MEMORIES FROM PAST GEORGIA-AUBURN TILTS: Part II
1994 - The Little Man's Streak is Over
In my first visit to Jordan-Hare, the Little Man, Terry Bowden, had led the Tigers to 20 consecutive victories. However, on a night when it seemed that Georgia would never tackle Stephen Davis, somehow Eric Zeier guided the Dawgs to a tie, which was a moral victory at a time when we would take any kind of victory we could get. Other than ending Deddy's Little Boy's winning streak, the game was not that memorable. What was memorable was watching former Glynn Academy great, Bobby Wilkes, scalp two tickets from a fan at face value, sell them for $50 each, then parlay that $100 into more tickets that he rescalped for $150. He did this in the span of 5 minutes while walking to the gate. Mind you, Bobby did not need a ticket, he was just grifting the Aubies for sport. This is the man you want selling your junk on Ebay.
1996 - The Game That Wouldn't End
From January to August, 1996, I took and passed the bar exam, proposed to Leslie McDaniel, graduated Law School, traveled to Europe for 30 days with fellow law grad Chris Hall, came back in time for the Atlanta Olympics and started working at the Atlanta Law Firm, Hawkins and Parnell. I don't suppose much of this is all that relevant except the year (1996) and the part about proposing to Leslie. Because I was so clearly attempting to marry up, her acceptance of my proposal was not a foregone conclusion. However, having been hornswoggled, she accepted and we set our date for December 14 since the SECCG would be played on December 7, and with a new coach (Jim Donnan) at the helm, you had to leave that date open just in case. Actually, the point of this wedding discussion is that our engagement precipitated the absurd, albeit well-intentioned, Southern ritual of having your mother's friends host several engagement parties in your honor during the weekends leading up to your nuptials. Inescapably, a party was to be held in our honor on the same night as the Georgia-Auburn game.
The game was at Auburn during the afternoon. The party was to start at a time well after the game would end...or so we thought. Instead, an epic battle was unfolding that would change the face of college football forever. The Dawgs trailed 28-7 as the fourth quarter began. My dad was sound asleep in his chair, mumbling something about "should've hired Erk, should've hired Erk." Anyway, while my dad slumbered, the Dawgs awoke, scored 21 points and forced a tie at the end of regulation. At some point, Rip Van Winkle also woke up to learn that the Dawgs were battling back. Speaking of waking up, it was during the first over-time, that Coach Donnan realized that he had Robert Edwards in uniform and inserted him into the football game, fresh legs and all. It was all Robert Edwards and Hap Hines in the four overtimes until Georgia finally emerged victorious by the score of 56-49. As a result of the long long long game, the NCAA enacted the overtime rule requiring teams to attempt 2 point conversions beginning in the third overtime. Also as a result of the long long long game, we were late for the party, prompting my wife to enact a rule that parties should never be planned on days of Georgia games unless it is a party to watch the game. I love that woman! Would you believe that she helped me devise a sneaky plan to miss her cousin's wedding in October of 2002 so I could watch Georgia defeat Alabama in Tuscaloosa? Yep, I love that woman.
Major sidenote to the 1996 Georgia-Auburn game: the greatest photograph of any collegiate mascot in the history of athletic competition was taken on this day. Auburn wide receiver Robert Baker, learned the meaning of "Let the Big Dawg Eat."
2002 - 70-X-Takeoff
Get the picture, Georgia must beat Auburn to secure the SEC East and advance to the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta for the first time since its inception in 1992. Two weeks earlier, the nasty Gators had provided the only blemish of the season, erasing the Dawgs' fleeting hopes of a chance at the mythical National Title. Sound familiar? The game got off to an ominous start when Ronnie Brown scampered half the field for an Auburn touchdown. Georgia trailed 14-3 at the half and it would have been worse if Sean Jones had not picked two Jason Campbell passes. Very Hoage-ish.
During the gloomy halftime, Mr. Jerry Rothschild of Columbus, a very brilliant man, commented to me that we were getting beat at the line of scrimmage and asked me what I thought. He had a look of profound puzzlement and despair. At a loss for any existential, metaphysical, philosophical answer, I simply replied, "If we can't beat them in the trenches, then I guess they are just better than us." Upon hearing these uplifting words of encouragement, Mr. Rothschild actually smiled and said, "I had not thought of that." It was an "Eureka" moment. Suddenly, we simultaneously came to the realization that if our team was not good enough to win the game, there was precious little we could do to change the outcome. So maybe my comment was a little bit existential, metaphysical, philosophical after all. It was kind of like the final scene in Breaker Morant when, staring at the firing squad, the Brian Brown character says, "Shoot straight you bastards." We were fully prepared to face our misfortunate fate.
But the Dawgs on the field were not done fighting. Behind a career performance from Oklahoman Michael Johnson, Georgia steadily came back. Still trailing by 4, with time running out, on 4th and 15 at the Auburn 19, Richt called a play the Dawgs had never, ever, run in a game and had scarcely practiced. 70-X-Takeoff. I suppose they drew the play out in the palm of David Greene's hand, but somehow, at least two players knew what to do. Greene pump-faked towards Fred Gibson (the odds on favorite to get the ball) and lofted the ball into the left corner for a jumping contest between the 6'-4" Johnson and the much shorter Horace Willis of Auburn. We were seated in the opposite endzone, about 150 yards away with a line-of-sight right down the Georgia sideline. Sadly, I can never tell my grandchildren that I saw Michael Johnson haul in the pass because the players on the sideline all crept out a few yards onto the field and totally obscured my view. But, from the eruption of the Red and Black nation all around me, I knew that it was a night for "Old Lady Luck". The Dawgs escaped with the 24-21 victory and went on to secure their first SEC Championship in 20 years. How 'Bout Them Dawgs!
You can hear Larry Munson make the call by visiting http://www.larrymunson.com/.