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December 30, 2013

Just Another UGA-NU Bowl Myth?

The Huskers celebrate with their fans a victory over
Georgia in the '69 Sun Bowla game which lasted
a little longer than it actually should have.
I've posted before about the 1969 Sun Bowlthe first of only three meetings between Georgia and Nebraska all time, including the upcoming Gator Bowl.  It was the bowl game neither team deserved; the Big 8-champion Cornhuskers, a year away from capturing their first of back-to-back national titles, should have been in a much better bowl, while the 5-4-1 Bulldogs should have been at home for the bowl season.
In anticipation of the looming game between Georgia and Nebraska, I recently heard a sports-talk radio host discussing the bowl game from 44 years ago that many older Dog fans would rather forget.  He claimed "some players" from Georgia's '69 team have indicated that a good portion of clock time during the first quarter"about four minutes"should have ticked off during the Cornhuskers' 45-6 rout over the Bulldogs in their initial meeting, but the game clock was delayed in starting/restarting. 
Admittedly, I initially believed the extra-clock-time story to be just thata story, like Loran Smith's tale of Georgia facing a Nebraska player in that same game, who, well, wasn't even on the Cornhusker squad at the time.  However, on Christmas Day, no less, I received an email from a reader, who obviously had been listening to the same radio broadcast I had a few days before, asking if I had ever heard of "extra time" in the 1969 Sun Bowl.  He jokingly added, "If true, maybe we can get UGA to not count it as an official game."
I suddenly wasn't joking.  The more I thought about discounting Georgia's second-worst loss (in terms of the 39-point scoring margin) of the last 60+ years, the program's worst bowl loss in history by more than two touchdowns, and according to a recent poster on SEC Rant, the worst postseason loss ever by any SEC team, the more I was intrigued to discover the truth.  Plus, since it is the holidays, I had some extra time to conduct insignificant, pointless research.  Therefore, 'tis the season...
I first contacted a guru of Nebraska football history, "Husker Jake," who runs Historical Husker Media, asking if he knew of the 1969 Sun Bowl running long.  Referencing his production of the bowlgame film set to the radio broadcastJake concluded, "It's very possible the first quarter ran long.  I just can't confirm it."
I then observed the game's scoring summary:
First Quarter
NU-FG Paul Rogers 50, 11:14
NU-FG Rogers 32, 9:40

NU-Jeff Kinney 11 run (pass failed), 7:21
NU-FG Rogers 42, 4:54
NU-FG Rogers 37, 0:14

Second Quarter – No Scoring

Third Quarter

NU-Mike Greene 8 pass from Van Brownson (Rogers kick), 11:30
NU-Brownson 1 run (Rogers kick), 10:30

Fourth Quarter

NU-Dan Schneiss 1 run (Rogers kick), 13:06
GU-Paul Gilbert 2 run (kick failed), 6:20
NU-Jerry Tagge 2 run (Rogers kick), 4:10

UGA finally gets on the board in the '69 Sun 
as circled QB Paul Gilbert rushes for a TD. 
In the opening quarter alone, Nebraska's offense scored five times.  Now, unless you're facing a Todd Grantham defense, how the heck does a team's offense score five times in a single quarter, including four field goals?  Might I add, the four field goals remain an NCAA record for most successful field goals in a single quarter of play, and were made by a kicker, Paul Rogers, who entered the bowl having made just 7 of 24 field goals for the regular season.

"It was the longest one quarter of football in my memoryfor a lot of reasons!" Coach Dooley informed me when asked about a possible expanded opening quarter.  "There was about a 30 mile-per-hour wind at Nebraska's back; it was a big boost to their field-goal kicking in that first quarter."
Indeed, the Bulldogs won the toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff.  The Cornhuskers chose to defend the north posts, where they would be aided with a brisk breeze at their backs.  And from there, it was a cake walk for Nebraska in El Paso.
"Nebraska would probably have beaten us even if we had the wind in our favor the whole game," Dooley added.  But, as far as a lengthened first quarter, the former head coach was unsure; however, "I do recall the stadium clock not working."
I observed the game film-radio broadcast, noting that the play-by-play man mentions a couple of times during the opening stanza that there was a problem with the stadium clock.  The following day, Bob Ingram of the El Paso Herald Post reported, "The clock...was out of order.  That first quarter seemed interminable.  Maybe the officials were depending on the clock then and it was malfunctioning."
Evidently, for a good portion of the quarter, the officials were forced to keep time on the field because of the aforementioned malfunctioning clock.
"To be truthful I don't remember any time problems," a standout Bulldog player informed me when I inquired with him, "but if the officials were keeping [the game time], they probably screwed it up."   
Please bear with me... I charted the Sun Bowl's opening quarter and found that Georgia and Nebraska combined to run 45 offensive plays, attempt four field goals, punt twice, and return one kickoff.  Now, 45 offensive plays in one quarter seem like an awful lot to me.  However, I found that during the 1969 regular season, the Bulldogs and their opposition averaged just slightly less than that with 38.5 plays per quarter; the Huskers and their foes averaged 39.  Back then, more offensive plays transpired during games than nownearly 10 percent more, in fact, compared to the last several seasons.  And, that's including the plays resulting during today's overtime periods compared to when playing in extra frames was not possible back in 1969.
"I'm not sure if the clock didn't start at some point.  I just know the clock seemed to be in slow motion," All-American Steve Greer told me with a chuckle. 
In looking at the scoring summary and what I charted, I suddenly became rather sure the clock erroneously stopped at a certain pointbetween the game's first two scores, to be exact.  The official clock ran for an average of 19 to 20 seconds for every "snap" (i.e., offensive play, field goal attempt, punt, and kickoff return) during the six intervals between the scores of the first quarter, except oncethe interval between the game's first two scores.
Rogers kicked his first field goal with 11:14 remaining and followed just 1 minute and 34 seconds later with his second field goal at the 9:40 mark.  The problem is that in the supposed 1:34 that elapsed between the two field goals, 11 snaps resulted (four offensive plays for GA, six offensive plays for NU, and the field goal attempt) for an average of only 8.5 seconds per snapnot possible when only two of the 11 snaps were incomplete passes.
In conclusion, and for what it's worth, which is very little, I am rather certain the 1969 Sun Bowl clock was stopped and then momentarily not restarted during the game's first quarter.  If so, I am positive the error occurred between the first and second of Rogers' record-four field goals.  If the average number of seconds per snap of the "correctly timed" intervals are applied to the flawed one, it figures that roughly two minutes of game clock was essentially added to the quarter.  In other words, Nebraska's beatdown of Georgia probably lasted for around 62 clock minutes instead of just 60.
Well, what of it?
I agree with my emailermaybe we can get UGA to not count the 1969 Sun Bowl as an official game.  If the program discounts two rivalry games where the makeup of the teams just happened to be altered because of a raging World War, surely Georgia could disregard and add an asterisk to a bowl game that was subjected to faulty time keepinga tragic error in my book (especially when it occurs during a 45-6 loss).
Seriously, perhaps any consolation to the Bulldog Nation for the time-flawed '69 Sun Bowl is that without those two extra minutes, Georgia's 39-point loss is maybe by a margin of a little less.  Also, considering Rogers made his final field goal with mere seconds remaining in the quarter, the extra time allowed for an NCAA-record four field goals in a single quarter rather than what probably should be an NCAA-record-tying three field goals, as the fourth field goal instead results early in the second quarter.

Nevertheless, as far as any consolation to the Bulldog players and coaches that endured the record-setting lossat least the handful I corresponded withnot a single one was even aware there was an issue with the time to begin with.  Simply, they all seem to have nearly erased the 1969 Sun Bowl from memory, and prefer that the game continues to remain forgotten.

Receiver great Charley Whittemore might have put it to me best: "I do not recall the clock not running.  I do recall that we needed the clock to run a lot faster."

December 19, 2013

Clash of the D-Coordinators Ⅱ

Around this time a season ago, I compared the Bulldog defense while coordinated by Willie Martinez in his final three seasons at Georgia to the unit during Todd Grantham's first three seasons.  Overall, and as expected, Grantham's Guard Dogs had performed better in nearly every statistical category.  However, when facing what I defined as a "productive" offense, or an offense that would finish its respective season ranked in the nation's top 50 in total offense, Willie Mo's Boys had performed better when pitted against upper-tier offenses.
A year later and as another bowl matchup with Nebraska awaits, and another Cornhusker productive offense (421 yards and 33 points per game), I conducted a second comparison of Georgia's defenses under the unit's two latest coordinators.  However, I updated and improved the comparison this time, including the entire tenures of the two coordinators--Martinez (2005 through 2009 regular season) and Grantham (2010 to present)--while revising a "productive" offense to one which is more so "proficient," or an FBS offense that would finish its respective season averaging at least 400 total yards and 27 points scored per game (current yardage and points scored averages were considered for Grantham for 2013). 
Against all opposition, an on-the-surface comparison reveals that Georgia allowed 20.9 points per game under Martinez, and a slightly higher 22.7 points since Grantham has been around.  Still, considering the Bulldogs' special teams woes the last few years and Georgia's tendency to simply give away points, the collective defensive units under the two coordinators could be considered rather equal, or perhaps even Grantham's having a slight advantage.  Nevertheless, when it comes to facing proficient offenses, there's little comparison.
Martinez's defenses faced 17 FBS offenses which would average 400 yards and 27 points, whereas Grantham has opposed 18 to date: 

Total Yds355.5417.9
Rush Yds123.2186.1
Rush Avg3.64.3
Pass Yds232.3231.8
Pass Avg7.48.1
Off. TDs2.83.8
3rd Down %0.3830.439

Rather, when it comes to facing proficient offenses, there's no comparison.  Grantham's defenses have allowed more than 60 rushing yards per game than Martinez's yielded, 0.7 more yards per rush and pass, recorded less sacks, forced fewer turnovers, yielded a much higher third-down conversion rate, and perhaps more significantly, allowed an entire offensive touchdown more per game (3.8 to 2.8) than his predecessor.  As far as the most telling statistic of them all, Georgia's record is 10-8 when Grantham's defensive unit has faced a proficient offense; the Bulldogs were 12-5 with Martinez under the same circumstances.

Notably, when Martinez was fired following the Georgia Tech game in 2009, Coach Richt stated, "It was definitely not a one-year, knee-jerk reaction to one season...We want to make sure we're playing Georgia ball, playing with the type of speed and intensity that it takes to be champions."  However, following the 2011 campaign--a season Georgia was fortunate to face some really bad offenses (just two of 14 opponents had proficient offenses, compared to five in 2012 and eight this season)--the Bulldogs evidently had a knee-jerk reaction to one season by giving Grantham a new three-year contract and $75,000-a-year raise.

As I stated a year ago, I realize simply comparing coordinators and their defensive statistics doesn't reveal the entire story, so to speak.  I also said that I personally preferred Todd Grantham over Willie Martinez as Georgia's DC on any day and against any offense, whether productive or one not so much.  A year later, I personally prefer neither coordinator, but someone who could get the Bulldog defenders, as Coach Richt desired four years ago, to finally play "Georgia ball."  

December 13, 2013

Where's Aaron At?

Although not quite No. 1, in my book,
Murray finishes his career as one of the
top three Georgia quarterbacks of all time.
With Aaron Murray's Bulldog career now officially over, as some of you can attest to when you plunked down $35 for his autograph last Saturday at the Georgia Square Mall (but, I digress...), I'm going to field a question I've been asked in some form or another a number of times over the last couple of years.  As one emailer asked a few days ago, "Where's Aaron at as far as Georgia's all-time greatest quarterbacks?"  

I've attempted to rank the greatest quarterbacks in UGA's modern football history, or since the Bulldogs began utilizing a drop-back style passing quarterback in the mid-1940s.  The rankings are based on several factors, including statistics/records, longevity, his team's overall performance, plus, my opinion of how the teams of each quarterback would have fared without him under center, but replaced with your average, run-of-the-mill quarterback.
I originally was going to slot a top ten, but had a rather difficult time deciding on the final and 10th-best amongst three Bulldog signal callers.  Therefore, and for what it's worth, here's my opinion of the dynamic dozen greatest Georgia quarterbacks in history:    
Hon. Ment.: D.J. SHOCKLEY (2002-05): Since failing to start a single entire season while at Georgia, it's difficult for me to rank him amongst UGA's greatest quarterbacks; however, based on his remarkable 2005 season alone, Shockley is certainly worthy of mention...Passing for 2,500+ yards, rushing for 300+, while responsible for 28 TDs, led Georgia to its last SEC title.  Shockley's impact was perhaps most appreciated when he was lost to injury for almost two entire games in 2005, resulting in a near setback to Arkansas and loss to Florida.
12. QUINCY CARTER (1998-00): You can question his character and integrity, wonder how the heck he threw five INTs vs. South Carolina in 2000, and if he really was injured later that season.  And, he's the only Bulldog on this list whose performance clearly went into decline as his Georgia career wore on.  However, when he was at his best, there was maybe no one better than Quincy Carter.  Despite playing for just 2½ years, he ended career with 22 wins as a starter and 2nd-most passing yards in school history...Over the last 37 seasons, he is the only Bulldog quarterback to rush for 100+ yards in a single-game victory!  

11. RAY GOFF (1974-76): Has been described as Georgia's best option quarterback ever in a program's history that ran a lot of option...Team was 18-5 when Goff started under center (notably, 14-7-1 against the spread), but a good portion of that success can be attributed to a great surrounding cast, including being interchanged with QB Matt Robinson.  Despite sharing time at quarterback, Goff finished 7th in 1976 Heisman voting...1,434 career rushing yards and 19 rushing TDs still rank second all time among UGA quarterbacks.

10. BUCK BELUE (1978-81): Belue's .871 career winning percentage (27-4 starting record) is second highest in UGA history; he's the only Bulldog to quarterback back-to-back SEC championship teams, and the lone signal caller to capture an undisputed national title.  Plus, he is the only Georgia quarterback in history to be recognized as first-team all-conference in consecutive seasons.  However, it's no coincidence Belue's stature and performance greatly improved (INT every 10 pass attempts in 1978-79; INT every almost 20 attempts in 1980-81), as did the entire team's, with the arrival of Herschel Walker in 1980.
 9. ZEKE BRATKOWSKI (1951-53): The Brat's passing statistics may appear nearly appalling, including 68 career interceptionsan NCAA three-year record which likely will never be broken.  However, he is an excellent example of a good quarterback on bad teams (Georgia 15-17 record in 1951-53), while his passing prowess was absolutely, in a word, feared by opposing defenses.  Averaging just under 40 yards per boot, the guy could punt as well...
Speaking of, during my recent interview with Bratkowski, he informed me of a good football trivia question:  The 1st and 2nd quarterbacks of the 1st and 2nd Super Bowl-winning teams (Bratkowski and Bart Starr) finished 1st and 2nd in the NCAA in 1953 in what statistical category?  Punting

 8. ANDY JOHNSON (1971-73): You likely won't find Johnson's name on any other listing of Georgia's all-time greatest quarterbacks.  However, just ask the players who were at UGA the same time as the underappreciated Johnson, and there were few players on the field better than him, and probably no better athlete...Notable 23-7-2 record as a starter, including quarterbacking the 11-1 '71 team as a mere sophomore...Only UGA quarterback to both rush and pass for 1,500 yards in a career...1,799 rushing yards and 21 rushing TDs both career records for a Bulldog quarterback.

 7. FRAN TARKENTON (1958-60): I personally believe Tarkenton's collegiate career is probably a tad overhyped (without fail, similar rankings have listed him among Georgia's top five QBs); UGA declares him as one of its few first-team All-American QBs, and the lone one ever selected by the AP (although he was actually a second teamer), while his stellar pro tenure aids in making a great Georgia career seem more like extraordinary.  However, there's no denying that he was perhaps the primary reason why the Bulldogs achieved a 16-5 combined mark in 1959-60 after the team won just 35 percent of its games in the previous four seasons (1955-58).

 6. KIRBY MOORE (1965-67): Similarly to Johnson, you probably won't find the quarterback of the 1966 SEC champs listed with Georgia's greatest signal callers...Was remarkably 5-0 vs. AP top-10 foes and 5-1 vs. Auburn and Georgia Tech...At end of career was 7th all time at UGA in passing yards, 8th in rushing, and 6th in punting yardage.  Plus, Moore might be the only UGA quarterback in history in which a renowned poem was written in his honor"To A Great One" by Harold Walker, which included, When the game is nearing the final gun, and we just can't seem to score, we know who will get the job done, you're a winnerKirby Moore!

 5. MATTHEW STAFFORD (2006-08): Stafford might be the most talented quarterback in Georgia history; he's the only Bulldog QB selected first overall in the NFL Draft, and the second of only two (John Rauch the first) chosen in the draft's first round.  Besides all the records Stafford set in just 2½ seasons as Georgia's starting signal caller, maybe the most impressive marks were his win-loss records: 27-7 overall, including 11-4 vs. AP-ranked opponents and 7-3 in games decided by four points or less.

 4. ERIC ZEIER (1991-94):  After quarterbacking Georgia to a combined 19-5 record in 1991 and 1992, Zeier's numbers soared as a junior and senior, but while the team faltered overall.  He passed for a combined 48 touchdowns and nearly 7,000 yards in 1993 and 1994, but the Bulldogs went 11-10-1 and without a bowl (and without an adequate defense); however, I shutter to think how those teams would have fared without Zeier under centereven worse, likely much worse.  In the 78 years of the Heisman Trophy, only THREE times has a UGA quarterback finished in the final voting, TWO of which were Zeier.

 3. AARON MURRAY (2010-13): You've undoubtedly heard about Murray's career record-breaking passing prowess all season, but as I posted fairly recently on my Facebook author/UGA football page, he also finishes his career with the third-most rushing TDs by a Georgia quarterback; his 396 career rushing yards is the most by a Bulldog signal caller since Shockley...35 career wins is third-most in UGA history (behind Greene and Rauch), but 17 losses are the most by a Bulldog quarterback in 60 years (Bratkowski also lost 17)...No SEC championship, but that's due in large part to inadequate defensive play for most of the past four seasons.

 2. DAVID GREENE (2001-04): Ended his career with the 9th-most passing yards in NCAA history (11,528)No. 1 in SECand as the highest rated quarterback in UGA history (138.3)...Above all, 42 career wins as a starting quarterback set all-time NCAA record.  Since Greene's career ended nearly a decade ago, I've personally contended that I would probably prefer no other UGA quarterback to lead an offense 80 yards from the end zone in a game's final minutes.

 1. JOHN RAUCH (1945-48): Rauch ended his career as the NCAA's all-time leading passer, while his 36 career wins would stand as an NCAA record for 30 years (Greene's record 42 stood for five until 2009). ...Only UGA quarterback in history to be selected to more than one NCAA-recognized postseason All-American team (Rauch chosen to four in 1948)...Also rushed for 13 TDs in career, caught three scores, returned a fumble for a touchdown, and his 13 career interceptions (playing defense) currently rank tied for 5th in UGA history.
On a recruiting trip in 1945, and just as Georgia and Coach Butts were switching to the "T" formation, where the quarterback would serve as the offense's primary passer, Rauch was talked out of signing with Tennessee, switched from tailback to quarterback, and promised he'd start under center for the Bulldogs as a true freshman.  Pictured during his first game at UGA, true freshman Rauch leads the Bulldogs to a 49-0 victory over Murray State.  Nearly 70 years later, who would have guessed that "Jarring" John Rauch would remain arguably the greatest quarterback in the history of Georgia football?

December 10, 2013

Makes Little Sense To Me

Curiously, the Dawgs and Huskers will be pitted
in the postseason for the second year in a row.
As I watched the bowl matchups being revealed Sunday night, I couldn't help but to mull over a couple of things that remain to make little to no sense to me.
For one, why would Georgia be paired again with Nebraska for the second consecutive postseason?
I heard some reasoning why the Bulldogs "fell" to the Gator Bowl and how the Cornhuskers were positioned there, as well.  However, I have always been under the impression that repeat bowl opponents are avoided at all costs unless bowl officials have no choice but to oppose the same two teams from the previous postseason, or the pairing is considered a rather alluring, must-see matchup.
Consider this, and, yes, I actually looked this up:  Entering this season, nearly 1,200 bowl games had been played all time involving a major college or Division I-A/FBS team.  There have been only 20 occurrences where the same two teams played one another in a bowl game in consecutive seasons12 times they played in the exact same bowl game from the year before; 8 times in different bowls.
Nearly all of these repeat postseason matchups involve major bowl games, where because of national title or BCS implications, or conference champion and military academy tie ins, a repeat bowl matchup was nearly unavoidable.  For example, Ohio State and USC had to face off three consecutive times in the Rose Bowl during the 1970s because each won their respective conference all three seasons.
I could only find two occurrences in the history of college football where two schools were opposed in consecutive non-major bowls seemingly, and simply put, just for the heck of it: Tennessee and Maryland played in the 1983 Citrus and then the 1984 Sun; South Carolina and Ohio State faced off in the Outback Bowl to cap both the 2000 and 2001 seasons.
Here's the thing: The second Tennessee-Maryland and South Carolina-Ohio State bowl games were much desired by the teams involved and their fan baseshighly-anticipated rematches where both games would presumably and quickly sell out.
As far as highly anticipated and undoubtedly a sell out for a second consecutive Georgia-Nebraska bowl game, I would think, not so much.
Although Richt is 6-4 vs. Auburn the last decade,
he is 0-3 in a category much more significant.
Lastly, and most head-scratching, how is it Auburn has now achieved THREE "championship seasons" in the last decade, whereas Georgia has produced NONE (where a championship season is defined as a campaign capped by playing for a national title or one where a team probably should have, like in 2004 when the Tigers finished their year 13-0)?
For what it's worth, being involved in little controversy while having the same head coach for 13 seasons, the UGA football program has been seemingly more "stable" than Auburn's.  On the contrary, the Tigers have been involved in their fair share of scandal, while led by three different head coaches in just the last six seasons.
The UGA football program has recruited better than Auburn's.  Using Phil Steele's annual national team recruiting rankings, which I prefer since they combine more than a dozen of the top recruiting services, including Rivals, Scout, Tom Lemming, etc., Georgia's recruiting had an average ranking of 10.9 in the entire nation from 2001 through 2013, or since Coach Richt's arrival.  In comparison, the Tigers' average recruiting ranking over the same 13-year period was quite a bit lower at 21.5.
Above all, and although just slightly, the UGA football program has performed better than Auburn's on the field.  In the last 10 seasons, the Bulldogs have a .723 overall winning percentage and have been bowl eligible every year.  During the same period, the Tigers have a slightly lower winning percentage at .718 while twice missing out on the postseason because of losing regular seasons.  Yet, Auburn has either played for a national championship or ended its season undefeated three timesone for each of its three head coacheswhereas Georgia's consolation the last decade has been a couple of championship near misses in 2007 and 2012.
What's the deal?  Is it something substantial, like what we've all heard on occasion over the last decadesimply put, Coach Richt can't take Georgia to the "next level"?  Or, is it something else; maybe it's mere dumb luck or coincidence as some say?
Regardless, come this bowl season, realize that the Bulldogs are making postseason history by being part of the first ever bowl matchup that makes absolutely no sense at all.  At the same time, a program that has been seemingly inferior the last decade curiously enjoys its third championship season, to Georgia's none.  Some regard this as the Bulldogs continuing to get "bad breaks," or simply a coincidence.  
Personally, and although I remain trying to make sense of it all, I tend to believe that  a coincidence results from the unusual occurring twice, while once is mere chance or happenstance, but three times is, well, something much more significant than the outcomes of once and twice.

December 6, 2013

Feet On Mom's Table Delivered a Legend to UGA

"When you let Worley go upstream, I'd hate
to tackle him," said Vandy head coach Watson
Brown.  "He'd be playing noseguard for us."
I want to salute my friend, Tim Worley, who will be celebrated as Georgia's 2013 SEC Football Legend at tomorrow's conference title game.  Tim is only the 20th Bulldog to be bestowed the honor of a football legend in the conference, while becoming just the program's fourth recognized running back, joining greats Charley Trippi, Herschel Walker, and Garrison Hearst.
Besides the combination of speed and power he displayed from 1985 to 1988, likely only exceeded by Herschel of all Bulldog backs in history, what perhaps most intrigues me about Tim's Georgia career is the impact he made at the school and in the SEC in such a short period of time.  He played in just 26 career regular-season games, starting only 14.  Regardless, Tim's relatively short duration at Georgia was nearly no duration at all.  Initially, the Bulldogs  were actually the blue-chip recruit's fourth choice.
Florida State was attractive to the native of Lumberton, North Carolina, until Sammie Smith, the nation's most-heralded back, signed with the Seminoles.  Clemson was eliminated when Tim realized he wanted to compete at the highest level, which didn't include ACC competition in his mind.  Tennessee was ruled out when it snowed twenty inches in Knoxville on Tim's official visit.
"I was stuck in the [Tennessee] dorm the entire time," Tim informed me during an interview this week.  "First impressions matter."
And finally, there was Oklahoma, his first choice, and what was considered the greatest rushing attack in all of football at the time.  But, in the end, the Sooners were disregarded with a little help from someone who always knows best.
"Oklahoma was eliminated because [head coach] Barry Switzer put his boots on my Mom's coffee table [during a recruiting visit]," Tim says.  "She told me right then and there that I couldn't go to Norman."
Once at Georgia, Tim would become "one of the greatest SEC tailbacks of the modern era," I stated when recently asked for a press release regarding Tim's career from a historical standpoint.  "And that’s considering the fact that he only played two-and-a-half seasons at Georgia, yet he made a permanent impact on the school and the league."
Three weeks later, now that I think about it, I should have also mentioned in the release the stiff competition Tim facednot only from opposing defenses, but on his very own team.
Consider that while at Georgia, Tim shared the backfield, and its number of carries, with running backs Lars Tate, Rodney Hampton, Keith Henderson, David McCluskey, and quarterback James Jackson, all of which rushed for more than 1,300 yards while at Georgia.  There was also Tron Jackson (877 career rushing yards) and Alphonso Ellis (599).  One of the greatest SEC tailbacks of the modern era could have been even greater if not for being part of arguably the greatest stable of backs in conference history.
"I would have definitely been happy to carry the ball 35-40 times a game for four years," Tim says, "but Coach Dooley's brilliance enabled Hamp, Keith, Tate, McCluskey, Alphonso Ellis, Tron and me to be our best while sharing the ball. One of the best compliments about Coach Dooley's strategy was when the football analysts calling the games would say, 'You can't tell one of these UGA running backs from the other.'"      
As a junior in 1988, and what would be his final season at Georgia, Tim was again sharing the load for the Bulldogs, and this time with Hampton, backing up his teammate at tailback for the first seven games of the campaign.  However, halfway through the year, Tim remarkably ranked 7th in the nation in rushing and 4th in scoring despite not having started a single game.  Regardless, UGA began hyping the backup as a Heisman Trophy candidate in what was believed to be the first time, and likely the last, a reserve had ever been promoted by a school for the trophy.
"After I had my "hat trick"a kickoff return for a touchdown, passing for a touchdown, and a run from the line of scrimmage for a touchdown in the same game [against Ole Miss]that's when I started hearing 'Heisman' all the time," Tim says.  "But, I was just so grateful to be back on the field playing after missing almost two years with a knee injury."
In the fourth game of the 1986 season, Worley had been lost for the year with a knee injury.  In 1987, he played JUCO ball while rehabbing his knee and getting his grades up.
Following the "hat trick" in 1988, "Here Comes Worley" Heisman media fliers were promptly distributed, including a quote from Ole Miss head coach Billy Brewer: "Tim Worley is the most physical and abusing runner we've seen in a long time. ... We need two weeks off just to get over Tim Worley."  A week later, Vanderbilt head coach Watson Brown declared, "When you let Worley go upstream, I'd hate to tackle him.  He'd be playing noseguard for us."

Besides winners Frank Sinkwich and Walker, along with Trippi in 1946 and Hearst in 1992, to date, no other Bulldog running back has made a run for the Heisman Trophy as late in a season as Worley did in 1988.  However, the quest for the award ended during the regular season's next-to-last game at Auburn when Tim was held to 63 rushing yards and no touchdowns in a 20-10 loss.  Regardless, individual accolades have always mattered little to one of the greatest to ever put on a Bulldog uniform.
"It really was all about the team – not me," Tim says.  "I contributed as much as I could for my coaches and teammates.  I remember we had t-shirts made with the word "TEAM" in all capital letters, and right below it, the word "me" in all lower case letters.  Big TEAM, little methat was my mindset.  My wife, Dee, still has that shirt today."
What was once Worley's fourth choice 
would fortunately become
his No. 1. 
Dee, an SEC legend in her own right at Alabama as the NCAA Gymnastics All-Around Champion in 1990 and the national gymnast of the year in 1993, and Tim are co-founders of Worley Global Enterprises, a consulting firm.  Tim manages the Motivational Speaking and Life Skills Consulting division, helping leaders and leaders-in-the-making "develop their character to be above the standard of their talent."
And, speaking of above the standardway aboveTim is truly honored to be chosen among such an outstanding class of college football players, representing the strongest conference in the nation.
“When I first got the call [regarding the selection], I was literally stunned,” Tim says.  "I'm humbled and grateful."
When it comes to his career at Georgia, Tim is most grateful for the Bulldog Nation, all the past Georgia "SEC Legends," Coach Dooley, his position coaches, the trainers.  "And, every teammate I ever played with at UGA," Tim adds.  "It's times like this that really make me treasure the memories I have with teammates like Scott Adams and Keith Johnson who have gone home to be with the Lord."  Adams and Johnson, Georgia offensive lineman during the 1980s, both passed away in September.  "They blocked for me, and this honor belongs to them, too." 
To be a "football legend" is most certainly just thata tremendous honor that can be shared with many, and according to Tim, "the greatest honor of my entire football career."  And, just think, if not for the brash Switzer putting his feet up on mom's coffee table, Georgia's representative for tomorrow would be no SEC Football Legend at all. 

December 2, 2013

Just when I thought I had something to blog about...

Led by Gurley and Mason, Georgia's comeback
Saturday ranks as the 5th largest in UGA history.  
...from Saturday night—Georgia's ill-prepared team, lacking leadership, with a defense that couldn't make stops—the Bulldogs instantly appeared able, led by a quarterback and tailback who seemingly wouldn't be denied, with a defense that, well, started to make some stops.
Immediately following Georgia's 41-34 comeback, double-overtime victory over Tech, where the Bulldogs found themselves trailing by 20 points midway through the second quarter, I received an email from a reader asking where Georgia's historic rally at "Historic" Grant Field ranked as far as all-time comebacks in UGA football history.
And, with that email, I instantly had something else to blog about—games where, at some point, a Georgia victory seemed as probable as Missouri and Auburn playing in the SEC title game back in September, but somehow the Bulldogs fought back to overcome one of the largest deficits in their history: 

1.  25 points- Purdue, 2000 Outback Bowl (trailed 25-0 in 2Q)
After Drew Brees poured it on the Bulldogs early, Georgia struck for 28 unanswered points, including a long Terrence Edwards TD run before halftime and a Quincy Carter TD run and pass in the second half.  Hap Hines' second field goal broke a 25-25 tie in overtime, resulting in Georgia's biggest comeback in its history. 

2.  21 points- Auburn, 1996 (trailed 28-7 with less than one minute remaining in 2Q)
Trailing by three touchdowns, Mike Bobo came off the bench, and later Robert Edwards, to spark a stagnant Georgia offense.  Bobo passed for 360 yards after missing the first 1½ quarters of play, while Edwards was responsible for 134 rushing and receiving yards, including gaining 98 of Georgia’s 100 total yards in four overtime periods.  After the four overtimes, the Bulldogs had captured an unlikely 56-49 victory.  
3.  21 points- Virginia, 1998 Peach Bowl (trailed 21-0 with just over one minute remaining in 2Q)
After completing just 3 of 13 passes with 3 interceptions and having a hand in all of Virginia's first three touchdowns, freshman Quincy Carter completed 15 of 20 passes for 205 yards and two TDs, while adding a TD run to overcome an early three-touchdown deficit.  Down 35-27 late, Virginia scored a touchdown, missed the two-point conversion, but recovered an onside kick, only to miss a last-second game-winning field goal try to lose, 35-33. 
4.  20 points- Georgia Tech, 1978 (trailed 20-0 with 38 seconds remaining in 2Q)
After completing just 7 of 19 passes with three interceptions through 10 games of his freshman campaign, Buck Belue came off the bench to complete 7 of 9 passes, including one of the greatest touchdown passes in UGA history—a 42-yarder to Amp Arnold on fourth down that defeated Georgia Tech.  Arnold's two-point conversion run provided the winning margin in Georgia's 29-28 comeback victory.
5.  20 points- Georgia Tech, 2013 (trailed 20-0 midway through 2Q)
Down 20-0, Georgia struck quickly to score five touchdowns and two field goals in a 41-34 double-overtime win over Georgia Tech.  After slow starts, freshman Todd Gurley rushed for 122 yards and scored four touchdowns, while quarterback Hutson Mason, making his first career start, passed for 299 yards and two scores.  The comeback marked the first Georgia game in more than six seasons where the Bulldogs rallied to win after trailing by double digits in the second half (and, after six losses in five years where Georgia was defeated after having a double-digit second-half lead).
On Homecoming of 1970 vs. South Carolina,
backup Gilbert led the Dogs in a fury to a
comeback over the 'Cocks.
6.  18 points- Virginia Tech, 2006 Chick-fil-A Bowl (trailed 21-3 early in 3Q)
After mustering a mere field goal through the first half and first possession of the third quarter, Georgia's offense tallied three touchdowns and two field goals on its next five possessions. The Bulldogs’ 28 second-half points all came in a span of only 13:40 while four of Georgia’s five scores were set up with an onside kick, two interceptions, and a fumble recovery.  In the 31-24 victory, the Bulldog offense gained just 200 total yards, however, the defense allowed a paltry 189 to the Hokies.

7.  18 points- South Carolina, 1970 (trailed 21-3 with 8 minutes left in 2Q)
Senior backup quarterback Paul Gilbert, an Athens native, replaced an injured Mike Cavan midway through the second quarter and as Georgia trailed by 18 points.  Gilbert jump-started a sputtering offense, completing 13 of 20 passes for 243 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown bomb to tight end Billy Brice, giving the Bulldogs a 32-31 second-half lead of an eventual 52-34 victory.  At the time, the 86 combined points were the most ever scored in Sanford Stadium, while the 18-point deficit Georgia overcame would rank as the biggest comeback in team history through the program's first 85 seasons.