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October 10, 2012

When a Dawg "Under Fire" Lit Up the 'Cats

In Lexington 30 years ago, someone (No. 12) other
than Herschel had to come to the Bulldogs' rescue.
Personally, it was good to hear recently that the upcoming Georgia-Kentucky contest was set for 7:00 p.m. ET.  As an enthusiast of UGA football history, I think of the series when meeting in Lexington as one normally played at night.
In addition, I think of past Georgia games at Kentucky where often a Bulldog in obscurity plays a significant role in defeating the Wildcats.  Such was the case 30 years ago when a quarterback "under fire" had a career night, lifting Georgia from approaching what would have been one of the biggest upsets in school history.
Entering the 1982 season, perhaps the biggest question for the Bulldogs had been who was going to play quarterback.  Georgia had signed highly-recruited Jamie Harris, but the Danville, Virginia native had a difficult time adjusting to the college game and was redshirted.  The Bulldogs also featured freshman Todd Williams from Waycross and Villanova transfer Danny Greene, but none of the two newcomers had played well enough to challenge the starting signal-caller by default junior John Lastinger.
Lastinger had played on Georgia's junior varsity squad as a freshman, redshirted in 1980, and attempted just 18 passes as a sophomore (completing only seven) as a backup to Buck Belue.  When Harris struggled in summer practices, Lastinger seemingly with reluctance was named the team's starter under center.  Nevertheless, there was little worry by the Bulldog faithful...  For the most part, all Lastinger had to do was turn around and hand it to Herschel, right? 
Through the first six games of the 1982 season, for the most part, that is all Lastinger had to do.  Herschel Walker and a stout defense had carried the Dawgs to a 6-0 record and a No. 3 national ranking.  Lastinger entered the Kentucky game having passed for just four touchdowns all year and was ranked as the lowest-rated passer in the entire conference, and one of the lowest in the nation.
Against Kentucky, who entered its night-time affair versus Georgia as a three-touchdown underdog and would eventually end its season without a single victory, the Bulldogs found themselves trailing 14-3 in the second quarter.  With the Wildcats smelling what would be an all-time upset, Lastinger instantly took over a stagnant offense, passing for a career-high 162 yards and three touchdowns (or just two less scoring passes than he had thrown in his previous 14 combined games as a Bulldog) in what would result as a 27-14 Georgia win:   
Of the 21 Bulldogs in history to pass for at least 1,750 career yards, Lastinger ranks the lowest with a 45.2 completion percentage; his 104.2 career efficiency rating is third from the bottom.  Regardless, no Georgia quarterback equals his career winning percentage of nearly 90.0 as a starting quarterback.  In 1982 and 1983, Lastinger combined to go 20-2-1 in career starts.
Granted, much of the Bulldog signal-caller's winning success can be attributed to Herschel in '82 and a dominating defense both seasons.  However, exhibited that night in Lexington plus in at least a couple other contests the following year (Florida and Texas in the Cotton Bowl), John Lastinger simply rose to the occasion above all, demonstrating why the underappreciated quarterback is unmatched in school history in the "statistic" that matters the most winning.   

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

as much as belue is overated, Lastinger was very much under-rated.