Former quarterback Buck Belue, whose name always comes up this time of year as Georgia fans remember the “Run, Lindsey!” play against the Gators in 1980, has had quite a bit to say on his blog about this year’s Dogs-Gators meeting.
Among other things, he thinks keeping Florida frustrated in the red zone early, improved blocking on the offensive line and getting the ball to A.J. Green are the keys to a Georgia win.
He’s also weighed in, as have many of us, on the SEC rushing touchdown record controversy as Tim Tebow prepares to eclipse Herschel Walker’s misleading official stats. Belue also notes that in three games against the Gators his teammate racked up 649 yards and 8 TDs, averaged 5.6 yards per carry, made 36 first-down runs, and had 17 runs over 10 yards. Walker averaged 39 carries and 216 yards against Florida.
But to me the most interesting of Belue’s postings sees him retracing the Bulldogs’ route to the old Gator Bowl from the Ramada Inn where the Bulldogs stayed in his day. He notes that when they crossed the Isaiah D. Hart Bridge over the St. Johns River, “it seemed so high in the air and gave you such an open view of the stadium, the river, downtown, and the packed area around the Gator Bowl. I always got a little jolt of adrenalin right there.”
And once at the stadium, he recalls, “There were some quiet moments in that old, tiny locker room. Just us. And you could hear the craziness outside. There was a big game to be played. And it was almost time to tee it up. As I scanned around the room, looking at those guys around me, I don’t remember ever thinking we were about to lose. We were all in back then. And ready to win. I loved every second of it.”
During Florida’s dominance in the Dogs-Gators series in recent years, there’s been a lot of talk about a Jacksonville “jinx” in the minds of the Georgia players and the fact that it’s not a “neutral” site. But the Bulldogs never thought that way in Vince Dooley’s day, as he told a new generation of players when invited by Mark Richt to address them the week before the 2007 game.
Georgia won the ensuing game in a big upset, of course, and afterward Dooley reminded the dancing, chanting Dogs in the locker room that he had told them there was no greater place to celebrate when Georgia wins than Jacksonville.
As recounted by Loran Smith at the time, Dooley said, “Our players always got excited about any game, but no game excited them like the Florida game in Jacksonville. They walked a little taller that week. They stuck their chests out. We always believed Jacksonville was just an extension of South Georgia. There was no more exciting place to play.”
That’s the way today’s Dogs need to think of Jacksonville.
HISTORY OF UPSETS
With No. 1-ranked Florida favored over the unranked Dogs by more than two touchdowns, the Florida Times-Union has an interesting feature on how the Georgia-Florida game (or the “Florida-Georgia game” as the Jacksonville paper puts it) has a history of shattering the dreams of the favored team.
It’s worth noting that of the examples they cite, all but one involve Georgia teams upsetting favored Florida teams.
The lone exception is the 2002 game, when Florida beat a decidedly more talented Georgia team 20-13. The Dogs won the SEC championship and finished 13-1 but didn’t get to play for the BCS championship because of that loss.
The other examples are more fun to remember. Of course, there’s the 1985 game, already covered here earlier this week, in which Georgia knocked off the No. 1 Gators and kept them from being able to claim the AP national title.
There’s the 1976 game, when both teams entered ranked in the Top 10 for the first time and a victory would have given the Gators their first SEC title, but Georgia won 41-27 and went on to beat Auburn and win Dooley’s third SEC crown.
The year before, Florida was undefeated in SEC play coming into the game and needed a win over the Dogs to earn at least a share of the title, but Georgia rose to the occasion, 10-7.
And the year before that, sixth-ranked Florida was 7-1 and already had accepted a Sugar Bowl bid and, again, was looking for the school’s first SEC title, but unranked Georgia prevailed 17-16 and the Gators proceeded to lose two of their next three games and finish 8-4.
Let’s hope that’s a lesson the current Gators learn the hard way.
CRACKING DOWN ON DISSENT
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive has taken another step to make it clear he doesn’t like public criticism.
The SEC announced today that its athletics directors voted unanimously that all violations of the bylaw forbidding coaches, players, etc. from public criticism of officials now will be enforced by suspensions and fines, effective immediately. The length of the suspensions and amount of the fines will be up to Slive.
Tennessee’s Lane Kiffin, who shut up this week after being reprimanded by the conference but let assistant Ed Orgeron continue to blast the sorry officiating in the conference, will want to note that suspensions and fines for violation of the bylaw by assistant coaches or other support personnel will be enforced against the head coach.
This isn’t likely to affect Georgia, as Richt and his staff have tended to remain pretty circumspect in questioning calls, even after the bogus flag in the LSU game.
Still, it would be nice if Slive put half the effort into upgrading the conference’s officials that he’s putting into muzzling its coaches.