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July 14, 2015

Funny, What A Touchdown Will Do

At Clemson in 1985, Peter Anderson spots what 
would be his once-in-a-lifetime touchdown
something he could tell his grandchildren about. 
I was really happy to hear one of my favorite Bulldogs from my youth, center Peter Anderson (1982-1985), was recently chosen for induction into the UGA Circle of Honor.

Nicknamed the "Bell Cow" by Vince Dooley because he was "the one [offensive lineman] with experience and the one guy who keeps everybody going," according to the head coach prior to the start of the '84 season, Anderson was a leader and the "glue" which held together a couple of rather inexperienced offensive lines in 1984 and 1985, both of which emerged as reputable units. I was also fond of Anderson because he hailed from, of all places, New Jersey. As a kid who had barely seen outside the state of Georgia, I thought any Bulldog from such a faraway state had to be pretty cool. 

But, what really captivated me, along with other Bulldog enthusiasts of the time, about Anderson was a freakish scoring play he executed 30 years ago at ClemsonBesides a lineman scoring a receiving touchdown, perhaps the most infrequent manner in which a Bulldog has tallied points is when a lineman has scored a "rushing" touchdown, which can only occur if he first happens to recover a teammate's fumble. The accidental touchdown play is so rare, it has occurred only five times, all scored by different Bulldogs including Anderson, during the modern era of Georgia football, or for the last 75 years. 

A video compilation of these five once-in-a-lifetime touchdowns, and a description of each below:

JOHN JENNINGS (1971 vs. Ole Miss)
Against the Rebels in Jackson, Miss., Georgia tailback Ricky Lake broke off a first-quarter, 5-yard run from the host's 44-yard line, but was suddenly blindsided by a defender as he attempted to break a tackle.  The ball popped up in the air and into the awaiting arms of senior left guard John Jennings, who later said he wasn't even sure if it was legal for him to run with the ball. But, run he did, scoring on a 39-yard rumble for the first score of what would eventually be a 38-7 rout by Georgia over Ole Miss. Jennings, who was nicknamed "Pie Face" by animated teammate Bobby Poss, claimed he had never signed so many autographs when the Bulldogs' plane later landed in Athens after the game, adding, "Funny, what a touchdown will do."

"I have to believe it's an NCAA record for number of yards by an offensive guard on a touchdown run," said Dooley the following week. "I've never seen anything like it in football." Nor has anyone seen anything like it in UGA football ever since as the once-in-a-lifetime touchdown by Jennings, or what was dubbed the "Pie Face Pitch," has remained the only one of its kinda "rushing" touchdown by an offensive lineman where the Bulldog actually ran with the ball.

MIKE WILSON (1975 vs. Kentucky)
After trailing 10-0, Georgia scored 13 consecutive points against the Wildcats in Athens, and then proceeded to recover a third-quarter fumble in Kentucky territory. Eight plays later, quarterback Ray Goff ran a keeper from the 4-yard line, fumbling just shy of the goal line into the end zone. "I thought Goff had scored," said junior left tackle Mike Wilson who, like Jennings, was also a "pie," "Moon Pie," as nicknamed by teammates, "but the ball popped out and I fell on it." Scoring what he believed was his first touchdown playing organized football, Wilson made perhaps the most critical play of the game in what eventually ended in a close 21-13 win for Georgia. After the victory, the first-timer had a bit of valuable information to share: "Us linemen don't get to handle the ball too much, you know." 

PETER ANDERSON (1985 vs. Clemson)
Trailing Clemson 13-10 in the fourth quarter of the third game of the '85 season, the Bulldogs' faced 2nd-and-4 from the Tigers' 6-yard line. Keith Henderson was given the ball on a dive, and it squirted out of the fullback's grasp at the 3-yard line and into the end zone. Center Peter Anderson came off his block, looked around, and spotted the ball sitting in front of tight end Troy Sadowski, who was oblivious to the lost ball. "I wasn't about to give it up," said Anderson, who dove on the fumble for the touchdown. "That's one I'll tell my grandchildren about," added Anderson following a 20-13 Bulldog win. "That's an offensive lineman's dream."

After 22 seasons of Dooley choosing the team's permanent captain at the end of each year, the head coach made an exception in 1985, selecting Anderson as the team captain midway through the season. Such an honor is another distinction Anderson can tell his grandchildren about, and one you can bet was partly bestowed early because of his end-zone alertness at Death Valley.
JON STINCHCOMB (2002 vs. Auburn)
A win over Auburn in '02 would signify a trip for Georgia to the SEC title game for the first time; however, the Bulldogs trailed 14-3 at halftime, and it actually should have been by a greater margin. Incensed, fifth-year senior and starting left tackle Jon Stinchcomb, who was the team's offensive captain for the game, gave his teammates a stirring motivational speech in the locker room at the half. The pep talk proved to be powerful, evidently even inspiring the speaker, whose awareness to pounce on quarterback David Greene's fumble into the end zone late in the third for a touchdown when trailing 21-10 would provide the winning margin of a 24-21 victory for the Bulldogs.    

According to Greene in my book, GAME OF MY LIFE Georgia Bulldogs: "From Auburn’s 4-yard line, I kept the ball on a quarterback draw but fumbled into the end zone just prior to reaching the goal line.  Fortunately for me, one of our linemen, Jon Stinchcomb, who was my roommate at the time, jumped on my fumble for a touchdown. After the game, I jokingly said that I fumbled purposely to allow my roommate to score a touchdown: I didn’t want to take all the glory myself (laughing)."

NICK JONES (2003 vs. Auburn)
During a scoreless, first-quarter affair at Georgia Tech in 2003, the Bulldogs were at it again, executing for the second time in just a little over a year one of the more unconventional ways of scoring a touchdown. This time, it was true-freshman center Nick Jones recovering the fumble for the score, but the fumbler was the same as beforequarterback David Greene, who coughed it up between the 1- and 2-yard lines. "I like to spread the wealth a little bit," said Greene of his end-zone fumble following a 34-17 win over the Yellow Jackets. "Sometimes I'll just roll the ball out there for them."

Worthy of mention, consider that Greene, arguably the greatest signal caller in UGA football history, is responsible for two of the mere three rushing touchdowns by Bulldog offensive linemen in which a quarterback "rolled the ball out there." In addition, Greene rarely "spread the wealth," fumbling just twiceone recovered by the opponent, one by Georgiain the 15 games between his end-zone fumbles for touchdowns against the Tigers and Jackets.  

Perhaps even more notably is the inconsistent manner in which UGA officially (statistically) recorded the five unusual touchdowns. Rightfully, Jennings, Wilson, and Stinchcomb are credited with a rushing touchdown, and the number of rushing yards where the fumble was lost (39, 1, and 1, respectively) on no rushing attempts. Jones is credited with a rushing touchdown on no attempt, but in gaining no yards (when it should be a gain of 1 or 2 yards). Whereas Anderson's score, which should have been credited as 3 rushing yards and a touchdown on zero rushing attempts, was curiously not even recorded in the rushing totals, but simply recognized as a touchdown of the "other" variety. 

About the only thing consistent with all five touchdowns is winning; the Bulldogs are a perfect 5-0 when the freakish but fortunate play occurs. Therefore, as Erk Russell would say, and Brad Nessler restated, indeed, I'd rather be lucky than good.

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