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November 13, 2015

Punt Auburn Punt

Against Georgia in 1973, it was Punt
Auburn Punt, and then... Punch!
Like many of you, I am certainly fond of the greatest, and most unique plays in Georgia's football history. But, sometimes we may forget one or so of the more unique plays worthy enough to rank amongst the Bulldogs' bestone of the so-called "weirdest" plays ever in a college football game, one that was "psychedelic football," and a play so strange surely "Andy Warhol...drew [it] up [in] the game plans."

With the Georgia-Auburn game looming tomorrow, I was reminded by an emailer today of the 1973 meeting between the Bulldogs and Tigers, and a play featuring a pair of Auburn puntsboth blocked by Georgia (kind of)so odd the sellout crowd of 59,700 at Sanford Stadium should have next anticipated, according to the legendary Lewis Grizzard, "the appearance of a herd of pink elephants wearing G-strings, dancing the boogaloo to the strains of four purple baboons playing flutes."

Less than a year after Auburn's acclaimed "Punt Bama Punt" ultimately defeated Alabama in 1972, the Tigers endured what I've dubbed "Punt Auburn Punt," which led to their eventual loss to Georgia.

With Georgia leading 21-14 late in the third quarter, Auburn was forced to punt from its own 48 yard line. The snap to punter Roger Pruett was bad one, whereupon he finally gained possession of, only to have his kick blocked by senior Dennis Hester. The blocked kick bounded behind the punter as everyone gave chase, but it was the punter, Pruett, who grabbed the loose ball.

Hester was then on the run, moving from his left to the right, when he decided to attempt what is now rather common in the sport, a rugby-style punt. But, Pruett's second attempt at a punt on the same play failed miserably, dribbling up field a few yards until bouncing off of Abb Ansley.

Loose ball? That's what Auburn figured, as a mass of players attempted to gain possession near the Tigers' sideline until Auburn's Lee Gross emerged from the pile at his own 45-yard line holding the football.

I guess the Tigers' two failed punts and the ensuing chaos which followed was so extraordinary, yet controversial, it wasn't even included on the official coaches film (which normally includes all plays on special teams, as well). The following footage begins with a second-down option play by Auburn followed by a third-down incompletion (partially cut off), leading directly to Georgia's first-down play, bypassing the punts and chaos: 

As the revered Jesse Outlar said, the players in the 1973 Georgia-Auburn game will get to tell their grandchildren they participated in the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry, and "so can a large delegation of state patrolmen and Athens' finest."

After Gross emerged with the ball, a bench-clearing brawl ensued between the teams, forcing numerous members of the State Patrol and Athens police to eventually restore order. Still, the question remained, which team possessed the ball?

First, game officials awarded Auburn first down on its own 45-yard line, prompting the majority of the Sanford Stadium crowd to boo, while Georgia players and coaches were left questioning the ruling. The officials were unable to explain to the Bulldogs why it was Auburn's possession, so they changed their mind, and gave Georgia the ball at the Tigers' 45-yard line.

Incensed, Auburn head coach "Shug" Jordan came out onto the field, followed by Georgia's Vince Dooley, who had played and coached under Jordan. The officials again convened, and soon came to the same ruling as just before: Georgia's ball.

Following what was said to be "one of the craziest situations in college football," it was reported at least three on-field fights occurred between Georgia and Auburn players before the third quarter had even ended. Overshadowing junior Horace King's 113 rushing yards on 16 carries and a Georgia defense led by freshman linebacker Sylvester Boler which limited the Tigers to 142 total yards, "Punt Auburn Punt," a play eventually setting up the final touchdown of the contest, was the highlight of a 28-14 victory for the Bulldogs.

Evidently, "the officials headed for higher ground as soon as the game ended and could not be reached for an explanation of their ruling." However, it was rumored that since the second punt had hit Georgia's Ansley behind the line of scrimmage, even though Auburn's Gross had recovered the ball, he would have had to advance the ball past the first-down marker for the Tigers to regain possession. 

As far as Dooley and Shug, they still were left unable to explain the ruling, but did agree they had never seen anything like it before. 

"One of the officials just came over to me and said one of our players touched the ball, and it had been kicked twice," Dooley said following the game. "I didn't [understand the ruling]. I don't think anybody did."

And, even still today, I doubt there are many who truly do...

November 11, 2015

A Coach in Progress

This has little to do with UGA football, but I'm rather excited regarding my new book that was just released—my first of nine released somewhat on a national scale... And, the subject matter, Red Dawson, did play against the Bulldogs a few times for Florida State during the early to mid-1960s (but, we won't discuss the results). 

A Coach in Progress: Marshall FootballA Story of Survival and Revival

By Red Dawson with Patrick Garbin; Forewords by Bobby Bowden and Fred Biletnikoff
This book is the story of Red Dawson’s involvement with Marshall football during the last near half century spent living with the memories of November 14, 1970the worst sports-related air tragedy in history.
For more details and ordering information...

November 6, 2015

The Despair of Butts and the Bear

Considering it's Georgia-Kentucky week, I have a story to tell about legendary coaches and friends Wally Butts and Bear Bryant. 

No, it's not this infamous story, or one nearly as R-rated or humorous as Butts' supposed rant just prior to the start of the 1960 campaign, but of an interesting conversation between the two during the 1947 season when Butts was in his ninth season at Georgia, Bryant his second at Kentucky.

The Wildcats threw the visiting and two-touchdown-favored Bulldogs a party the night before the game at Lexington's Keeneland Race Track. Butts and Bryant sat together, along with a newspaper reporter within earshot, recording the two discouraged coaches, who were filled with so much pessimism, it's difficult to comprehend.

BUTTS: "I don't know what we'll do if we have to substitute our ends."
BRYANT: "Tell you want I'll do, I'll trade you six [ends] for either [Wayne] Sellers or [Dan] Edwards."
BUTTS: "Including [Wallace] Jones and [Dick] Hensley?"
BRYANT: "Including all of 'em."

BUTTS: "Anyway, we're pitiful in reserves at that position."

BRYANT: "Well, I just hope you'll take it easy on us. We're building for the future."
BUTTS: "That's a laugh. You've got the best material in the league."
BRYANT: "At one time, I might have had, but you know 12 of them quit."

BUTTS: "Anyway, every time I look at the North Carolina pictures (Georgia had been defeated by UNC two weeks before), I see how bad an offense we have."

BRYANT: "It'll look good [against us] tomorrow night."
BUTTS: "You're kidding now. It couldn't possibly look good. We just don't have the personnel."

BUTTS: "I'll tell you this, that Alabama is going to beat the dickens out of somebody before the season is over and I'll guess it'll be ol' Georgia."

BRYANT: "Yea, you're right. But, instead of Georgia, it'll be Kentucky. We don't have a chance to win a conference game."

Notably, Alabama wound up beating the dickens out of Georgia and Kentucky that season. But, the Wildcats did win a conference gametwo of them, in fact, including a 26-0 upset over the Bulldogs the following night. Still, Butts and his boys would get revenge on the Bear the following season, easily handling Kentucky in Athens, 35-12.

Soon afterwards during the spring, another writer, the acclaimed Grantland Rice, discovered the two head coaches together again talking football and, again, at a Kentucky race trackthe Kentucky Derby, to be exact.

At the time, the Bulldogs and the Wildcats were considered arguably the top two teams in the SEC. Therefore, perhaps the gloomy outlooks of the coaches had been transformed into viewpoints of optimismor, maybe not. 

When Rice asked Butts and Bryant which schools would contend for the conference crown the upcoming season, the coaches agreed on a pair of teams undoubtedly the strongest in the SEC... Tennessee and LSU.