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January 30, 2015

When the University Boys Knew How to Play Football

An edited and updated piece of mine I originally posted five years ago: On this day 123 years ago, the University of Georgia competed in the very first of its 1,245 football games played through this past season.

The birth of one of college football’s most prominent programs began when 24-year-old Dr. Charles Herty decided to bring the sport to his alma mater after first witnessing it in Baltimore while earning his Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins. At the initial practice, Herty, considered more of a “trainer” than a coach, walked onto the field carrying a Walter Camp rule book. To start practice, he simply tossed a football in the air and then watched as a group of college boys fought for it.

George Shackelford, one of those boys, said in a 1946 interview, “[Herty] selected the strongest looking specimens for the first team. Luckily I was the one who recovered the ball and thus I was assigned a position.”

Assigned for a contest against Mercer, the “strong specimens” in Georgia’s initial starting lineup averaged 156 pounds and 5-foot-10 in height, or nearly 100 pounds lighter and a half foot shorter than the Bulldogs’ starting eleven on offense for the 2014 season.

On January 30, 1892, 1,500 spectators gathered at Alumni Athletic Field on the school’s campus to witness the first intercollegiate football game in the Deep South. A few years later, the venue would be renamed “Herty Field” in honor of UGA football's founding father.

School records indicate Georgia’s mascot made its initial appearance at the Red and Black’s second game—a meeting with Auburn in Atlanta three weeks following the first contest. On the contrary, according to the Athens Banner, “the university goat was driven across the field by the boys and raised quite a ripple of laughter,” just prior to the 3:00 PM kickoff with Mercer. You also won't find in the UGA annals that the school's first mascot was almost not an animal, but literally a manan African-American gentleman, Old Tub.

Soon after the introduction of the goat, the Red and Black student section hollered, “rah, rah, rah, ta Georgia!” This was answered by the Mercer fans with a “rah, rah, rah, U-ni-v-sis-boom ah Var-sity Mercer!”

At the time, football resembled more of a rugby scrum than the sport we know of today. The rules were considerably different: no passing, five yards were needed for a first down, a kicked field goal was actually worth more than a touchdown, and because of a loophole in the game’s rules, a team kicking off could easily gain possession by nudging the ball forward, recovering it, and promptly go on the offensive. Mercer worked this type of onside kick from yesteryear to begin the game to perfection, and started with the ball around midfield.

On the first play in Georgia football history, a Mercer ball carrier was thrown for a three-yard loss. This was followed with a play for no gain, and then a lost fumble recovered by Shackelford.

On the Red and Black’s first offensive play, Frank “Si” Herty, cousin of Dr. Herty, got the ball, made an “extraordinary” run, and scored a touchdown, giving Georgia an early 4-0 advantage.

Later in the contest, Georgia increased its lead to 16-0 when Shackelford made the play of the game by scoring a two-point safety in a most unusual fashion. “I picked up the ball-carrier,” said Shackelford, “and slung him over one shoulder, carrying him [along with the football] twenty yards across his own goal-line.”

The game ended with Georgia prevailing 50-0 over the visitors. “Si” Herty led the Red and Black by scoring 5½ touchdowns. Unofficially, Herty is awarded one-half of a touchdown since he reportedly scored a touchdown together somehow with fullback Henry Brown for Georgia's final points.

The kind of "refreshments" served
down at the Athens Dispensary...
Speaking of final points, the final score should have actually been 60-0 but the official scorer made two trips to the local dispensary during the game for some “refreshments,” missing two touchdowns and a successful kick-after by Georgia.

After the game, spectators’ hats were tossed into the air and Georgia players were hoisted onto the shoulders of patrons in celebration as “the red and crimson of the University of Georgia waves triumphantly, and a score of fifty to nothing shows the university boys know how to play football.”

Exactly 123 years later, much has changed in the sport of college football, especially its rules. However, as they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same, particularly, the “university boys” still know how to play some football, and play it pretty darn well.

January 23, 2015

Living Low On the Hogs

Anyone else find it mind-boggling
that Georgia continues to land a
 low number of OL signees?
With less than two weeks remaining until Signing Day, I was reminded yesterday that the Bulldogs had just two offensive line commitments for this year's class. Granted, Georgia is certainly well represented as far as non-offensive line commitments, including national top-10 prospects DT Trent Thompson and ATH Terry Godwin; however, the Bulldogs have seemingly once again failed to land an adequate number of offensive linemen, or the all-important "Hogs" upfronta curious trend that has persisted now for four consecutive years. 

The following are the number of annual offensive line signees during the Coach Richt era broken down by Rivals' star value (5 star-4 star-3 star-2 star):

Year: # of OL Signees- 5*-4*-3*-2*
2001: Four- 0-1-3-0
2002: Six- 0-3-3-0
2003: Seven- 0-2-4-1
2004: Three- 0-1-2-0
2005: One- 0-0-1-0
2006: Seven- 0-2-5-0
2007: Eight- 0-3-5-0
2008: Four- 0-2-2-0
2009: Four- 0-3-1-0
2010: Three- 0-1-2-0
2011: Six- 0-0-5-1
2012: Three- 1-0-2-0
2013: Four- 0-1-3-0
2014: Three- 0-2-1-0

Notably, for the first 11 years of the Richt era, Georgia signed an average of 4.8 offensive linemen per year, or 21% of its incoming classes; however, from 2012 to 2014, those figures dropped by roughly one-third to 3.3 and 14%, respectively.

In addition, beginning more than three decades ago in 1982or, the first season UGA linemen signees were consistently differentiated between offensive and defensiveand through 2011, there were only five occasions of back-to-back years where Georgia's annual signing class was made up of less than 16% offensive linemen (1986-1987, 1992-1993, 1993-1994, 1999-2000, and 2004-2005); it resulted just once for three consecutive years (1992-1994), and never four years in a row... that is, until likely this February 4th when it appears the Bulldogs will sign a low number of offensive linemen for the fourth consecutive Signing Day.

Recent UGA offensive lines haven't suffered 
consequences for the insufficient number of 
OL signees, but is it only a matter of time? 
Continuing to geek-out on data, I again present the "Hog Index"originally, an NFL comparative measurement for offensive line performance which I tweaked for the college game. A team's offensive line ranking is determined by its average of the following three rankings in comparison to other teams being measured: 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.

For each of the aforementioned occasions of back-to-back years where offensive linemen made up less than 16% of Georgia's signees, the Bulldogs followed with an annual poor-to-below-average offensive line performance within two seasons, which certainly makes sense: if a team signs few offensive linemen in consecutive years, it should be expected that the team will have an inferior offensive line within a couple of seasons. And, as indicated at the link, according to the Hog Index over the last 20 years, there is a positive correlation between Georgia's annual Hog Index and its winning percentage that same season. Therefore, the worse the Bulldogs' offensive line performance, generally, the worse the overall team.

On the contrary, although Georgia signed a combined 10 offensive linemen from 2012 to 2014, it's evident that the Dogs' lowly number of Hog signees did not result in repercussions the last two seasons: in 2013 and 2014, Georgia's offensive line performance was the the 3rd-best and the very best, respectively, during the last 20 years.

Finally, perhaps the most glaring evidence concerning the Bulldogs' upcoming offensive line units: heading into the weekend and according to Rivals, although the top five non-offensive line recruits in the state of Georgia all are currently committed to become Bulldogs, nonenot a single oneof the state's top nine offensive linemen have committed to UGA. Baffling!

In summary, although Georgia's offensive line has been admirable the last few seasons on the field, off the field, those responsible at UGA for signing offensive linemen have done a dreadful joban unprecedented lackluster effort in landing the Hogs upfront. And, despite the line's recent annual performances, and the unit should be excellent in 2015, as well, history has shown if Georgia consistently doesn't land the Hogs, it could take a couple of seasons or so, but consequences eventually come back to bite the Dogs.

January 12, 2015

Able to Give Every Detail

In '66, Bruce Yawn was on the receiving
end of a rarity in UGA football lore,
and is able to give every detail of it.
"I assure you that any lineman in all of college football..." Bruce Yawn started telling me last week, "...would be able to give you every detail of it."

Yawn, a three-year lettering lineman at Georgia who started at left guard for the Bulldogs' 1968 SEC championship team, chimed in on an observation I made that there seemingly was a phenomena of sorts during the last one to two months of the college football season of linemen catching passes. 

In mid-November, a "fat guy" at Mercer was on the receiving end of a touchdown, bowled over some teammates, and then did a cartwheel. In bowl games on consecutive daysthe Cotton Bowl and Cactus Bowla 390-pounder from Baylor followed by an Oklahoma State defensive lineman caught passes on lineman-eligible pass plays. And, in helping them defeat LSU a couple of months ago, Alabama ran a pass play involving a lineman which I still don't quite fully understand

Notably, the lineman pass play, whether by design or accident (that is, off a deflection), has a small place in UGA football historyvery small, and having last occurred long ago. 

From what I discovered, the first Georgia lineman to catch a pass during the modern era was center Phil Ashe for a 2-yard gain during the 1960 campaign. For nearly all of the next half-dozen seasons, at least one Bulldog "Big Ugly" annually made a receptionabout half of which were off deflections, the rest designedly on lineman-eligible pass plays.

The longest-gaining reception by a Georgia lineman came in 1964, when first-year Bulldog coach Vince Dooley pulled the trickery against his alma mater, Auburn. Trailing by two touchdowns, QB Lynn Hughes threw to tackle George Patton on a lineman-eligible pass. Patton raced for 40 yards until tackled near the Tigers' goal line, setting up what would be the Bulldogs' lone touchdown of an eventual 14-7 loss.

Although Patton's reception was close, the only lineman in Georgia history to actually score a touchdown receiving was left guard Don Hayes against Mississippi State in the 1966 season opener. Hayes, who lined up as a guard-eligible receiver with Georgia trailing in the first quarter, caught a wide-open 4-yard touchdown from QB Kirby Moore on 3rd and goal. The score would be the difference in a 20-17 victory for Georgia, and remains the last time a Bulldog lineman caught an intentional pass attempt.

Less than a month after Hayes' catch, an undefeated Georgia team was playing Miami on a Friday night in the Orange Bowl. The Bulldog offense, which would generate less than 100 total yards of offense for the entire game, was struggling, so Moore was benched for the much-heralded sophomore signal-caller Rick Arrington. Trailing 7-6, Georgia had reached inside the Hurricanes' 20-yard line, and then, as Yawn described, "it" happened: a lineman catching a passthis time, of the deflected variety.

Against Auburn in '64, George Patton rumbles
for the longest lineman-eligible pass play in
UGA football history. 
"Arrington dropped back to pass, the pass was deflected, I looked up and saw the ball in the air and the goal line in front of me," recalled Yawn, who owned the acclaimed Snooky's Restaurant in Statesboro before its closing a few years ago.  "As I grabbed the ball, I had the vision of scoring the winning touchdown. I took two steps and was dropped for a three-yard loss."

Alas, Georgia lost to Miami that night, 7-6, in what would be the Bulldogs' lone defeat of the season.

"Every time the stats were printed that year, I received a great deal of ribbing from my fellow offensive linemen," Yawn said.

It was in 1966—the only season where Georgia completed more than one pass to a lineman—when Alabama's "Bear" Bryant ran a successful tackle-eligible pass play to help defeat Ole Miss for the second consecutive year. Bryant, who reportedly "loved" the deceptive play and "used it with great effect, especially against the Rebels," was phoned two days following the game by Ole Miss head coach John Vaught, a long-time friend of Bryant's. 

"He was mad, about to throw a fit," Bryant said of Vaught at the time. "John started a campaign to get the tackle-eligible banned from football." Vaught joined the NCAA Football Rules Committee in 1966 and, two years later, when the committee was about to adjourn, Vaught reportedly lodged a chair under the doorknob of the meeting room and declared that no one was leaving until something was done about "that damn tackle-eligible pass."

Essentially, a college lineman can catch a pass under today's rules; however, five men on an offensive line must wear jersey numbers 50 to 79, while it is ruled players wearing numbers 50 to 79 are not eligible to catch a forward pass (unlike before the late 1960s). Therefore, in order for a lineman to be eligible he can a) change jersey numbers during the game as was the case of the Baylor lineman; b) be a defensive lineman wearing numbers other than 50 to 79 as was the case of the Oklahoma State lineman; or c) catch a backward lateral pass as was the case of Mercer's "fat boy."

Still, despite ways to get around the no-passing-to-linemen rule, it has been nearly a half-century since a Georgia lineman caught a pass intentionally thrown his way. Even receptions made off deflections have been rare, occurring just once since Yawn's memorable 3-yard loss in 1966. A deflection against Auburn was caught by guard Kim Stephens for an 11-yard gain in 1987, or more than 27 years ago, justifying that a receptionwhether intentionally thrown or not, and no matter the number of yards gainedmade by a Georgia lineman should be a dream come true, of sorts, for that Bulldog player. 

"Fifty years later, I am able to tell my nine grandchildren that I am in the record books for UGA football," Yawn added. And, I'm sure the former Bulldog lineman is able give them every detail of it.

January 3, 2015

A Bulldog Bowl Story

The 1976 Bulldogs embark on their trip to New
a journey resulting badly on the field,
but full of off-field experiences they'll never forget.
Sometime during the third quarter of Georgia's victory over Louisville in the Belk Bowl, I concluded the Bulldogs would be extending their obscure, yet remarkable postseason streakone which (without looking it up) I guarantee has never been equaled before in college football history, and likely never will: spanning 38 years, Georgia has now played in 32 consecutive bowl games (13 of which did not result in a Bulldog victory) where they were not defeated by more than a touchdown.

Think about it, a period of nearly four entire decades where each time Georgia has played in the postseason, it has, at the very least, been "in" the ballgame just one possession from victory, if not winning altogether.

As I've gotten to know more and more former Georgia players through my workmost of which played during this current, successful streak in the postseasonI've discovered that behind every bowl gameno matter the final scoreis an intriguing bowl story, or two, or more. Most Bulldog enthusiasts are aware of past bowl trips in terms of their recaps and boxscores, yet each postseason appearance seemingly involves compelling on- and off-field experiences hardly publicized.

Some Bulldog bowl stories are so unbelievable, they're almost Hollywood-like (1943 Rose Bowl); for others, you don't know what to believe (1969 Sugar Bowl); and then you have those that shouldn't be believed because they're actually not entirely true, but have been slightly exaggerated over the years (1969 Sun Bowl). Regardless, any Bulldog bowl story is a good story in my book, so I reached out to a number of former players just after Christmas, asking for any postseason anecdotes.  

Of all the stories I heardat least, the ones I can publish herethe two most appealing to me just happen to be from the same bowl game, which happens to be the last time Georgia was defeated by more than seven points in the postseasonthe 1977 Sugar Bowl against top-ranked Pittsburgh. Ironically, leading into Georgia's current bowl streak, the '77 Sugar Bowl was the third bowl game in a row the Bulldogs were defeated by more than a touchdown, and the second consecutive by three touchdowns or more. Nevertheless, for Georgia's Ken Helms and a teammate of his who wanted to remain anonymous (for obvious reasons you'll read), there are vivid memories which linger from the 27-3 loss to Pittsburgh. And, to some degree, such memories are somewhat associated with the 31-10 setback to Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl from the year before.

Despite receiving bowl "swag" not nearly up to today's standardsa cowboy hat and a knockoff Rolex watch"the [1976] Cotton Bowl was cool," according to Helms, who was a standout offensive lineman for the Bulldogs from 1974 to 1976. "I do remember bathtubs full of Lone Star Beer in some [hotel] rooms, but we had to go get the beer, and it was about a mile walk!" 

"James Brown came in our locker room before the game, but a lot of guys didn't recognize him," Helms continued.  "I got him to sign my game program; I still have it."

Just as every Bulldog probably recognized Brown by the time "The Godfather of Soul" accompanied the team again a year later to New Orleans, seemingly everyone was aware of the renowned Dooley's Junkyard Dogs as the program was making a second consecutive major bowl appearance for the first time in 34 years.

Bear Bryant and Ken Helms in 1976. Notice
the cigarettes in the Bear's front pocket

box undoubtedly that was soon to be opened.
At a Sugar Bowl banquet during the week of the game, Helms and the late Jeff Sanders were sitting alone at a table when they were approached by another iconic figure. "It was Bear Bryant, asking if he could sit down," Helms said. "He sat at an empty place and ate the piece of cake that had been set there. He then fired up a cigarette, and said, 'y'all kicked our ass!'" referring to Georgia's 21-0 victory over the Bear's Crimson Tide earlier that season.

In preparation for Pittsburgh, "it was weird," Helms added. New Orleans was unusually cold during the week of the game, and the team practiced outside at old Tulane Stadium, but then played inside at the newly-opened Superdome.

"That was before there was "no smoking," so people could literally smoke inside the Superdome," Helms recalled. "It was dark inside the dome, and smoke gathered and was hanging over the top of the field like a cloud! It was nothing like us ole country boys from Georgia had ever seen before. Not to mention, that Pitt team with Tony Dorsett was something we hadn't seen, as well."

Indeed, Dorsett rushed for a then-Sugar-Bowl-record 202 yards, while the Bulldogs' high-powered veer offense was held to three points and less than 200 total yards as the Panthers defeated Georgia by 24 points, and it actually wasn't even that close. Nevertheless, the Bulldogs' disheartening loss wasn't about to totally ruin their trip to New Orleans.

"The morning after the game, some of us put on a coat and tie and played the 'big dog,'" said Helms, who would be the only Georgia player to appear later that month in the prestigious all-star games, the Japan and Hula Bowls. "We ran up a pretty good tab at breakfast, eating Eggs Benedict and drinking mimosas. Of course, we had to pay for it when we got home."

Also, having to "pay for it" laterin a sense—for his actions during the 1977 Sugar Bowl trip was the anonymous player I spoke with. "It's something I'm still embarrassed about today almost 40 years later," he said. And, this Bulldog isn't necessarily talking about the game itself, but what happened afterwards.

"But, it was during the game when things first started to come unraveled for several players," he remembered. "Down by three touchdowns, I think it was during the third quarter, we had two guys get into a shoving match literally in the huddle. They had to be separated. The '77 Sugar Bowl was that frustrating for some of us, like me, who was playing in my final game at Georgia."

Things quickly went from bad to worse for the anonymous player. He admits that it might sound a little selfish looking back on it, but no competitive collegiate athlete wants to be taken out of any game at no fault of his own.

"For the most part, Coach Dooley allowed his assistant coaches to have most of the authority as far as when a starter was replaced during a game, who came in to relieve the starter, etc.," the player said. "My position coach [player gives assistant's name] took me out with almost an entire quarter left to play against Pittsburgh, and I thought I had actually played well. I was not happy. Of course, [the assistant coach] and I never saw eye to eyesomething I think he'd even admit to todaymostly because he went out of his way to [here, the player explains their indifferencereasoning which seems quite logical to mehowever, unveiling as much could possibly reveal the identity of the player and/or the assistant coach]. So, it shouldn't have surprised me that [the assistant] benched me early." 

A couple hours after the embarrassing loss in the Sugar Bowl, a saddened and disappointed anonymous player was riding up an escalator at the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans. Coincidentally, coming down the opposite end was his position coach, looking away from the player.  

"It was immature of me, and I totally overreacted; I instantly snapped," the player admitted. "I thought, I'm done with this SOB, and I'm going to tell him what I think of him." Suddenly, as the two were crossing on the escalators, the player verbally blasted the startled assistant coach with a myriad of profanity-laced insults.  

The Godfather of Soul loved the Bulldogs,
following the team to the 1976 Cotton Bowl (left)
and the Sugar Bowl a year later (right).
"I don't remember this part, but my dad has always said that I also reared back with my fist high in the air aimed to hit [the assistant]. My dad would know; he was riding the escalator with me, and had to physically restrain me," the former player said. "I acted impulsively and obviously was not thinking clearly."

The player continued, "But, the look on [the assistant's] face after I went after him, I'll never forget it—it was like, 'what the hell just happened?!'"

Curious, I asked the former player how he could have possibly been driven to the point to verbally, and apparently physically, attack his position coach simply because they hadn't got along, and for his removal from a bowl game a little early. And, for the anonymous player, here's where the '77 Sugar Bowl is somewhat associated with the '76 Cotton Bowl:  

"There was no 'simply' to it," the player responded. "That was the second bowl game in a row [the assistant coach] pulled me out early with no good reason in my mind. Believe me, I'm certainly not saying we would've beaten Arkansas or Pittsburgh if I had remained in any of those bowl gamesthat's ridiculous. But, you can check it out for yourself. If I remember correctly, I was pulled from the Cotton Bowl sometime in the second quarter when we actually had a lead but, for whatever reason, I was not put back in."

For what it's worth, I did indeed "check it out" for myself, getting my hands on the 1976 Cotton Bowl's old play-by-play/statistics media packet. And, sure enough, the anonymous player was removed against Arkansas with no explanation midway through the second quarter after seemingly playing well with Georgia leading, 10-0. He would not return to the game as the Bulldogs were outscored 31-0 the rest of the way.

The player explained that getting removed from your final game a "little early" after getting pulled from the bowl game the year before "way too early" by someone you didn't get along with, and who happened to have the most say in your playing time, "I guess, I had just had enough," but added, "it was a learning experience that although regrettable, I value to this day."

As the college football bowl season, or what's been called the most wonderful time of the year, begins to wrap up, I'm grateful for a wonderful Bulldog bowl history during my lifetimeone where Georgia has remarkably been "in" 32 consecutive postseason games. But, almost more so than the game resultsthe wins and lossesI'm grateful to learn of intriguing off-field bowl "learning experiences" for young men in their late teens, early 20s that will always be valuedespecially by the players involved, but also valued by anyone fortunate enough to learn of those experiences.

January 1, 2015

When Children Laughed and Grown Men Cried

On 1/1/81, We were Number One...
(photo courtesy of Rob Saye)
Happy New Year! As I have a few times before, I'm posting an edited piece of mine on a special day for the Georgia Bulldog Nationa day when victories have been celebrated, including a particular national championship.

Today, the first day of a new year, is a special day in Georgia football history, particularly, the date of January 1, 1981. In their history, the Bulldogs have played on the first day of the year more than any other (24 times); however, none of the other firsts of January that came before or since can quite compare to that of 1981.

The Georgia fans who remember the 17-10 win over Notre Dame in the 1981 Sugar Bowl are fortunate and understand how celebrated and distinctive that victory was for all Bulldog faithful. I was only five years old at the time and barely remember the game, but I’ve done enough research, writing, and heard and read plenty of accounts regarding the game to give, what I believe, an accurate narrative.

Although undefeated and number one-ranked Georgia was only a one-point underdog entering the game against the Fighting Irish, who had lost one, tied another, and was ranked seventh in the nation, few gave the Bulldogs a chance at victory.

Famed football forecaster Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder said the Fighting Irish were "far superior" to Georgia. Notre Dame All-American linebacker Scott Zettek commented they should have been favored by not one, but 10 points, and said Georgia's freshman phenom tailback, Herschel Walker, only ran the football well "because his offensive line blocks well. Anyone could run through those holes. They could pick somebody off the street."

So, you can imagine how shocking it was to many when the Bulldogs emerged from New Orleans’ Superdome on the winning end, especially if you take a look at the stat sheet.

A win is inconceivable when there is a 328-127 disadvantage in yardage, 17-10 in first downs, and 34:41-25:19 in time of possession, but somehow, some way, Georgia pulled it off that day against the Fighting Irish.

The 17-10 decision is also likely the only college football game ever in modern history where an individual player out-gained his entire team. Walker, named the bowl’s MVP while playing most of the game with a separated shoulder, rushed for 150 yards on 36 carries and two touchdowns. The rest of the Bulldogs netted minus-23 total offensive yards on 29 plays.

It was said the Dawgs achieved victory by having "the luck of the [Georgia] Irish." Georgia intercepted three passes and recovered a fumble while committing no turnovers. Notre Dame missed two field goals, had another blocked, and also misplayed two kickoffs, the second of which led directly to the Bulldogs’ first touchdown.

Besides having some luck, the Bulldogs also encountered "the ill-advised of the Irish." I’m no football coach or expert analyst but, I truly feel, if the Fighting Irish’s game plan had been what got them to the Sugar Bowl in the first placerun the ballthey likely would have finished on the winning side.

In 1980, Notre Dame had a spectacular running game, showcasing two halfbacksPhil Carter and Jim Stoneeach rushing for nearly 1,000 yards during the regular season. Although stout, Georgia’s defense against the run had allowed several opponents during its regular season, even a bad Vanderbilt team, some success running the football.

...and you weren't!
Notre Dame’s passing game had been dismal in ’80; starting quarterback and freshman Blair Kiel only attempted approximately 11 passes per game, completed less than 40 percent of his attempts, and did not throw a single touchdown the entire year. However, for whatever reason, Kiel and the Irish came out throwing against the Bulldogs.

For the most part, ignoring the run until the second half, Notre Dame threw on four of its first seven plays and finished with 28 pass attempts, completing only half, and, as mentioned, was intercepted three times.  On the contrary, the Bulldogs’ offensive attack was to simply hand it to Herschel and hope they never had to pass.

Buck Belue, an All-SEC quarterback in 1980, lost 34 yards on 13 rushes, primarily due to being sacked multiple times, and missed on his first 11 pass attempts. Nonetheless, Belue’s twelfth and final attempt made up for a horrendous passing day by clinching victory on the greatest day in Georgia football history.

With just over two minutes remaining in the game, leading by seven points, and possessing the ball at the 50-yard line, Georgia faced third down and seven to go. Belue rolled to his right and completed a short pass to Amp Arnold, barely picking up the first down.  If Belue’s pass had resulted like his previous 11, Georgia would have been forced to punt to Notre Dame, who had a timeout remaining with more than two minutes left. Instead, the Bulldogs kept their drive going, ran the ball five times, ran the clock out in the process, and then nearly got ran over by the throng of celebratory Dawg fans that stormed the field.

During the bedlam, referring to Jimmy Carter and approximately 200 of his presidential party in attendance, a Superdome security guard screamed, "I’ve got the damn President of the United States in here, and I can’t get him out!" At the same time, a police officer was overheard saying, "Thank God [the fans] ain’t armed." And, the late great Lewis Grizzard would later perhaps put it best, giving his own epic account:

"We've had it tough in this state. First of all, that Yankee scoundrel Sherman came through here and tried to burn it down. Then we finally got a man elected President—nobody liked him. But on January 1st, 1981, I looked up at the scoreboard in the Superdome and it said 'Georgia,' where I went to school, '17,' 'Notre Dame 10.' We had won the national football championship. Children laughed and grown men cried. How ‘Bout Them Dogs!"

All season long, Georgia had been criticized for facing a relatively easy schedule; just one of its 12 opponents, ninth-ranked Notre Dame, finished the year in the AP’s top 20. When the final rankings were released, although the Bulldogs were number one in both the AP and UPI polls, seven of the 101 combined voters actually placed a one-loss Pittsburgh squad atop the rankings despite the Bulldogs' perfect record.  Regardless, starting right guard Tim Morrison might have said it best when asked after the Sugar Bowl if there was any doubt Georgia, despite its schedule, was not the best team in college football:

"Hell, no!" replied Morrison. "We’re the only 12-0 team in the country, and by God, we’re No. 1!"

No other season in Georgia football history before or since can quite compare to 1980—the Bulldogs' lone undefeated, untied, and, as Coach Vince Dooley likes to say, only "undisputed" national championship season.

If you didn’t understand before, perhaps now you realize why January 1st, specifically the one from 34 years ago today, is cherished by the Bulldog Nation.