May 1, 2016

Only 125 and counting...

Rest In Peace, ZIPPY.
Only 125 days until kickoff... And, from the late ZIPPY MOROCCO to the "BULLDOG BIGFOOT," see how "125" is significant in UGA football lore HERE.

April 29, 2016

Bulldog Bargains & Busts in the NFL Draft

From Bulldog "bargains," like (L to R) Terrell Davis and Len Hauss, to "busts," err, those first-rounders who unfortunately didn’t pan out, like a giant lineman/kick-blocking extraordinaire, and perhaps the greatest UGA quarterback of all time...

April 19, 2016

Making Things Right, AGAIN

As the players "who most strained their potential" during the spring, CONGRATULATIONS to offensive linemen Brandon Kublanow and Isaiah Wynn, and defensive lineman John Atkins for receiving the HUGH HENDRIX AWARD--an honor that's been very close to my heart.

April 16, 2016

April 11, 2016

Quotable G-Day

Carson in '53
With the 73rd G-Day game this weekend, I thought I'd post 10 notable and historical quotes regarding the annual intrasquad spring contest. If anything, the following should exhibit how G-Day has gone from a highly-contested affairone in which the local media and assistant coaches used to actually place odds on the gameto more of a simple, glorified scrimmage:

1953: During a 25-to-25 draw between the Red and White in 1953a rare tie in the spring seriesRed starting quarterback and All-American Zeke Bratkowski appeared to have thrown the ball too hard, and thus was dropped, on a couple of occasions to teammate John Carsonpasses which, if completed, could have been the difference in a Red victory. Contrary to it being his fault, Bratkowski explained the misconnections following the contest:

John had just taken his military shots, and his left arm was still swollen.

Stoll in '57
1957: Although the teams were seemingly divided up evenly by the assistant coaches, resulting in a 48-0 rout by the White over the Red, the 1957 G-Day game is the most lopsided in the history of the annual spring game. After the blowout, Georgia coaches were absolutely bewildered over the result, including head coach Wally Butts, who remarked, "I just don't understand it. We thought we had it divided as evenly as possible." When first-year interior line coach Cal Stoll, who would eventually be the head coach at Wake Forest followed by Minnesota, was asked what he thought of the one-sided affair, he thought he'd offer up a joke regarding his defensive coaching habits during that spring:

I just want everybody to know, I've only been coaching the Whites' defense. 

Dooley in '68
1968: For the longest time, Georgia's roster was divided into two teams for G-Daynot according to who played on the first-team offense, first-team defense, second-team offense, etc.but, by two assistant coaches, serving as the game's head coaches, and their assistants and, as mentioned, divided as evenly as possible. In 1968, the Red was head coached by assistant John Donaldson, whose staff included Billy Kinard, Ken Cooper, Doc Ayers, and Sam Mrvos, whereas the Black was head coached by Frank Inman, who was assisted by Jim Pyburn, Jim Wood, and Mike Castronis. And, what players belonged to which team was serious business. According to head coach Vince Dooley, who would be simply acting as a fan for the game:

I had trouble finding out the starters. These coaches take this game so seriously that I had to pledge secrecy before they'd give me a list of the starters.

Goff sacked by Zambiasi
during '76 G-Day
1976: Beginning in 1976, and for the next 15 years or so, notables in the media were chosen as honorary guest head coaches for G-Day. The first of such games pitted Jesse Outlar of the Atlanta Constitution coaching the Black, who benefited by having the services of No. 1 quarterback Ray Goff, against Harley Bowers of the Macon Telegraph coaching the Red, who was stuck starting the Bulldogs' No. 3 signal-caller, Anthony Flanagan (No. 2 quarterback Matt Robinson was injured). At halftime of what would be a notable upseta 19-13 victory for the underdog BlackOutlar declared to his quarterback that if he didn't lead the Black to a couple of quick scores, he'd be fired as head coach. Goff wasn't amused:

To heck with the coach! Did you see what the other quarterback is doing? I'm the one who may get fired.
In '78, Grizzard, Dooley,
and Black QB Randy Cook

1978: For the 1978 G-Day game, the honorary coaches were the legendary Lewis Grizzard for the Black and WSB Radio's Phil Schaefer for the Red. Behind tailback Willie McClendon, the Black throttled the Red, 24-0, including scoring a touchdown on the final play of the game. Afterwards, Grizzard was jokingly asked why he didn't go for two points following the final touchdown and really run the score up. Grizzard quipped he had been too busy hugging the cheerleaders to realize he had scoredand, it was the only mistake he made the entire contest. Schaefer was then not too complimentary of the game's officials, whereby Grizzard joked again:

I thought my Uncle Charley called a good game!

Dooley and Schaefer

1982: Four years after Grizzard and Schaefer squared off on G-Day, head coach Vince Dooley was still telling the story of how much the latter media member endured in a losing effort:

That's the way it is when you lose. The year broadcaster Phil Schaefer coached a losing team, everyone ran off and left him, and he had to walk back to the Coliseum. 

1984: More than twenty years removed since serving as head football coach at Georgia, Johnny Griffith reportedly still contributed to the Bulldog Club, attended games, was friends with then-head coach Vince Dooley and, between himself and his business as the executive vice president of a stone-crushing company, bought more than 20 season tickets. However, as the Bulldogs' head coach from 1961 through 1963, when he won just 10 games in three seasons between the legendary tenures of Wally Butts and Dooley, Griffith was regarded as Georgia's "forgotten coach"and, how! In 1984, G-Day was to not feature a customary intrasquad game for the first time, but a game pitting the then-current players against an Alumni team. Overseen by executive secretary of the Bulldog Club, Loran Smith, hundreds of invitations were mailed to Georgia alumni, asking for them to participate in some manner in the annual G-Day game. Curiously, Griffith did not receive an invitation, although Smith had a logical explanation for the omission of the Bulldogs' former head coach:

A processing error.

1984: Leading up to the Team-Alumni G-Day game of '84, worthy of mention was the fact Leroy Dukesa starting linebacker on Coach Dooley's first team 20 years before, who had gained roughly 50 pounds since his 190-pound playing weightwould be playing opposite of his son, redshirt freshman quarterback David Dukes. According to the elder Dukes, who worked as manager of the Ramada Inn Hotel in Athens:

I want to get [into the game for] just one playa blitz in the split 60 [defensive formation]so I can tackle David.  

In the second quarter, it was reported Leroy "waddled on the field, blitzed before the ball was snapped and grabbed" David, but couldn't bring his son down. Having appeared for the one play, as he promised, Leroy "puffed back to the sideline," whereupon he removed his No. 42 jersey, giving it to teammate Bill Krug (1975-1977), and then put on a specially made "I Survived" t-shirt.

Ray (L) and Scott (R) Rissmiller
1989: Five years after the first Team-Alumni G-Day game, Georgia featured the secondand, likely the last gameof its kind. Like the initial one, the second Team-Alumni game featured a father-son pair squaring off: lineman Ray Rissmiller, an All-American in 1964, against freshman guard, and son, Scott Rissmiller. And, like the game from five years before, according to the elder Rissmiller, the father and son had a close confrontation on the gridiron:

One time [in the game] this [opposing] guard spun me off, and I was waiting for him to finish me off, but he went by me. After the play, I heard, "Are you all right, Daddy?"

Donnan in '96
1996: From a competitive contest, to one coached by media members, to an affair featuring an Alumni squad, G-Day drastically changed over time to more so a scrimmage structured solely for evaluation purposes by exhibiting multiple units and player combinations. By the 1990s, how the Red and the Black squads actually performed on the field was fairly insignificant as evident just prior to the 1996 G-Day game according to Georgia's then-new head coach, Jim Donnan:

If we look like an outhouse or penthouse [at G-Day], I'm not going to worry about. I hope people are still going to come see us play next year.

April 6, 2016

Counting Down the Days (Day 150)

150 days until the Dawgs kickoff their 2016 season... And, how is "150" significant to UGA football lore? Dave McMahon and I of explain HERE.

March 27, 2016

Use your knowledge of The Classic City...

From my blog's sponsor: We know you know Athens. Now we're hoping to use your knowledge to figure out out the best places to go and things to do in one of America's most iconic college towns. Share some of your favorites by helping us answer the questions at this link!

March 8, 2016

Albeit for a single play, Georgia's all-time "Wonders"

(L to R): From LITTLE HANKS to LITTLE BILLY (No. 22), resulting in quarterback Preston Ridlehuber's (No. 12) touchdown run vs. UNC to DAVID ARCHER's heroics vs. Georgia Tech, GEORGIA's all-time "One-Play Wonders"...
After a conversation with Coach Dooley, and his fondness for the play executed by "Little Billy," my updated all-time "One-Play Wonders" in UGA football history...

February 22, 2016

Oh, Muddy Waters...

Checkout my Q&A with mid-1980s pass-rush specialist Greg "Muddy" Waters HERE...

February 20, 2016

It's the Individuals that are the Essence

(L to R): Georgia's Brendan Douglas; Pat Douglas at Georgia, at
Georgia Southern; and Erk Russell at Georgia, at Georgia Southern.
I was planning on writing a post about the 1892 Georgia-Auburn game since today is the 124th anniversary of the first contest played in the "Deep South's Oldest Rivalry." However, within an hour of me figuring for work that Brendan Douglas needs 285 rushing yards in 2016 to become the 50th Georgia player in history to total 1,000 for a career, I ironically had a phone conversation with Pat Douglas, Brendan's father, prompting me to totally switch gears, so to speak.

First off, in speaking with Pat, I see why Brendan is such a courteous and likable young man; as they say, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. And, like his son currently, Pat was once a Georgia football player, as well. Still, by having had a relationship with one of the greatest Bulldogs of all time, Pat holds a distinction that no one else can claim.

Pat was a walk-on, scout-team defensive back at Georgia from 1978 to 1980. When the Bulldogs' acclaimed defensive coordinator Erk Russell accepted the head coaching job at Georgia Southern College to build a program from scratch after the school had not played football for 40 years, Pat followed Coach Russell to Statesboro.

In just 14 career games at Georgia Southern from 1981 to 1982, including a three-game exhibition/scrimmage schedule which comprised the entire '81 season, Pat remarkably made 12 interceptions and returned a punt for a touchdown. The only individual to play under Russell at both Georgia and Georgia Southern, Pat would then be an assistant under the legendary coach for three seasons, culminating with the Eagles capturing a I-AA national championship in 1985their first of four titles over the next six years. 

Like my post on how the Georgia-Georgia Southern series originally unfoldedthis piece may seem a better fit around the time the schools play one another. However, concerned with more so than simply the teams' rivalry, this post is meant to convey just one of countless examples of how one of the greatest Bulldogs of them all greatly impactedfor the second timea college program, as told by one of the individuals who knew him best.

"'When life gives you lemons, make lemonade'Coach Russell had that saying on his office wall," Pat informed me. "That was his attitude, his demeanor."

Like a lot of people, I have always had a strong admiration for Erk Russell, and his capability of "turning lemons into lemonade," whether involving individuals, or defensive units, like at Georgia in 1975 and the Junkyard Dogs defense, or even entire football programs, like at Georgia Southern during the early 1980s. Pat Douglas was there to witness the entire transformation of the latter.

I was curious how a single individual could be primarily responsible for the miracle of developing a program from a three-game club team one year to a national champion, playing in only its second season at the I-AA level, just four years later.

"Simply, how could one individualCoach Russellbe responsible for a lot of what Georgia Southern was able to achieve so fast?" I asked Pat.

"You said 'a lot of that' was Coach Russell, I say 'nearly all of that' was Coach Russell," Pat replied. "Besides Coach Russell, nobody in the world could have developed a team that fast to a national championship at a program which didn't even own a football at its inception."

Pat was not joking...

Minutes away from Georgia Southern holding a press conference announcing Erk Russell as its head football coach in May of 1981 in front of a gathering of college and town people, the school's athletic director and president agreed that maybe something football-related, like a football, should be on display. 

But, there was a problem: there wasn't a football in sight, in fact, the college didn't even own one at the time.

"They got somebody to run across to K-Mart and buy a football," Pat recalled. "He ran back over, and tossed the football to the athletic director just in time to start the press conference."

Pat concluded, "That's what you call 'starting from scratch.'"

And I'll add, that's what you call making lemonade when you didn't even own a lemon four years before.

From the prominent, like UGA-Auburn, to the much lesser, like UGA-Georgia Southern, rivalries certainly are a part of the great tradition and lore of University of Georgia football. Still, it's more so the individuals both past and present, like Erk Russell and the Douglas', and their stories, which are the essence of college football in its entirety.