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Georgia vs. the Heisman
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield took home the Heisman Trophy on Saturday, crowning him as the best player in college football for the 2017 season. And Mayfield’s coronation sets up a rare occasion for Georgia when it faces him and his Sooners in the Rose Bowl. Since 1966, Georgia has faced nine Heisman winners in the same season they won the Heisman, which will make Mayfield the 10th when the Dawgs and Sooners clash on New Year’s Day.
So how has Georgia fared against Heisman winners over the last half-century? Here’s the rundown on the nine times Georgia faced men who struck the pose.
Steve Spurrier, Florida, 1966 — This was the game that fueled decades-long animosity by Spurrier toward Georgia. The Gators went 9-2 and lost the SEC that season thanks to a 27-10 defeat at the hands of Georgia. The Dawgs stayed in Spurrier’s face all game and held him to just 133 yards through the air while completing 55 percent of his passes.
Pat Sullivan, Auburn, 1971 — Auburn improved to 9-0 with a 35-20 win over UGA in Athens, thanks in no small part to Sullivan. The Auburn QB completed 14-of-24 passes for 248 yards and 4 touchdowns. But that would be the high point for this Tigers team, which lost to Alabama and Oklahoma in the final two games of the season to finish 9-2.
Tony Dorsett, Pittsburgh, 1976 — Of this bunch, this game most resembles Georgia’s current matchup with Mayfield and the Sooners because it’s the only time Georgia faced the Heisman winner after he was crowned. Georgia faced Pittsburgh and Dorsett, the 1976 Heisman winner, in the 1977 Sugar Bowl. Dorsett ran for 202 yards and a touchdown as Pittsburgh won 27-3 and claimed the national title.
George Rogers, South Carolina, 1980 — The 13-10 Georgia win at Sanford is arguably the greatest running back duel in college football history, pitting South Carolina’s eventual Heisman winner, Rogers, vs. Georgia’s, Herschel Walker. Walker was the better of the two on the day, rushing for 219 yards compared to 168 from Rogers. And while Rogers won the Heisman in 1980, Georgia won the national title.
Bo Jackson, Auburn, 1985 — Auburn didn’t have a great year in 1985, going just 8-4 and finishing sixth in the SEC. But one of those wins was a 24-10 victory over Georgia at Sanford Stadium. Jackson ran the ball 19 times for 121 yards and 2 touchdowns. He finished his time at Auburn with 377 career yards against Georgia.
Danny Wuerffel, Florida, 1996 — Brace yourselves, Dawgs fans. We’ve got to touch on the 47-7 drubbing by Florida in the 1996 WLOCP. Wuerffel passed for 279 yards and 4 touchdowns, giving his Heisman campaign a boost heading into the final stretch of the season. The Gators went on to win the national title.
Tim Tebow, Florida, 2007 — The next time Georgia faced a Heisman winner, it was a much happier World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, perhaps one of the happiest. 2007 was the famous “Gator Stomp” game, which Georgia won 42-30. Tebow went on to claim the Heisman, but he didn’t have enough to will the Gators to victory that day, passing for 236 and a touchdown while rushing 13 times for minus-15 yards.
Cam Newton Auburn, 2010 — In a game Georgia fans remember most for Nick Fairley’s cheap shot, Georgia lost 49-31 to eventual national champion Auburn. Newton was exceptional in his lone game against Georgia, passing for 148 yards, rushing for 151 yards and combining for 4 total touchdowns.
Derrick Henry, Alabama, 2015 — There’s an argument to be made that Georgia is in the College Football Playoff right now because of this loss to Bama. It was the game that most soured Georgia fans on Mark Richt, leading to his firing at the end of the season and the hiring of Kirby Smart. But at the time, Smart was with Henry, laying a beatdown on Georgia on a rainy day at Sanford Stadium. Henry rushed for 148 yards and a touchdown in the 38-10 win over the Dawgs.
Stopping Baker Mayfield
As you can see, the Heisman winner has had varying degrees of success against the Dawgs, but by and large, they have played well against Georgia. Aside from Spurrier in 1966, none of the other eight had what most would consider a bad game against Georgia. So odds are high that Mayfield will be his typical, stellar self in the Rose Bowl.
But what can Georgia do to decrease those odds and make life tough for Mayfield? Seth Emerson of DawgNation spoke to a few players who faced Oklahoma this season about what it would take to stop the Mayfield and the Sooners. Here’s what Texas corner and Thorpe Award finalist DeShone Elliott had to say.
“Blitz. Get to him. Because if you can just get to him then you should be OK. Other than that you won’t be able to. If you let him sit back there and just pat that ball he’s going to make plays. … You’ve got to be able to keep Baker in the pocket and keep him from being able to extend the pocket. Because if he’s able to extend the pocket and extend plays he’s going to score touchdowns. You’ve got to make sure you do your job and don’t bust coverages.”
DT Trent Thompson hints at return
Although plenty of Bulldogs seniors will be making their way to the NFL once the season is done, it doesn’t seem likely many UGA juniors will opt to make the jump. The two likely candidates are linebacker Roquan Smith and defensive tackle Trent Thompson, and one of them has hinted at his plans to return.
In an Instagram post last weekend, Thompson posted a photo of himself during a game with the caption “Looking ahead! #UGA19 #SeniorSoon.” Although he’s yet to confirm anything, that caption seems to indicate Thompson plans to return for one more season.
Now the focus shifts to Smith, who was head and shoulders Georgia’s best player this season. Smith was a finalist for both major individual defense honors and won the Butkus Award, given to the best linebacker in the country. He also finished 10th in Heisman voting. If he chooses to come back for his senior season, Smith will enter the year as one of the best players in college football.
4-star guard to announce decision Monday
Four-star Houston County guard Trey Hill announced via Twitter that he plans to make commitment to a college on Monday, Dec. 11. He’s narrowed his choices to Georgia, Florida, Auburn and Florida State. Hill was in Athens for his official visit last weekend.
In his tweet, Hill didn’t give an indication of what time he plans to make his announcement, so stay tuned to DawgNation for all the latest regarding his decision.
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