Why any game against hated Georgia is ‘special’ to Spurrier

Steve Spurrier has "special" feelings about going up against Georgia. (Associated Press)

Steve Spurrier has "special" feelings about going up against Georgia. (Associated Press)

There’s probably a little extra spring in Steve Spurrier’s step this week, and it’s not just because his South Carolina Gamecocks are going for an unprecedented fourth consecutive win over the Georgia Bulldogs.

For Spurrier, this game is personal. It’s always personal with him against UGA, whether he’s wearing South Carolina garnet or Florida orange and blue.

As he noted recently when he was talking like a “Dukie” as he prepared his team to take on North Carolina, Spurrier has always loved a good rivalry game. As he put it: “It is a little special when you are coaching against a team like that, just like coaching against Georgia. The Gators and Georgia were teams that didn’t like each other very much. That’s a special game, too, so anytime you coach against a team that was a little special wherever you coached at, it remains a special game.”

When it comes to Georgia, though, it’s more than just a “special game” for the Ole Ball Coach.

He hates the Bulldogs with a passion. And with good reason.

Joe Litsch, who attended UGA back when Spurrier was playing for the Gators and later was a sportswriter for the Constitution, provides some background on Spurrier’s hatred of all things Red and Black in this firsthand recollection he sent in to the Blawg …

Ever since Steve Spurrier left the head coaching position at Duke University to return to his alma mater, the University of Florida, in a similar capacity, he has taken every opportunity to needle and take cheap shots at the Georgia Bulldogs. And, he was unbelievably successful with his superior coaching in what many longtime Georgia fans refer to as Georgia’s “down years” — when the Bulldogs were coached by Ray Goff and Jim Donnan. But Spurrier’s real hatred for Georgia began when he was a sophomore starting quarterback for the Gators (freshmen could not play varsity in those days).

It was 1964, Vince Dooley’s first year at Georgia, and everyone was amazed at the turnaround Dooley was directing in Athens. So, the Georgia aggregation rolled into Jacksonville, underdogs but proud dogs nevertheless. Spurrier was held in check and the score stood 7-7 in the fourth with Georgia lined up to try a field goal. The snap was fumbled, but kicker Bobby Etter, who weighed a whopping 120 if he had rocks in his uniform, had been a high school quarterback and he scooped up the ball, cocked his arm once, then took off for the goal line and scored. 13-7. Then, Etter kicked the PAT and Georgia had its first win over “Stevie Baby,” as the Florida swampers liked to call him.

The next year, Spurrier did manage to pull out a 14-10 win. But it was the following year, on Saturday, Nov. 5, 1966, that literally rocked ole Spurrier’s world — and it hasn’t stopped rocking since. We didn’t know then how big that EGO was. Florida was undefeated, heading (they thought) for their first SEC title and Spurrier had the inside track on the Heisman Trophy race. The Gators were lying in wait for the upstart Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs rolled into Jacksonville with only a 7-6 Friday night loss to Miami marring an otherwise perfect record. (In those days Miami played teams, especially the stronger teams on its schedule, on Friday, thus cutting down the preparation time for the visiting team.) And of course, for this game in Jacksonville, Spurrier and the Gators were favored.

Spurrier in his quarterbacking days for the Gators. (University of Florida)

Spurrier in his quarterbacking days for the Gators. (University of Florida)

The morning of the game there was the Georgia-Florida breakfast with died-hard fans from both sides, the coaches and a couple of bleary-eyed, hungover pep bands (I was a Georgia band member). I remember well Coach Dooley’s mournful speech: “The Bulldogs will be limping today but we’ll do our best.” Talk was that All-American defensive tackle Bill Stanfill had a pinched nerve in his neck (I personally think it just irritated him and made him meaner). But there was still All-American defensive tackle George Patton, ready to go.

There was also the rumor that Spurrier was to be the primary subject of a Sports Illustrated cover story; the game was merely a backdrop as he was the odds-on Heisman favorite. The magazine had dispatched a legion of photographers to cover his every move — and they did.  Both bands were on the field for the pregame national anthem, so we got a close-up look at the preacher’s boy and his strutting — now sportswriters call it swagger.

For two quarters, Spurrier looked pretty good — nothing spectacular — and his team did have a 10-3 lead when they broke for halftime.

Now, I do not know what Dooley and his stalwart defensive coach Erk Russell told the Dogs at half, but when they returned to the Gator Bowl field, they owned it — and Spurrier, too. He would drop back and Stanfill and Patton would be there with him. They literally mopped the field with him and the grass stains on Spurrier’s butt attested to that fact. Stanfill has very long arms and here he would come, waving one arm in the air and grabbing for ole Stevie with the other. In short, they ripped Spurrier a new one and shut out the previously high-scoring Florida offense. It was humiliating for a Heisman Trophy winner who had visions of an SEC title and maybe a national crown.

On offense, Dooley had another All-American tackle named Edgar Chandler, who along with a line that included the likes of Don “Heavy” Hayes and John Kasey, shredded the Florida defense and let speedy Kent Lawrence scoot through holes big enough for the team bus to drive through. And Georgia quarterback Kirby Moore was in total control.

When the clock ran out, it was Georgia 27, Florida 10! The Gators’ undefeated season was gone and so were any title hopes. And Spurrier was not featured on the Sports Illustrated cover!

Florida did manage an Orange Bowl bid against Georgia Tech, another undefeated team until the Yellow Jackets visited Sanford Stadium in Bobby Dodd’s final season, and Georgia easily won 23-14. Georgia went on to the Cotton Bowl and a 24-9 win over SMU. Florida and Tech played in what Georgia fans called the Lemon Bowl, and Spurrier has never been able to get the sour taste out of his mouth.

Sure, he did beat Georgia later on — with other players. But he wasn’t able to hang on to the brass ring himself. He had to stand on the sideline, throwing visors and watching other players do what he could not.

That four hours on a Saturday in 1966 is why he hates Georgia.

The best comment that November afternoon in Jacksonville came from Florida coach Ray Graves, who said he was sure glad Stanfill was not at full strength that day. He knew it could have been worse. And I imagine Spurrier did, too.

Thanks, Joe!

Tomorrow: What fans think Georgia needs to do to beat South Carolina.

Got something you want to discuss concerning the Dawgs? Or a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? Email me at  junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

157 comments Add your comment

usc81

September 6th, 2013
10:27 am

I remember when Spurrier was still coaching Florida, and Holtz was at SC. We had a “blackout” game, and got stomped by Florida. Spurrier said the ball was easy to see in the air against all that black. It was a dig, and it made me furious.
Now, I think we should change the name of the stadium to Spurrier Field. I can understand why all of you despise him so, but you have to admit, what he has done against the flagship university of a state with over twice the population, and probably 3 times the D1 talent is nothing short of amazing.
Oh, and how much more fun is the second week football season now that he coaches Carolina. He is great for college football. He wins with less talent, apparenlty within the rules.
Hail Spurrier, long may he grace the sideline of my alma mater, arrogance and all.

Say what you will

September 6th, 2013
10:31 am

I’m a fan of Richt, and think his best days are in the future. However, I have always wondered what
Spurrier would have done with talent such as Hines Ward, Garrisson Hearst, the two Strouds and Richard Seymour, Thomas Davis….all of the talent that Goff and Donnan had throughout their tenures, not to mention that of Richts’ first ten years. Yes, Spurrier is, on the field, arrogant and easy to root against if he’s on the other sideline. Put him on our sideline for the last twenty years and we’d have more than two SEC titles, I’d wager.

Say what you will

September 6th, 2013
10:45 am

and yes, the fire Richt crowd is certainly the minority and also extremely out of touch with reality.
UGA doesn’t and never has ‘ruled’ the conference outside of the three Herschel years. CMR consistently has us in the hunt for the title, and has almost always finished in the top twenty, several times in the top ten.

DawgNole

September 6th, 2013
11:16 am

NCDawg
September 4th, 2013
1:59 pm
. . . Get REAL people.
You underestimated Clemson. You bought a line of horse manure that says that teams DO NOT IMPROVE. Clemson’s defense is better than you thought but they still gave up 35 points and 500+ yards. They fought hard and they were AT HOME. I didn’t like losing but I was not embarrassed.
_________________________

Didn’t you also pick the Dawgs to win? Maybe that “you” should be changed to “we.”

Psom

September 6th, 2013
8:10 pm

Haha – All of you people are so stupid and lifeless.

Dawgtired34

September 7th, 2013
3:40 am

Time to put on our G-wear and go into the stadium later this afternoon.

That G will soon be replaced with an ugly “L”.

Hunker down ya hairy dogs and don’t let USC roll us for 4 in a row!!!!!

Fidlin1

September 7th, 2013
9:25 am

I’m a Dog fan and I LIKE Spurrier… I LIKE him to LOSE.