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July 31, 2012

Rare Northeastern Exposure

Over the weekend, my young nephew and I were discussing the Bulldogs' upcoming season opener.  "Where is Buffalo at anyway, Pat?" he asked.  Admittedly, Uncle Pat had to think for a moment before my answer of it being located in New York State, near Canada.  "Man, Buffalo is going to have to travel from way up there to get to Athens!" my nephew declared.

Way up there is the northeastern portion of the United States a section of our country where few schools have traveled south to face Georgia in Sanford Stadium.  The Bulldogs' first encounter with a northeastern team in Athens was the very first game ever played at Sanford Stadium and one of the most celebrated affairs in Georgia history the 15-0 victory over visiting Yale in 1929.  Given to me by Coach Dooley, I once had video from this momentous game posted here at my blog before the "powers that be" took it down, along with more than 40 other of my videos.  But don't get me started...

Here's a second attempt to post, and not lose, more than 8 minutes of rather rare video:

The Buffalo game one month from tomorrow will mark only the second occasion a visitor from New York and just the 12th time a team from the Northeast has played the Bulldogs in Athens.  If you exclude schools from Pennsylvania –  and it's personally difficult for me to think of Pennsylvania as a northeastern state, but it is, according to the Census Bureau Buffalo is just the sixth college football program from the Northeast to venture to UGA.

The losers of the first five Georgia-Northeast meetings in Athens were all held scoreless.  However, in the Bulldogs' sixth game ever at home against a northeastern squad, the host and Boston College squared off in 1951 in what would result in an intersectional shootout.  The Eagles, who entered with a 14-game winless streak, found themselves trailing 14-0 early on.  Nevertheless, freshman quarterback Jim Kane directed BC to three consecutive touchdowns against Georgia, who had been ranked 13th in the nation just three weeks beforehand.

The Bulldogs had their own young standout under center sophomore Zeke Bratkowski.  "The Brat" would rally the team to a thrilling 35-28 come-from-behind victory, throwing for 245 yards on 14-of-27 passing, including two scoring bombs of 76 and 54 yards to Harry Babcock, occurring within three minutes of one another.

In 1970, the NCAA voted to increase most teams' regular-season schedules from facing 10 foes to 11 beginning the following year.  In a scramble to find extra opposition, Georgia scheduled a lowly Pittsburgh program for the 1973 season opener and again two years later.  However, by the time the Panthers came to town, they were on the verge of more than a decade of prosperity, and their successful era all began by tying the Bulldogs in a 7-7 shocker as a 17-point underdog.  In 1975, Pittsburgh pulled another upset in Athens, defeating Georgia 19-9 in Sanford Stadium.

During the decade of the 1980s, the Bulldogs got their revenge against schools from the Northeast, specifically those from Pennsylvania, by beating Temple three times in a nine-season span by a scoring margin of 30 points.  Since the rout of the Owls in 1989, it will have been nearly a quarter-century entering the 2012 campaign that Georgia hosted an opponent from way up there.

Prior to Buffalo, the Bulldogs are 8-2-1 all time versus northeastern teams at home:
Defenders (L to R) Jimmy Payne, Landy Ewings,
Tommy Thurson, and Will Forts celebrate during
one of Georgia's three routs of Temple in the '80s.
1989- Temple (Won, 37-10)
1983- Temple (Won, 31-14)
1981- Temple (Won, 49-3)
1975- Pittsburgh (Lost, 19-9)
1973- Pittsburgh (Tied, 7-7)
1951- Boston College (Won, 35-28)
1949- Duquesne (Won, 40-0)
1941- Dartmouth (Won, 35-0)
1939- Holy Cross (Lost, 13-0)
1933- New York Univ. (Won, 25-0)
1929- Yale (Won, 15-0)

Come September 1st, Buffalo will travel to Athens, collect a fat check, and depart like nine of the previous 11 northeastern squads that have entered Sanford Stadium –  without a win.  The Bulls are no Beast of the East like Pitt of the '70s, but more like Temple from a decade later.  Following the probable victory, the Bulldogs will most likely wait another 20+ years until another northeastern football foe comes calling for a rare visit to the Classic City. 

July 26, 2012

Take Your Shirt Off!

Video of Ray Goff in 1976 with a torn jersey?  Perhaps you'd file this away with the there-is-obviously-little-going-on-if-I'm-posting-this posts:

Regardless, I was recently reading Willie Morris' The Courting of Marcus Dupree (I mentioned my fascination with Dupree a couple of years ago) and read where an actual "game plan" against Dupree by an opposing high school coach in the early-80s was for his defenders to purposely tug at Dupree's tear-away jersey.  A tattered Dupree jersey would mean the extraordinary running back would be forced out of the game for a play or two in order to don a new jersey, and one or two plays without Marcus Dupree on the field was a good thing for the opposition.

After reading this fascinating fact, I recalled Georgia's days of wearing the old tear-aways.  Apparently, the Bulldogs began sporting the tear-away jerseys  in the mid-70s, but I personally only remember Herschel racing around in 1980 with his shirt flapping in the breeze.  Less than a year ago, Derek Dooley remembered Herschel's tear-away jersey as well, and less than three months ago, someone actually paid more than $2,000 for one of the Goal Line Stalker's tattered tops.
Whether in 1975 (photo) or a year later 
vs. GA Tech, Ray Goff had a tough time
keeping his top intact against the Jackets. 

But ask the little older Bulldog fans and many will tell you they associate the old tear-away jerseys with Ray Goff.  While quarterbacking Georgia from 1974 to 1976, Goff was known for his devotion to the Lord, his love of professional wrestling (a former teammate of the quarterback's recently told me that Goff loved going to the "wrastling" matches in college at Athens' J&J Center), and a football jersey that would seemingly be shredded by opposing defenses at least a couple times each game. 

Alas, the NFL would eventually establish the "Greg Pruitt Rule," banning the use of tear-away jerseys and named after the Cleveland Brown back, who evidently would bring dozens of these mesh jerseys to games, leaving would-be tacklers with just a handful of fabric.  In 1982, the NCAA followed suit, citing besides giving players an advantage and safety concerns, the torn tops were simply an eye-sore.  As one college football official remarked, "It just looked bad.  Guys were running around on the field in rags."

Still, the tear-aways apparently have a place in UGA football history.  On Goff's 3-yard touchdown run in a 13-10 victory over Georgia Tech in 1976 (the middle clip of the video), it's clear he likely would not have scored if not for his tear-away jersey.  And, as at least the Yellow Jacket faithful contend, if Goff doesn't score, the Bulldogs would not have, and a 13-10 Bulldog win would've been a loss instead.

July 19, 2012

An Historical Opening Act

As I've indicated before, the opening game of the 2012 season versus Buffalo is significant in the annals of UGA football as the contest will mark the 40th anniversary of the first African Americans  Horace King, Larry West, and Chuck Kinnebrew  to appear in a varsity football game for the Bulldogs.  But in addition, the 1972 season opener against Baylor was somewhat of an historical event for other reasons, as well.

Georgia's 24-14 affair with Baylor in 1972 was significant for
reasons other than a victory over the presumed-lowly Bears. 
Before we know it, this year's freshman class will report to campus for its initial collegiate football practice.  It wasn't too terribly long ago that this annual event simply signified the formation of UGA's freshman Bullpups squad, little more.  However, this all changed in early January of 1972 when the NCAA voted to allow true freshmen to participate in varsity football and basketball going forward; Bullpups could now also be Bulldogs

At the time, the Southeastern Conference opposed the ruling, as did UGA athletic director Joel Eaves and head football coach Vince Dooley. 

"Freshmen just aren't ready [to play football]," said Dooley in April 1972.  "It's a poor rule."

Nevertheless, two days prior to the Baylor game on September 16, 1972, eight of Georgia's more than 40 incoming freshmen were told they would dress out as varsity members against the Bears.

The Bulldogs were coming off an 11-1 campaign in 1971, were preseason ranked 17th in the nation, and considered a darkhorse contender for the national title.  On the other hand, 28-point underdog Baylor had slumped to a 1-9 record the year before and was led by a first-year young Bear coach in his 30s, who had just spent three seasons at Angelo State  Grant Teaff.

There was no doubt Dooley would get  to play all eight freshmen; in fact, some questioned why the coach didn't dress out all 40+ in what was assumed to be a blowout victory. 

Speaking of blowout, notably, the 1972 Baylor game is also significant as it represents one of the biggest failed pranks in UGA football history.  Around 4:30 AM the morning of the game, or more than nine hours prior to kickoff, as the Bears players slept, their Athens motel received an early-morning phone call in attempt to disrupt their sleep. 

"There's a bomb due to go off in your hotel in a few minutes," said the caller.

Come to find out, and as one would expect, there was no bomb planted in the motel.  But not nearly as obvious was who was more senseless: the prank caller, who phoned the motel wing where the Bears were not staying, or the police, who would later tell the press that the bomb threat "apparently came from a Georgia fan."

A Georgia fan?  You're kidding...  Anyway, the Bears apparently got plenty of sleep that night as they trailed the four-touchdown-favored Bulldogs by only four points late in the third quarter, 10-6. 

What about the eight dressed-out freshmen?  According to frosh quarterback Ralph Page, "all of us got to play." 

After the Bulldogs added two quick touchdowns for an 18-point lead, Dooley began inserting the freshmen in an eventual 24-14 victory.  After the win, Page added that his upperclass teammates "were a lot nicer in the game than they are around [McWhorter Hall]." 

In '72 vs. Baylor, Harrison became the
first Bulldog true frosh since 1953 to run the
ball in a varsity game  an achievement
currently not acknowledged by UGA.  
The following are the eight freshmen of '72, who each saw action in their first game as a Bulldog.  You may recognize some of the names: Joe T. continues to this day to work within the program, Steve Wilson would play 10 years in the NFL, while Glynn Harrison's 2,031 career rushing yards ranked 2nd in UGA history (only behind Frank Sinkwich) upon his departure from the school in 1975.

DG- Jim Baker (Columbus, GA)
DT- Cooper Gunby (Thomson, GA)
RB- Glynn Harrison (Decatur, GA)
  C- Will Legg (Athens, GA)
QB- Ralph Page (Mobile, AL)
LB- Stan Tedder (Lawrenceville, GA)    
TE- Joe Tereshinski (Washington, D.C.)
OT- Steve Wilson (Macon, GA) 

Speaking of "Gliding" Glynn, Georgia credits him with 2,026 career rushing yards, mistakenly omitting the five yards he gained on two rushes as a true freshman in 1972; both carries coming against Baylor. 

In its record-keeping, UGA apparently had a difficult time in recognizing the efforts of its true freshmen.  Its head football coach, on the other hand, did not.

"The best two hits I saw all day were by freshmen [Stan Tedder and Jim Baker]," Dooley said after the game. 

Whether by the end of the '72 Baylor game or eight years later when an 18-year-old named Herschel arrived on campus, Dooley most certainly had a change of heart regarding freshman eligibility as a "poor rule," but rather believed that some freshmen are indeed ready to play football.  

July 12, 2012

If Murray's NOT a "Gamer," what Dawg was?

Georgia's loss to MSU in the Outback Bowl dropped
Aaron Murray's "Big Game" record to 0 and 9.
"Aaron Murray makes me nervous," a friend of mine said the other day.  He then went further, stating that of all the Georgia quarterbacks that started for at least two seasons, the last one that made him more nervous  the one he trusted the least when he lined up under center for the Bulldogs was, in his words, "well... probably Greg Talley."  (By the way, I think two seasons was his benchmark so Joe Cox couldn't be considered.)

For those of you who remember Greg Talley from the late-1980s/early-1990s, that was a strong statement, and presumably a slight exaggeration, by my friend.

"Murray is not a gamer," my friend continued, "he hasn't won a single big game."

His opinion is certainly nothing new; Murray's production against formidable competition has often been criticized.  There has been much discussion on how Murray lights it up against the cupcake opposition, but crumbles in the big games.

But, this leads me to ask, what exactly is a "big game"?  And, after defining it, does Murray's performances in such contests differ much from the Bulldog signal callers that came before him?

So, after some thought and discussion, my friend and I finally decided on our opinion of what exactly is a BIG GAME: any bowl opponent, an SEC title foe, a team ranked in the AP's top 15 entering the game, and/or a meeting where the Bulldogs entered as underdogs.

Under such conditions, I discovered Georgia had played in NINE "big games" in 2010 and 2011 combined, all under the direction of Murray: South Carolina (underdog), Arkansas (top 15), Miss. State (underdog), Auburn (top 15, underdog), and Central Florida (bowl) in 2010, and Boise State (top 15, underdog), South Carolina (top 15, underdog), LSU (SECC, top 15, underdog), and Michigan State (bowl, top 15) in 2011.

And, under these conditions, my friend was correct in his assessment Murray has indeed yet to win a big game, going 0-9 thus far in his career, while he is 16-2 against other opponents.  Perhaps as telling, Murray has a remarkable passer rating of 161.20 versus the weaker competition, but 131.16, or a decrease of nearly 20 percent, in big games:

BIG GAMES: 131.16 rating (154 of 275, 56%, 2125 yards, 14 TD, 9 int)
OTHERS:      161.20 rating (447 of 745, 60%, 6198 yards, 59 TD, 22 int)

Based on my friend's comments, I decided to go back when the Bulldogs first began to really open up their passing game, which started ironically right after Talley, beginning with Eric Zeier in 1991.  Of the six Georgia quarterbacks from then to the present, who were considered starters for at least two seasons, I discovered their career starting records in "big games":
Of Zeier's five "big" wins at UGA,
FOUR resulted as a freshman in '91.

DAVID GREENE, 11-6 (.647)
*MIKE BOBO, 4-4 (.500)
QUINCY CARTER, 4-6 (.400)
*ERIC ZEIER, 5-9-1 (.367)
AARON MURRAY, 0-9 (.000)

*Considered are two big games of Zeier's (Alabama and Clemson in '91) and one of Bobo (Auburn in '96), where the two quarterbacks didn't actually start the games; however, in each case, they played for nearly the entire contest.

I then felt it would be interesting to figure the other five Bulldogs' passer ratings in only big games compared to Murray's 131.16 big-game rating, and was somewhat shocked to see our current signal caller go from the bottom of a list to the top:

MIKE BOBO, 129.96
ERIC ZEIER, 121.28

So, I thought, our beloved Murray is 0-9 in big games, yet he has the best Bulldog big-game passer rating over the last 20+ years???  Maybe our boy has gotten a bad rap; perhaps Murray's winless record in big games over the past two seasons has been little fault of his own, but rather that of his teammates and coaches.

On the contrary, the typical football stat geek, like myself, will tell you that passer ratings nowadays are a tad inflated from those of yesteryear; Murray's rating shouldn't be compared to those from a decade or so ago, especially Zeier's from the early-90s.  Also, what does a quarterback's passer rating exactly show besides how "efficient" one is at passing?  And, some would argue it really isn't much indicative of that...

However, in comparing quarterbacks' passing performances against big-game foes and non-big game opposition, what might be indicative of big-game production is any drop-off in passing efficiency –  the six quarterbacks' passer-rating decrease in non-big games to big games:

MATTHEW STAFFORD, -3.9 percent
MIKE BOBO, -10.7 percent
DAVID GREENE, -13.3 percent
QUINCY CARTER, -13.7 percent
ERIC ZEIER, -17.1 percent
AARON MURRAY, -18.6 percent

If you're confused by all of this statistical mumbo jumbo, I'm sure you're not alone.  Even I got a little lost just now reading over what I had typed.  Regardless, what's clear from the third set of rankings is that Stafford, for example, was a steady passing performer, whether playing in big games or against weaker competition.  Throw in the fact that he won 70 percent of his big games the first set of rankings  and there is little doubt Stafford was a "gamer" during his Bulldog career.  Based on this analysis, the same could be said for Greene, and even Bobo to some degree.

As far as Murray, so far, not so much.

The junior quarterback's 0-9 record in big games is obviously not his entire fault.  Some of the blame can certainly fall on the others surrounding him.  However, what's revealing is Murray's drop in performance when facing tougher competition; he can be mostly to blame for this unfortunate trend.

Perhaps fortunately for the Bulldogs and Murray, their next "big game" might not come until the sixth game of the year at South Carolina, and maybe not until a possible early-December date in the Georgia Dome.  Unfortunately for Aaron Murray, until he finally wins a big game, there are some in the Bulldog Nation, like my friend, who will continue to group him with those former quarterbacks, like Greg Talley, who may have made some of us "nervous."

But say what you will about Talley, although he was the loser of five, he did win TWO "big games" as a Bulldog...

July 9, 2012

A True Classic in Pictures

Georgia, 10 to 7, but as the marvelous Munson
proclaimed, There's alotta time!
Recently, I was at my parents house just outside of Athens when my mother handed me a historic UGA football treasure  the 1975 Georgia-Florida radio broadcast.  In anticipation of my upcoming book release on the Bulldogs-Gators rivalry, my former dentist, and a reader of this blog, handed my parents the 10-7 Georgia momentous victory in Jacksonville to pass along to me.

You're kidding...  For a Georgia football history nerd like myself, it was instantly Christmas in July!

For most of us Bulldog enthusiasts, the lone moment we've heard from the broadcast is the great Richard Appleby-to-Gene Washington 80-yard touchdown pass, which "won" Georgia the game.  However, as I've mentioned here a couple of times before, there was a ton of time remaining after the memorable end-around touchdown play.  The Gators would have possession of the ball TWICE more and even made a game-tying field-goal attempt with nearly one minute left.

I've cut the final 5+ minutes of the '75 Georgia-Florida meeting, which is just over 26 minutes of broadcast, and arranged it with about a dozen photos all but the final two taken from the actual game.  Warning: Albeit some of my comments might be a tad lame and/or not positioned properly with the broadcast (please excuse my first attempt using Windows Movie Maker), I've added a little commentary to help you follow one of the great upsets for the Bulldogs in recent memory.

Most significantly, you'll hear the electrifying play by play of the legendary Larry Munson, who was in only his tenth year as "Voice of the Bulldogs."  Included is a classic request by Munson, which I would guess few remember or have even heard before, but has to be one of the greatest lines ever declared on any football radio broadcast...

On another note, I was introduced to the GATA News Net for UGA blogs over the weekend.  Admittedly, I almost disregarded their email before deciding to read it and visiting their site.  I recommend checking out the site and registering, after which I would appreciate you placing my blog in your top-10 listing.

Also, I will be receiving my Georgia-Florida book copies within the next two-to-three weeks.  In bookstores, the 320-page "handy manual as to why we love the Georgia Bulldogs and why we hate the Florida Gators" will cost you around $16 after taxes.  But, by visiting my site and emailing, I will send you a copy for $14 with free shipping (and, if you can bear it, my free signature).  Although my book is not quite the Georgia-Florida treasure as the video above, it will make a great Get-Ready-For-Football-Season gift for the Bulldog, or two, or ten, in your life!  

July 4, 2012

Easy, Peasy... Is Georgia's schedule really THAT Measly?

Although Georgia's schedule appears to be
only this difficult, there seemingly have recently
been others in the SEC even easier. 
Even more so than Georgia returning maybe one of its best defenses in history, Aaron Murray as a darkhorse Heisman Trophy candidate, or the Bulldogs possibly being in the running for a national title by season's end, the chatter about the team's upcoming and supposedly simple schedule has mostly been the talk of the preseason by the pundits.

We've all heard the same ole babble: the Dogs face lowly non-conference foes Buffalo, Florida Atlantic, and Georgia Southern.  They avoid having to play LSU, Alabama, and Arkansas out of the SEC West, while the East division appears to be "down" for another season.  Recently, ESPN's and UGA alum Mark Schlabach went as far as declaring he was "on record" for asserting the Bulldogs had the "easiest schedule in the history of the SEC."

Wow!  The "easiest schedule" ever, while having to face Missouri on the road in the Tigers' first SEC game in history, South Carolina at Columbia, and Auburn on the Plains.  Tennessee and Florida aren't the Vols and Gators of the 1990s, but they are both evidently going to be better than they were a year ago.  While Georgia Tech is one opponent Georgia should certainly defeat but, as has been the case of late, is a reputable foe.

Beginning with last season and going back, I decided to go on an SEC schedule search, of sorts, to discover if Georgia was indeed about to play the easiest opposition in the history of a conference that will be celebrating its 80th year.  In reality, I only had to go back a handful of seasons before uncovering several schedules of SEC members which appeared as manageable as the Bulldogs' upcoming slate, if not easier:

(Only regular-season opponents are considered and, when ranked teams are mentioned, recognized are AP-ranked opponents at the end of the season.)
2010- Kentucky: Albeit top-ranked Auburn, the Wildcats faced just one team ranked higher than 15th, and that was at home...The non-conference schedule was made up of Louisville, Akron, Western Kentucky, and I-AA Charleston Southern...Eight of Kentucky's 12 regular-season opponents finished their respective regular seasons with non-winning records.

2008- Alabama: The Crimson Tide opened with an overrated Clemson team, who would finish the year with six losses, while Tulane, Western Kentucky, and Arkansas State rounded out its non-conference slate...Faced just two ranked opponents – No. 13 Georgia and No. 14 Ole Miss...Like Kentucky two years later, eight of Alabama's 12 regular-season opponents finished their respective regular seasons with non-winning records.

2007- Arkansas:  Arkansas faced only three ranked opponents, including No. 15 Auburn at home and a No. 1, but an eventual two-loss, LSU squad, which was looking ahead to the SEC title game and was upset by the Hogs...The Razorbacks' meetings with Troy, North Texas, Chattanooga, and Florida International might be the all-timer of light non-conference schedules.

2005- Auburn:  The Tigers did play three top-10 teams – #6 LSU, #10 Georgia, and #8 Alabama; however, besides those three ranked foes, none of Auburn's eight other regular-season opponents finished the year with better than a 7-5 overall record...Rather weak non-conference schedule of Georgia Tech, Ball State, and Western Kentucky.

2004- Auburn:  Of Auburn's three ranked opponents – #7 Georgia, #13 Tennessee, #16 LSU – two were played at home...Similarly to the following year's Tigers, besides the three ranked foes, none of other eight opponents in 2004 finished their respective regular seasons with a winning record...Besides being downright soft, the non-conference slate of Louisiana-Monroe, The Citadel, and Louisiana Tech would eventually cost undefeated Auburn a chance to play for a national championship.

2004- Alabama:  The Crimson Tide did face second-ranked Auburn (at home), but played no other team ranked higher than 13th nationally...Non-conference schedule consisted of Utah State, Western Carolina, and Southern Mississippi...None of the first seven opponents on the schedule – Utah State, Ole Miss, Western Carolina, Arkansas, South Carolina, Kentucky, and So. Miss –  would finish better than a 6-5 regular-season.

Therefore, in my opinion, Georgia's upcoming schedule for the 2012 season, comparatively speaking, might not be as easy as many make it out to be.  And, for what it's worth, it is certainly not Georgia's easiest schedule since the school has been a member of the SEC.  That distinction may be reserved for another celebrated Dogs team.

Even the simplest of easy schedules
couldn't keep Coach Dooley and his
Dogs from a national title in 1980.
By the end of Georgia's 1980 national championship season, the Bulldogs' schedule, in earning little respect, had been laughed at and ridiculed.  Not having to face Alabama, Miss. State, or LSU, the six SEC foes Georgia did play were the bottom six teams in the conference standings.  Its five regular-season non-conference opponents averaged only four victories each for the year.  No regular-season Bulldog opponent ended with a record better than 8-4, while not a single foe finished ranked in the final AP Poll. 

Even the Bulldogs' Sugar Bowl opponent for the national title, Notre Dame, had received a premature invite prior to an early-December defeat, and slumped into New Orleans ranked only 7th in the nation.

Still, after the victory over the Fighting Irish, there was little debate on who was the best team in the country.  Following the win, standout offensive guard Tim Morrison was asked by a media member if there was any doubt Georgia was not the best team in the nation; he so eloquently responded:

"Hell, no.  We’re going to get respect now. We’re the only 12-0 team in the country, and by God, we’re No. 1."

Point is, whether in 2012 or more than 30 years before, it really doesn't matter the schedule difficulty of a team from the SEC.  As long as you take care of business by winning all of your regular-season games, come the postseason, any SEC member will find itself with a shot at the number-one ranking.

That is, by God, unless you're Auburn from several years ago.