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Encyclopedia: Georgia

12/26/2005 - Georgia Bulldogs

The following is reprinted from ESPN College Football Encyclopedia: The Complete History of the Game, edited by Michael MacCambridge

Several schools have won national championships and fielded Heisman winners. And these accomplishments go a long way toward making a program eligible for "elite" status in the universe of college football. But a few teams have gone even further and become iconic. To get to this level, you need to have been coached, at some time, by a man whose name is mythic -- like, oh, Pop Warner. You need a stadium that doesn't even have to go by its proper name, so when the team is at home, you could say it plays "between the hedges." You need a mascot that everyone in the world recognizes -- an English bulldog would do nicely. And you need a war cry that has been appropriated all over the football world but resonates best in the original, "How 'bout them Dawgs!"

One team, of course, has all these things and, thus,
an undeniable place in the pantheon of college football programs. It is impossible, in short, to imagine college football without the University of Georgia.

Tradition
Back in the late 1800s, when the Georgia football field was located not far from the university chapel, students began the custom of ringing the chapel bell until midnight following each Georgia win. The tradition used to dictate that only Bulldogs freshmen ring the bell, but now everyone is welcome to ring in another night of celebration following a victory.

Best Player
Georgia has produced a number of All-Americas and two Heisman winners. The first to capture both honors was Frank Sinkwich, a single-wing tailback, who won the Heisman in 1942, when he set an SEC record of 2,187 yards total offense. Sinkwich was small -- only 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds -- but he was shifty, and any defense that played him to run made itself vulnerable to the pass. In his career, Sinkwich ran for 30 touchdowns, passed for 30 more and accounted for more than 4,600 yards of total offense. Losing only one game in his senior year, he became the first Heisman winner from a Southern school, and the greatest back in Georgia history. That is, until the 1980s and the arrival of one Herschel Walker, who immediately lit up the college football world like a comet.

Walker was a freshman listed as the third-string tailback on the depth chart when the 1980 season started. In the first game, with Tennessee keeping the Georgia offense bottled up and leading 15-0, he got his chance and scored twice. Walker flattened future pro Bill Bates on one touchdown run to bring the Bulldogs back for a 16-15 victory. Walker never looked back -- he had four 200-yard rushing games that season -- and the Bulldogs finished the year undefeated, untied and as consensus national champs.

Walker rushed for 1,616 yards and finished third in the Heisman balloting. The next season, he finished second. As a junior, he finally won the award, then left school for the United States Football League. There has never been another three years in Bulldog history to compare with the Walker era, when the Bulldogs swept to three straight SEC titles and lost just three times in three seasons.

Best Coach

The legendary Pop Warner did coach the Bulldogs (then known as the Red and Black) briefly. And Wally Butts won a share of the national championship in 1942, and also had the face of a Georgia Bulldog. But Georgia's best coach was, without a doubt, Vince Dooley.

A former Auburn quarterback (there is a remarkable amount of cross-fertilization between these longtime rivals), Dooley was hired in 1964 at the young age of 31 to bring Georgia back to respectability. Butts had resigned in 1960 and his successor, Johnny Griffith, had his troubles, especially against the teams he needed to beat, going 1-8 against Auburn, Florida and Georgia Tech.

Twenty-five years later, Dooley left the sideline to become full-time athletic director. His record was 201-77-10. His teams had won one national championship and finished on top of the SEC six times. Under Dooley, the Bulldogs went to 20 bowl games.

Dooley was not an innovator. He preached the old-time religion of football fundamentals. Defense, the running game, kicking. It was never flashy but it worked, and it made believers out of Bulldog fans, who were also attracted to Dooley's homespun wisdom. After spurning an offer to coach at his alma mater in 1980, Dooley rightly said, "The overriding factor was I had too much invested here. I wouldn't leave. This has been my home for 17 years.

I'm a Bulldog and proud to be one."

Dooley also earned a reputation as a player's coach. After Georgia won its first SEC title in eight years in 1976, he fulfilled a vow to his team that he'd shave his head -- to mimic chrome-domed defensive coordinator Erik Russell -- in honor of the accomplishment.

Best Team
The 1942 team won the Rose Bowl and a national championship but lost in an upset to Auburn.

The 1946 team was undefeated and untied but was not consensus national champion. So the choice is the 1980 team, which went undefeated and untied and was the consensus national champ. That team came from behind to beat Tennessee in the season opener. The Bulldogs beat South Carolina -- in a battle of ranked teams -- in the eighth game of the season to move up to No. 2. The next week, Georgia trailed rival Florida 21-20 with 63 seconds to play and the ball on the Bulldogs' 7-yard line. A 93-yard TD pass from Buck Belue to Lindsay Scott -- a play that will live forever in Bulldog hearts -- saved the day and the season. Georgia went to the Sugar Bowl to play Notre Dame.

Herschel Walker ran for two touchdowns and the Bulldogs won 17-10 to take their throne as undisputed champions.

Storybook Season

After Herschel Walker left to join the USFL, little was expected of the Bulldogs prior to the 1983 season. The team began the campaign with gaping holes at tailback and at quarterback, where John Lastinger's main gift was for leadership. With grit and defense, the Bulldogs scrapped their way to a 9-1-1 regular season and went to the Cotton Bowl to play undefeated, untied, No. 2 Texas. The Bulldogs leaned on their defense to keep the score close and awaited their chance. That came when Texas fumbled a punt late in the game. Georgia turned opportunity into a touchdown and won 10-9 to finish No. 4 in the nation.

Biggest Game

A 15-0 win on Oct. 12, 1929, over Yale -- reigning football power from the East -- at the dedication of Sanford Stadium still resonates down the years. There were so many satisfying elements to that victory, not least that nobody expected the Bulldogs to win and that they did it in front of a crowd (30,000) that exceeded the capacity of the new stadium. The Bulldogs from New Haven were whipped so convincingly that they never came south again.

Biggest Upset
Defending national champion Alabama was ahead 17-10 in Athens on Sept. 18, 1965, and had Georgia pinned inside its own 30-yard line with 2:08 to play. On second and eight, quarterback Kirby Moore passed to Pat Hodgson, who then lateraled to Bob Taylor, who ran the ball in for a touchdown. The play covered 73 yards. Georgia went for two against a frustrated Tide and Moore again hit Hodgson -- no lateral necessary. Georgia 18, Alabama 17. To this day, Tide fans insist that Pat Hodgson's knees were on the ground before he lateraled to Bob Taylor for the decisive touchdown. The film was pretty clearly on Alabama's side but as Bear Bryant said, "You
don't win games in the movies on Monday."

Tragedy
The University of Virginia and the University of Georgia met in Atlanta in 1897 to play football, a sport still in its infancy. Virginia owned a decisive lead when Richard Vonalbade Gammon, one of Georgia's best players, was injured badly enough to be taken from the field and delivered by horse-drawn ambulance to a nearby hospital. He died there the next morning.

Gammon's death ignited a campaign to abolish the sport of football in the state of Georgia. A bill had made it through the legislature and was on the governor's desk for his signature when he received a letter from Gammon's mother. "It would be inexpressibly sad," she pleaded, "to have the cause he held so dear injured by his sacrifice. Grant me the right to request that the boy's death should not be used to defeat the most cherished object of his life." The governor refused to sign the bill. Football in Georgia survived Gammon's death.

Best Comeback
Down 20-0 to Georgia Tech on Dec. 2, 1978, a true freshman named Buck Belue (could there be a better name for a Georgia quarterback?) entered the game for the Bulldogs and provided the spark they needed. But a 21-20 Georgia lead vanished when Drew Hill returned a kick 101 yards and Tech converted a two-point attempt. But Belue was undaunted, which may have been his greatest asset as a football player. He drove the Bulldogs 84 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown pass to Amp Arnold, who also took a pitch from Belue and ran it in for two and a 29-28 victory.

Stadium
A seating capacity of slightly more than 92,700 makes Sanford Stadium the fifth-largest college football stadium in the country. The stadium is now more than 75 years old and seats more than three times the number of fans (30,000) who attended the first game played there. English privet hedges surround the field and the playing surface is natural grass. Other football teams play in stadiums with shrubbery surrounding the field, but the Georgia Bulldogs' landscaping became immortal when a sportswriter of the 1930s (some insist it was Grantland Rice) observed that the Bulldogs had their opponents "between the hedges."

Rival
A poll of the house would probably divide the Bulldog faithful into thirds on this issue. One-third would say Auburn and have a good case, since it is the South's
oldest continuous football rivalry. Georgia's greatest coach, Vince Dooley, played at Auburn. And Auburn's sainted Shug Jordan was the basketball coach at Georgia from 1947 to 1950, before becoming head football coach at Auburn (1951 to 1975). The game is played late in the season and there is generally a lot riding on it. But another game on Georgia's schedule -- often the next one of the schedule -- would get the votes of another third of the Bulldog faithful. Georgia Tech is, after all, an in-state rival. Lose to Tech and you'll hear about it all year long. This game means marginally less today than during the era of Bobby Dodd's powerhouse Tech teams in the two decades following World War II. Still, even as Tech's fortunes have fluctuated, the battle for in-state bragging rights has remained undeniably fierce.

And then there is Florida. The game is known as "the world's largest outdoor cocktail party." Ordinarily the game is played in Jacksonville on what is supposed to be neutral turf. The faithful come from both states for the obligatory tailgating and a game that can be decisive in the SEC and national championship picture. The intensity had always been there, but when Steve Spurrier arrived at Florida he managed to jack it up several notches. He also dominated the series and made it
into an almost personal thing, which just made the Bulldogs hungrier.

Nickname
The origins of the Bulldogs moniker are obscure and typically linked to the strong ties between the University of Georgia and Yale University. Georgia's first president, Abraham Baldwin, was a Yale man, and some of the early structures on campus were copied from Yale buildings. In 1920, a writer for the Atlanta Journal suggested the name, arguing that there was "a certain dignity about a bulldog, as well as ferocity." Later that year, another writer used "Bulldogs" five times in an account of a game with Virginia that ended in a scoreless tie. The name stuck.

Mascot
The English bulldog wearing the spiked collar and the red jersey is as essential to college football as the Golden Dome and the Ohio State band dotting the "i." There is simply no more recognizable mascot in all of college football. Sports Illustrated acknowledged this obvious fact when it put Uga V on its April 28, 1997, cover. Uga V also appeared in the Clint Eastwood film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. His predecessor, Uga IV, joined Herschel Walker at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York for the presentation of the Heisman Trophy. Those two mascots -- along with Uga I, Uga II and Uga III -- are buried near the main gate in the embankment of the south stands. Before each game, flowers are placed on their graves. And if you're looking to win a bar bet, here's a nugget of trivia. The first Georgia mascot wasn't a bulldog, but a goat.

Uniforms
Red jerseys and the famous "silver britches." Coach Wally Butts introduced these in 1939. When Vince Dooley redesigned the uniform in 1964, he went for more subdued white pants. Then, before the 1980 season, he went back to the silver britches and the Bulldogs wore them on a march to the national title.

Quote
"Win in football. That's the bottom line. It doesn't really matter what you do in the other stuff as long as you're winning in football." -- Vince Dooley, asked to give advice to his successor as athletic director before stepping down in 2004 after four decades with the Georgia program