Up Next: Georgia Bulldogs
We’re gonna do our mid-week thing a little differently. Instead of one massive post as a game preview, we’ll break it up. First will be Up Next, a chance to pay a little homage to history as well as poke a little fun at the Vols’ upcoming opponent, followed later in the week where we’ll stick to the upcoming game in Game Preview.
The Tennessee-Georgia Rivalry
If the Auburn game for Tennessee was an intense rivalry dimished by the SEC reorganization in 1992, then the Georgia game is a rivalry renewed, or perhaps even created, by the same restructuring of our conference.
Think about this. Georgia and Tennessee did not play at all between the years 1938 and 1967. Which is why the 1968 Vol-Bulldog clash was such a big deal (more on that later). That was 30 consecutive years without a Knoxville-Athens matchup. Hard to imagine today.
Between 1968, when the rivalry was back on, and 1992, when it became an annual affair for good, the Dogs and Vols played four home-and-home series: ’68-’69; ’72-’73; ’80-’81; and ’88-’89. The Vol record is 3-4-1 during that span with some real classics. And I just realized this: Tennessee and Georgia never played the years I attended UT. And it still seems like it was a rivalry somehow.
But once the two Southern powerhouses became division-mates, these two programs have been going at each other hammer-and-tong, producing some great football and intense heartache for both sides.
The Vol-Dog Rivalry By The Numbers
- The series began on 11 November 1899 in Knoxville. Tennesse won 5-0.
- All Tennessee-Georgia games have been played in Knoxville or Athens. These schools have never played each other in a bowl game.
- The all-time series goes to Tennessee: 20-16-2.
- Since 1992 when the rivalry became annual, the advantage is Tennessee: 11-6.
- The biggest Vol victory was 46-0 in 1936, played in Athens.
- The biggest Bulldog win was 44-0 in 1981, played in Athens.
- The longest Vol win streak in the series is 9 games, 1989-1999.
- The longest ‘Dog win streak in the series is 5 games, 1909-1924.
- The highest scoring game in the series was the 2006 clash in Athens: Tennessee 51 Georgia 33.
- The last Tennessee shutout in the series was 1972: Tennessee 14 Georgia 0.
- The last Georgia shutout in the series was 1981: Georgia 44 Tennessee 0.
The Big Games
How do you define a big game? For me, it is that which is etched in the brain. In this series, it is 1968, 1980, and 2007.
1968: Much better than kissing your sister for the Vols.
Certainly for the middle-aged crowd, and probably more so for Vols than our friends in Athens, the 1968 game was meaningful and historic. It was a game played by two famous old football schools for the first time in 30 years. It was a game played on artificial turf in the Deep South for the first time (dubbed “Doug’s Rug” after Tennessee’s head coach), much to the dislike of Georgia’s AD. It was a game in which the first African-American played for either school: the Vol’s Lester McClain. It was a game featuring the last two SEC champs: Tennessee of 1967 and Georgia (co-champs) of 1966. It was a game coached by two very young head football coaches, both 36 years of age: Vince Dooley and Doug Dickey. But most importantly, neither team lost. No overtimes then. Jake Scott returned a punt for a Georgia touchdown and Bulldog RB Bruce Kemp ran 80 yards from the line of scrimmage for a TD. Vol LB Steve Kiner tackled Georgia QB Donnie Hampton in the end zone for a safety. And by miracle of sorts, the Vols, led by QB Bubba Wyche, scored a TD on a pass to Gary Kreis as time expired, and Tennessee converted on a two-point conversion with a pass play to TE Ken DeLong to get the tie: 17-17. And it all happened on national TV – a very, very big deal back in those days. As a junior high school student and budding Big Orange Fan, I remember it well. Georgia went on that year to an undefeated 8-0-2 season and faced Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl; the Vols lost only one (to Auburn) and went to the Cotton Bowl to face (and get soundly whipped by) Texas. A big year for both teams, started off by a mighty big game in the annals of Tennessee-Georgia football history. Read about the famous 14 September 1968 game in this article published last season, the 40th anniversary, in The Chattanoogan.
1980: Viewing a birth of greatness.
I can’t find any evidence of this, but I’m pretty sure I remember this accurately: Beano Cook, college football historian and commentator, picked the Tennessee Vols to win the 1980 National Championship.
Now before you break out in a laugh-fest, note that this was to be Johnny Major’s 4th season at the helm of the Vols who were showing steady significant improvement in his first three years (4-7, 5-5-1, 7-5), Majors had led the Pitt Panthers to the 1976 National Championship, and Beano Cook was a graduate and long-time employee of the Pitt athletic department. Thus, there was perhaps a reason for Cook’s prognostication, but it didn’t include any sound logic or intelligence – it was wishful thinking for a coach he liked and respected. But to be fair, Tennessee had talent, part of which was sheer speed: world-class sprinters Mike Miller, Anthony Hancock, and Willie Gault also played receiver for the Big Orange.
1980 turned out to be a big bump in the road (5-6) of Major’s resurrection of the Vol football program. But before anybody saw that bump, their was magic and anticipation in the air of a Knoxville late-summer night when Georgia came to Neyland Stadium. Not to mention the heat – it was a sweltering night (as I remember hearing later, the concessions ran out of ice during the game).
Herschel Walker was a third-team player entering the 1980 opener in Knoxville, and spent most of the first half on the sideline and didn’t do much when he was in the game, and the Vols were ahead 9-0. And when Tennessee went ahead 15-0 on a Jeff Olszewski TD pass to Mike Miller with 3:19 left in the third quarter, the noise was deafening in Neyland Stadium. However, Majors decided to go for two and the ‘Dogs stopped the Orange. No problem.
Until Bill Bates lost a Georgia punt due to a big hit, and the ball just squirted out of this player’s and then that player’s grasp until finally in rolled beyond the back of the endzone for a safety.
Now, it was all of a sudden within reach for Georgia.
And enter Herschel Walker. And he made the play that kick-started his career to immortality. Herschel took a handoff and ran 16 yards straight into the Tennessee endzone. And on the way, he ran over Vol LB Bill Bates who later went on to star for the Dallas Cowboys. And play with Herschel on the same team. Now I’m not going to give a link here so that Georgia fans can watch the hit for the 587th time – just go look for it yourself. It’s all over the internet. But Herschel Walker himself maintained that Bates wasn’t ready for the hit – he slipped before the contact. Whatever, it was an awesome moment in the history of football. It was the birth of Herschel Walker, one of the greatest football players of all time.
And it was the beginning of the end of Beano Cook’s dream of a Vol National Championship. The Vols took the Georgia kickoff, and two plays later, fumbled it back to Georgia, and Herschel ran 9 yards around left end for another touchdown. 16-15 Georgia. That’s where everybody’s memories seem to end.
But, the facts are that just a few minutes later, the Vols had the ball, first and goal, at the Georgia five yard line, poised to win the game back from Herschel’s heroics. First play, Nate Taylor’s helmet meets the ball, and Georgia recovers the fumble. And Georgia used that massive night under the Tennessee lights as a springboard to their second national championship, the championship that their first opponent was picked to win, at least picked by one lonely pundit.
2007: A good old fashioned ass whuppin’ that may have been good for both teams.
A story in the local paper questioned the attitude and direction of the Tennessee football team that week before the 2007 Georgia game at Neyland Stadium. The sources were anonymous former Vol players. Anonymous.
Yes, Tennessee was struggling, and the Fulmer era was winding down. But there were a few good moments left. And this game was one of them. And it happened largely because the published story was used as a galvanizing rallying cry for a team in trouble.
The Vols scored on four of its first five possessions. Georgia gained only two first downs in the first half and didn’t cross the midfield strip until the third quarter. The game was virtually over at the half, 28-0. Knowshon Moreno, Georgia’s heralded RB gained all of 30 yard rushing. The Vols’ Arian Foster and Montario Hardesty ran for 166.
The Vols went on to gain an improbable SEC East title, after winning thrillers over Kentucky and Vandy at the end of the season, only to lose to the favored LSU Tigers.
And Georgia, who stood only 4-2 after the big loss in Knoxville, went on a search and destroy mission for the rest of the season, winning their last 7 games, including a mauling of the nation’s darlings Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl. And, the Bulldogs finished the 2007 season ranked #2 in the AP poll.
Oh, what would have been had Georgia not have lost that day in Knoxville. But who knows? Maybe that game was a springboard for the ‘Dogs just as it was for the Vols.
My memory? After the game, my brother called. After I said hello, he said, “Well, there’s nothing like a good old fashioned ass-whuppin’ now is there?!?” I just smiled.
Now for a little fun.
A Dog Has to Look like a Dog to Be a Real Dog. But I Guess That’s Not True For A Dawg.
One of the great things about Georgia and Tennessee is that both teams have a dog for their mascot. Uga and Smokey. But, which one would you rather have? One that looks like a dog, or one that looks like a former British Prime Minister?
How ‘Bout That Registered Trademark?
How ‘Bout Them Dawgs!?! People, that is a registered trademark! If you don’t believe me, go root around the university’s website.
Now I hate to nitpick here, but dammit, they STOLE that from us! Yes indeed they did. “How ’bout them Vols” was our rallying cry, unfurled at the 1980 opener against Georgia. Don’t give me the details – Georgia won the game and went on to win the national title. Fine. But they didn’t have to steal our slogan, AND THEN TRADEMARK IT!
Fine, we took it from a movie, but at least the famous line in the movie was preserved. Remember Burt Reynolds about to rob a gas station in ”W. W. and the Dixie Dance Kings” when he asked the attendant, ”Hey, how ’bout them Tennessee Vols?” To which the attendant responds, ”Don’t give a dog ’bout no Tennessee Vols.”
I pronounce the registered trademark unlawful.
But, Georgia Wins “The Most Loyal Fan of All Time” Award
It would be a crime not to mention, one more time, the name Michael Shane Lassiter. Just once more. I know. He’s been beat up way more than he ever deserved. But it is part of Georgia Bulldog lore, and what a fitting way to end this edition of Up Next. Remember, I can choose not to put the Bill Bates-Herschel Walker video up but mention Mr. Lassiter. It’s my blog. Refresh your memory here.