Ray Goff: Best option quarterback ever?

Ray Goff is entering Georgia's Sports Hall of Fame. (University of Georgia)

Ray Goff is entering Georgia's Sports Hall of Fame. (University of Georgia)

Generally speaking, Ray Goff doesn’t come in for many accolades these days from Georgia fandom. It still hurts too much to recall the depths to which the UGA football program sank during his time as head coach.

But with James Rayford Goff being inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame tonight at the Macon City Auditorium, I think we ought to take a few moments to acknowledge some of the high points in the Moultrie native’s career before he was tagged as “Ray Goof.”

Goff’s playing career at Georgia is interesting because during all three of his years on the varsity (this was still when freshmen couldn’t play), he shared snaps with Matt Robinson and was known mainly as the “runner” while Robinson was the “passer.” For many fans, the memory of that time is as my brother Tim put it: “If it was third and long they would bring in Matt Robinson to throw it.”

As Vince Dooley recalled in his 2005 memoir, “When Ray came to Georgia … he had a reputation for being a great high school passer who couldn’t run very much. As it turned out, the opposite was true.”

And yet Goff was all-SEC and finished seventh in the Heisman voting his senior year.

Actually, operating in the veer, an option running attack, Georgia didn’t have to pass that much in those days. In fact, in the 1976 game against Auburn that clinched the SEC title, Goff played injured, couldn’t even lift his throwing arm and didn’t complete a pass, yet the Dogs won 28-0.

Goff was known primarily as a running quarterback but could throw. (University of Georgia)

Goff was known primarily as a running quarterback but could throw. (University of Georgia)

Dooley was pretty much spot-on in his estimation of Goff as “a great option quarterback.” My friend Rusty, who’s been watching the Dogs all his life, agrees. Goff, he says, “was the best option quarterback I ever saw. Perfect timing/decision making on pitch outs.” And, Rusty added, “he could actually throw the ball when least expected,” as during the 1976 season when his passes included touchdown strikes of 75 and 87 yards.

(At a Macon Bulldog Club meeting one year, Rusty recalls, fellow UGA QB Kirby Moore of flea-flicker fame was kidding Goff about his passing and Ray replied, “Well, at least I didn’t have to relay mine.” Not bad.)

With Goff and Robinson alternating at quarterback, the Dogs won the SEC championship in 1976 and had a shot at the national championship before falling to the Tony Dorsett-led Pitt Panthers in the Sugar Bowl.

I asked several longtime UGA fans for their favorite memory from Goff’s playing days and most of them cited the game in Jacksonville against the Gators, where the Dogs rallied from a 27-13 halftime deficit to score 28 unanswered second half points for a 41-27 win in the game immortalized for Florida coach Doug Dickey’s “fourth and dumb” call.

Goff was absolutely terrific in that game, accounting for five touchdowns as he passed for two and ran for three. He rushed for 124 yards on 17 carries and completed all five of his passes.

As my friend Scott recalls, “I still remember him going around end and some Gator grabbing his jersey, only to have Ray keep going in the days of tear-away jerseys.”

Goff was a superb option quarterback. (University of Georgia)

Goff was a superb option quarterback. (University of Georgia)

Other Goff highlights from that 1976 season include his 73-yard touchdown run in the Dogs’ 41-0 nationally televised rout of the Clemson Tigers, a 70-yard touchdown run in the lone regular season loss to Ole Miss, and a 63-yard scoring run against Vandy. Goff was named SEC Offensive Player of the Year.

We also should note that while Goff’s time as head coach at Georgia definitely was disappointing, it wasn’t without its moments. He lost his first two to Tech but then reeled off five straight against the Jackets. Goff was known as a great recruiter whose talent tended to underperform and it’s true that his talent-loaded 1992 team — with the likes of Eric Zeier, Garrison Hearst, Mack Strong, Andre Hastings and Randall Godfrey — probably should have won the national championship but lost close games to Tennessee and Florida. Still, they finished 10-2 and No. 8 in both national polls after beating Ohio State in the Citrus Bowl.

Goff’s 1994 team was a mediocre 6-4-1, losing to Vanderbilt and getting blown out by Florida, but that one tie (in the days before overtime) was a memorable one, ending Terry Bowden’s 20-game winning streak at Auburn. As one headline blared: “UGA beats Auburn 23-23.”

And then there was probably the biggest win of Goff’s coaching career in 1991, when the No. 6-ranked Clemson Tigers came to Athens for a nationally televised night game and were upset 27-12. It was quite a day. The Braves had wrapped up the National League West title earlier that day, setting the Sanford Stadium crowd off into a frenzy of tomahawk chopping, and then the Dogs took down the Tigers.

“It’s a great day,” Goff said after the game. “The Braves won and we won.”

It doesn’t get any better than that, and unfortunately for Goff there weren’t enough of those days in Athens during his time as coach.

But that shouldn’t overshadow the success Goff had has a player at Georgia. He was, and remains, one damn good Dawg.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

164 comments Add your comment

Donnan of a new era!

February 26th, 2011
11:36 am

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Donnan of a new era!

February 26th, 2011
11:37 am

The last “great” UGA coach was Vince Dooley. I can’t put Mark Richt in the “great” category because he’s never been anywhere near the national title game. Yeah, they were close in 2002 but close will never get you that cigar. I remember Goff as an ok coach but he was sort of a “good ole boy” who was never taken seriously. I do remember that he could actually beat Florida which is something that hasn’t been done consecutively in a long long long time.

Woof woof

Werd

WDE

February 26th, 2011
11:38 am

“As one headline blared: “UGA beats Auburn 23-23.”

Yeah, I remember that and how UGA fans were acting like they’d just won the national title. Of course, UGA would go on to be second rate and become Florida’s whipping boy.

Roger

February 26th, 2011
11:55 am

I love UGA, but Goff as an option QB still doesn’t compare with Lance McIlhenny of the old Pony Express days of SMU. No one had the reads and pitch timing of McIlhenny.

Older and Wiser

February 26th, 2011
11:57 am

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Older and Wiser

February 26th, 2011
12:01 pm

Ray Goff was a great player, and a great DAWG. It is about time he received credit and praise that is long overdue. And even as a coach, he got Georgia about as close to a national championship as we have been in the past thirty years.

Better yet

February 26th, 2011
12:01 pm

Andy Johnson

travis fain

February 26th, 2011
12:03 pm

I’d say chances are good that Ray Goff was not the best option quarterback ever. And I’m not sure it makes much sense to say a team that lost two games “probably should have won the national championship.”

Leedawg

February 26th, 2011
12:05 pm

Two words – Tommy Frazier.

smitty2434

February 26th, 2011
12:21 pm

Donnan of a new era! Not sure a 1-6 record can be considered actually beating someone

smitty2434

February 26th, 2011
12:21 pm

Donnan of a new era! Not sure a 1-6 record can be considered actually beating someone

Ceasar

February 26th, 2011
12:23 pm

The 1975 Ga-Fl game was the greatest in the series!!!

Frank Lane

February 26th, 2011
12:23 pm

the last great coach that UGA had was not dooley, it was Erk Russell. Look at Dooley’s teams after russell left.

Mark

February 26th, 2011
12:27 pm

While Goff was sniffing at a national championship (and that’s a stretch in my mind, they lost 27-3), Tommy Frazier played in 3 consecutive national championship, was named MVP of ALL three, and won two (their lone loss was by 2 points to FSU in a game they should have won. Gave up field goal with ~30 seconds left and then missed 45 yard field goal themselves. And didn’t they have a punt return TD called back for a penalty?)

Guys, it’s ok to be a dawg homer, but it’s not even close. Not only is Frazier the best option qb ever, he deserves to be in the talk for best overall qb.

Andrew

February 26th, 2011
12:29 pm

During a Bulldog Club meeting, I asked Ray Goff if he had planned anything special for the Florida Gators,who were playing Uga in Athens in the coming weeks. This was the year of renovations in Jacksonville. He answered me by saying ” I,m more interested in the next game with South Carolina,next Question!” That was the right answer,but maybe he should have considered Florida more, since they scored 53 points on UGA in Athens! Then came the Auburn game that year, where Goff chose to kick into the wind and Dooley fired him. I guess he had seen enough!

jim

February 26th, 2011
12:29 pm

@ travis – i think the point was that they should not have lost the 2 games.

old timer

February 26th, 2011
12:31 pm

They kept him as coach WAY too long.

old timer

February 26th, 2011
12:32 pm

Another one of those FRIENDS situations.

MikeyD

February 26th, 2011
12:35 pm

Goof wasn’t even the best option quarterback in this state… Ever heard of Tracy Ham? Case closed.

You're joking, right?

February 26th, 2011
12:43 pm

You can’t seriously type that Ray Goff was the greatest option QB ever, even with an attached question mark. The words “option” and “University of Georgia” go together like sauerkraut and anchovies — it just leaves a horrible taste in your mouth. If you want to discuss “The Option,” then visit the university in Statesboro. Georgia Southern has had its share of quality option quarterbacks — Tracy Ham, Raymond Gross, Greg Hill and J.R. Revere, just to name a few. If Goff had been a GSU during any of those men’s tenure, Ray would never have taken a snap as an option QB. Goff was a phenomenal recruiter, but an option QB? Surely, you jest.

DawgVoiceofReason

February 26th, 2011
12:45 pm

Bill,

Well said. Ray Goff deserves to be remembered for his glory days as QB at Georgia (although definitely not the greatest option QB ever, although maybe the best ever at UGA). Yes, he was a mediocre head coach. Remember that he was one of the youngest head coaches ever at a major university and didn’t even have experience as a coordinator, I believe. He should never have been offered the job; it wasn’t fair to him and it hurt all concerned. But, I liked him as a person of integrity and he definitely could recruit. I HATE it when I see people use his last name in a derogatory manner. The people who do that only betray their own lack of decency. He loves the University of Georgia and deserves to be treated with respect.

Pete

February 26th, 2011
12:57 pm

Oh, I don’t know, there were a few Oklahoma QBs who might have been a bit better, such as Jack Mildren, Steve Davis, J. C. Watts, not to mention a number of Texas and Nebraska quarterbacks.

Fidlin1

February 26th, 2011
12:59 pm

Ray was definitely the best option COACH we ever had. Really, a great guy to talk to and a great Quarterback. But seriously, as Frank Lane said the last best Coach we had was Irk. I ought to know, I slept at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

oldschooldog

February 26th, 2011
1:00 pm

Ray had a better career than UGA VIII.

Russ GATA

February 26th, 2011
1:18 pm

Goff was the best option QB at UGA ever. This article is not about NEB or Oklahoma but UGA. Surprise this is a UGA blog about UGA football. Freud called it Dawg Envy. Freshman were eligible starting in 1972. If you played on the JV as a freshman that still used up a year. No freshman redshirting then Andy Johnson was a senior in 1973
Goff had left 74,75,76.

tom

February 26th, 2011
1:19 pm

I was at that Clemson game in 1991. It was also the first start for Eric Zeier. The atmosphere in Sanford Stadium was the most electric I have ever witnessed. After a full day of tailgating with the Braves, the fans were ready for Clemson. I remember walking to my seat with my wife inside the tunnel and feeling the energy and saying, “Clemson has no chance tonight.” One of my favorite all time memories in Athens.

Uga the Ocho

February 26th, 2011
1:19 pm

Great to see Leslie Nielsen make a return from the grave…

Dawg89

February 26th, 2011
1:20 pm

Goff does have nice teeth.

Orson

February 26th, 2011
1:20 pm

Richt has had a top 10 recruiting class nearly every season at Georgia and has never won a National Championship, he’s practically even never won an SEC Championship.

Richt wastes talent far better than any UGA Head Coach.

why is this state so gah blah

February 26th, 2011
1:23 pm

Nobody cares Bill. UGA(y) has had ONLY ONE year in the sun and it was a FLUKE. It has had ONLY ONE decent player and he WASN’T even the best running back in the STATE. It is SO comical to read these posts…….what was Georgia under Goof, I mean Goff, 6-5? Do you people realize how much Georgia is laughed b/c of your obsession with this JOKE of a so called football team? I AM NOT A TECH FAN, I mean, what’s next, the best punter UGA(y) ever had?

cantondawg

February 26th, 2011
1:29 pm

Who was it that made the decision to hire Goff. He had never even been a coordinator before and it was obvious that he was overmatched for the job. UGA is one of the top 20 jobs in all of college football and we should have hired someone with some experience.

beenthere

February 26th, 2011
1:33 pm

1973 was one of the best recruiting years in Georgia Football history. Sylvester Boler,Gene Washington, Moon-Pie Wilson, Cowboy Parrish, Ray Goff and Matt Robinson
1973 was the first year that freshmen were allowed to play in major college football. As freshmen, Gene Washington and Sylvester Boler came in an saved Dooly’s job after a 0-3-1 start to the season that ended 7-1, with a win over Maryland in the Peach Bowl. Ray Goff didn’t play as a freshman because Georgia had a great quarterback in Andy Johnson.

.

peepants

February 26th, 2011
1:47 pm

Jemelle Holloway or Dee Dowis were the best i thought at running the option.

Vain Jangling

February 26th, 2011
1:49 pm

1976 was my first year as a student at UGA. I never went to class, but never missed a football game. There were a lot of great players on that team, and some genuine characters too. Goff and Robinson, Allan Leavitt, Kevin McLee and Willie McClendon, Cowboy Parrish, Moonpie Wilson, and others. The Dawgs all shaved their heads. And I’ll always remember the 21-0 whipping of Alabama and Bear Bryant. The party lasted until the early morning hours, and the police shut down Lumpkin and Milledge. Yeah, you’re right. I’m old.

Jay

February 26th, 2011
1:59 pm

You people who hate on ray goff don’t realize that he bleeds red and black like most never could.

F-105 Thunderchief

February 26th, 2011
2:05 pm

Ray Goff was an excellent player and the second best option QB I ever saw. Tracy Ham was the best.

Luck of the draw

February 26th, 2011
2:05 pm

Quarterbacks are only as good as the systems their coaches put them into. What about the greatest option Quarterbacks that could have been at UGA in Shockley, Gray, and Murray

Bronco Kolodkin

February 26th, 2011
2:13 pm

Freshman were eligible to play at major colleges in 1972, Goff began in 1973.

Andy Johnson was the qb in 1973.

Bright Idea

February 26th, 2011
2:18 pm

Ray Goff is a humble guy. When he was inducted into the Georgia-Florida Game HOF he asked, “For which team?” He still loves UGA and makes more $$$ than most Techies.

Tide Roll

February 26th, 2011
2:24 pm

Uga is the only program in America that has had FOUR in state Quarterbacks leave the state and lead their respective teams to NATIONAL TITLES. Homer Jordan Clemson, Sean Jones Ga. Tech, CHARLEY WARD, Florida State (Heisman Winner), CAM NEWTON Auburn (Heisman Winner). I would venture to say that any of these were better option QB(s) than Goff. What a history of futility!

Actually, ...

February 26th, 2011
2:25 pm

..,.Bronco is absolutely correct (and he stole my thunder…) – freshmen became eligible in 1972, which was my sophomore year in college – so, the last freshmen class to NOT be eligible was 1971, not 1972, which was Ray’s freshman year…

Geez, Tide Roll, ...

February 26th, 2011
2:26 pm

…since when is going to GT “leaving the state”…as you wrote “Sean Jones Ga. Tech”…

Gravy Train

February 26th, 2011
2:30 pm

Fire Bill King

woebegong

February 26th, 2011
2:37 pm

Tide Roll,

I know it is hard for a person from Alabama to learn geography, but believe it or not, Georgia Tech, is in the state of Georgia. Google it, if you still have a problem figuring it out.

DawginOH

February 26th, 2011
2:43 pm

About time Goff got some credit for the things he could do on the field. Congratulations on your well-deserved induction, Coach!

Meltdowns galore

February 26th, 2011
2:45 pm

Fire Dave Perno !

Tide Roll

February 26th, 2011
2:52 pm

If Auburn will just be patient and commit to the kid from N. Gwinnett, C.J. Uzomah, there will be another. This is unbeleivable. Ya’ll project these studs as Tight ends and DB(s). Every one but ya’ll just laughs. Richt is on record as evaluating Cam Newton as a Tight End!! His Sr. year Bobo goes to Missouri to land Logan Gray!! These things are hilarious! My Bad on Sean Jones. Uga has failed to Sign FOUR in state Kids that went on to lead their respective teams to NATIONAL TITLES !! If Auburn’s smart, Uzomah will be the Fifth!

Dontsufferfools

February 26th, 2011
2:55 pm

If Bama don’t poison Uzomah first.

VA DAWG

February 26th, 2011
3:16 pm

Bill I agree completely. I have always said he was the greatest option quarterback I have ever seen. Ray’s timing was impeccible holding the ball to the very last milli-second before pitching it and then in most cases taking a hard hit. Ray was and is a great Dawg and I too am angered when I see our fans disrespect him because of his time as head coach. He was dealt a bad hand when Dooley left being forced to keep all of Dooley’s assistants some of which were candidates for the head coaching job themselves. I never forgave Dooley for that even if he was trying to save his assistant’s jobs. Let’s face it he was an outstanding recruiter for coach Dooley and for himself as a head coach. He got us closer to a national championship than anyone since Dooley including Mark Richt. I felt his last season as head coach he did a masterful job of coaching with all the injuries we had and really deserved another year based on that. Congratulations to Ray Goff and here is hoping that our fans finally realize your contributions to the Dawg Nation.

ColumbiaDawg

February 26th, 2011
3:20 pm

The 1992 team might have been his best team, but it was that season that started Georgia’s downward slide and led to Goff’s dismissal in 1995. Those two losses were against the worst teams that Florida and Tennessee fielded that decade. Georgia had no business losing against them. It should have been Georgia, not Florida, playing in the SEC Championship.

One correction about Goff’s playing days. He was eligible in 1973, and was on the varsity squad for at least the Alabama game. Andy Johnson was still the starter that year.

Regardless of his coaching days, Goff is still one of the better players that Georgia ever had.