The G-Day game has always been a fan favorite. After all, as we liked to joke as kids, it’s the one game of the year Georgia is guaranteed to win.
I’m not sure when they actually started using the name “G-Day,” though at an auction a couple of years ago I saw a program from one of Wally Butts’ spring games from the early 1950s that was labeled the “Red vs. White” game. (As long as I’ve been going, the teams have always been called the Red and the Black, though only last season did the Black team actually wear black jerseys.)
The first G-Day I can actually remember attending was one of the early ones during the Vince Dooley era, when I went with my friend Chipper and his dad, who was part of the UGA press box crew. We actually watched that game from the press box and had fun fooling around on the old teletype machine. I remember a big deal was made of the fact that the winning team would eat steaks that night while the losers got beans and franks. I’m not sure whether that tradition is still around.
Over the years, there’s been at least one G-Night game held under the lights, and one year the game wasn’t held at all because of drainage problems at Sanford Stadium.
Dooley liked to play around with G-Day, often using celebrity coaches — usually along the lines of Atlanta TV personalities but sometimes bigger names like Brent Musberger and Pat Haden. In the ’80s, Dooley also started spicing things up by having the game feature the current Dogs against an alumni team rather than making it an intrasquad scrimmage. The alumni, of course, played it kinda loose, as in the first game when Kent Lawrence snagged a touchdown pass after slipping onto the field from the sideline. That looseness got out of hand in the 1989 game when the alums had about 15 men on the field and blitzed quarterback Preston Jones, injuring his wrist and ending his UGA playing career.
In recent years, the games have gotten more controlled, with no rushing of kicks and whistles blown whenever anyone gets near one of the quarterbacks. And, of course, now they’re televised.
Besides observing how far the quarterbacks have progressed since last year’s spring game and previewing Todd Grantham’s new 3-4 defensive alignment, what should we hope to see at G-Day this year? Well, we know we won’t see the full playbook — as Richt joked on Thursday, they’ll do this and that, but not the other. And we’ll have to wait until the fall to see Warren Belin’s new kickoff coverage schemes, as there won’t be any live kickoffs in the spring game.
Beyond that, with the Reds having the first-string offense (though the quarterbacks will shuttle between the two teams) and the Blacks having the first-string defense, there are differing opinions among fans about what constitutes a “good” G-Day showing. Do we want the offenses to run wild, as in the 34-21 game in 2007, or a yawn-inducing defensive affair like last year?
Besides, as Dancing in the Endzone points out, a good showing by the offense on G-Day has been a better omen over the past five years than a strong defensive showing.
Generally, you can’t read too much into what you see at G-Day, though I did note last year that with all the pressure the defenses got on the quarterbacks and some negative yardage plays by the running backs that the offensive line didn’t look as good as advertised — and that ended up being an early-season problem.
Still, whatever transpires on the field, it’s a fun day for fans — though considerably more fun when the weather is glorious like last year as opposed to some of the chilly, drizzly G-Days I’ve sat through.
Adding to the fun quotient will be the second annual alumni flag football game, which gets under way a little after noon on Saturday. They’re promising such names from the past as Ray Donaldson, Randall Godfrey, Spike Jones and Larry Rakestraw, in addition to some of the more recent players. And I hear Bobby Poss will again be manning the sideline microphone, drawling his in jokes and colorful critiques of his old buddies.
Admission is free, but be sure to bring some canned goods for the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia. And maybe some antihistamines, too, what with the crazy pollen levels this week. Seating won’t be allowed in most of the North stands because of construction on the Reed Alley improvements.
And don’t forget the Diamond Dogs’ Saturday game against Ole Miss at Foley Field has been scheduled for 4 p.m. to allow fans to attend after the G-Day game. It’s been a rough year for the baseball team and I’m sure a full house would lift their spirits considerably. (If you make it into downtown Athens, you also can avail yourself of the annual International Street Festival on College Square.)
If you can’t be there, the G-Day game will be shown live on CSS as well as ESPN3.com (formerly known as ESPN360) and GXtra online, and you can also catch it on the Georgia Bulldog Radio Network.
Meanwhile, have your say in the comments about what you’d like to see at G-Day, vote in the poll, or do both.