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October 22, 2014

Far From Extraordinary

As Demetrius Douglas (left) demonstrates in '89, 
Emmitt Smith (right) had a hard time getting  
his footing when facing the Dawgs. 
In an interview yesterday regarding the Georgia-Florida series, in so many words, I was asked to compare Herschel Walker with the "extraordinary" Emmitt Smith.

My response: there is no comparison, especially when it comes to the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. 

You see, in three games against Florida, the legendary Walker averaged more than 216 rushing yards per contest, 5.5 yards per carry, and scored nearly three touchdowns.  Most importantly, Herschel's teams were 3 and 0 in the rivalry. Emmitt, on the other hand, averaged a paltry 81, 4.5, and ZERO, respectively, and was 0 and 3, or the last time prior to the current streak Georgia had defeated the Gators three times in a row.

I continued, Florida football fans relished the 13-1 run they had in Jacksonville from 1990 through 2003, while seldom speaking of Georgia's dominance leading up to their winning ways in the rivalry.

Taken from my I Love Georgia/I Hate Florida book, I touch upon the latter portion of the Bulldogs' series supremacy, specifically when it came to facing the not-so-extraordinary Emmitt: 

Clemson football fans love to rehash how our legendary Herschel Walker never scored a touchdown against their Tigers. However, conveniently not brought up is how Herschel twice rushed for more than 100 yards in the three meetings and, most importantly, the Bulldogs won two of the three games.

But perhaps that’s a Love/Hate book for another time…

Rarely, will you hear Bulldogs fans recount how Florida’s Emmitt Smith never scored in three games against Georgia. In addition, Smith rushed for more than 100 yards just once in three tries, and above all, Georgia won all three meetings.

At any rate, Smith’s lack of production against Georgia is hardly a big deal to the Bulldogs (although maybe I can touch upon it solely for the purpose of this book). In 1987 Smith broke the NCAA freshman record by reaching the 1,000-yard rushing mark in just his seventh game. Three weeks later, Georgia would be facing Florida’s freshman sensation—the best first-year running back in college football since the Bulldogs’ own Herschel Walker seven years before.

“I’m really looking forward to playing in my first Florida-Georgia game,” said Smith. “They have a strong defense particularly against the run. We’ll need a good week of preparation to play in this one.”

Come to find out, Smith and his fellow Gators would have needed much more than a week to prepare as Georgia cruised to a relatively easy victory. In the 23–10 Florida loss, Smith was held to 46 yards on 13 carries.

In 1988 it was more of the same as Smith was limited to 88 yards on 19 rushes in a 26–3 Bulldogs victory. A year later, in his final season at Florida, Smith totaled 108 yards in Jacksonville but yet again, he couldn’t find the end zone and the Gators were defeated 17–10 by Georgia.

In three games against the Bulldogs, Smith averaged just 81 rushing yards per contest, gained 4.5 yards per carry, and did not score a touchdown. Compare those figures to Smith’s 132-yard average, 5.7 yards per carry, and a total of 36 touchdowns in his 28 games against other regular season opponents.

Prior to a brilliant NFL career, there’s no denying Emmitt Smith had an outstanding three-season run at Florida. His accolades included being a three-time first-team All-SEC pick, a two-time top-10 finisher in the Heisman Trophy voting, the 1987 SEC Freshman of the Year, and the 1989 SEC Player of the Year.

Be that as it may, Smith certainly had his troubles against—as he himself identified—the Bulldogs’ “strong defense particularly against the run.”


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