As much fun as it is for Georgia fans to reminisce about the greatest games we’ve seen, there are other days we’d just as soon forget — but can’t.
Of course, any time the Dawgs lose is a bad day for fans, but some games are such awful experiences, for one reason or another, that they are seared into our memories.
Here are 10 of the least favorite Dawgs football games that I’ve attended over the years — and, as you’ll see, not all of them are losses …
Tech in the rain
The 34-14 drubbing by the Yellow Jackets in 1974, closing out the first regular season after I graduated from UGA, is probably my least favorite game ever. On a day when Athens was hit by what Vince Dooley later recalled as “the hardest sustained rain I can ever remember for a football game,” Pepper Rodgers’ Georgia Tech team ran the wishbone just about to perfection on a muddy field. As Dooley put it 15 years later in the book “Dooley’s Dawgs,” on that day Tech “dominated us … It was one of our most humiliating defeats. … I’ve never been so embarrassed.” In addition to the downpour, it was bitterly cold, and Dooley’s players were huddling around a portable heater on the sideline. “It was obvious they were more concerned about staying warm than being in the game,” he recalled. I couldn’t blame them, though. I was so wet and cold and miserable that I left the game early in the third quarter — the first time I’d ever done that.
Florida in Athens
Stadium renovations in Jacksonville that made it necessary to move the Georgia-Florida series to Gainesville and Athens for two years brought Steve Spurrier’s No. 3-ranked Gators Between the Hedges for the 1995 game. What resulted was a humiliating beatdown that saw Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel throw five touchdown passes in just under three quarters. But, that wasn’t enough for Spurrier, known for his hatred of the Bulldogs. He decided he wanted his Gators to be the first team to score “half a hundred” on the Dawgs in Athens, so they kept pushing, including a final score with 1:10 left on the clock, to give Florida a 52-17 win over Ray Goff’s hapless team. Most of the Georgia fans (including me) were no longer there to watch Spurrier celebrate his triumph, though, having left during the fourth quarter. Thankfully, I was there 20 years later when another Georgia team returned the favor and closed out Spurrier’s career against the Dawgs with a 52-20 trouncing of his South Carolina Gamecocks. I never saw anything sweeter than a dejected Prince of Darkness removing his headset in disgust before the game was over.
Bama: The ‘Blackout’ and more
Alabama came into Athens ranked No. 8 in the country to face Mark Richt’s No. 3-ranked Dawgs, who featured Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno. UGA declared a Blackout in honor of the game, and the Sanford Stadium crowd was stoked at kickoff. By halftime, with the Tide having put up a 31-0 lead, the black-clad Georgia fans were shell-shocked. The final score of 41-30 may have looked a bit more respectable on paper, but no one who was there would sum it up as anything but complete domination by Nick Saban’s troops. Some fans naturally blamed the black jerseys, which didn’t show up again for another eight years.
The 38-10 loss to Bama in Athens in 2015 also is a pretty awful memory, exacerbated by the fact that it was a rainy day and the trudge back to the car afterward was miserable. This was another game completely dominated by Alabama. Strangely, this time no one blamed Georgia’s jerseys (which were red).
A royal thrashing
Perhaps the most star-studded Georgia homecoming game ever also turned out to be one of the worst losses of the Dooley era. In what would turn out to be the fabled head coach’s only losing season in Athens, UGA welcomed Britain’s Prince Charles (“Damn good prince!” chanted the student section) and former “Beverly Hillbillies” star Donna Douglas to its 1977 game against Kentucky, plus James Brown performed “Dooley’s Junkyard Dogs” on the field at halftime with the Redcoat Band. But, the game itself sucked. Georgia was held to eight first downs and 127 total yards. including just 47 rushing, and Kentucky won 33-0. True, this wasn’t your usual Kentucky team; the Cats would finish the season 10-1, ranked sixth in the nation. Still, as Scott Woerner recalled years later, “the Kentucky game that year was not just a capitulation of one team, but a complete domination by the other.”
I’m not sure if it was this game, or maybe another day where the Dawgs were dominated, but one of my all-time favorite Dooley stories, told by an ex-player, took place at halftime of a shellacking at home: The disgusted Georgia head coach came into the Sanford locker room, shoved a row of lockers, knocking them over, and walked out, not saying a word.
A come-from-ahead loss
The 2009 matchup against Kentucky in Athens was the only time I’ve viewed a game at Sanford Stadium from one of the enclosed private boxes. The free food and adult beverages served were enjoyable, but I felt strangely removed from the action, with glass between me and the game and the sound piped in. However, considering what happened in the second half, maybe that was a blessing. Georgia took a 20-6 halftime lead, but Kentucky scored 14 points off four second-half turnovers by the Dawgs, and the Wildcats rallied to beat Georgia 34-27 for their first win in Athens since that 1977 homecoming game. The view from above allowed me to anticipate the interception Georgia QB Joe Cox threw on a screen pass while the ball was still in the air. All in all, not the way I prefer to watch football.
Donnan’s last Tech game
Unlike the previous year’s 51-48 thriller in Atlanta, the 2000 Tech game in Athens wasn’t close. I’ve seen many bad plays over the years, but few have been as dispiriting as watching slow-footed Tech QB George Godsey fake out the Dawgs defense and run for a 33-yard touchdown less than 2 minutes into the game. Tech built a 27-3 halftime lead and cruised to a 27-15 victory over the 19th-ranked Bulldogs. It was tough for Georgia fans to watch Tech players holding up three fingers (indicating three consecutive wins over the Dawgs), as they tore into the hedges. But, on the bright side, it led to Jim Donnan’s firing.
A stunning loss
The 2006 loss to a Vanderbilt team that would finish the season 4-8 definitely was one of the most surprising defeats of the Richt era. Vanderbilt left Athens with a 24-22 win over the 14th-ranked Bulldogs. Georgia took a 22-21 lead midway through the fourth quarter, but the Dawgs failed on a 2-point conversion and then missed a field goal with about 5 minutes left that would have forced Vandy to go for a TD on its final possession. The Commodores kicked the winning field goal with 2 seconds left. The Sanford scoreboard immediately went blank after the final whistle, but it didn’t help erase the memory of what we’d just seen.
The squib kick
Usually, when you take the lead with 18 seconds left on the clock, you win. But, Richt teams had a knack for being the exception to that rule. Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason hit Malcolm Mitchell with a 3-yard touchdown pass to put the Dawgs ahead in the 2014 game against Georgia Tech, but Richt elected to call for a squib kick on the kickoff, enabling the Jackets to get great field position and quickly get in position for a game-tying field goal. The game went to overtime, and Georgia lost 30-24. Of course, the squib kick wasn’t the only reason the Dawgs lost that day. There were a pair of fumbles on or near the goal line, and, on one fourth quarter drive, Georgia was first-and-goal at the 1-yard line and had to settle for a field goal. Also, Jeremy Pruitt’s defense gave up 399 yards and allowed the Jackets to convert on eight third downs and two fourth downs. Still, the squib kick, giving Tech the ball at their own 43 with 13 seconds remaining, will go down as one of the biggest coaching blunders in UGA football history.
A tie that felt like a loss
The lightly regarded Pitt Panthers came into Athens three-touchdown underdogs to start the 1973 season, but, thanks to some clever scheming on defense, and freshman back Tony Dorsett running for over 100 yards, the game ended in a 7-7 tie. Most of The Red & Black’s student staff wasn’t back yet (school started later in those days) and, as the summer managing editor, I was drafted to help out with the coverage. It was the only regular season game I’ve ever watched from the press box, an experience I didn’t particularly enjoy since you weren’t supposed to cheer, plus a sportswriter sitting near me provided a running racist commentary on Dorsett’s exploits. My assignment was to do the UGA locker room reaction story after the game. The slogan written on the blackboard exhorted “Take Pride in Yourself!” but my old Athens classmate Andy Johnson and the other Dawgs weren’t feeling very proud. It seemed like a losers’ locker room. “We just never could get going,” Andy told me. “We didn’t underestimate them. We knew they would be good, but, I don’t know, I guess we just weren’t ready.” With Heisman-winner Dorsett leading Pitt to a national title three years later, perhaps Georgia’s performance that day wasn’t as underwhelming as it seemed. Still, the result, combined with the press box experience, made it one of my least favorite games.
A depressing overtime win
Sometimes, it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you played the game. Thus, just as a couple of losses made my list of the all-time “best” Georgia games, the 2015 overtime victory over Georgia Southern has a place on this list of my least favorite games. It’s all a matter of perspective; my daughter, for whom it was her last home game as a UGA student, says this was one of her favorite games, because it was so exciting, and Georgia won. But, I can’t get past the fact that the Dawgs never should have been taken to overtime by a lesser nonconference opponent like Georgia Southern. When I look back at the game now, Georgia having to struggle against such an opponent — not exactly a cupcake, but certainly not an SEC-level program — sort of encapsulates much of the fan frustration with the last years of the Richt era of Bulldogs football.
That’s my list of some of the games I wish I could forget. Thankfully, there’ve been many more good — even great — days than bad ones during my decades attending Georgia football games.
If you’d like to share your thoughts or questions on this or any other Dawgs topic, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.