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August 20, 2012

Can Young Backs Reach the Rabbit, Ware, or Even Be Like Bob?

Against Buffalo on 9/1, Gurley, Marshall, or
even both freshmen could join a select group.
Whether Georgia starts Todd Gurley or fellow true freshman, and North Carolinian, Keith Marshall at tailback against Buffalo is "merely trivia," as indicated by assistant Bryan McClendon; however, if just one of the two young backs total a nice chunk of rushing yardage versus the Bulls, the feat would be rather historic.

I researched and discovered the few occasions in UGA football history that a true freshman rushed for 50+ yards in a season-opening contest, or the very first game one could possibly play as a member of the Bulldogs.   Keep in mind, for roughly 50 years until the early '70s, true freshmen hardly played varsity football at Georgia.  Nevertheless, led by Danny Ware, highlighted by Herschel, and as recently as a year ago, the true freshman 50-yard rushing feat in a first game has been achieved officially seven times:   

135 yds- DANNY WARE
(18 carries, 7.5 avg., 3 TD vs. '04 Georgia Southern)
(5 carries, 17.4 avg., 1 TD vs. '43 Presbyterian)
(24 carries, 3.5 avg., 2 TD vs. '80 Tennessee)
(6 carries, 11.7 avg., 1 TD vs. '87 Virginia)
(15 carries, 4.0 avg., 0 TD vs. '10 Boise State)
  58 yds- MUSA SMITH
(9 carries, 6.4 avg., 1 TD vs. '00 Georgia Southern)
(17 carries, 3.3 avg., 0 TD vs. '90 LSU)
    ? yds- BOB McWHORTER
(vs. 1910 Locust Grove)

After finding the results above, the first thing that caught my eye was that six of Georgia's top seven opening-game rushers would eventually leave school early, while the lone one not to do so Rabbit Smith – would soon be relegated upon the return of Charley Trippi from World War II to second or third string.  Notably, Crowell had to depart school early, while Ware really had no choice but to leave UGA for the 2007 NFL Draft (with the emergence of Knowshon Moreno in a backfield which already featured Kregg Lumpkin and Thomas Brown).

In the '43 season opener, 17-year-old Rabbit
Smith (with ball) rushed for 87 yards, had 44
receiving, and 52 on interception returns.
Speaking of WWII and the Rabbit, granted, it wasn't nearly as difficult then as it would be later for a true freshman to rush for 50+ yards in his first game.  The personnel demand of the War left Georgia with just 38 players on its 1943 roster, 31 of which were only 16 or 17 years old, including wingback-tailback Charles "Rabbit" Smith.  Regardless, Smith tallied the season's first touchdown in a 25-7 upset victory over Presbyterian on a 32-yard reception, and scored a second time in the final quarter on a 39-yard rush.  Smith not only rushed for 87 yards, but also added two catches for 44 yards while intercepting two passes.

Also of note, of the seven rushing performances, all but two Crowell vs. Boise State last year and Hearst vs. LSU in 1990 added a rushing touchdown to go along with their somewhat lofty yardage total and resulted in Georgia victories.  In addition, all but two led the Bulldogs in rushing for their respective game: Musa Smith finished just behind junior Jasper Sanks (64 yards) by six yards for the team high against GSU in 2000, while 13 years beforehand, freshman Hampton was way behind teammate Lar Tate's 218 rushing yards against Virginia in 1987. 

And then there's Bob McWhorter, whose performance against Locust Grove in the 1910 season opener is an unofficial addition by me.  Now, in Georgia's 101-0 victory that day, little was reported from the game; no yardage statistics of any type and especially no individual rushing yards for the freshman McWhorter, who would become UGA's first All-American a little over three years later.  One of the few things that is clear from the Red and Black's resounding victory is that McWhorter scored a team-high five touchdowns and, in playing his first game at Georgia, most assuredly rushed for 50+ yards in the blowout.    

A week later in a 79-0 win over Gordon, McWhorter added seven more touchdowns and for the second time in as many games as a member of the Red and Black, the freshman phenom most certainly had fine back-to-back rushing outings.

A week from this Saturday against Buffalo, Gurley or Marshall reaching the status of Rabbit Smith or Danny Ware's first games at Georgia will be a difficult task for either of the true freshmen, while matching McWhorter's scoring performance will be downright impossible.  However, I fully expect at least one of the two newcomers to join the aforementioned list. 

Nearly 70 years ago, true freshman fullback Edgar Bratton was second on the Georgia team behind the Rabbit with 33 yards on eight carries against Presbyterian in 1943.  Therefore, if both Gurley and Marshall were to each rush for 50+ yards against the Bulls for what it's worth the first-game duo would accomplish a first in Bulldog football history.  


Anonymous said...

Pat, didn't CKing rush for just about 100 vs. GSU a few years back?

Anonymous said...

Anon, King was a REDSHIRT freshman when he rushed for 95 yards against GA Southern in the 2008 season opener. Thanks for your post!

Anonymous said...

Patrick- Can you check on the late Jimmy Williams starting as a true freshamn in 1953. He was my dad, and Coach Bill Hartman said on several occasions that dad started as a freshman on both sides of the ball as a halfback for Wally Butt's...Thanks.

Patrick Garbin said...

Hey, Anon 8:13. I just saw this post. I'm in the process of moving and have been bad about checking comments. As you probably know, your Dad was one of only a handful of Bulldogs that was able to play varsity ball for FOUR seasons because of the KOREAN war. Do you have a photo of your Dad? If not, I can probably find one. I'll do a post on your Dad and others in regards to the "Korean War Dogs" some time in the near future and will answer your question in the process. Hopefully you'll see this response... Thanks. By the way, if you do have a photo, please scan and send it to patrick@patrickgarbin.com.

Anonymous said...

Patrick- Thanks for getting back to me. Dad was active in the Wally Boy's group at UGA and remained close to the athletic program after his playing days were over.
I'm sure there are photos of dad in action. Probably his biggest play offensively, was when he gathered in a Jimmy Harper touchdown pass against Clemson to win the game. If you are researching the Wally Butts teams, Bill Saye of Athens is a great historian of those years. He is in close contact with Loran Smith as they publish a Wally Boys newsletter.
Hope that helps.