There’s no better way to get in the mood for Georgia-Florida week than to look back at the rivalry’s storied past. (Contrary to what some Gators fans believe, that begins way before 1990.)
And one natural result of looking back is thinking about favorite plays. Of course, the two big plays against the hated Gators that always come to mind first for Bulldogs fans are the “Run, Lindsay” touchdown pass from Buck Belue to Lindsay Scott in the 1980 national championship season, and the Richard Appleby-to-Gene Washington fake end-around TD pass from 1975, both of which featured legendary calls by Larry Munson. (“Thinking of Montreal … the girders are bending!”)
But I have quite a few other personal favorites from this series, going back to Vince Dooley’s first season in 1964, the year I truly fell in love with Georgia football, when “little” Bobby Etter, the placekicker, became the unlikely UGA hero.
I remember coming home from a Boy Scouts patrol meeting and turning on the radio (the game wasn’t telecast in those days). By the fourth quarter, the game was tied 7-7 when Etter prepared to attempt a field goal, only to see a the snap muffed and the ball come rolling back toward him. The diminutive kicker scooped it up and proceeded to run it in for a touchdown, then kicked the PAT. Georgia won 14-7.
A couple of years later, the undefeated Gators entered the 1966 game in Jacksonville with a chance to clinch a share of what would have been their first SEC championship. Their senior QB, Steve Spurrier, was the favorite for the Heisman Trophy (which he ended up winning), but on this day a Dawgs defense led by Bill Stanfill harassed the Florida QB all day, forcing him to throw three interceptions.
One of those picks was snagged by my favorite Bulldogs player of the era, All-American safety Lynn Hughes, who had started out as one of Dooley’s quarterbacks before switching to defense (and whose Atlanta Journal subscription I delivered on a daily basis at the old Town House Apartments on Lumpkin Street in Athens). Hughes picked off a Spurrier pass and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown to give Georgia a 17-10 lead. The Dogs won 27-10, took the SEC title, and many observers place the origins of Spurrier’s hatred of the Red and Black on that day.
Another personal favorite came in 1985, when the Gators entered the game undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the nation for the first time ever. However, Georgia pulled off a big upset, winning 24-3, thanks to freshman running backs Keith Henderson and Tim Worley, both of whom ran for over 100 yards that day, with the highlight being Worley’s 89-yard touchdown romp.
Then there was the 1997 win by a Jim Donnan-coached Georgia team during the period of Florida dominance in the series. My favorite play from that one was when the Dogs’ Robert Edwards took a toss sweep out to the corner and then shot free, tightroping the sideline as he ran 37 yards to score. Edwards had four touchdowns that day as Georgia won 37-17.
Mark Richt’s first win over the Gators came in 2004. Georgia was leading 24-21 in the fourth quarter and was facing a critical third down in the red zone, when Fred Gibson made a spectacular catch in which he reached out and seemed to secure the ball by his fingertips in traffic before scoring a 15-yard touchdown that locked in the win.
Which brings us to 2007. If you ask most Georgia and Florida fans, their indelible memory of that game is the “Gator Stomp” celebration in the end zone by the entire UGA team after Knowshon Moreno scored on a Herschel-esque dive over the scrum of linemen for the Dogs’ first touchdown of the day.
But my personal favorite play came later in the game, when Moreno, who ran for 188 yards that day, took a second-quarter handoff, tried the right side of the line, finding no daylight, and then changed direction to the left and slashed through the Gator defense for a 10-yard touchdown run. To me, that was the play that marked Knowshon as a true star.
I have a couple of favorite plays from the Dogs’ 2011 win over the Gators: a pair of high-pressure fourth-down touchdown passes from Aaron Murray to Tavarres King and Michael Bennett. The King catch, in particular, was remarkable, as he had to go up high to outfight a defender for the ball.
The next year, Florida entered the game again undefeated and highly ranked (No. 2), but the Dogs came out on top thanks to two favorite plays. Murray had had a rough game until he finally connected with Malcolm Mitchell on a 45-yard touchdown with 7:11 left in the game to put the Dogs up 17-9. Mitchell’s run after the catch was a thing of beauty.
But arguably the most important play of the game came with a couple of minutes left on the clock as Florida threatened when Jarvis Jones stripped the ball out of Gator receiver Jordan Reed’s hands at the Georgia 5-yard line and Sanders Commings recovered it in the end zone to preserve the win.
So, those are my favorite plays from Georgia-Florida, though that’s by no means a comprehensive listing of Bulldogs highlights from the series. You might prefer the 84-yard Matthew Stafford-to-Mohamed Massaquoi TD pass from 2007. Or Herschel Walker’s four-touchdown day against the Gators in 1981. Or, if you’re old enough, you might have warm memories of Charley Britt’s 100-yard pick-6 in a 21-10 Georgia win during the 1959 SEC Championship season. Georgiadogs.com has posted plays from its own top five Georgia-Florida games.
What are your favorite plays from the Georgia-Florida series? Feel free to share your memories in the comments.
Go Dogs! Beat Florida!
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg