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November 30, 2012

"Pulpwood" Spoke...

In just his first 7 games as a Bulldog, Pulpwood rushed
for a Herschel-like 4 touchdowns of 34 yards or more.
...with me on the phone a couple of days ago from his home in Broxton, Ga.  And, among many other things, I discovered the answer to a question I've had for over five years: whether or not the real Andre "Pulpwood" Smith is the voice behind the Monk-e-mail Pulpwood (NOT SAFE for work, kids, and those easily offended, but damn funny) that many Dawg fans have grown to follow.

For my next book on UGA football, I decided to take a different approach by interviewing primarily players from yesteryear who were certainly standouts, but not necessarily household names.  And, although Pulpwood might be a household name with some, I discovered that he is quite different as well "an interesting fellow," according to Coach Dooley following his star fullback's performance against Alabama in 1984.  I concur.

During a week the Bulldogs face a favored Crimson Tide team at the Georgia Dome, it was rather appropriate I learned of Pulpwood's game of his life as a Bulldog: Georgia's 24-14 upset victory over Alabama from nearly 30 years ago.

Pulpwood, who had played in just one varsity game as a true freshman in 1983, surprised all, even himself, by first capturing Georgia's starting fullback position entering the '84 campaign (over David McCluskey the team's returning leading rusher), and then breaking off a 50-yard touchdown sprint from his fullback position in the season opener against Southern Miss.

A Coffee County teammate of Pulpwood's recently said of the highly-touted tailback, who had initially signed with Texas A&M: "At Georgia, they put him at fullback weighing only 195 pounds and lightning quick. ... If he was to ever get loose, he would be gone."  Never was this more evident than Pulpwood's game at Legion Field arguably, the greatest rushing performance ever by a Bulldog in the Alabama series.

On just a simple fullback dive off the option series, Pulpwood first struck only 1:28 into the game, streaking for a 44-yard touchdown.  Just 2:19 later, he was off again on the exact same play, sprinting for a 34-yard score.  Pulpwood mostly served as a blocker the remainder of the game for mainly tailback and fellow freshman Lars Tate.  However, he resurfaced with a critical first-down run of 17 yards on the Bulldogs' final touchdown drive, which gave Georgia a 10-point lead late in the game.  Pulpwood finished with 117 yards on 12 carries, including the two distinguished scoring jaunts.

Two weeks later, Pulpwood rushed for more than 100 yards in a rout of Vanderbilt.  Smith's final of two career 100-yard performances – Georgia's only two 100-yard rushing games by an individual in a 20-game span from October 1983 to October 1985 included another long run, a 47-yard touchdown late in the opening quarter.
During what would be his final game at UGA,
Pulpwood (No. 35) celebrates a touchdown with
No. 32 Lars Tate in the Citrus Bowl.

Two months later, Pulpwood's tenure as a Bulldog would end with a 17-17 tie against Florida State in the Citrus Bowl.  Georgia's ultimate one-hit wonder finished his sophomore season with 655 rushing yards, a 6.0 average, and four touchdowns all team highs.  His 12 receptions in 1984 led all running backs.

Soon after the Citrus Bowl, Pulpwood was declared academically ineligible.  After leaving school, he would live a life of crime and drugs, culminating with getting shot in Atlanta in 1997.  However, since this former life, he has been "blessed," according to Pulpwood, discovering those that truly loved him and people that "had my back."  Such individuals include old teammates McCluskey and Tate, Keith Henderson and Tim Worley.  Recently, after hearing of their old friend's turnaround, the four former Bulldog running backs traveled to Crossroads Baptist Church in Douglas, Ga. to demonstrate they still had Pulpwood's back in 2011 after years of searching for him.

Finally, Pulpwood wanted to call attention to another Bulldog that always stood by him one of the most celebrated Bulldogs of all time, Coach Dooley, who was there by Pulpwood's bedside in Atlanta the moment he woke up in the hospital after getting shot.   

As I wrapped up my phone interview, I decided to find out what the real Pulpwood thought about Georgia's upcoming meeting against Alabama for the SEC title and a spot in the national championship game:

"The key will be to jump on the Tide early," Pulpwood declared without any hesitation, "...just like I did to them in Birmingham back in '84," he added with a laugh.

November 27, 2012

High on the Dogs' Hogs

Lee, Theus, Andrews, Gates, the rest of the Hogs,
and their coaches can be commended for their 
much better than expected play in 2012.
Entering the season three months ago, they were the Dogs' most inexperienced unit of players and likely the team's biggest question mark: the Hogs on offense, Georgia's  offensive line. 
Back in the spring, I posted a pessimistic piece indicating the Bulldogs' inexperienced offensive line one which returned only 31 career starts was my primary cause for concern, and for good reason.  As mentioned then, when a Georgia squad from the past or FBS team from the previous year returned little along the offense front, it almost always equated to a decline in overall record. 
Entering 2012, the Bulldogs' 31 offensive line starts were the lowest in the SEC, while only 13 of the other 123 FBS schools returned fewer.
With two games remaining on its schedule, no matter the outcomes, Georgia has already achieved a better record than a year ago, bucking the trend that an inexperienced offensive line corresponds to a drop in overall team results.  Instead, the Bulldog youngsters wound up being one of the best offensive lines in the conference (by my measurement) and an integral part of one of the best teams in the nation.

Granted, the jury may still be somewhat out on this unit.  Against Georgia's two toughest opponents South Carolina and Florida the young Hogs struggled; the Bulldogs' two remaining games will be versus rather formidable opposition.  However, few will argue that throughout the season, Georgia's offensive line performed better overall than expected. 
Following the Bulldogs' disappointing, losing 2010 campaign, I blogged about the Offensive Hog Index a calculation originally used to measure NFL offensive lines that I borrowed and tweaked for the college game.  This index takes into account three statistical rankings amongst conference members where final placement is determined by the average of the three rankings.  The three measurements used are yards per rush (sacks omitted), percent of passing plays (pass attempts + times sacked) resulting in an interception or sack, and third- and fourth-down combined conversion rate.

Entering the SEC Championship Game, Georgia averages 5.56 yards per rush (3rd-best in SEC), 8.47% of its passing plays have resulted in a sack or interception (7th lowest), and have a 45.86% success rate on third and fourth down combined (4th highest).  The Bulldogs’ 4.7 average ranking places 3rd in the conference amongst the 14 members (school ranked by average of three rankings, followed by returning career OL starts in parenthesis):

 1. Texas A&M, 1.7 (95)
 2. Alabama, 3.0 (95)
 3. GEORGIA, 4.7 (31)
 4. Tennessee, 5.3 (105)
 5. Miss. State, 6.7 (43)
 6. LSU, 7.0 (104)
 7. Ole Miss, 8.0 (57)
 8. Vanderbilt, 8.3 (60)
9T. Florida, 8.7 (79)
9T. Kentucky, 8.7 (50)
11. Arkansas, 9.3 (65)
12. South Carolina, 10.0 (61)
13. Auburn, 11.0 (35)
14. Missouri, 12.3 (68)

In 2010, I was astonished that Georgia's offensive line returned a nation's highest 155 career starts, yet by the end of the season, the unit ranked in the bottom half of the SEC in Offensive Hog Index.  Two years later, I'm even more amazed, but delighted, that evidently the opposite has transpired: the SEC's most inexperienced offensive line has turned out to be one of the conference's best.

Also in 2010, I stated that the Bulldogs' shortcoming of an experienced offensive line but its sub-par play can primarily be blamed on any coach that had anything to do with those "experienced" linemen.  Only two years later, the opposite holds true: give credit to Will Friend and anyone else who has a hand in coaching the offensive line for transforming what was a major concern in August to a team strength by regular season's end.

November 23, 2012

Before there was "Gurshall"...

Thirty-four years before Todd Gurley and Keith
Marshall, Georgia had Buck Belue and another true 
frosh "quarterback" for Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.
Before the recent arrival of "Gurshall" to UGA, two Georgia true freshmen from yesteryear, who also played the same position (well, kind of), delivered the Bulldogs in celebrated fashion to a victory in the Georgia-Georgia Tech series.  However, a significant difference between a freshman duo from 34 years ago and the Bulldogs' tailback pair who have combined to wear number 34 (and will hopefully run all over the Jackets tomorrow), is Buck Belue and David Archer weren't even supposed to see the field in the bitter intrastate rivalry on a Saturday afternoon at Sanford Stadium.
In 1978, Georgia signed Belue from Valdosta High and Archer from College Park's Woodward Academy; both players had been recognized as first-team All-State quarterbacks in 1977 for their respective classifications.  Belue was considered perhaps the nation's most highly-touted quarterback coming out of high school and was expected to challenge junior Jeff Pyburn for the Bulldogs' top signal-calling spot.  Archer, on the other hand, was promptly moved to the defensive backfield upon his arrival to Athens and placed on the JV squad.
Belue's Georgia career got off to a rocky start.  In the season opener of 1978, the Bulldogs trailed Baylor 7-6 early in the third quarter and had the ball nearing midfield.  In a surprise move, Coach Dooley replaced Pyburn with the young signal caller, who entered the game actually listed as the team's No. 3 quarterback behind Pyburn and sophomore Chris Welton.  On his first collegiate pass attempt, Belue's inexperience showed as he was intercepted.
Georgia would go on to defeat Baylor and Belue would remain the Bulldogs' No. 2 quarterback throughout the season.  However, entering the regular-season finale against Georgia Tech, he had seen little action.  Following the Baylor game, Belue really only played in blowout wins over Ole Miss (42-3) and VMI (41-3).
As far as Georgia's other quarterback recruit from 1978, Archer's only varsity action had come during the rout over VMI, where he was in for just a few plays as a member of the secondary. 
As the "Wonderdog" season of '78 neared to an end, no one would have ever guessed that the two freshmen, especially Archer, would play prominent roles and ultimately be responsible for winning arguably the most exciting Georgia-Georgia Tech game of all time.
Through the first 20 minutes of play against the Yellow Jackets, the Bulldogs had committed four turnovers with Pyburn under center and were losing, 20-0.  Again, Belue was surprisingly inserted into a game when Georgia trailed.  It was perhaps a risky move; there is good reason why the TV broadcast displayed only the freshman's rushing statistics to that point.  Entering the Tech game, Belue had completed just 7 of 19 passes, throwing for no touchdowns and 3 interceptions.  Nevertheless, he promptly led Georgia on a 9-play, 55-yard touchdown drive which included three pass completions in as many attempts.
Often lost in this account of what was the greatest comeback in UGA football history at the time is the fact Belue didn't remain in the game for its duration.  Trailing 20-7 to start the third quarter, the Bulldogs were quarterbacked again by Pyburn, who was actually booed by some fans when he came onto the field.  
Pyburn responded to the jeering of his own home crowd by leading Georgia to its second touchdown drive, cutting the Bulldogs' deficit to six points.  However, on the following possession, the offense was forced to punt and the first-string quarterback was benched in favor of Belue for the second time in less than a length of a quarter.
Thanks to Scott Woerner's punt return for a touchdown, Georgia took a 21-20 lead, but it was short lived as Georgia Tech returned the ensuing kickoff for a score.  Trailing 28-21 and under the direction of Belue, the Bulldogs punted, lost the ball on downs, and then punted again in three possessions.  However, Dooley decided to stay with the freshman for a final possession one which resulted in one of the greatest touchdowns (and certainly the most celebrated two-point conversion) in the annals of "Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate."
As far as the other UGA freshman quarterback recruit from '78, Archer surprisingly got to play in the Georgia Tech game, as well.  However, Archer's showing is much less heralded than Belue's, although just as impactful and probably more so inconceivable.  Sent in as an extra defensive back to simply "cover the tight end," Archer's interception with approximately a minute remaining resulted on his lone snap of the game, in what would be his final play as a member of Georgia's varsity, and above all, clinched a 29-28 memorable victory. 

A season later in 1979, Belue would replace Pyburn one final time as Georgia's starting quarterback after the Bulldogs got off to an 0-3 start (although, ironically, the senior would start against and defeat Georgia Tech that year after Belue was injured during the previous game).  And in 1980, as we all know, Belue would become and remains the only quarterback to guide Georgia to an undisputed national championship.
What about the other Georgia freshman quarterback recruit from '78?
David Archer transferred from UGA following a season on the Bulldogs' JV team in 1979.  He would continue to play college football and actually return to his original position at his new school.  And like Belue, Archer too guided his team to a championship, quarterbacking the West Georgia Braves to a Division III national title in 1982.

November 21, 2012

** Double the Dispute

Whether Bulldogs recognize them or not, we unfortunately suffered
setbacks in the Georgia-Georgia Tech series in 1943
(and the Jackets have the scoreboard to prove it) and 1944.
The following is a piece I've posted before during previous Georgia-Georgia Tech game weeks.  It's a stance one of giving our hated rival to the southwest credit I'm not proud of, but an opposing view I've supported for quite some time.  Let me add that despite my opinion, I still hate Tech! 
Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving to all (... and even to those Yellow Jackets out there).
I do not like The Georgia Institute of Technology, and especially hate its football team.
A few years ago, I somewhat respected the Jackets for their sudden turnaround with the beginning of the Coach Paul Johnson era, but now cherish the fact they've endured three consecutive seasons of five losses or more.
Unlike many decades ago, when I started rooting for the Bulldogs in the early 1980s, I believe many Dawg fans felt more sorry for Tech than those that disliked the Wramblin' Wreck.  "Hate" is a strong word and it was probably more reserved for the likes of Clemson, Auburn, and maybe Florida.
In 1984, this all changed for me when I witnessed an underdog Georgia Tech team come into Athens, soundly defeat my Bulldogs, and tear up Sanford Stadium's hedges afterwards.  The next day, on the cover of the sports section of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Tech coach Bill Curry was pictured loving on John Dewberry, a transfer from Georgia two years earlier.  Worse, Dewberry, the winning quarterback of the Yellow Jackets, had torn off a piece of our beloved hedges.

This exhibition of disrespect will not be accepted, I decided then.  No longer did I feel sorry for our intrastate rival; I felt hatred.

However, there is one, and only one, single issue I do side with our in-state adversary.  Most Tech and Georgia football fans are familiar with this controversy and the pair of asterisks that have made it renowned.  If you're NOT familiar with the dispute, I'm sure you'll hear about it this Saturday when watching the 107th, or 105th meeting between Georgia and Georgia Tech; the game's television broadcast mentions it annually without fail.

The Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets cannot agree on how many times they've played one another in football.  Georgia defends a 62-37-5 advantage; Georgia Tech claims a 39-62-5 disadvantage.

The disagreement lies with the games played between the teams in 1943 and 1944 – both blowout wins for the Yellow Jackets by a combined 92-0 score. Georgia Tech counts the two games, while Georgia does not recognize them in the series results.

By the start of the 1943 football season, World War II was raging. Because of the war, graduation, and injuries, every one of the Bulldogs' lettermen from the 1942 national championship squad was lost.  Of the 38 "men" on Georgia's 1943 roster, 30 were only 16 or 17 years old and too young for the war's draft.  The few remaining players of 18 years and older were only part of the team because they had not met the military's physical standards.

Many of the teams around the country were in the same predicament as Georgia and a good number of schools cancelled their '43 football campaigns.  Only a day before the Bulldogs' season opener, Coach Wally Butts asked his boys if they too wanted to cancel their season.  They refused, joining only three other SEC schools of the 12 total members, who decided to field a football team in 1943.

"So we'll play football as long as 11 men are available to put a team on the field," said Butts.

Like Georgia, rival Georgia Tech was one of the four participating schools in the conference.  However, unlike the Bulldogs, the Yellow Jackets were prospering from the war.

As did a few other schools, Georgia Tech benefited from its on-campus Navy V-12 Program, whereas any student who signed up for the program could remain in school and continue playing athletics.  In addition, Tech had a Navy flight school which drew students, including football players, from other universities.

In 1943, not only did the Yellow Jackets return most of their team from the year before but, according to Dan Magill a long-time member of UGA's athletics department – Tech's squad was also joined by the captains of Alabama and Vanderbilt and other players from various schools.  This gave the Jackets an overwhelming advantage over Georgia and it was evident on the gridiron with a 48-0 victory in 1943 and a 44-0 win in 1944.

Soon after his hiring as publicity director of UGA football in 1948, Magill told Coach Butts he would no longer count the 1943 and 1944 games in the series record between Tech and Georgia.  In the school's football records, Magill placed asterisks next to the two Bulldog losses because "those were not true Georgia Tech teams," Magill has personally told me before and countless others for decades.
"There's no question about it, there's no way they are true Georgia-Georgia Tech games," Magill said.  "There's no question about that.  [Georgia] had a freshman team."
Unfortunately, this is where I am in disagreement and admittedly side with the enemy.
First off, that freshman team for Georgia in 1943 reached as high as No. 20 nationally in the AP Poll during the season.  Entering the Georgia Tech game the following year, the Bulldogs were actually recognized as only a slight underdog; some local bookies even placed even odds on the game. 
Above all, I have a feeling if Georgia would have been victorious in one or both of the '43 and '44 contests, the games would be recognized today in the series results and there would be no asterisks.
Both the NCAA and SEC acknowledges the two games as losses for the Bulldogs.  And, actually Georgia also recognizes the losses in its yearly results and all-time record (just not in the series results).
Coach Curry, will you accept this rose, err, I mean, piece of hedge?
Soon after the beginning of the controversy, few stood by Magill on his stance or took his asterisks seriously.  Three years following Magill's debatable decision, the Athens Banner-Herald recognized the '43 and '44 games, announcing the 1951 Georgia-Georgia Tech contest as the "46th Annual Battle," not the 44th.  Magill's statement during the late-50s of "Henceforth our records will refer to those 1943 and 1944 games as Georgia versus the Georgia Tech Navy" was countered by sportswriter Furman Bisher with the following:
That being the case, Louisiana State, Wake Forest and Daniel Field, three other teams that defeated Georgia those two years, are expected to be notified in due time that their victories have been revoked.

Let me add, although Georgia basically had an all-freshman team during those two seasons while Georgia Tech was supported by a Navy program and a few players from other schools, Coach Butts had asked his young team if they wanted to participate, and they agreed to play the '43 season, including against Georgia Tech.  They consented to do so with knowledge of the circumstances and what the consequences might be.
"I asked [the 1943 team] frankly if they wanted to pay the price in defeats they'll have to take," said Butts.
There were actually very few "bona fide" college football squads from the 1943 and 1944 seasons.  Should all of the remaining "non-true" programs revoke their results from the two seasons?  If the Bulldogs were not a "true" team in '43 and '44, should they discount the 13 combined victories they achieved those seasons?
In its early years, Georgia played several athletic clubs featuring former college players and even a preparatory school or two; all of these games are recognized in UGA football's yearly and series results, although they do not seem to be "true" opposition.
In 1907, Georgia played against Georgia Tech with at least four "ringers" – former collegiate or professional players from the North – who were paid for their services.  Because of this illegal action, Georgia's head coach would eventually be banned from coaching in the South forever.  The result of the game, a 10-6 Georgia loss, is acknowledged in UGA's yearly and series results.
In the first Georgia-Georgia Tech football game of 1893, the Red and Black played a professionally paid trainer at halfback, while three of Tech's five touchdowns were scored by a 28-year-old doctor in the U.S. Army.  In addition, the umpire of the game, who made several controversial calls in favor of Georgia Tech, was the brother of Tech's trainer.  This 28-6 Georgia Tech victory is also recognized by Georgia.
In more support of identifying the 1943 and 1944 as true games, I believe author Bill Cromartie put it best in his book on the Georgia-Georgia Tech football rivalry, Clean Old-Fashioned Hate:
If the games are not official, then the University [of Georgia] boys who got their teeth kicked in (so to speak), played the games for nothing. They would, most likely, want them to count.
I personally know Dan Magill well.  Among other things, he is the greatest NCAA tennis coach of all time, the foremost knowledgeable historian of UGA sports, has probably done more for UGA athletics than anyone ever has, and is a wonderful and kind individual.  However, and I say this with the utmost respect, I totally disagree with his decision from more than six decades ago regarding the 1943-1944 Georgia-Georgia Tech games – a decision he still vehemently stands behind today.
During the time of Magill's 1948 ruling, unlike when I was growing up, no Georgia football fan felt sympathy for Georgia Tech, just hate.  I suspect part of the decision by "Dangerous Dan," as Bisher tagged him in 1957, was because of this hatred for Georgia's chief rival of the time.
Nevertheless, Magill's judgement and asterisks will remain in the UGA football record books forever, whether I, the Yellow Jacket faithful, or anyone else likes it or not.  Personally, I have and can certainly continue to live with the Bulldogs having two less losses to the Jackets, especially if (and God forbid), as was the case when Magill made his determination, Georgia football was to ever falter while the Eternal Enemy prospered.  Of course, I don't see that happening anytime soon...

November 20, 2012

Richt Has Grasp On Gettin' After Tech's (you know what)

Richt's Dogs won't be overlooking Johnson's Jackets
Yesterday, I heard a talk-radio host speculate if the Bulldogs might be overlooking Georgia Tech this Saturday for their game against Alabama the following week...
Yeah, yeah, we've all heard it before, particularly from the wishful-thinking North Avenue Nerds.
You may doubt Coach Richt on a number of things, which many of us have done the last several seasons, but something that can hardly be questioned is his success against the Eternal Enemy.  Richt has a spectacular 10-1 record versus the Yellow Jackets after head coaches Goff and Donnan combined to go 7-5 against them.
What's more, Richt's teams normally play even better against Tech than the so-called experts forecast, covering the spread in 8 of the 11 contests.
And, as far as the same situation as this upcoming Saturday -- Georgia facing the despised Jackets after having already clinched the SEC East with the conference title game still looming -- Richt's Bulldogs have been perfect in four attempts, exhibiting no signs of "overlooking" Georgia Tech whatsoever: 
2002: 51-7 win as a 8.5-point favorite
2003: 34-17 win as a 10-point favorite
2005: 14-7 win as a 5-point favorite
2011: 31-17 win as a 4.5-point favorite
That's 4-0 with three games being won with little difficulty and relatively easy covers.  In all, it's four victories by an average of nearly three touchdowns and an average cover of a whopping 13 points.
If the past is any indicator for the upcoming game against the Jackets, I think Richt will undoubtedly have his troops focused on Georgia Tech and, speaking of 13 points, Georgia's 13-point spread for this Saturday is destined to be covered. 

November 16, 2012

Unfolding of the UGA-GSU "Rivalry"

In 1981, Erk Russell started to build the GSU
football program from the ground up literally.
Under head coach Vince Dooley, the Georgia football team first began facing I-AA competition in the mid-1980s.  It started with a game against Richmond in 1986 and William & Mary followed two years later.  Around the same time, three and a half hours southeast from Athens, Georgia Southern had been quickly transformed by former Bulldog defensive coordinator Erk Russell from a school which didn't even have a football program at the start of the 1980s to a I-AA national power. 

Nearing the end of the decade, GSU seemed like a logical choice as an upcoming lower-division foe for Georgia.
In 1988, two old friends Dooley and Russell reached a verbal agreement for the two schools from Georgia to square off.  Dooley thought it would create a lot of interest around the state while assisting a fellow state school without conflicting recruiting interests.  Erk believed the meeting could further the growth of his GSU program even more while opening the door "for competition with other large in-state institutions," according to Russell (which could have only meant Georgia Tech).  Nearly an entire decade removed from facing the Yellow Jackets, Erk evidently still wanted to G.A.T.A., or get after Tech's ass (Tech wouldn't schedule a meeting with the Eagles until 2009 to be played in 2015).
Soon after the agreement between coaches, the planned game was dealt a twist of irony.  In mid-December of 1988, Dooley resigned as the Bulldogs' head coach after 25 years at the helm and Russell appeared to be his logical replacement.  Dooley even recommended Russell for the post to an eight-man committee assembled to select Georgia's next head coach.  The committee pondered over a list of candidates, including NC State's Dick Sheridan and Arkansas' Ken Hatfield, but there seemed to be only one man perfectly fit for the job.
The day after Dooley's resignation, the committee recommended Russell to UGA President Charles Knapp.  Believing Russell would accept the position, the committee reportedly even sent champagne and flowers to Erk's hotel room in Montgomery, Ala., where he was preparing to coach in the Blue-Gray All-Star game on Christmas Day.
Here's where the details become a little fuzzy...  What is known is that Russell told the media the job was offered to him but he turned it down.  This claim was denied by Knapp and committee chairman and Athens banker Bob Bishop, indicating the job wasn't offered to Russell in the first place.  Knapp would later say it was a "misunderstanding," while Erk said the denials made him look "stupid."
Regardless, a temporary rift resulted between Russell and the UGA administration, Ray Goff was eventually named Georgia's head coach, and even today there are many Bulldog boosters who haven't gotten over what Knapp did to Erk.  Still, the show must go on, and in March of 1989 the first Georgia-GSU football game was officially scheduled for October of 1992.
Immediately following the scheduling of the game, the Bulldogs' new, young head coach said that he didn't necessarily believe in a nothing-to-gain/everything-to-lose scenario by facing Georgia Southern.  "I say that's the case every Saturday," said Goff at the time.  However, three and a half years later, the Georgia head coach had changed his tune somewhat:
"We're in a no-win situation," said Goff the week of the GSU contest in '92, "This is probably the most difficult game I've ever been involved in."
The I-AA Eagles had proved to be a difficult opponent for upper-tier opposition.  In capturing four national titles by 1990, GSU had gone 0-3 versus East Carolina, but had a losing average margin of just four points against the Pirates.  Two years after dropping their season opener of 1986 to 13th-ranked Florida by a respectable 38-14 score, the Eagles led 6th-ranked Florida State 10-7 midway through the fourth quarter before the Seminoles rallied for a victory.  In 1991, under head coach Tim Stowers (Russell retired following the '89 season), GSU jumped out on 17th-ranked Auburn 17-0 and led by two touchdowns at halftime before the Tigers came back in the second half for a win.

Twenty years ago, UGA combated a stellar GSU ground 
game with 173 yards and two TDs from Garrison Hearst.
"This is a game I've been dreading for four years," declared Goff just days before the highly-anticipated meeting.  As for Erk Russell, the former GSU head man actually couldn't make the game because he was to undergo hip surgery.  In true Erk fashion, the most popular Eagle of all time said of his surgery, "I wish I had the damn thing done six months ago, so I wouldn't have to miss [the game]."  

For the game, GSU brought 10,000 loyal and rowdy fans into Sanford Stadium.  Georgia would hand the Eagles a $140,000 check for their efforts and the Bulldogs would hand over a quick 7-0 lead, allowing GSU quarterback Charles Bostick to rush for a 40-yard score on 4th and 1.  The Eagles would finish the contest with 232 rushing yards against an excellent Bulldog defense, but fumbled twice inside Georgia's 10-yard line and eventually lost, 34-7.

In fact,  GSU has been a pesky opponent for the Bulldogs in all four of their meetings (1992, 2000, 2004, 2008).  Against Georgia teams that entered with an average AP national ranking of sixth, the Eagles have averaged 205 rushing yards, nearly a 4.0 yards-per-carry average, while the average final score has been only 39 to 16 in favor of the Bulldogs in a game which was initially recognized by Erk Russell as "big" for both schools.

"It's big.  It's real big," Russell said to a newspaper writer from his home phone 20 years ago just prior to the first UGA-GSU game.  "It must be big.  You're about the sixth person to call me."

November 14, 2012

They Make Wonderful Thanksgiving Gifts...

I wanted to pass along information regarding a couple of events going on this weekend at UGA's main bookstore.  On Friday from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM, the bookstore will be hosting Alumni Night at the Bookstore, where UGA alumni will receive 20 percent off all purchases.  Uga IX, Hairy Dawg, and several Bulldog authors, including yours truly, will be in attendance signing their books.  On Saturday from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM, I'll be at the bookstore as well, along with Coach Dooley and Charley Trippi, signing books.

If you're in the area on Friday and/or Saturday, please stop by. I certainly welcome any opportunity to meet with readers of this blog and talk about the Dawgs.

Former Bulldog Tim Worley was originally scheduled to sign with me.  Tim wrote the foreword to I Love Georgia/I Hate Florida, and rightfully so.  He was the ultimate Gator killer, rushing for a combined 239 yards, three TDs, while having an 8.2 yards-per-carry average in two games against Florida (1985, 1988).  In 2007, Tim was inducted into the Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame for his two performances against the Gators:

Unfortunately, Tim had to recently cancel for this weekend because of a family emergency.  He'll certainly be missed.  Still, there will be plenty of goings-on for visitors to the bookstore on Friday and Saturday. 
Have your picture taken with Uga IX, talk with legends Dooley and Trippi about great Bulldog teams from yesteryear, ask Loran Smith Whatcha' got?, and there will be a number of excellent books on UGA football readily available for purchase. 
Personally, I recommend the ones by the author with the last name of "Garbin"...   

November 9, 2012

DSOR Has Come A Long Way (for the most part)

Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Historical Society believed to be
taken from the 1892 Georgia-Auburn game at Piedmont Park
Tomorrow's game between Georgia and Auburn marks the 116th meeting in the 120 years of the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry.  In 1892, the schools faced off for the first time pitting a couple of doctors against one another as head coaches (Dr. Charles Herty of Georgia, Dr. George Petrie of Auburn).  It was only Georgia's second game ever in its brief football history; merely Auburn's first.  Other commonly known details from the initial meeting include the game took place at Piedmont Park in Atlanta and the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama was victorious, 10-0. 
The game also transpired when a football field was 110 yards long, there were only three downs, no passing was allowed, and the play resembled more of a rugby-like scrum than what we commonly know as football.  Divided into only two halves, games were much shorter back then, as well.  The meeting at Piedmont Park, for example, started at 3:30 PM and ended just past 5:00 PM. 
Most notably for many Georgia followers, the team was represented by a goat as a mascot.  As for Auburn, legend has it an eagle broke loose from a faculty member during the game, circled the field, eventually fell to the ground dead, and thus the "War Eagle" battle cry.
Notwithstanding, there are several details of the 1892 Georgia-Auburn affair which are unfamiliar to most; some remaining hardly spoken perhaps by design.  Still, such details undoubtedly indicate the rivalry has come a long way in 120 years.
It was said that "thousands of men, women, and children flocked to Piedmont Park" in "vast armies" for an estimated game attendance of 3,000 spectators.  However, a grandstand had been erected at the field to hold 10,000 people and organizers expected nearly every seat to be filled.  Bad weather of dark clouds and a steady rain kept a few people away  like 70 percent of what was expected and the thousands of dollars of anticipated gate receipts resulted in only $800.  
Sketch of first mascots - Sir William 
& Dabble - from Atlanta Constitution
What would be unheard of today, 150 Georgia Tech students were not only part of the attendance, but they actually rooted for Georgia while wearing their neighbor's school colors of "black and crimson."  Not surprising, however, during the game the Techies began loudly and curiously singing, "I love codfish, I love codfish, I love codfish balls."
Although Tech students nowadays wouldn't be caught dead at a Georgia game (they hardly go to their own team's games), they evidently were as strange and as big of nerds 120 years ago as they are today.
As mentioned, Georgia trotted out its acclaimed goat, Sir William owned by Bob Gantt, who was greeted with shouts of "Shoot the Billy goat!" from the Auburn faithful.  But prior to the contest, it had been strongly suggested (as you can read at my UGA Nickname & Mascot History page) that 79-year-old Old Tub, a blind black man, be the school's mascot for the game instead of a goat.
On the other hand, Auburn did indeed feature an African American as its mascot for the meeting in Atlanta.  Before any tiger, eagle, or cry of "War Eagle," the school had Dabble, "the negro boy," who was greeted with cries of "And take the negro out!" from the Red and Black rooters.  But Dabble, as it was reported, ignored the shouts and "walked on calmly...across the field to his place near the judges' stand."
Over the span of 120 years, things have certainly been transformed in the Georgia-Auburn rivalry, the sport of football in general, and in our nation's Deep South, and thank goodness for those changes. 
However, in my research of the series' first game, I discovered a few details which show some  other aspects of the Georgia-Auburn rivalry have actually changed very little since 1892.
How things have changed...  This week a
black man was elected President for his second
term; in 1892, the first Georgia-Auburn game 
endured shouts of And take the negro out!

Over the years, we've all known the die-hard UGA football eternal optimists; some of us may be one of them.  The very first of these assured individuals was quoted just prior to his team's 10-0 setback: "Why, our Athens men can beat anything on earth playing football," declared an old gray-haired man from Athens.  "We can beat Yale, Harvard, Princeton or what not, and I'd bet my last nickel on it!"
Auburn halfback Rufus "Dutch" Dorsey, a Georgia native, scored the game's first touchdown (thus, tallying the Auburn program's first-ever points) on a rush from less than a yard out, and then followed it up with another touchdown, which covered 40 yards.  After the game, a disgruntled Red and Black player proclaimed to the Auburn team: "Well, you Alabama folks can't crow over Georgia, for you owe your victory to a Georgia boy."  Unfortunately for us UGA fans, a Georgia boy playing for Auburn and being an integral part of a victory over our team would become a recurring trend during the long-standing rivalry.
Finally, leading up to the game, there was some controversy brewing in regards to Auburn's practice sessions: "They say Auburn has had a professional training their men down there," declared a newspaper.  Therefore, whether 120 years ago using a professional trainer, two years ago featuring a professional-like, 180,000-dollar pay-to-play quarterback, and several others utilized in between, Auburn just can't help itself from cheating throughout the long history of the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry.

November 6, 2012

Famed PBU on the Plains

...and the Dawgs broke it up!  They broke it up!
Ronnie Harris and Jeff Sanchez got up in the air!
Thirty years ago, the Georgia football team journey to Auburn under similar circumstances as this Saturday, facing the Tigers on the Plains with the possibility of an SEC championship at stake.  The end result for the Bulldogs in 1982 was a 19-14 victory over the Tigers and a third consecutive conference title courtesy of the greatest PBU, or pass broken up in UGA football history.
Trailing 14-13, Herschel Walker had scored a touchdown with 8:42 left in the game, giving the Bulldogs a lead.  After Georgia couldn't convert a two-point conversion and a touchback resulted on the ensuing kickoff, Auburn took over on its own 20-yard line trailing by five points.
The Tigers slowly but steadily drove down the field, covering 66 yards in 12 plays (only one of which was a pass attempt a 13-yard completion) while burning nearly six minutes of game clock.  With just under three minutes left, Auburn had a 1st and 10 on the Bulldogs' 14-yard line. 

But then, as it had done all season, the Georgia defense stiffened.
The Tigers committed a five-yard penalty and Bo Jackson was dropped for a two-yard loss by cornerback Tony Flack on first down.  On second down, quarterback Randy Campbell was sacked by Dale Carver back on the 30-yard line.  On 3rd and 26, Campbell completed a pass to Ed West, who slipped on the grass following a nine-yard gain.  Many say if West hadn't slipped on the Plains, he might still be running.   There wasn't a single Bulldog defender near the tight end after he made his catch.
Prior to Campbell's last-ditch throw into the end zone on fourth down, he had remarkably completed 12 of 15 passes, running out of the wishbone offense, and against an outstanding Georgia pass defense that yielded a mere 50.6 completion percentage all season.

Nevertheless, Campbell couldn't connect on his most important pass attempt of the year.
The intended receiver, Mike Edwards, said after the game he never even saw the pass in the end zone, only two Bulldogs leaping in front of him, knocking it down. One of those Bulldogs, cornerback Ronnie Harris, would say following the victory, "We had our backs to the wall, and we had to stand up and fight."

And fight they did... to the team's third SEC title in as many years.
Although the television call by Bill Hartman isn't quite as celebrated or moving as the great Larry Munson's radio call, one thing both play-by-play men agreed on: it was Sugar time!

November 2, 2012

King Conquered Rebs

Against Ole Miss in '74, Horace King had a game of his life
by scoring three first-half touchdowns on short runs...
A few days ago, I tuned into ESPN's 30 for 30 "Ghosts of Ole Miss" a captivating story of violence interrupting at Ole Miss because of the integration of the school in 1962 while the Rebel football team was experiencing an unbeaten season at the same time.  Somewhat fittingly for me, earlier that evening on the phone, I just so happened to speak to Horace King one of the first black football players to play at Georgia, who ran wild against the Rebels in his hometown of Athens during his final season as a Bulldog.

Because of what he stood for and what he endured while becoming one of Georgia's best backs of the 1970s, I've always been fond of King and have mentioned him a number of times on this blog.  Therefore, it was truly an honor when he agreed to participate in the current book project my father and I am undertaking.

After speaking with the Bulldog great and watching "Ghosts of Ole Miss," all while thinking of Georgia's upcoming game at Sanford Stadium versus the Rebels, I thought it might be rather appropriate to recall arguably King's greatest game in a Bulldog uniform.

In early October 1974, both Georgia and Ole Miss entered their meeting at Sanford Stadium with identical 2-2 records.  The Bulldogs had been disappointing, losing to Miss. State and Clemson in what were considered upset defeats.  The Rebels, on the other hand, had began their season under first-year head coach Ken Cooper by upsetting 18th-ranked Missouri and nearly did the same three weeks later against 3rd-ranked Alabama. 

Coach Cooper had played at Georgia during the 1950s, was then a Bulldog assistant for nearly an entire decade, and later an Ole Miss assistant for three seasons before being chosen to replace legendary Johnny Vaught.  On the head coach's 38th birthday, Cooper's Rebels ventured to Athens recognized as only four-point underdogs.

By game's end, the Rebels had rushed for 228 yards, had a 21-16 advantage over the Bulldogs in first downs, and had totaled nearly 30 more offensive plays than Georgia (85 to 57, including 55-14 in the second half).  Yet, in spoiling Cooper's birthday and his return trip to Athens, the Bulldogs held the most important of advantages over the Rebels the final score.  In a shocking 49-0 rout, Georgia handed Ole Miss its worst defeat since 44 years earlier in 1930.

Thanks to King, sophomore quarterback Matt Robinson, and an Erk Russell defense that bent the entire contest but never broke, the Bulldogs played what would turn out to be their very best game of the season.

...and added a fourth score on a long 79-yarder.
King scored the game's first three touchdowns, all resulting in the first half and coming on short runs of 1, 1, and 4 yards.  In the third quarter, Robinson connected with Gene Washington for a 74-yard bomb, giving Georgia a 28-0 lead.   King followed the scoring pass with a long touchdown of his own, running 79 yards to paydirt.  At the time, King's long jaunt ranked in Georgia's top 10 all time in longest rushing touchdowns, while his fourth touchdown tied a single-game modern-day school record.

Robinson added another long scoring pass in the fourth quarter an 86-yarder to Richard Appleby and finished with a staggering 241 passing yards on just 6 of 9 passing.  One year prior to being known as the "Junkyard Dogs," Georgia's defense performed as such, forcing six turnovers, and although it allowed the Rebels to march up and down the field, the defense never allowed them to cross the goal line.   

In rushing for 129 yards and four touchdowns, King would be recognized as the UPI's national back of the week.  Following his record-setting performance, he might have been a tad camera shy as well, but the unselfish back wanted to give credit where credit was due.  

"I just wish I had some offensive linemen here with me," a lonesome King said as he looked around for someone in Georgia's locker room to share in his limelight.  "That's where the games are won or lost."

As I mentioned the other day in my phone conversation, part of the process in writing this book is for each former Georgia great to first come up with, as the book is appropriately titled, a "game of their life" while playing for the Bulldogs.  For the humble Horace King, I perhaps should have added that if he can't come up with a game, I certainly know of a good one I could suggest.