Revisiting the heartbreak of the Dog House of Pain

Herschel Walker's great career ended on a losing note in a definite House of Pain game. (File)

Herschel Walker's great career ended on a losing note in a definite House of Pain game. (File)

As much as college football fans love to relish great wins from the past, they also can’t help reliving the big ones that got away. It’s an intrinsic part of sports, as the old ABC “Wide World of Sports” opening so vividly summed up with the line about the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

Along those lines, ESPN.com has been revisiting what it calls the House of Pain, with a list of the 50 most painful outcomes in college football history. Now, any loss is painful to a fan, especially games like the Dogs losing to Vandy in Athens in 2006. But that’s not what ESPN was going for here. Rather, they’re talking about losses where the stakes were high, the rivalry was intense and the pain and humiliation was long-lasting.

It’s only been a couple of years, but the 2008 “blackout” game against Alabama is more like it.

Still, there’ve been games for the Dogs that were higher on the heartbreak scale than the loss to Bama. ESPN’s SEC blogger, Chris Low, came up with his own list of most agonizing losses for each conference team, and interestingly Georgia figured in another one besides its own. For Florida, Low picked the Dogs’ 27-10 win over the Gators in 1966 when Vince Dooley’s team dashed eventual Heisman winner Steve Spurrier’s hopes of an SEC title.

For Georgia, Low’s choice of most agonizing loss is hard to argue with: Penn State’s 27-23 victory in the Jan. 1, 1983 Sugar Bowl, a virtual national championship game that matched the previously undefeated, No. 1-ranked Bulldogs against the No. 2 Nittany Lions. As Low noted, “Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker played his final game for the Bulldogs and didn’t have a run that was longer than 12 yards.”  Herschel did end up with 103 yards rushing and one touchdown, but Penn State’s Curt Warner ran for 177 and two scores and future SEC TV analyst Todd Blackledge clinched the win with a touchdown throw to Gregg Garrity.

Sure, losing the national championship in that game hurt, but the Nittany Lions got out to a 20-3 lead and the Dogs never really got on track. The final result wasn’t that big a surprise.

So you could make the case that there’ve been more agonizing losses for the Dogs that made up in closeness what they lacked in national import.

For instance, a personal sore spot is the 1993 loss to the Gators by a mediocre Georgia team. On a miserable rainy day in Jacksonville, Eric Zeier led the Dogs back to what appeared to be the game-tying touchdown with just 5 seconds left, only to have one of the officials reveal that he had read the mind of a Florida cornerback who wanted to call timeout just before the ball was snapped. A pass interference call on the Gators on the next play gave the Dogs one last chance after time had expired but Zeier threw incomplete and Florida won 33-26. That one still rankles.

Or how about the Jan. 1, 1982, Sugar Bowl against Pittsburgh, a game where the lead was swapped five times. It wasn’t for the national championship, but No. 2 Georgia finally lost to the No. 8 Panthers when Dan Marino threw a 33-yard touchdown pass with 35 seconds left for a 24-20 win.

Another game residing in the Dog House of Pain is the 1999 grudge match against Georgia Tech in Atlanta. On a day when almost no defense was played, the score was tied 48-48 in the closing seconds of regulation and an official ruled that the Dogs’ Jasper Sanks fumbled at the goal line, although replays clearly showed Sanks was down before the ball came loose. Tech went on to win the game 51-48 in overtime. A lotta pain there.

And then there’s the 2002 game in Jacksonville when a clearly superior Georgia team went 0-13 on third-down conversions against a struggling Ron Zook Gator team. With Florida leading 20-13, Georgia had a chance to tie the game when David Greene threw to a wide open Terrence Edwards at the Florida 30, but Edwards dropped the ball. The Dogs finished 13-1 and that loss probably cost Mark Richt his best shot at playing for a national championship.

House of Pain, indeed.

Do you agree with Low’s choice of the loss to Penn State as Georgia’s most agonizing, or does one of these other games hurt more? Any other game that you think belongs in the Dog House of Pain?

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205 comments Add your comment

dostadawg

August 10th, 2010
10:19 am

SsiGator, who are you to be calling someone a Moron?
Granted Emmitt’s last year was 1989 (his Junior year).
Florida fired Galen Hall and brought Spurrier and Jeremy
Foley on board, which would have been Emmitt’s Senior
year. Emmitt and Spurrier did not hit it off at all, and
Emmitt elected to vacate his Senior year rather than
play for Spurrier, and went with the draft.
Moron

back dog

August 10th, 2010
10:25 am

1980 loss to clemson,13-3 just turrible (yeah i know)

schmeckdawg

August 10th, 2010
10:42 am

back dog, that loss was in 1981. UGA was undefeated in 1980. Anyway, my worst loss and I am old enough to remember, is ALL OF THEM!!!!!!!!!

General Neyland

August 12th, 2010
11:21 am

Those who’ve referenced the the loss to UT in 1995 – I’d love to see a transcript of Munson’s call for the end of the game…..From UT’s side, it was one of John Ward’s greatest calls!

VA Dawg

August 14th, 2010
4:53 pm

The 2003 loss in Tiger Stadium where we completely dominated LSU and lost 17-10 eventually cost us a shot at a national title. How do you get inside the LSU 40 yard line 6 times in the first half and score 3 points? Billy Bennett, the most accurate kicker in NCAA history, misses 3 field goals in the first half? We win that, LSU has two conference losses, we play Ole Miss for conference title and dismantle them, then go on to play Oklahoma for national title.