback rushed for 91 of Georgia's 147 yards.  Consider that in the 1966 and 1968 seasons, Johnson rushed for a combined 714 yards with nearly 200 of them coming in championship-clinching victories on the road at Auburn.

PAUL GILBERT (1970): In one of the most "great but obscure" victories in Bulldog history, unsung Gilbert's performance under center at Auburn was far from flashy, but it certainly got the job done.  After a disappointing loss to Florida the week before, 4-4 and three-touchdown underdog Georgia was given little chance to upset the Tigers.  Gilbert's statistics were far from spectacular, completing just 4 of 11 passes for 73 yards while rushing for 25 yards on 15 carries.  However, his "control of the team and the ball" was said to be the difference in the 31-17 upset over the 8th-ranked team in the nation.

SYLVESTER BOLER (1973): Boler "The Black Blur" not only had one of the best nicknames in the history of UGA football, but his performance in a mere five games in 1973 is one of the best years ever by a Bulldog freshman.  After coming off the bench against Tennessee and Florida, Boler got his first start against Auburn and certainly made the most of it.  After what was initially reported as a 30-tackle effort in the 28-14 win over the Tigers (coaches film later revealed Boler officially recorded 18 tackles), the freshman was already tagged by some assistants as the greatest linebacker ever at the school.

KEVIN McLEE (1976): Okay, so McLee was a relatively well-known Bulldog by the Auburn game of his junior season in 1976.  However, until the week before in a victory over Florida, he had hardly been considered a 25-to-30 carry back running out of Georgia's Veer offense.  In addition, his outing against the Tigers would be a record-breaking performance, that is, for at least a few days.  In Jacksonville, McLee rushed for what was believed to be a single-game school-record 198 yards on 30 carries versus the Gators.  At Auburn, he apparently broke his own record, rushing for 203 yards on 30 rushes.

A few days following the 28-0 win over the Tigers, the UGA sports information department announced it had made an error after discovering that Charley Trippi had rushed for a school-record 239 yards against Florida in 1945 (Trippi had originally been credited with just 166 yards.  Also, it has recently been found that Charles "Rabbit" Smith achieved Georgia's first 200-yard rushing game, gaining 222 vs. Kentucky in 1945.)  McLee's marks against Florida and at Auburn were promptly dropped to the third- and second-best totals in school history, although the star halfback would ultimately have the last laugh, breaking UGA's all-time career rushing record less than a year later.
Having suffered a broken ankle, Buck Belue
is carried off the field against Auburn in 1979.

JEFF PYBURN (1979): I had to throw in an out-of-nowhere performance in a losing effort against Auburn.  Some of you older Dogs may remember the Jeff Pyburn saga of '79...  After losing just three of 18 regular-season games as Georgia's starting quarterback in 1977 and 1978, Pyburn was booed mercilessly by Bulldog fans at Sanford Stadium during the team's 0-3 start to his final season.  He was benched in favor of super sophomore Buck Belue, temporarily moved out of position to tailback, while his father assistant coach Jim Pyburn according to the Atlanta Constitution in the middle of the season, was reported to have given Coach Dooley his resignation effective at the end of the year.

Against Auburn in 1979 with an SEC championship and Sugar Bowl bid on the line, Belue was sacked for a safety on Georgia's initial offensive play of the game, broke an ankle, and would miss the rest of the season.  Trailing 9-0 and hardly having taken a snap under center in more than a month, Pyburn completed eight of his first nine passes and rallied Georgia to a 10-9 halftime lead.  After leading the Bulldogs to what would turn out to be their only touchdown, the one-time starter was defiant towards the fans that once booed him, waving his fist at all four sections of Sanford Stadium as he trotted to the sideline.

Unfortunately, Georgia's defense would allow the Tigers nearly 400 yards rushing and the Bulldogs eventually lost.  Pyburn completed 17 of 26 passes for 192 yards in a losing cause, and would lead the team to a 16-3 upset at Georgia Tech a week later in  the quarterback's final game.

WAYNE JOHNSON (1986): As indicated in the video below, second-string quarterback Wayne Johnson had barely played since starting the first few games of 1985 as a redshirt freshman.  Only the passing of first-stringer James Jackson's grandmother gave Johnson the starting nod at Auburn; such circumstances were revealed to Johnson merely a few hours prior to kickoff against the 8th-ranked and the 11-point favored Tigers. 

In another "great but obscure" win, Johnson completed all but one of his seven pass attempts, was responsible for both of Georgia's touchdowns, and following the improbable victory, received the starting nod for the regular-season finale against Georgia Tech.  The win at Auburn also led to Jordan-Hare Stadium's water cannons infamously being turned on celebratory Bulldog fans on the field, and even the innocent ones in the stands.

OLANDIS GARY (1998): Rushing for more than 700 yards in less than two seasons, Marshall-transfer Gary had proved in the past he was a quality back, but nothing resembling what he would display against Auburn in 1998.  The senior running back rushed for 130 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries as the Bulldogs cruised past the Tigers, 28-17.  Gary would surpass his career-high with 132 yards against Ole Miss the following week, gain 95 versus Georgia Tech in the regular-season finale, and add 110 against Virginia in the Peach Bowl.  After rushing for 341 yards in his first eight games of his final campaign at Georgia, Gary totaled 467 in his final four, beginning with the heralded but unexpected effort at Auburn.
Michael Johnson's miracle catch on the Plains...

MICHAEL JOHNSON (2002): Besides Wayne Johnson in 1986, this might be the best example of an unknown Bulldog hero in the Georgia-Auburn rivalry.  Split end Johnson, who entered the game having made only 18 career receptions in 21 games at Georgia, caught 13 passes against the Tigers alone for 141 yards in 2002.  With receiving standouts Terrence Edwards and Damien Gary out with injuries, Johnson not only started his first game of the year but became quarterback David Greene's primary target in the Bulldogs' 24-21 comeback win.  Johnson's most memorable of the 13 receptions a game-winning 19-yard touchdown catch on fourth down with 1:25 remaining was saved for last as Georgia captured its first-ever SEC East crown.

MATTHEW STAFFORD (2006): Stafford had been all-world in high school and had  started five games for the season, so the true freshman quarterback had already been celebrated as a Bulldog.  However, he had yet to have his coming-out game, so to speak.  Such performance for Stafford would surprisingly transpire on the road against the 5th-ranked and 12-point favored Tigers.  Guiding a Georgia team that had lost four of its previous five games, Stafford completed 14 of 20 passes for 219 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions in a shocking 37-15 blowout.  In arguably the most "complete" game of his brilliant three-year career, the freshman phenom, by adding 83 yards and a touchdown on seven carries, also nearly became only the third Bulldog quarterback in 30 years to rush for 100+ yards in a single game.

March 2, 2012

BULLDOG QBs and the HEISMAN Haven't Gone Hand in Hand

I was recently emailed by a reader, asking what I thought Aaron Murray's chances were of taking home the Heisman Trophy in 2012.  Personally, I had never thought of the possibility of the Bulldog quarterback receiving the coveted award until the email; however, apparently some so-called experts believe he actually has a legitimate shot this upcoming season.

I saw where an online sportsbook gave 12-to-1 odds on Murray to win the trophy -- the fifth-best odds of the players posted.  Also, a blog dedicated to the Heisman claimed the Georgia signal caller was fourth in line to receive the award, while the "Heisman Predictor" at ESPN predicts he will finish as high as the runner up.

The fact that a Bulldog quarterback is being touted as a Heisman candidate should be no surprise. In fact, of Georgia's last six quarterbacks who were starters for more than one season, including Murray, all but one (Mike Bobo) was considered a legitimate contender for the Heisman Trophy at some point during their collegiate careers.

Entering 2008, Vegas posted 14-to-1 odds that Matthew Stafford would win the trophy... That's rather high considering only six players had better odds, including a teammate of his, Knowshon Moreno at 10-to-1. Nevertheless, the Bulldogs' "blackout" rout at the hands of Alabama in the fifth game of the season ultimately ended any chances of Stafford, or Moreno for that matter, being in contention for the award.

After a solid three-season stint, David Greene entered his senior campaign of 2004 at 10-to-1 odds, or the fourth-best chance to receive the trophy. Like Stafford, any possibility of the Bulldog quarterback capturing the Heisman fizzled after a failed attempt in the fifth game of the season. For Greene, it came in a 15-of-34, 163-yard passing performance in a 19-14 upset loss to Tennessee.

In 2000, USA TODAY's Danny Sheridan gave Quincy Carter a 6-to-1 shot, or the sixth-best odds that year to take home the Heisman. Come to find out, Sheridan's opinion of the junior quarterback was about as legitimate as the oddsmaker's accusation from a year ago. In just the second game of the season, Carter quickly dropped out of contention during a horrendous, five-interception debacle against South Carolina.

Following a fine freshman performance by Eric Zeier in 1991, the quarterback phenom was already considered a contender for the award as a mere sophomore. In the summer of 1992, the aforementioned Sheridan declared Zeier as a possible winner of the trophy for the upcoming campaign, while going as far as actually predicting him to receive the Heisman in 1993.

Sheridan was just a bit off in his forecast as running back Garrison Hearst was the only Bulldog to make a run at the Heisman in 1992. In 1993, Zeier wouldn't win the trophy but did place 10th in the voting. This was somewhat of a remarkable accomplishment considering after the Bulldogs started the year with a 1-4 record, any discussion of Zeier and the Heisman had ceased. However, following three consecutive wins and a near victory over Florida, the quarterback had nearly played his way back into contention.

In 1994, Zeier entered the season as the top candidate for the award in many people's eyes.  Even after a 3-2 start to Georgia's year, the senior quarterback was still considered one of the top two or three contenders. However, any chance of receiving the Heisman ended for Zeier in an embarrassing 43-30 loss to Vanderbilt on Homecoming and a four-interception performance in a 38-point loss to Florida two weeks later. Zeier did wind up 7th in the Heisman voting, becoming just the third Bulldog in history (joining Frank Sinkwich and Herschel Walker) to finish in the Heisman's top ten on more than one occasion.
After his 124 rushing yards and five TDs against
Florida in 1976, Ray Goff was suddenly a legitimate 
Heisman Trophy candidate.
During the mid-1970s -- around the time when preseason Heisman Trophy contenders were first discussed in the media -- Georgia's Ray Goff was a fine quarterback, but certainly no Heisman candidate.  As he had done so as a sophomore in 1974 and junior in 1975, Goff began 1976 splitting time under center with fellow senior Matt Robinson; Goff was regarded as the "runner," Robinson the "passer."

In the final three games of the regular season, Goff nearly defeated Florida single handedly in a furious comeback victory, led Georgia to an SEC title at Auburn without throwing a single pass because of an injured throwing arm, and guided the Bulldogs into contention for a national championship with a memorable three-point win over Georgia Tech.

By the Georgia Tech game, Goff was running the entire offense while the one-time "passer" Robinson was left to merely hold for PATs and field goals. Two days after the victory over the Yellow Jackets, it was announced that Goff had finished 7th in the Heisman voting; two voters had even selected him as their winner of the award.

During 1976, Goff had thrown just 29 passes all year, accounted for less than 1,100 yards of total offense, and had split time with a teammate at his position for nearly the entire season. Regardless, by the end of the year, Goff was considered likely the best veer quarterback in the country and was recognized by Heisman voters as one of the best players in college football.

Pictured against Alabama in 1953, Zeke Bratkowski
throws one of his 26 errant passes on the year... but
that boy sure could punt!
Speaking of an era when it was obvious player statistics were not considered by all Heisman balloters...  A special mention must be made for Bulldog quarterback Zeke Bratkowski. "The Brat" isn't quite one of the few Georgia quarterbacks to finish in the Heisman Trophy's top ten, but did just miss out as a senior in 1953.

Quarterbacking a Georgia team that lost eight of 11 games, Bratkowski barely completed half of his passes and threw 20 more interceptions than touchdowns (26-6). However, the Bulldog quarterback-punter still remarkably finished 12th in the '53 voting and a mere three points behind the 10th spot.

Evidently Bratkowski's NCAA-leading 42.6 punting average was highly considered by those who voted him among college football's elite...

In closing, quarterbacks Eric Zeier, Ray Goff, and we'll even throw in "The Brat" make up an exclusive and elusive list of sorts. The fact Aaron Murray is currently regarded as a Heisman Trophy contender is all well and good, but something we Dawg fans have grown accustomed to in the preseason from our quarterbacks the last decade or so. Regardless of the possibility of winning the Heisman before the season actually kicks off, what really matters is where one stands after all of the ballots are submitted in December.