Once you get past the obvious No. 1 pick (involving a national championship), how would you rank the greatest UGA football games of the “modern” era?
That question presented itself to me recently when I came across an article I had clipped out back in 1988 from an issue of The Georgia Bulldog, the newsletter that the UGA Athletic Association used to publish in the pre-online era. It was the beginning of Vince Dooley’s 25th (and final) season as UGA’s head coach, and he was asked to select the Top 10 games he’d coached in.
Here’s Dooley’s Top 10:
- Sugar Bowl, 1980: Georgia 17, Notre Dame 10
- Cotton Bowl, 1983: Georgia 10, Texas 9
- 1980 Georgia vs. Florida: Georgia 26, Florida 21
- 1976 Georgia vs. Alabama: Georgia 21, Alabama 0
- 1965 Georgia vs. Alabama: Georgia 18, Alabama 17
- 1965 Georgia vs. Michigan: Georgia 15, Michigan 7
- 1976 Georgia vs. Florida: Georgia 41, Florida 27
- 1966 Georgia vs. Auburn: Georgia 21, Auburn 13
- (Tie): 1971 Georgia vs. Georgia Tech: Georgia 28, Georgia Tech 24
1978 Georgia vs. Georgia Tech: Georgia 29, Georgia Tech 28
[Note: The Sugar Bowl win over Notre Dame was actually played on Jan. 1, 1981, and the Cotton Bowl win over Texas was actually played on Jan. 2, 1984.]
Other notable games mentioned by Dooley in the article published in The Georgia Bulldog were:
1980 Georgia vs. Tennessee: Georgia 16, Tennessee 15
1978 Georgia vs. Kentucky: Georgia 17, Kentucky 16
1970 Georgia vs. Auburn: Georgia 31, Auburn 17
1986 Georgia vs. Auburn: Georgia 20, Auburn 16
1982 Georgia vs. Clemson: Georgia 13, Clemson 7
I decided to start with the Dooley years, and then also rank the greatest games of the post-Dooley years. My own list of the greatest games of the Dooley era closely mirrors the coach’s list in the games included (with one almost-quibble) but my ranking is a little bit different from his.
- 1980 team’s Sugar Bowl win over Notre Dame
- 1965 win over Alabama
- 1980 win over Florida
- 1983 team’s Cotton Bowl win over Texas
- 1976 win over Alabama
- 1965 win over Michigan
- 1971 win over Georgia Tech
- 1966 win over Auburn
- 1978 win over Georgia Tech
- 1976 win over Florida.
(That last game is where I considered parting company with Dooley and instead choosing the 1975 victory over Florida, notable for the Appleby-to-Washington pass play and one of Larry Munson’s greatest calls. But I ended up sticking with the 1976 game, like Dooley, because, without it, Georgia wouldn’t have won another SEC Championship that year.)
My own honorable mentions then would include the 1980 win over Tennessee, the 1986 upset of Auburn, the 1982 win over Clemson, that 1975 victory over the Gators, the 1980 Herschel Walker vs. George Rogers victory over South Carolina and the 1984 win over Clemson with its immortal 60-yard field goal by Kevin Butler.
When I showed Dooley’s original list to my 31-year-old son, he replied: “I was only alive for one of the games on that list and it’s honorable mention.”
So, for those of you who, like my son, don’t recall the Dooley years firsthand, here’s a brief annotation of his list.
The 1980 team’s win over Notre Dame, of course, you’re no doubt familiar with since it finished off an undefeated, untied (and unbelievable) season for the Dawgs with an undisputed national championship. Dooley’s Dawgs actually played much better games, even that season, but the importance to the program of this win can’t be overstated.
The Cotton Bowl win over Texas was one of the all-time great bowl upsets. The Longhorns came into the game ranked No. 2 (and would have won the national championship if they’d beaten Georgia) but the Dawgs won it after Texas muffed a punt and journeyman QB John Lastinger (“all he can do is win”) scored on an unlikely option run and Butler added the PAT. As my friend Dan summed it up: “That Cotton Bowl was the ultimate Dooley game. Play conservative on offense, rely on the defense, wait for opponent’s mistake and take advantage of it.” The score gave birth to the frequently quoted phrase among Dawgs fans, “It’s still 10 to 9 in Dallas.”
The 1980 win over Florida you’re also no doubt familiar with, since it will live forever in Georgia football lore for the “Run, Lindsay” desperation touchdown pass from Buck Belue to Lindsay Scott. Without that play, Georgia wouldn’t have won that season’s national title.
The 1976 win over Bama in Athens was a complete domination of Bear Bryant’s Crimson Tide and also one of the loudest games ever in Sanford Stadium. The victory touched off one of the wildest (and longest) celebrations in Athens history.
The 1965 win over Bama in Dooley’s second season in Athens was a huge upset over a team that was the previous year’s AP national champ and which would go on to win the 1965 AP title as well. To Bulldogs fans of a certain age, all you have to do is say “flea-flicker,” shorthand for the pass from Kirby Moore to Pat Hodgson to Bob Taylor. Then a 2-point conversion gave the Dawgs one of their most memorable wins ever.
The 1965 road win over mighty Michigan in Ann Arbor was another huge upset. As Dan described it, “Little skinny Southern boys beat bigger stronger Big 10 power.” When the victorious team returned by plane to Athens, cars were lined all the way from downtown to the airport, as an estimated 10,000 turned out to welcome the Dawgs home.
The 1976 Florida game saw the Gators in position to win their first-ever SEC title and leading the Dawgs 27-20 when UF coach Doug Dickey had his memorable “fourth and dumb” moment, deciding to go for it on fourth and inches at his own 29-yard line. The Dawgs stopped the option play and, led by QB Ray Goff, went on to dominate the remainder of the game.
The 1966 comeback road win over Auburn saw the Dawgs, needing just one more win to give Dooley his first SEC Championship, trailing 13-0 at halftime. But the second half was all Georgia.
The 1978 win over Tech was one of the most exciting games the two programs ever played Between the Hedges. Freshman QB Belue was inserted into the game and rallied the Dawgs from a 20-7 deficit to beat the Jackets with a fourth-down touchdown pass and a 2-point conversion.
The 1971 Thanksgiving night thriller over Tech saw Athens’ own Andy Johnson, generally a running QB, pass the Dawgs downfield after Georgia got the ball back on its own 35 with 1:29 left on the clock and Tech leading 24-21.
As for the games getting honorable mention from Dooley, the 1980 win over the Vols marked the debut of Herschel, who stepped on Bill Bates’ chest and into Bulldog immortality (“My God, a freshman!” as Munson said). The 1978 road win over Kentucky saw Georgia trail 16-14 late and win it with a field goal by Rex Robinson with seconds left. Munson’s call: “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!” The 1970 upset of Auburn, which featured the superstar Tigers passing team of Pat Sullivan and Terry Beasley, was one of the biggest upsets in college football that year and, Dooley later said, “one of the biggest of my career.” The 1986 Auburn game is known as “Between the Hoses,” after officials at the former Alabama Polytechnic turned the fire hoses on the Georgia crowd celebrating a big upset win in the stands after the game. And the 1982 win over Clemson was a Labor Day night TV spectacular (the first game under the lights in Sanford Stadium in decades) matching the two previous seasons’ national champs. With Herschel limited by an injured thumb, the Dawgs won a mainly defensive struggle.
So, that’s the Dooley years. Still to come: the Goff-Donnan era (a bit more difficult, needless to say) and my ranking of the greatest Richt wins.
If you’d like to weigh in on games from those eras that you think rank among UGA’s greatest, or, if there’s something you want to discuss or you have a question for the Junkyard Blawg, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg
Bill King is an Athens native and a graduate of the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. A lifelong Bulldogs fan, he sold programs at Sanford Stadium as a teen and has been a football season ticket holder since leaving school. He has worked at the AJC since college and spent 10 years as the Constitution’s rock music critic before moving into copy editing on the old afternoon Journal. In addition to blogging, he’s now a story editor.