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July 5, 2013

Wrong Call! Wrong Call!

 If not for a couple of "gifts," (pictured L to R in '47 Sugar Bowl) Charley Trippi, Joe Geri,
"Rabbit" Smith, and their teammates perhaps would've been withheld from a perfect 1946 season.
I hope everyone had a Happy July 4th!  My holiday began yesterday with an unexpected, mid-morning phone call from an 85-year-old gentleman from Dacula, whom I'd never spoken with before.  The man said he hated to bother me on the holiday morning, but he was wondering where he could get a copy of my newest book on UGA football. (Well, with that being said, you're no bother at all, and for anyone else interested, the book can be purchased at a discount directly from me beginning early next week, but more on that, well, early next week...)
During our conversation, I inquired with my new friend what I often ask from those I meet who have been following the Bulldogs for many moons: What are some of your greatest memories of Georgia football?
The man was filled with a number of compelling stories from yesteryear, including one of assistant coach Ralph "Shug" Jordan serving as his instructor for a P.E. class at UGA during the late-40s.  "But one in particular really sticks out in my mind after all these years," he told me.  "You know, Patrick, we really got outplayed by UNC in Charley Trippi's last game for Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.  We won 20-10, but it seemed the officials were really on our side.  Afterwards, UNC raised Cain!"
My friend detailed the 1947 Sugar Bowl between the undefeated Bulldogs and the North Carolina Tar Heels, featuring Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice, and two questionable rulings by officials, which made a drastic difference in the bowl's scoring.  I had never heard or read of such lore, so I was all ears as the man recalled himself listening to the radio while distressing over what had been a rather one-sided affair.  That is, until Georgia caught a break, or two.
Midway through the third quarter, UNC led 7-0 and was looking for more before Georgia's Joe Tereshinski intercepted a pass, lateraled the ball to Dick McPhee, who sprinted more than 60 yards, nearly scoring a touchdown.  "Wrong call!  Wrong call!" evidently the unbiased national radio announcer proclaimed.  Apparently, Tereshinski's pitch was an illegal forward lateral and instead of Georgia possessing the ball deep in UNC territory, the Bulldogs should have taken over deep inside their own.  Georgia tied the score three plays later.  
In the fourth quarter, UNC's Ken Powell caught a 20-yard touchdown before falling into Georgia's Charles "Rabbit" Smith in the end zone.  Curiously, Powell was called for pass interference and the touchdown was negated.  With that, and for a second time, the radio announcer declared, "Wrong call!  Wrong call!"  and the Tar Heels would come away with no points.  To this day, there are a handful of UNC old timers who still wonder how a receiver can interfere with a defender, when he is in front of the defender while facing the oncoming ball.
The man's story of how Georgia apparently was on the "good" side of a couple of bad calls, which helped the Bulldogs capture the Sugar Bowl and, thus, complete a perfect 11-0 season, compelled me to list my opinion (and gather a few video clips) of Georgia's all-time most questionable game-deciding rulings -- official calls, whether they went against the Bulldogs or in their favor,  that likely wouldn't be made today because of instant replay or other rule changes.  

1947 Sugar Bowl: On Tereshinski's forward lateral, an official actually ran to the spot of the toss, standing there for a moment, but didn't call the return back.  On the second call in question, Powell not only caught the touchdown in front of Smith, but was then knocked out cold by the "Rabbit" and had to be removed from the field, yet the receiver was called for the interference. 
1965 Alabama: Trailing by a touchdown, Georgia executes one of the greatest plays in school history -- the Moore-to-Hodgson-to-Taylor famous 73-yard flea-flicker.  As noted before, common belief is that the Bulldogs got away with one because Hodgson's knees appeared to be touching the ground when he pitched the lateral to Moore.  However, the officials would claim the Georgia end never had complete control of the ball, therefore Hodgson's lateral was more like a batted ball to Taylor (therefore, his knees were allowed to touch).  Still, to some examiners of the play, Hodgson not only appears to have both knees grounded, but also seems to be in control of the ball...  
1968 Tennessee: Losing by eight points, Tennessee completes a 20-yard touchdown on the game's final play, and then passes for two points to "defeat" Georgia, 17-17.  The touchdown pass caught by Gary Kreis, who appeared to trap the football as he rolled over the Bulldogs' goal line, was later examined by the media, which "conclusively" decided Kreis never had control of the scoring pass. 

1984 Cotton Bowl: Quarterback John Lastinger runs for a 17-yard, game-winning touchdown against second-ranked Texas in the 1984 Cotton Bowl.  Lastinger, who was driven out of bounds while crossing the goal line, informed me for my latest book, "Honestly, I think by today's standards with instant replay, I would have been ruled out just short of the goal line."  Notably, even possessing the ball on the 1-yard line, a touchdown was no certainty for a running game, which had been dismal the entire contest, pitted against arguably the greatest defense in the history of college football.

1992 Auburn: Down by four points, Auburn attempts a running play inside Georgia's 1-yard line, but is stopped short of the goal line.  Chaos ensues as some Bulldog defenders argue for possession, others lay on top of Tiger players, all while officials somehow allow the final 19 valuable seconds to tick off the clock.  In today's sport, the Tigers undoubtedly get to run another play, maybe two.

1993 Florida: Known as "The Timeout," with five seconds remaining, Eric Zeier completes a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jerry Jerman, pulling Georgia within a point of Florida, 33-32.  But, the head linesman rules a Gators' cornerback had called timeout just prior to the snap of the ball.  The Bulldogs wind up losing the game.  Head coach Ray Goff travels to Birmingham to complain at SEC headquarters, where it is explained that as soon as an official sees a player calling timeout, as soon as he "receives it in his mind" (huh?), it's a dead play.
Late-90s GA Tech: The final three meetings of the 1990s between Georgia and Tech feature controversial, game-deciding plays -- two of which go in the Yellow Jackets' favor: A pass interference against Georgia Tech, leading to Georgia's game-winning touchdown in '97; Joe Hamilton's "non-fumble" in 1998; Jasper Sanks' "phantom fumble" in 1999.  Replays of the worst ruling -- Sanks' fumble -- undeniably show the Georgia back down prior to fumbling the football.  The '99 game’s officials, regarded as the best in the conference, were scheduled to officiate the following week’s SEC Championship Game until their blunder; they were suspended by the conference for their mistake.

A few others of note:
  • Florida's stolen "fumble recovery" by Jack Youngblood in 1970, totally turning around a game Georgia appeared to have clinched, coming a year after a tie in '69 when the Gators were granted an additional play resulting in a field goal as officials accused photographers  of being too close to the field. 
  • The Bulldogs' 14-13 lead over 19-point and third-ranked Alabama in '73 with less than three minutes remaining (and Georgia had the ball!) quickly turns for the worse when what should have been pass interference and then roughing the punter are not called on consecutive plays, whereupon the Tide score two touchdowns in the game's final two minutes.
  • Trailing BYU by a touchdown late in '82, a John Lastinger-to-Herschel Walker-to-Mike Weaver maneuver of pushing the ball forward under the pile after the play, barely picking up a critical first down for the Bulldogs, directly leads to a 14-14 tie and later a 17-14 victory for Georgia. 
As indicated, Georgia has certainly experienced a number of game-deciding, curious calls over the years -- some turned out good for the Bulldogs, others bad, and one from 1999 that's difficult to even think about.  Regardless, what's done is done -- "wrong call" or not.  And, as Coach Dooley said while heated debate continued days after his Georgia team was tied by Tennessee in '68 on evidently an incomplete pass, "You don't win college football games on Sunday."


Anonymous said...

Beleive you will find the quote about winning on Sunday was originally made by bear bryant after the 1965 Georgia game....perhaps it remained in The memory of coach Dooley......

George King said...

Relative to the 1965 Georgia victory over Alabama, the officials claiming that Pat Hodgson never had control of the ball was just a ruse to try to cover their mistake.

At the time, if a forward pass was touched (but not caught) by an offensive player and caught by another offensive player, the ball would have to be touched by a defensive player in between. Otherwise, by rule, it is an incomplete pass. So if Hodgson never had control, the officials should have called the pass incomplete when Taylor caught the lateral.

Of course, Hodgson DID have control. The officials just missed his knees hitting the ground.

It remains, however, my first thrill as a Georgia fan and perhaps my greatest sports thrill ever, despite having been there for Lindsay Scott and Hershel Walker and all the rest since '65, though Lastinger's run to the corner against Texas in the Cotton Bowl is another personal favorite.

Amanda said...

The AJ Green call definitely should have been on here. Amanda Vanderpool

Anonymous said...

Jasper Sanks was definitely down prior to the ball coming loose. It's clear to see on the video replay, and I believe some of the refs were not allowed to officiate during the post-season because of the blown call. But in the 1998 game, the refs made the right call on the Joe Hamilton play. At full-speed it looked like he fumbled the football, and even the instant replay looked like he fumbled it, too. About a year later I was discussing the play with other friends from Tech; we all thought he fumbled and that we got a freebie on that one...

The game had been recorded on VCR, so we decided to look at the footage again and slowed it down to step-by-step speed, and to our surprise, his knee hit the ground one "frame" before he lost control of the ball. So he was down by contact. Today's replay review rules would have confirmed the refs' call on the field (and would have overturned the Sanks "fumble" in '99). 9 times out of 10 the officials probably would have called that a fumble, but the refs ultimately got it right.

Anonymous said...

The call in the '97 Tech game wasn't interference, it was defensive holding. And it was completely legitimate. A Tech player had hold of Hines Ward's jersey with both hands.

Rick the Observer said...

Jasper Sanks call was the result of an edit issued by the SEC commissioner earlier in the week, leading up to that Saturday game. Several calls had been made against SEC games involving fumbles. The SEC Commissioner sent a stern letter to the SEC stating, "unless you see the fumble, personally, you are not to make an overturn call on the based on what you think happened!" Whether or not Sanks fumbled was immaterial. Because there was a mass of humanity of football players at point of contact, no official actually saw the fumble nor the recovery. Therefore, based on the SEC Commissioner's stern letter, the officials ruled accordingly. Since no official actually witnessed the fumble, nor the recovery, they had no choice but to let the results stand, Ga fumbled and Tech recovered the fumble. And to watch the SEC punish the officials, for doing as they had been instructed, lowered the integrity, in my eyes, of the SEC Commissioner.