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November 25, 2014

Most Efficient, Yet Maybe Missing Out

MASON--not Tarkenton, Zeier, Greene, 
Murray, etc.--has quarterbacked the most
efficient UGA scoring offense since the mid-40s.
Looking through the NCAA's updated team football statistics yesterday, I discovered Georgia currently leads the FBS in a telling, yet uncalculated statistic--to find, one we stat geeks actually have to figure out on our own.

I've been blogging about the YPP, or yards per point, statistic nearly since I started this blog.

Offensively, measuring the "efficiency" of a team's scoring, points scored are divided into total yards gained to figure its Offensive YPP. The lower the Offensive YPP, the better, and currently, the Bulldogs evidently have the most efficient scoring offense in the nation (record in parenthesis):

1) Georgia (9-2), 10.7
2) LA Tech (7-4), 11.1
3) Ohio State (10-1), 11.55
4) North Texas (4-7), 11.62
5) Baylor (9-1), 11.69
6) Michigan State (9-2), 11.718
7) Oregon (10-1), 11.724
8) TCU (9-1), 11.80
9) Temple (5-5), 11.83
10) Kansas State (8-2), 11.9

What's more, over the last 73 years since the 1941 season, Georgia's 10.7 Offensive YPP currently ranks as the second-highest in school history:

10.6- 1946 (10-0)
10.7- 2014 (9-2)
11.5- 2007 (11-2)
11.6- 1971 (10-1)
11.7- 1948 (9-1)
12.0- 2002 (13-1)

As far as Defensive YPP, this is a measurement the Bulldogs have, you could say, "struggled in" the last several years. Contrary to Offensive YPP, Defensive YPP measures the "efficiency" of a team's scoring defense and is figured by points allowed being divided into total yards yielded. The higher the better, while it's been shown, at least in the SEC, the teams with the better Defensive YPPs are usually contending for, if not capturing a conference championship.  Of the six FBS teams currently with a Defensive YPP of higher than 19.5, three--Alabama, Miss. State, and Ole Miss--are from the SEC.

Georgia's Defensive YPP of 15.8 currently ranks just 9th in the conference; however, it's slotted 43rd of the 125 FBS teams, or in the top 35 percent nationwide.  What's more, Georgia's current 15.8 mark is second highest of the last seven Bulldog teams beginning in 2008, and third-best of the last nine Georgia teams beginning in 2006: 

15.8- 2014 (9-2)
12.9- 2013 (8-5)
18.2- 2012 (12-2)
13.5- 2011 (10-4)
14.9- 2010 (6-7)
13.1- 2009 (8-5)
12.7- 2008 (10-3)
16.0- 2007 (11-2)
14.7- 2006 (9-4)

Here's where it could become real puzzling: although the Bulldogs have the most efficient scoring offense in the nation--the most efficient at Georgia in the last 68 years--and one of the program's most efficient scoring defenses since defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder left town a decade ago, the 2014 Bulldog squad is actually not very efficient, suffering a couple of "bad" losses amidst primarily easy victories.  And, unless Missouri finally loses this Friday, the "efficient" Bulldogs, as was the case in 2007, will miss out again on a trip to the Georgia Dome in one-and-a-half weeks.

Go figure.

November 22, 2014

The Dogs' Feast of the Harvest

On the day Georgia hosts its annual FCS sacrificial lamb, I take a look back at what has to be one of the most unusual, yet intriguing road trips for a Bulldogs' football squad in the last half-century: Georgia's Harvest Bowl appearance coming curiously at the "home" of an eventual Division I-AA/FCS program.

The Harvest Bowl, or Harvest Festival, held annually at Victory Stadium in Roanoke from 1958 to 1969, was a regular-season game and fundraiser for the city's Junior League. Notably, the game's acclaimed halftime show was filled with bugle corps and drill platoons.

"From what I recall, it was a really special weekend for that area in Virginia," Ronnie Jenkins informed me the other day from the trucking company he owns in Millen, GA. Lettering at UGA from 1965-1967, Jenkins remains the school record-holder for most career rushing yards by a fullback (1,641).

Six of the first eight Harvest Bowls pitted Virginia Tech versus Virginia; the others countered Virginia Tech against William & Mary in 1959, and the Hokies versus Wake Forest in 1965.  Therefore, when Georgia ventured to face the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) for a night game in late September of 1966, it was certainly a first-of-its-kind match-up for the "bowl," and technically considered a "neutral-sited" game although Victory Stadium was located only 55 miles from the VMI campus.   

Victory Stadium, which would stop hosting college games just three years later in 1969 and be completely demolished in 2006, was not the most ideal venue for the visitors. Of the stadium's 27,000 seats, only 15,000 were filled for the Georgia-VMI game, which remains to date the lowest attended UGA football game since the school began releasing complete attendance records 70 years ago beginning in 1954. "And, the field was painted green from one end to the other [to hide damaged grass]," Jenkins added. "After the game, our white pants had so much paint all over them, they wound up just getting the team new pants."

At the night-time Harvest Bowl of 1966, the VMI
cadets cheer on their Keydets as they enter the
field against Georgia at Victory Stadium.
After receiving the opening kickoff, the Bulldogs stalled in VMI territory. Forcing the Keydets to punt, sophomore Kent Lawrence then fumbled on the return and VMI recovered inside Georgia's 20-yard line.  Seven plays later, the FCS-like Keydets reached the end zone and led the heavily-favored Bulldogs, 7-0.

"At first, Coach Dooley had a fit; I guess we were not that motivated because of who we were playing," Jenkins claimed. "But, we soon got it going." 

Soon, like on the ensuing kickoff, when Lawrence redeemed himself with an 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Soon after Lawrence had tied the game, the Bulldog offense began noticing a near-flaw in the VMI defense in the form of an overzealous nose tackle.

"The biggest thing I remember about the Harvest Bowl was their guy lined up across from our center, Jack Davis," Jenkins said. "He'd take a fist to Jack's helmet (head slap) upon the snap of the ball back when you could get away with doing that, especially when you played in the middle of line [somewhat hidden from officials]."

The overexerting--although minor--defender, plus his slight hesitation in reacting following his head slap, caused the Georgia offense to change its game plan to a small degree.  "So, we decided to run right at [the nose tackle]," Jenkins said.  "We were able to wear him down physically."

Due in large part to simple up-the-middle
dives & plunges by Jenkins (No. 44),
UGA feasted on VMI at the "Harvest."
The Bulldogs began pounding the ball with Jenkins, and the junior fullback ran right at the head-slapping Keydet, and usually by him for chunks of yardage. Jenkins, who would finish the season leading the SEC champion Bulldogs in rushing with 669 yards, ended the Harvest Bowl with 133 of his season total--the most rushing yards by any Bulldog in a single game during the 1966 regular season. Jenkins' 26 carries against the Keydets were nearly three times as many as the teammate with the second-most (QB Kirby Moore, nine), and would be the most by a Bulldog in a single game for the entire campaign.

Late in the fourth quarter, Georgia had built a 36-7 lead over the hapless host. The Bulldogs possessed the ball on the VMI 1-yard line with 53 seconds remaining. There was only one play appropriate to call, and it came--Jenkins again trucking up the middle, falling into the end zone for a touchdown, and capping a Most-Valuable-Player performance in the Harvest Bowl.

"They even gave me a little trophy," said MVP Jenkins of the Harvest Bowl committee following the Bulldogs' 43-7 win in Roanoke.

Forty-eight years later, knowing he had experienced some health issues back in March, I concluded my chat with Ronnie Jenkins by asking if he was currently doing well.

"Much better than before. Back on my feet, and back working hard at my trucking company," appropriately declared the one-time Bulldog battering ram known for trucking over the opposition.

November 13, 2014

GEORGIA-AUBURN: A Tremendous Transformation (for the most part)

Evidently a photo of the 1892 Georgia-Auburn
game, which pitted doctors against one another.
Initially posted a couple of years ago, an updated/edited piece of mine regarding the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry:

Saturday's game between Georgia and Auburn marks the 118th meeting in the 122 years of Georgia versus Auburn. In 1892, the schools faced off for the first time opposing a couple of doctors against one another as head coaches (Dr. Charles Herty of Georgia, Dr. George Petrie of Auburn). It was only Georgia's second game ever in its brief football history, and  Auburn's first. Other commonly known details from the initial meeting include the game was played at Piedmont Park in Atlanta, while the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama would unfortunately be victorious, 10-0.  

The game in 1892 also featured a football field 110 yards long, only three downs, no passing allowed, and the play resembled more of a rugby-like scrum than what we commonly know today as football. Divided into only two halves, games were much shorter back then, as well.  The meeting at Piedmont Park, for example, started at 3:30 PM and ended just past 5:00 PM.

Most notably for many UGA followers, the team was represented by a goat as a mascot. As for Auburn, legend has it an eagle broke loose from a faculty member during the game, circled the field, eventually fell to the ground dead, and thus the "War Eagle" battle cry.

Notwithstanding, there are several details of the 1892 Georgia-Auburn affair which are unfamiliar to mostsome remaining hardly spoken perhaps by design. Still, such details undoubtedly indicate the rivalry has come a long way in more than 120 years.
Sketch of first mascots: 
Sir William and Dabble 

It was said that "thousands of men, women, and children flocked to Piedmont Park" in "vast armies" for an estimated game attendance of 3,000 spectators. Plus, a grandstand was erected at the field to hold 10,000 people, and organizers expected nearly every seat to be filled. However, bad weather of dark clouds and a steady rain kept a few people awaylike merely 70 percent of what was expectedand the thousands of dollars of anticipated gate receipts resulted in only $800.  

What would be unheard of today, 150 Georgia Tech students were not only part of the attendance, but actually rooted for Georgia while wearing their neighbor's school colors of "black and crimson." Not surprising, however, during the game the Techies began loudly and curiously singing, "I love codfish, I love codfish, I love codfish balls." Although Tech students nowadays wouldn't be caught dead at a Georgia game (they hardly go to their own team's games), they evidently were as strange and as big of nerds back then as they are today: codfish balls? Really?

As mentioned, Georgia trotted out its acclaimed goat, Sir William owned by Bob Gantt, who was greeted with shouts of "Shoot the Billy goat!" from the Auburn faithful. Actually, prior to the contest, it had been strongly suggested (you can read at my UGA Nickname & Mascot History page) that 79-year-old "Old Tub," a blind black man, be the school's mascot for the game instead of a goat.

On the other hand, Auburn did indeed feature an African American as its mascot for the meeting in Atlanta. Before any tiger, eagle, or cry of "War Eagle," the school had Dabble, "the negro boy," who was greeted with cries of "And take the negro out!" from the Red and Black rooters. But Dabble, as it was reported, ignored the shouts and "walked on calmly...across the field to his place near the judges' stand." You go Dabble!

Over the span of 122 years, things have certainly been transformed in the Georgia-Auburn rivalry, the sport of football in general, and in our nation's Deep South, and thank goodness for those changes.

However, in my research of the series' first game, I discovered a few details which indicate other aspects of the Georgia-Auburn rivalry have actually changed very little since 1892.
How things have changed...  From shouts
of  And take the negro out! at the first 
Georgia-Auburn game to having a black 
man as President of the United States.

Over the years, we've all known the die-hard UGA football eternal optimists; some of us may be one of them. The very first of these assured individuals was quoted just prior to his team's 10-0 setback: "Why, our Athens men can beat anything on earth playing football," declared an old gray-haired man from Athens. "We can beat Yale, Harvard, Princeton or what not, and I'd bet my last nickel on it!"

Auburn halfback Rufus "Dutch" Dorsey, a Georgia native, scored the game's first touchdown (thus, tallying the Auburn program's first-ever points) on a rush from less than a yard out, and then followed it up with another touchdown covering 40 yards. After the game, a disgruntled Red and Black player proclaimed to the Auburn team, "Well, you Alabama folks can't crow over Georgia, for you owe your victory to a Georgia boy." Unfortunately for us UGA fans, a Georgia boy playing for Auburn and being an integral part of a victory over our team would become a recurring trend during the long-standing rivalry.

Finally, leading up to the game, there was some controversy brewing in regards to Auburn's practice sessions: "They say Auburn has had a professional training their men down there," declared a newspaper.  Therefore, long ago using a professional trainer, recently featuring a professional-like, 180,000-dollar pay-to-play quarterback, and several others utilized in between, Auburn just can't help itself from cheating throughout the long history of the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry.

November 6, 2014

The Legendary Trick on a Trip to Lexington

Following one of Georgia's most embarrassing losses in history last week in Jacksonville, I thought it was appropriate to discuss perhaps the most embarrassing incident in Bulldog football history, resulting on a trip to Lexington, KYembarrassing, that is, for UGA officials way back then, but an entertaining, mysterious story still celebrated by some of those who remember its details.

I told the story a year ago, but considering it's the event's 40th anniversary and the current edition of Bulldogs will soon board a plane bound for Lexington, I find it fitting to post the legendary account again with a tad bit of updating.

As the story goes, upon the Bulldogs' charter flight landing at Lexington's Blue Grass Field the night before the 1974 Georgia-Kentucky game, the team was unceremoniously greeted by their hosts.

"When we got to Lexington, the plane was immediately surrounded by all these police cars," Keith Harris informed me during our interview for my latest UGA football book. Harris, a three-year starter at Will linebacker, was the team's overall captain in 1974. "Here, I was thinking what a great escort we were getting at the airport," he added with a laugh. 

"When we landed, we were told to sit down in our seats and stay there," said Horace King, the Bulldogs' leading scorer and second-leading rusher in '74. "At that point, we had no idea that we would wind up being at that airport for hours!"

During the flight, defensive coordinator Erk Russell had noticed a bomb threat written in soap on the mirror in one of the plane's bathrooms. He immediately alerted the flight staff, who relayed the coach's message to airport security. The pilot came over the intercom, informing the team about the threat, and then demanding for the culprit to come forward. No one did.  Upon arrival,  the plane was boarded by FBI agents, the airport bomb squad, and local police. After milling about the plane for a while, gravitating toward where the threat had been scrawled, the authorities began seeking a confession.

"We were then taken out of the plane and marched into a room inside the airport," Harris added. "We later noticed [head golf coach and dorm disciplinarian] Dick Copas; he looked like something was wrong." A player pointed out to Copas the plane had not been cleaned following its previous flight; maybe someone on an earlier flight had written the bomb threat. 

"Hell no!" Copas apparently blurted. "I know it was one of you players for sure because [the authorities] said that whoever wrote it misspelled 'airplane.'"

"During the ordeal, I was told by an assistant coach that he had narrowed it down in his mind to about 10 players who could have written the threat, and I was one of them!" said Steve Davis, who admits to having some disciplinary problems while a quarterback-turned-wide receiver at Georgia during the mid-1970s, including getting kicked off the team for the entire 1973 season. "It was an intimidating and kind of scary situation, especially when we were all sitting in chairs inside the room at the airport and surrounded by at least a couple dozen FBI guys."

Prior to their clash vs. Kentucky at Common-
wealth Stadium 40 years ago, the Bulldogs
confronted the FBI en route to Lexington.
Inside the room, it was eventually revealed by an individual, who seemingly was the head of the FBI agents, that the player who wrote the threat was a "real dumbass."  As Copas had indicated, "airplane" was apparently misspelled on the mirror; the threat supposedly declared, "There is a bomb on this airplain."

After hours of questioning by authorities and pleading from tired teammates, including an upperclassman who suddenly became unhinged, threatening for the offender to come forward "or else," the guilty Bulldog still remained unidentified. The FBI eventually gave up, and the team departed for their hotel not getting to bed until well after midnight.

The weary Bulldogs finally awoke the following night to defeat an upset-minded Kentucky team, 24-20. A fourth-quarter touchdown run by King provided the winning margin, while a late forced fumble by Harris clinched the four-point victory. As for Davis, he broke his collarbone during the game. "First, I get blamed as someone who might have done the bomb threat, and then I get hurt," Davis said with a chuckle.

When the Bulldogs arrived home to Athens, they found that the misconduct by one of their very own had made not only local, but national news.  A writer for a local paper, who had traveled to Lexington with the team, claimed, "the immature act of a single individual who by insinuating that a bomb was on the Georgia charter not only forced an unnecessary hardship on his own team, but also the airline to which the plane belonged."

Although the "single individual" responsible for "the immature act" was not discovered by authorities in Lexington, the UPI reported the FBI would question all UGA players and coaches the following week in an effort to find the culprit.

"It had been rumored that the FBI would be coming to campus to give the players polygraph tests, and perform handwriting analysis," Davis said, "but the FBI never came."

"Whoever did it, they did nothing real damaging," King said. "However, the bomb threat was just another distractionone of the number of hiccupswe encountered that kept that '74 team from reaching its full potential." Preseason ranked 11th in the nation by GamePlan magazine, the Bulldogs would finish with a lowly 6-6 record following a 5-2 start. 

"Whoever did it, I think they misspelled 'airplane' on purpose," Harris concluded.

It is said that a "higher up" at the time with the UGA football program, who will remain nameless, demanded in regards to whoever did it, "I want his ass!" Whereas another official in the athletic departmentan even higher higher upwould say the 1974 team consisted of some "thugs," and the bomb-threat incident was primary evidence for the derogatory label.  

As I indicated a year ago, the wrongdoer has yet to be discovered after 40 years, but his identity still is often the talk amongst his old teammateseach seemingly having a different opinion of "who done it." And, although the devilish deed of the so-called "thug" was embarrassing to some, it remains the greatest prank ever pulled off in UGA football history to others. 

October 31, 2014

Dawgs Up to Same Old Tricks

Four weeks ago, Gurley became the latest in 
a long line of Dawgs to perform an old trick.
Earlier this week, seeing that Arkansas is now promoting Sebastian Tretola for the Heisman Trophy after the giant Razorback lineman passed for a touchdown against UAB, while hearing that the Bulldogs' one-time Heisman Trophy candidate (whose last game featured a trick pass of his own) will unfortunately miss the Florida game, I recalled a "Cocktail Party" story few Bulldog enthusiasts are aware of, involving an uncommon play which has prominently been showcased in UGA football lore for decades, especially down in Jacksonville against the despised Gators.

Nearly 40 years before tailback Todd Gurley completed a 50-yard pass to Jeb Blazevich against Vanderbilt this season, there occurred the most acclaimed trick pass play, or a pass thrown by someone besides the quarterback, in Georgia football history. 

You're likely familiar with the famous "Appleby to Washington" playthe 80-yard end-around touchdown pass from tight end Richard Appleby to Gene Washington, resulting late in the 1975 Florida game as the Bulldogs trailed the Gators, 7 to 3.  However, one of the greatest plays in the annals of Bulldog football perhaps wouldn't have even been called in the huddle if not for a rain-soaked Gator Bowl field that day.

Much earlier in the game before the famous trick touchdown resulted, Georgia trailed Florida 7-0 midway through the second quarter.  With the Bulldogs facing 3rd-and-6 at the Gators' 31-yard line, the "Appleby to Washington" trick play was called for the first time in the contest, except rather than Appleby passing, it was designed for another tight endjunior Steve Davis, who had been a highly-recruited quarterback out of high schoolto do the throwing.

"It was the exact play Richard would run, except instead of running left to right, I took the handoff from [quarterback] Matt [Robinson], running from my right to left," Davis informed me when I interviewed him for my latest book on UGA football. "It had rained really hard leading up to the game and seemingly stopped right before kickoff.  So, and this is also how the play differed from Richard's, when I planted to throw the ball to Geno (Gene Washington), I slipped down on the wet field, losing about four or five yards."

Davis admits his failed end-around pass was kind of embarrassing, but he quickly got over it, adding, "Think about it, if I'd completed the pass, or maybe even gotten a throw off before slipping, there's likely no 'Appleby-to-Washington' to win the game."

A year later in his final game as a Bulldog, Davis would finally get his chance to get off a trick pass.  Against Pittsburgh in the Sugar Bowl, running the same Appleby-to-Washington-type play, Davis threw a bomb that according to ABC-TV announcer Keith Jackson was "right on the money." However, instead of Washington catching it for a touchdown, he let the ball slip through his hands in an eventual 27-3 loss.

The trick pass play has been around at Georgia essentially since the departure of legendary Charley Trippi. With the exit of Trippi, who averaged 11 pass attempts per game as a senior in 1946 from his halfback position in Georgia's T-formation, the Bulldogs' offense instantly changed forever, where the only position primarily designed to throw the football was the quarterback.  Going forward, a pass from anyone else was considered rather uniquea trick pass.

If no rain-soaked Gator Bowl field in 1975, may-
be no Appleby-to-Washington to defeat Florida.
From what I gathered, following the transformation of Georgia's offensive strategy, halfback John Donaldson executed the program's first notable trick pass playa 40-yard completion early in the 1947 season.  While it's said you can't teach an old dog new tricks, Donaldson's pass thus began a trend of many a Dog pulling what is now an old trick.  

Against Florida in 1959, eventual-Pro Bowl punter Bobby Walden, who was also a standout halfback at Georgia, completed the Bulldogs' first trick pass for a touchdowna 14-yard halfback toss to Gordon Kelley executed as an icy rain fell in Jacksonville during a 21-10 win by the Bulldogs en route to an SEC championship.

With Coach Vince Dooley's arrival in 1964, Georgia fans for the next quarter-century got used to what was regarded as a conservative offense. However, as cautious as the Bulldog offense operated under Dooley, it routinely had a surprise for opposing defenses, especially in the form of a pass.

Playing for a newly-integrated program while ironically head-coached by the aforementioned Donaldson, running back Horace Kingone of the first five black players to sign with Georgiawas responsible for the first points in the first game of the Georgia freshman team's 1971 season by throwing a 38-yard touchdown on a halfback pass to Jerry Paul against Clemson.  In the 33-3 victory by the Bullpups over the Cubs, King also added 143 yards rushing and a touchdown.

Early the following season on the same afternoon he became the first African American to score a touchdown in UGA varsity football history, King completed a 25-yard pass in a victory over NC Statea "halfback pass [which] really hurt," according to Wolfpack head coach, Lou Holtz.  In the opening game of his senior campaign against Oregon State, King threw a 28-yard touchdown to Butch Box.

Of the more than 50 Bulldogs beginning in the 1940s to the present to pass for more than 100 yards for a career, King (119 passing yards) remains the only one not to play the quarterback position. Including his freshman season with the Bullpups, he remarkably threw for 157 yards on 15 pass attempts and two touchdowns while at Georgia from 1971 to 1974.

A few years after King and then Appleby-to-Washington, receiver Amp Arnold became the next Bulldog to pull off a successful trick pass play for a score, and against the Gators, no less. In Jacksonville in 1978, Arnold's 44-yard touchdown pass to Lindsay Scott was the difference in a 24-22 Georgia win. 

Notably, the trick pass play isn't for everyone, not even the greatest Bulldog player of them all.  Tailback Herschel Walker was 0 for 2 passing while at Georgia, first attempting what looked like a wounded duck against Notre Dame in the 1981 Sugar Bowl followed by throwing an interception against Kentucky the next season.

During the Jim Donnan regime, running back Patrick Pass was indeed a threat to pass, going to the air in three of his four seasons (1996-1999), totaling 86 yards on 3 of 5 passing.  Besides Pass and other offensive players, the head coach added a wrinkle to the trick pass by also implementing it on special teams as early as his first season at Georgia.
Attempting a halfback pass against the
Auburn freshman team in '71 is Horace

Kingking of the trick pass play at UGA.

During the 1996 season at Mississippi State, punter Dax Langley lofted a 38-yard completion which was described as "wobbly," and one which seemed to hang in the air "forever"so much that his teammate on the receiving end, Hines Ward, was quickly tackled from behind inside the opposing 10-yard line after having to literally stand and wait on the toss to arrive to him.

"My pass might not have been pretty, but it was better looking than the sight of Hines getting caught from behind," Langley joked when I interviewed him for the same book. To date, Langley's trickery remains the only time in the last half-century a Georgia punter has completed a pass attempt.

During the same game in Starkville and a year removed from playing quarterback, Ward threw a 19-yard touchdown to Larry Brown on a receiver-reverse.  A season later in 1997 against Florida, it was Ward-to-Brown again for nearly 30 yards on the opening drive of the monumental 37-17 upset over the Gators.

In 2005 against Florida, quarterback Joe Tereshinski, who was filling in for an injured D.J. Shockley, made an unforgettable leaping touchdown catch of a 9-yard halfback pass from tailback Thomas Brown (during a forgettable passing performance by Tereshinski, ending in a heart-breaking 14-10 loss).  

Finally, the history of Georgia's trick pass play wouldn't be complete without mentioning the only Bulldog to complete more than one trick pass for a touchdown in varsity actiontailback Tim Worley. During his run for the Heisman Trophy in 1988, Worley attempted three halfback passes, the last of which fell incomplete against Florida. Nevertheless, the Worley-led Bulldogs walloped the Gators that afternoon, 26 to 3, while the star tailback's misfire followed a 9-yard scoring pass from him to Troy Sadowski against TCU earlier that season and a 27-yard touchdown toss to John Thomas versus Ole Miss. 

Upon completion of the Florida game and until the tail end of the season, Worley remained a legitimate contender for the Heismana campaign which had been established when his trick-passing prowess, like Arkansas' Tretola 26 years later, caught the nation's attention in October.

Like Worley, Gurley, the other aforementioned, and the additional notable tricksters below, the next player to join the distinguished list of trick-pass-play Dawgs is anyone's guesssurprise!
  • 1967 vs. Georgia Tech: the great Jake Scott, positioned at holder, throws incomplete off a fake field goal.
  • 1978 vs. Kentucky: tailback Willie McClendon 33-yard completion to Amp Arnold during a furious rally to defeat the Wildcats 17-16 after trailing, 16-0.  
  • 1989 vs. South Carolina: fullback Brian Cleveland 30-yard completion.
  • 1990 vs. Alabama: tailback Larry Ware two-point conversion pass to Chris Broom, cutting the Tide's lead to 16-14, which allowed Georgia to later win the game with a field goal.
  • 1994 vs. Georgia Tech: freshman running back Hines Ward throws incomplete on his first collegiate pass attempt; however, it makes for good practice as Ward would close the following season as Georgia's starting quarterback.
  • 1997 vs. Tennessee: holder Drew Cronic completes a 21-yarder to Patrick Pass off a fake field goal; nevertheless, the Bulldogs had been faced with 4th down and no less than 26 yards to go.  
  • 1998 vs. Georgia Tech: receiver Michael Greer completes a 68-yarder to Larry Brown for a touchdown; the play remains the last Georgia trick pass to cover more than 50 yards.
  • 2003 vs. Auburn: receiver Michael Johnson throws a 40-yard completion to Fred Gibson on an apparent reverse; Johnson catches a 19-yard touchdown from David Greene on the very next play.  
  • 2012 vs. Alabama: tight end Arthur Lynch, playing the protector position in punt formation, completes a 16-yard trick pass in the SEC title game to cornerback Sanders Commings, who was positioned as a lineman.
  • 2013 vs. North Texas: it was Lynch on the receiving end of a 42-yard completion from Rantavious Wootenlikely satisfaction for the fifth-year senior receiver who had misfired on a trick pass attempt the year before.

October 29, 2014

When Les Is More

Miles' mark representing late-game success
is no laughing matter. Richt's on the other hand...
You too may have seen the same staggering statistic ESPN showcased while recapping LSU's fourth-quarter comeback win over Ole Miss last Saturday night: since he became the Tigers' head coach in 2005, Les Miles has actually won more games than he has lost when trailing entering the fourth quarter. 

According to the ESPN graphic, the top four teams in winning percentage when losing entering the 4Q from 2005 to the present

.511- LSU (24-23)
.346- Texas (18-34)
.300- Ohio State (9-21)
.292- Boise State (7-17)

After the astonishment had worn off that a team could be so much better at winning games late than everyone else over nearly an entire decade, I was next surprised Miles had actually entered that many fourth quarters losing to his opposition. Forty-seven games trailing in the 4Q equates to about five annually, or 37% of the head coach's games since he's been at LSUa rather high percentage considering Miles has guided the Tigers to an overall winning percentage of around 80%.

As I like to do, I wanted to figure the same for our Georgia Bulldogs, and not only since 2005, but for the last 50+ seasons covering the last four head-coaching regimes.  First, the percentage of his total games each UGA head coach trailed entering the 4Q:

31%- Dooley
44%- Goff
37%- Donnan
26%- Richt

It just so happens that the ranking of coaches lowest to highest by percentage of games losing entering the 4Q is the exact same listing of the coaches by winning percentage (Richt-Dooley-Donnan-Goff), which certainly makes sense. Next, and most telling, the winning percentage and record of the four head coaches when trailing entering the 4Q:

.313- Dooley (26-59-3)
.153- Goff (5-30-1)
.318- Donnan (7-15)
.196- Richt (9-37)

Notably, both Dooley and Donnan's late-game mark would rank an admirable 3rd if compared to the top four programs since 2005 in fourth-quarter success. As for Goff and Richt, not so much.

Specifically, Richt's teams since 2005 when trailing entering the 4Q have won just 6 of 35 games, or a winning percentage of only .171, which my guess is wouldn't even crack the nation's top 50, much less be among college football's best.

It may appear on this blog that my nerdy statistical comparisons at times are an attempt to "pile on" Coach Richt; I receive the complaining emails saying as much. However, as they say the "numbers never lie" (speaking of ESPN...).

Nevertheless, Georgia has experienced fourth-quarter success in the past, resulting under two different head coachesone tenure lasting for a quarter-centuryboth of which, although not on the level of Coach Miles, would rival the very best since 2005 in late-game comebacks.

Evidently, with Dooley and Donnan at the helm, if the Dogs were down entering the final quarter, they still had a legitimate shot at a victory. However, seemingly under Richt, if Georgia is trailing entering the 4Q, like during the Goff years, you probably might as well chalk it up as a loss. 

October 28, 2014

We Love the WLOCP

You know this game has always been called the World’s Greatest Cocktail Party, do you know what is gonna happen here tonight, and up in St. Simons and Jekyll Island, and all those places where all those Dawg people have got these condominiums for four days? Man, is there going to be some property destroyed tonight!
—Larry Munson 

How do we Bulldogs describe the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, or the annual Georgia-Florida football game in Jacksonville and its surrounding days of partying? The easiest way to describe it is for you to simply go experience it for yourself. It’s something every football enthusiast should go do at least once in their lives, and if you do indeed have the experience, it likely won’t be your last trip to Jacksonville in late October-early November.

Perhaps the best way to describe Georgia-Florida weekend where the “weekend” is as long as four or five days for a good portion of Bulldogs followers is by the time Saturday finally arrives, many of us have nearly forgotten that there is actually a football game to be played.

Thus, the Bulldogs and Gators battling it out on the gridiron is only a small part of the Cocktail Party, which actually is a series of parties. The partying lasts for days and stretches for roughly 125 miles from St. Simon’s Island in Georgia to the north to Florida’s St. Augustine to the south, while leaving the fans of the losing team exclaiming an outcry that can be traced back in the rivalry for nearly 40 years: “We might have lost the game, but we’ll win the party!”

WHY JACKSONVILLE?
Outsiders to the Georgia-Florida rivalry often wonder why the game is played at an off-campus site and why particularly in Jacksonville, especially considering the “neutral” city is approximately 250 miles further from Athens than Gainesville. In the beginning, it’s evident that no one could determine the permanent site of the game, as four different cities hosted the series’ first four meetings. In the rivalry’s first 13 games over 30 seasons, from 1904 to 1933, not once was it held at the same site in consecutive years.

Played in 1904, the game’s first site was Central City Park in the city of Macon, Georgia. Like the game of football, the location of Georgia-Florida would soon change drastically and repeatedly, yet it’s interesting to note that the foundation of the Cocktail Party was already being built. Leading up to the initial meeting of the schools, Macon’s Telegraph stated, “The social side of the game will be a feature. Football has ever been the favorite of the ladies and doubtless will continue to be.”

In 1933 Jacksonville’s Fairfield Stadium hosted the Georgia-Florida game, and like the three previous meetings in the city, the contest was a complete sellout. It was decided then that because of the large crowd and since the two teams and their fans could easily reach Jacksonville by train, the following year’s game would be held at Fairfield Stadium, as well. 

In the early era of the sport, several rivalries, particularly in the South, usually met at a neutral site since the teams’ on-campus stadiums could not accommodate a large crowd. In fact, for a quarter-century, Georgia would face rival Auburn annually in neutral Columbus, Georgia only a week or two after playing Florida in Jacksonville. However, by the late 1950s, Columbus’ Memorial Stadium could no longer hold the number of spectators the Georgia-Auburn game was attracting, and the yearly meeting was moved to the home stadiums of the two schools.

Since 1933, except for a two-year period during the mid-1990s, when the Gator Bowl was being renovated, Georgia-Florida has remained in neutral Jacksonville. Currently, it is one of only two annual games in college football played at the same neutral site every year. The other is the Oklahoma-Texas rivalry—the “Red River Shootout,” or “Red River Rivalry” if you prefer to be politically correct—which takes place during the State Fair of Texas.

So, how do the last two remaining neutral-sited rivalries in college football compare to one another? For most Georgia fans, we haven’t the slightest idea. The weekend of Oklahoma-Texas, we’re usually in Athens or a place like Knoxville, watching our Bulldogs play. It’s hard to comprehend a football game at a State Fair, which prides itself on serving unusually deep-fried items. For most of us, a good party and a cocktail seem much more enticing than a huge Ferris wheel and a deep-fried Twinkie.

THE PARTY HAS JUST BEGUN
While the partying increased, so did the HATE.
Even before the start of World War II, the Georgia-Florida meeting in Jacksonville had already become an annual tradition. Just as anticipated as the game itself, if not more so, was the social aspect of the weekend, especially considering the performances by most of the Gators’ teams back then. Economically, the weekend was acknowledged as the biggest of the year for the city of Jacksonville, where the Bulldogs and Gators played a game on Saturday after the “spectators play one all night long,” according to sports writer Jack Troy in 1939.

“[The fans are] still up by the dawn’s early light,” said Troy. “There is no thought of sleep…if there is time, they go gaily to municipal stadium and see if they had figured things out.”

In the late 1950s, the annual event first came to be known by its distinguished title—the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Bill Kastelz, the editor of the Florida Times-Unioncreated the moniker but would use it just once in a column. Regardless, the nickname was soon picked up by other writers and the title stuck.

“All the other sports writers in the press box asked me why I wrote that, and I said because it was true,” said Kastelz in 2000. “There was drinking all over the place in those days. People would use their binocular cases to put a flask in there and drink very openly, and there was no crackdown.”

Prior to the 1960s, Florida Gators football was mostly about the parties rather than the team’s performances. The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party was brought to the attention of a national audience by writer John Underwood of Sports Illustrated, indicating that even “all the fun of the [Georgia-Florida] weekends could not make Florida fans happy with their lot.” 

Over the next decade or so, while Gators football started to slowly improve, the Cocktail Party was steadily growing even more in popularity.

HEYDAY OF THE COCKTAIL PARTY
The Spirit and "spirits" of 1976
By the 1970s, Georgia-Florida was viewed nationally as more of a spectacle lasting for days rather than a single football game. While the host city of Jacksonville had begun to devote months of planning for the weekend, some surrounding areas would prep for nearly an entire year for the pre- and post-game partying.

The rivalry was “the 100 proof bowl. The 2:00 pm happy hour,” said writer Ron Hudspeth just prior to the 1972 meeting. “The game with the extra touch of spirit and spirits. Hic.”

However, during this time, the week-long spectacle was evolving into something the city and its Gator Bowl had not originally planned for: the Cocktail Party was now fully overflowing into the stadium itself, while the crowd—split down the middle of the stadium according to rooting interest—had never been so raucous and inebriated, perhaps a little too much so. More and more Bulldogs and Gators fans were stuffing liquor bottles into every little nook and cranny of clothing prior to entering the Gator Bowl, and often in plain view of law enforcement without hesitation.

After Georgia’s memorable comeback victory over Florida in 1976, elated Bulldogs fans spilled into the stadium’s end zones and tore down both goal posts in what was thought to be the first time the Jacksonville stadium’s posts had ever been dismantled. A high school football game immediately followed Georgia’s win and the teams were forced to use a single makeshift structure as a goal post. The celebratory act by Bulldogs fans would eventually cost the Gator Bowl $2,695 for a set of new goal posts.

During the game in 1978, reports of gate-crashing by frustrated fans unable to get tickets surfaced. Groups of as many as 50 individuals rushed past ticket-takers or climbed fences to enter the stadium and join the party in the stands. When Georgia defeated Florida by a mere two points, some UGA students attempted exactly what they had done the last time the Bulldogs had defeated the Gators and tear down the goal posts. This time, however, they were met by a ring of police, preventing any fans into the end zone. For any student who happened to reach the field, he or she was soon tackled or beaten back away from the Gator Bowl’s newly installed goal posts.

EVIDENTLY, THE MAYOR WAS A GATOR
All that's missing from this shot of the Gators'
celebration of '84 is for those jeans to be jorts.
For six straight years from 1978 to 1983, Georgia defeated Florida and for each of the six occasions, Bulldogs fans attempted to rush onto the Gator Bowl turf, but to no avail. For some of those who tried to reach the field, they were met by Jacksonville’s finest, who would often make arrests and on occasion physically throw students over a dividing fence.

In 1984 Florida defeated Georgia soundly by a score of 27–0 for what seemed like the Gators’ first victory in the series in an eternity. Florida fans stormed the field, unearthed a newly sodded playing surface, tore down and dismantled both goal posts, carried them around, and eventually left the Gator Bowl with the goal posts in tow. Like previous years, police had been posted around the field to prevent fans from entering. However, during the mêlée, officers merely watched as the destruction took place and did not make a single arrest. Police restraint was exercised, according to a spokesman for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s office, “because the surge of fans was too great.”

Jacksonville’s mayor at the time and an apparent Florida fan, Jake Godbold, inexplicably stated that the city “would be tickled to death to pay for [any damages to the field]. If [the Gators] beat ’em like that next year, they can tear it down then, too.”

Much to the mayor’s presumed dismay, there would be no victory for the Gators in 1985, but instead a 24–3 Georgia upset win over a top-ranked Florida team. As the Gators had done the year before, Bulldogs fans attempted to rush the field following the victory by climbing over a fence; however, this time, the jubilant crowd was held back by police. Nonetheless, spectators would eventually open a gate and soon there was a red and black throng covering the field.

Jacksonville police did not exercise restraint that particular year as law enforcement took to the Georgia crowd wielding nightsticks. Numerous arrests were made while 15 fans were treated on the field alone for injuries suffered during the police-engaged chaos.

Entering the 1986 match-up, a “war on alcohol” was more or less declared in and around the stadium and security was greatly increased. This included the addition of police dogs, mounted police on horses, undercover law enforcement, reinforced fences, and, if necessary, even helicopters and marine patrol boats could be used. Apparently, lessons had been learned from previous years and drastic steps were taken by both teams and the city of Jacksonville to keep the Cocktail Party out of the confines of the Gator Bowl.

WHY NOT JACKSONVILLE?
The notion of moving the Georgia-Florida game out of Jacksonville periodically or entirely, and converting the rivalry to an on-campus series or one which includes an additional neutral site, like Atlanta, is nothing new. The idea was suggested as far back as the 1970s when the city of Jacksonville and the stadium’s handling of the game was first widely criticized. Specifically, price gouging by hotels, poor supervision of parking by police officers, and gate-crashing at the Gator Bowl, which had reportedly increased attendance by as many as 3,000 spectators above capacity, were all cited as primary reasons why the game possibly needed a new home.

The idea of moving the game was again suggested off and on throughout the 1990s and 2000s. However, instead of the host city’s management of the game being challenged as before, the actual “neutrality” of Jacksonville was questioned by Georgia supporters. As indicated, “The Bold New City of the South,” as Jacksonville is called, is a heck of a lot further south toward Gainesville than Athens.

Admittedly, for the Bulldogs backers who want to take the game out of Jacksonville, the primary reason for this sentiment—and if we’re being totally honest—is simply because of Georgia’s struggles in the series the last couple of decades. However, that’s not the city of Jacksonville’s fault or its stadium, rather players and coaching should be held accountable. Few Bulldogs wanted to take the game out of town when we defeated the Gators 13 of 16 times from 1974 to 1989.

Most Georgia fans want to keep this game right where it is. Besides the rivalry’s tradition and party-like atmosphere, both universities currently make more revenue from the game at its current location on a yearly basis than if the site rotated between the schools’ respective home stadiums. In addition, the week of the game is extremely lucrative for the city of Jacksonville, which stands to lose millions of dollars each year of not hosting the rivalry. As mentioned, the weekend is the biggest of the year for the city and has been since the 1930s.

Former Jacksonville mayor Hans Tanzler might have put it best when the possibility of moving the game out of his city was introduced to him in 1978: “Talking about moving, it doesn’t make any sense. It ain’t going to be moved. No. 1, it’s too valuable.”

The mayor would be correct in his assessment, at least for the next nearly 40 years. In 2009 UGA’s athletic board unanimously agreed to a multi-year contract, keeping the game in Jacksonville through 2016.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?
I concur.
Soon after the city cracked down on excessive drinking at the game during the mid-1980s, Jacksonville dropped its use of the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” title. In 2006 UGA President Michael Adams led a campaign to do away the phrase altogether. CBS Sports, who televises the game annually, and two other networks were approached and asked to drop the phrase due to concerns regarding alcohol abuse by attendees. Reportedly, preferred titles were the “Georgia-Florida Football Classic” or the “Florida-Georgia Football Classic,” depending on which school was considered the home team.

During the president’s campaign, his spokesman stated to the Associated Press: “We don’t like phrase. We don’t use the phrase. We would prefer that nobody use the phrase.”

The fact that Adams, or anyone for that matter, doesn’t use the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” is absolutely fine, but to suggest that nobody should use the title may be going too far. Many Bulldogs familiar with the rivalry have used the phrase since they can remember, and will continue to do so.

In reality, when CBS Sports was initially contacted about the issue, the network indicated that it rarely used the phrase to begin with, if at all. “[The phrase is] not part of the focus of CBS coverage,” said Leslie Anne Wade, vice president of communications for CBS Sports. “CBS coverage is about the rivalry and the competitive match-up of these two schools.”

The fact of the matter is that Georgia-Florida could be labeled the “World’s Largest Outdoor Ring-Around-the-Rosie Party,” and drinking—some of it binge, most of it controlled—would undoubtedly still occur outside the stadium. For most Georgia fans, the campaign to drop a phrase that had been around since most anyone could remember was believed to be yet another example of people in power attacking everything but the actual problem itself.

In closing, you can have your “Georgia-Florida Football Classic,” or whatever ho-hum label you choose. For Georgia and Florida fans alike, most undoubtedly prefer to use the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.”