We all know Georgia looked pretty bad against Central Florida in last week’s Liberty Bowl, giving the Dogs their first losing season in 14 years. But was it a loss of historic proportions?
My friend Mike thinks so. He e-mailed me the day after the game. Said Mike:
“My worst 4 losses:
Wake Forest ’79
33-0 to Kentucky in ’77
Admittedly, all those games were stinkers. But I told Mike I thought the 1974 Bulldogs’ 21-10 loss to Miami of Ohio in the Tangerine Bowl was worse than this year’s Liberty Bowl. The Dogs were coming off an absolutely humiliating 34-14 loss to Tech on a miserable cold, rainy day in Sanford Stadium when Georgia seemed helpless against Pepper Rodgers’ wishbone attack. At 6-5 most observers felt UGA really didn’t belong in a bowl game. (This was back in the days when you didn’t have more than half the teams in the country participating in bowls.)
And the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando — long before it morphed into the Citrus Bowl and then the Capitol One Bowl — was about as low as you could get and still be a bowl team. Originally reserved for small colleges like East Texas State and Kent State, it had only the year before started matching the second-tier Mid-American Conference Champion against an SEC also-ran.
But Georgia accepted the bid and before a crowd of about 20,000 proceeded to give the Redskins two easy scoring opportunities with fumbles (including one on the first play from scrimmage). Miami led 21-3 at the half and I couldn’t take any more, so my future wife and I spent the second half drowning our sorrows at T.K. Harty’s Saloon in Athens. The Dogs actually played better in that half, shutting out Miami and scoring a Ray Goff touchdown for a 21-10 final. But losing to Miami of Ohio in the low-rent Tangerine Bowl was a pretty sorry way to cap off a mediocre 6-6 season.
Of course, things got better after that, as Vince Dooley re-emphasized fundamentals, put the Dogs through a punishing spring practice, and Erk Russell recast his defense as the “Junkyard Dogs” and got the Redcoat Band on board, playing the Jim Croce song “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” from which the phrase came.
Georgia turned things around in 1975 with a 9-3 season, as Loran Smith pointed out in a column this week drawing a comparison with the losing season just completed.
“Sometimes it is difficult to ferret out the issues with a team that finds a way to lose,” Smith wrote. “This current Georgia team had that in common with the 1974 Bulldogs. Teams lose their edge, their killer instincts, but they can regain those intangibles.”
Dooley’s Dogs were able to do that by embracing hard-nosed football; it remains to be seen whether Mark Richt can pull off a similar feat.
So, anyway, while we’re wallowing in our misery, feel free to share your own nominees for Georgia’s worst games.
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