Ranking the greatest Georgia Bulldog games from the Vince Dooley years is basically a matter of figuring out what lines up after the 1980 national championship game. But, once you move into the A.D. era (After Dooley), it’s not quite as easy — particularly those years under Ray Goff and Jim Donnan.
I was discussing the subject recently with my buddy Scott, and he was of the opinion that, when it came to the Goff era, “there was only one great game, the win over a Top 10 Clemson team.”
Actually, he’s not far off. In compiling my own list, I found it necessary to combine the Goff and Donnan eras in order to come up with 10 great games, and one of those actually falls under the “moral victory” category. As my son, who compiled a list very similar to mine, noted: “This is hard.”
The Richt years are a different matter. While there isn’t an automatic list-topper featuring a national title, I came up with quite a few honorable mentions worth noting in addition to a list of 10 great games that conjure a lot of thrilling memories.
But, first, here’s my list of the 10 greatest Goff-Donnan games:
- 1997: Georgia 37, Florida 17. As my son said, this big game from the Donnan era was the absolute best win of the 1990s, bar none, as an unstoppable Robert Edwards scored four touchdowns, Hines Ward and Mike Bobo had big days and Kirby Smart made two interceptions in the win over Steve Spurrier’s Gators.
- 1991: Georgia 27, Clemson 12. The big Goff win, as Scott noted, was a major upset in a nationally televised night game in Athens as freshman QB Eric Zeier led the Dawgs over the No. 6-ranked Tigers, who went on to win the ACC.
- 1997: Georgia 33, Wisconsin 6 in the Outback Bowl. This sort of kicked off the Dawgs’ tradition of (usually) beating a Big 10 team in a Florida bowl game. Bobo completed 92.8 percent of his passes that day, plus the black britches the Dawgs wore with the red helmets and white road jerseys looked fantastic.
- 1997: Georgia 27, Georgia Tech 24. A great comeback engineered by Bobo as the clock ran down. The controversy over a disputed call that kept the Georgia drive alive only made it sweeter.
- 1996: Georgia 56, Auburn 49. A terrific second-half comeback for Donnan’s first UGA team in the SEC’s first overtime game. Another great game for Bobo, Ward and Edwards. This was also the one where Uga V tried to take a bite out of the Tigers’ Robert Baker.
- 1998: Georgia 28, LSU 27. The No. 12 Dawgs beat the No. 6 Tigers in Baton Rouge as Quincy Carter played his best game as Georgia’s QB. The difference was a Carter TD pass to two-way player Champ Bailey and another first-down throw to Bailey that allowed the Dawgs to kill the clock.
- 1992: Georgia 21, Ohio State 14. The other big Goff win came in the Citrus Bowl, with Eric Zeier and Garrison Hearst leading the Dawgs to victory over a Buckeye team quarterbacked by Kirk Herbstreit. Actually played on Jan. 1, 1993.
- 1998: Georgia 35, Virginia 33. A thrilling Peach Bowl comeback led by Quincy Carter and Olandis Gary.
- 1999: Georgia 28, Purdue 25. A HUGE Outback Bowl comeback from being down 25-0 as a Hap Hines field goal in overtime made the difference against the Drew Brees-quarterbacked Boilermakers. Played on Jan. 1, 2000.
- 1994: Georgia 23, Auburn 23. This is the “moral victory,” since it was a major upset for this Goff team to tie a No. 3-ranked Tigers team that had won 20 straight games. As one newspaper headline put it: “UGA beats Auburn 23-23.”
My honorable mentions from the Goff-Donnan years were the 2000 21-10 win over Tennessee in Athens (which finally broke a string of nine consecutive losses to the Vols and would have made the Top 10 except for the sour taste left by the idiot Georgia fans who practically destroyed the Sanford Stadium hedges when they rushed the field to tear down the goal posts); the 1992 14-10 win over Auburn (I can still picture Goff frantically gesturing for his players to stay down on the ground as the clock ran out on a Tigers comeback); the 1995 42-23 Goff win over South Carolina (Robert Edwards ran wild and Georgia fans briefly had visions of a juggernaut before Edwards got hurt the next week in Knoxville); the 1993 43-10 win over Tech in a Thanksgiving Day game that ended in a brawl; and the 1995 18-17 win over Georgia Tech as Hines Ward was still at QB and led Georgia back from 14 points down, with Kanon Parkman’s late field goal providing the difference in Goff’s final regular season game.
As for the Richt era, here’s my list of the greatest games:
- 2005: Georgia 34, LSU 14 in the SEC Championship. This upset win over a favored, No. 3-ranked LSU takes the top spot on my list because it gave Richt his second conference title, as D.J. Shockley quickly threw two touchdown passes to Sean Bailey to get Georgia rolling.
- 2002: Georgia 24, Auburn 21. On a list ranking the early Richt wins that I compiled years ago, I actually put this game in the No. 1 spot and, really, maybe we ought to call these top two games 1(a) and 1(b). This was the SEC East-clinching win at Auburn with Greene’s fourth-and-19 “70-X-Takeoff” pass to a leaping Michael Johnson.
- 2001: Georgia 26, Tennessee 24. Richt’s first signature win in the type of game Georgia usually lost in the 1990s. The passing of the torch from UT to UGA for SEC East power plus Larry Munson’s legendary “hobnail boot” call on the iconic pass from freshman QB David Greene to Verron Haynes.
- (Tie) Two games from 2002: Georgia 27, Alabama 25; and Georgia 30-Arkansas 3. The first was where the Dawgs proved to Pat Dye they were “man enough” by winning in Tuscaloosa thanks to Billy Bennett’s field goal. And the second, almost an afterthought against a weak SEC West opponent in the SEC Championship Game, still makes the list because it gave Richt his first SEC title and Georgia’s first in 20 years.
- 2004: Georgia 45, LSU 16. Greene threw five TD passes in an absolute beat-down of Nick Saban’s defending national champion Tigers.
- 2007: Georgia 42, Florida 30. The infamous “celebration” win and the best game Knowshon Moreno played as a Dawg, racking up 188 yards and three touchdowns.
- 2007: Georgia 45, Auburn 20. The “Blackout” win, with the Dogs in their black jerseys scoring 28 unanswered points after the Tigers had taken a 20-17 lead.
- 2012: Georgia 17, Florida 9. A great game for Malcolm Mitchell as well as for a previously suspect Dawgs defense, which forced six Gator turnovers.
- 2002: Georgia 51, Georgia Tech 7. The Dawgs’ complete domination of the Jackets made for a memorable day Between the Hedges.
- 2014: Georgia 45, Clemson 21. Georgia pulled away in the second half as the Dawgs held Dabo Swinney’s Tigers to only one first down, 15 yards passing and no yards on the ground. One of the louder Sanford Stadium crowds ever.
Quite a few games from the Richt era merit honorable mention, including the 2013 wins over South Carolina and LSU (the latter the loudest game ever in Athens); the 24-20 win over Florida in 2011 (which featured two gutsy fourth-down touchdown passes by Aaron Murray); the 2007 26-23 Matthew Stafford-led “one and done” overtime win over Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide under the lights in Tuscaloosa; the 2006 37-15 upset win over No. 5-ranked Auburn; the 2011 45-7 domination of Auburn in Athens, with two running backs topping 100 yards as Murray threw four touchdown passes; the 2014 34-0 road win over Missouri as Nick Chubb stepped up big-time subbing for the suspended Todd Gurley; the 2014 34-7 beat-down of No. 9 Auburn in Athens; Georgia’s 30-24 upset win over Georgia Tech at Grant Field in 2009; the 2015 52-20 routing of South Carolina (true, that was a terrible Gamecocks team, but it marked the end of the Spurrier era against the Dawgs); and the 2012 SEC Championship loss to Alabama, which was a great game, even if the Dawgs didn’t manage to pull it out. As honorable a defeat as UGA has ever had.
Those are my picks for the post-Dooley years. Feel free to share yours.
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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.