It was 30 years ago this month–yes you read that right–that Georgia’s football team began preparations for a season full of magic, surprises, and ultimately triumph as the Bulldogs went 12-0 and won the national championship.
In an unforgettable season filled with highlights thanks to the efforts of freshman running back Herschel Walker and so many others, one play will live forever: Buck Belue’s short third-down pass that Lindsay Scott turned into a 93-yard touchdown to give Georgia a stunning 26-21 win over Florida in Jacksonville.
It is, without question, the single most significant play in the history of Georgia football. That’s because the victory, thanks to an assist from Georgia Tech (which tied No. 1 Notre Dame 3-3 in Atlanta), moved Georgia into the No. 1 ranking in the next round of polls. Georgia would never leave that position as it closed out the season with wins over Auburn, Georgia Tech, and ultimately Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl.
Macon author Robbie Burns celebrates the 30th anniversary of the play with his new book “Belue to Scott! The greatest moment in Georgia football history.” The book is set to be on the shelves in early September.
Burns, a former public relations director at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, used contacts developed over a decade to interview over 50 people with some connection to the game. In the process he gives it a fresh outlook while uncovering some different angles to the game and to that play.
“This has really been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done,” said Burns, a graduate of Mercer. “I thought I knew a lot about the 1980 Georgia-Florida game when I started. But I learned so much.”
Burns interviewed a bunch of the Georgia people who played and coached in the game: Scott, Coach Vince Dooley, wide receivers coach Charlie Whittemore, captain Frank Ros, Jeff Harper and UGA owner Sonny Seiler, just to name a few. But he also took great pains to get the Florida side of this story. The agony that Florida felt by letting that game slip away has been an under reported part of the story–until now. For example: Did you know that NFL analyst Cris Collinsworth played in the game and caught a nine-yard touchdown pass?
“I have a lot more respect for those guys from Florida now because they were willing to talk about a game and a play that still troubles them a lot,” said Burns.
Burns talked to Mike Shanahan, who you know best as the former coach of the Denver Broncos and the current head coach of the Washington Redskins. But back in 1980 Shanahan was the offensive coordinator at Florida and had installed one of the first versions of the run and shoot offense with Wayne Peace at quarterback.
He spoke to Joe Delaney, the back judge in the game whose job it was to run with Scott down the Georgia sideline and signal the winning touchdown. He talked to Bobby Gaston, the lead SEC official, whose job it was to explain to Dooley why there was going to be an excessive celebration penalty after the historic play. Of course the mob scene that descended on Lindsay Scott in the end zone ranks with the biggest on-field celebrations of all time. If you’re a Georgia fan it was certainly worth a 15-yard penalty.
But Dooley, of course, was worried about the penalty giving Florida field position on the ensuing kickoff because there was still 1:03 left.
Gaston, who went on to become the SEC supervisor of officials, told me that after the touchdown the conversation with Dooley went something like this:
Dooley: What’s the penalty, Bobby?
Gaston: That’s going to be 15 yards, coach.
Dooley: Seems harsh.
Gaston: Yes sir.
Burns charts the flow of the game in Jacksonville but at the same time he keeps going back to the Georgia Tech-Notre Dame game in Atlanta, which played such a huge role in the events of the day. Georgia Tech’s 3-3 tie with No. 1 Notre Dame knocked the Irish out of the top spot and opened the door for the Bulldogs.
“It is one of the great historical ironies that Georgia got Georgia Tech’s help that day,” said Burns. “So as we’re telling the story in Jacksonville, every now and then we just pause and inject a segment we call ”Meanwhile, back in Atlanta.” People forget that the week before the Georgia-Florida game, Georgia Tech had lost at Duke (17-12). Nobody gave Georgia Tech a chance against Notre Dame.”
Burns is especially proud of the fact that he was able to get a host of pictures from the game that have never been published.
“We have the 4 or 5 pictures that everybody has seen,” said Burns. “But 90 percent of the photos only a few people have ever seen.”
It’s a quick, fun read of 128 pages with a lot of memories on each page. And if that is not enough, Burns was able to convince Larry Munson, who called this Georgia-Florida game and 41 others, to write the Foreword to the book. Munson’s immortal call of the play, where he screams “Run Lindsay!” ranks among the greatest radio calls of all time. And Munson tops off the emotion of the moment, which was considerable, by saying what was on the minds of every Georgia fan at the game: “Man, is there gonna be some property destroyed tonight!”
“I couldn’t imagine anyone else writing the foreword,” said Burns. “Larry’s call captured the feeling of that moment better than any story ever could.”
Burns’ publisher, H&H Publishing Company, is now taking pre-orders for the book at:
If you want to contact Burns directly about the book he can be reached at:
email@example.com or at (478) 737-6011.
I only have one question: Where did those 30 years go?
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