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Former UGA QB John Lastinger shares memories of Georgia’s last win over Texas

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#DGD: Catching up with former Bulldog John Lastinger

In this week’s installment of the #DGD or “Damn Good Dawg” series, we catch up with former Georgia quarterback John Lastinger, who was the Georgia quarterback the last time the Bulldogs faced Texas in the 1984 Cotton Bowl. 

Lastinger also quarterbacked Georgia to the 1983 Sugar Bowl against Penn State. During the 1981 and ’82 seasons, Lastinger guided the Bulldogs to a combined record of 21-2-1. The Valdosta native also knows what it’s like to share a talented quarterback room, as he and former Georgia quarterback Buck Belue were teammates. 

DawgNation: Georgia is going to play Texas for the first time since 1984, a game in which you led Georgia to a win and scored the game’s only touchdown. What do you remember about the 1984 Cotton Bowl?

JL: It was a great run for us back then and we had gotten fairly comfortable going to the Sugar Bowl, having gone there in 1981 and ’82. That 1983 team, we lost to Auburn and not having a conference championship game, it was our first conference loss in four years, and it allowed them to go to the Sugar Bowl that year. But about a week after the game, coach (Vince) Dooley called the seniors in and said, ‘Here’s where things stand. We can either go to the Fiesta Bowl and play Iowa, or we can got to the Cotton Bowl and play an undefeated Texas team,’ and thus have a say in who might be the national champion. It didn’t take us long to decide to go to Dallas and play Texas. Of course we made that decision without having seen any film of Texas, but that’s how it started. We knew it would be a challenge and we knew we’d be an underdog, but in the end we caught a break, and were able to pull out a victory.

DN: You mention the 1983 national championship, which was pretty controversial given that a number of teams could’ve made a claim for it, including Georgia who went 10-1-1 that season. Back then, was there any thought to maybe Georgia having any sort of claim to a national title, much like some thought Georgia had a chance of getting into the College Football Playoff this year? 

JL: I don’t think we felt like we would’ve jumped all the way from No. 1. Auburn won the Sugar Bowl that night, and if I’m not mistaken they had to kick a field goal in the final minute to beat Michigan. Auburn needed some style points, they needed to win big and they couldn’t do it. The team that was accumulating a lot of style points was Miami, with Bernie Kosar at quarterback and Howard Schnellenberger as their coach. They could really move up and down the field. And the Nebraska team that year was phenomenal, with Turner Gill at quarterback and Mike Rozier. They had plowed through everybody, not unlike Alabama this year. That team got a bad draw and had to play in the Orange Bowl and playing Miami, which was basically a home game in Miami. But I don’t think we had a legitimate shot at it. But we were certainly glad to have a direct effect on who won by beating Texas. I don’t remember us really saying, ‘golly, we should be No. 1.’ I’m sure the Auburn people felt differently, but I think if they had won more convincingly, they would’ve moved to No. 1.

DN: In your time at Georgia, you shared the quarterback room with another highly touted quarterback in Buck Belue. He had his own success, and then you were able to come in and follow him up with some success of your own. You know what it’s like to share the roster with another good quarterback, and you see that now with Jake Fromm and Justin Fields at Georgia. What have you thought of how the two have co-existed this year, with Fromm growing a lot over the season, and Fields just trying to find consistent playing time?

JL: Well you look at both of them individually. Fromm just continues to impress me. He looks so comfortable throwing the football, and when I say that I mean he just always seems to know where he wants to go with the football. If his first read is covered, he does a nice job of progressing down to hitting the (running) back out of the backfield. I think that he seems to show great rhythm and comfort in the pocket, and that’s his strength. He’s a game manager guy, but he’s more than just not-make-a-mistake type thing. He gets things done. Justin Fields, golly, he’s a phenomenal physical talent. I don’t think anyone can dispute that. But to me, watching him sometimes this year, when he’s in the pocket where Jake may say, ‘I don’t like my first read, I’m going here, I’m going somewhere else.” With Justin, if he didn’t like his first read, he typically just kind of tucked it and tried to run. He’s going to have to continue to work on his poise in the pocket. He’s a true freshman and I don’t want to be too critical of that, but I think that’s an area he’s going to have to continue to work at. Kirby (Smart), coach (Jim) Chaney and those guys are going to continue to work with Justin. My hope is that Justin is at the University of Georgia because that’s where he wants to be. That he understands that he’s going to have to continue to work, and hopefully he will stay there. We’re in an era where that’s not always the case.

DN: This is the renewal of a series with Texas, two teams that haven’t seen each other since 1984. These are two proud programs, and they did recently schedule a home-and-home to play each other. Don’t these games against big, out-of-regions teams, seem to really help the Georgia brand?

JL: Absolutely. It’s a great matchup between two traditional programs. I think Tom Herman and that group is pushing to get to the top just like Georgia. I think Georgia is a little ahead of Texas right now in doing that, but it should still be a really good ball game between these two teams. I’m glad it’s happening this year, because when I saw that we were playing them in the home-and-home in 2028, I started counting on my hands, hoping that I can make it that long. I’m starting to get old!

DN: The broadcast team for the Georgia-Texas game was announced and Todd Blackledge is going to be doing the color commentary. You famously faced off against Blackledge in the 1983 Sugar Bowl against Penn State. Obviously that game didn’t go well for Georgia, but it’s still an important game for the program. What kind of memories do you have with Blackledge?

JL: I’m going to be there and it would be awesome to see him. I’ve run into him a couple of times when he was back in Athens with CBS. I think I was up in New York when coach Dooley was getting into inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, and I ran into him. If you ever go back and watch that game, Penn State was in its all white uniforms, and Todd took the field and came out with these black high-top shoes. I remember looking across the field and thinking ‘those might be the ugliest things I have ever seen.’ So I asked him if he still had those ugly, black high-tops and he just fell out laughing. Of course I couldn’t say much else because they won the ball game. But he’s phenomenal at the job he’s done, and he’s really a great person.

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