I'm heading over to Jacksonville today to try and wade into the mass of humanity celebrating, and anticipating, the annual Florida-Georgia game. This will be last Florida-Georgia game for the most special Gator player ever so I had to come home for the occasion. However: as a tribute to those dadgum Dawgs, at the end of this post I'm placing a nice video one of their fans put together that I've posted before. It fits the Florida-Georgia theme and the passion that both sides bring to this game.
A tradition of sorts has been established over the last few years on this blog. In celebration of one of college football's greatest series, I reflect back on the first Florida-Georgia game I actually attended. Arguably, it is the most famous game in this incredible series -- I think it certainly has that status for Georgia. That win propelled them to the number one ranking in the nation the following week and they eventually won the national championship. Quite a first game to witness. So, Go You Mighty Gators! Beat the everlovin' hell out of Georgia!
- Begin Modified Post from October 2005:
To begin to understand my special passion for this game you have to first understand that I love Georgians and have many, many family members in that great State. Both of my parents are, in fact, Georgians. My mother was born and raised on the Sumter County – Macon County line in Andersonville. My father was born in Ellaville and his cluster of family was then and is now centered around the town of Roberta. These areas are quite rural, quite agricultural. On my maternal side the family owned, and still owns, a few hundred acres of land on that county line adjacent to the Andersonville National Cemetery. In fact, for years my maternal Grandfather worked his farm and worked at the cemetery to support his large family.
On my father’s side, they were sharecropping but eventually began a logging company that generated work all over South Georgia. But in 1950s Georgia an African American with a sharp mind and a sharp tongue could fairly easily find some trouble. Give that same man some disposable income and there was likely going to be a problem. My father, the oldest son in his family, no doubt qualified for that sharp mind / sharp tongue category. I’m sure he was young and dumb in many, many ways. Neither of my parents went beyond the 8th grade in school but both were quite bright. And confident. Once my father married my mother and was successfully running the logging business . . . and had two (of his eventual six) children, things got to be too hot and he was basically chased out of Georgia.
Chased away . . . to the great State of Florida. Many other family members on both sides went away to Gary, Indiana or Detroit or New York City. Most others stayed in Georgia. Some others settled in spots further down the Florida peninsula. Despite the upheavals of the ‘50s and ‘60s, my father never gave up being a proud Georgia boy. That’s just the way Georgians are. So, when I was coming of age in the 1970s as a proud Florida boy making his way through secondary school and really disappointed by the fact that Georgia seemed to be ruining my Florida Gators football seasons on a regular basis (and questioning why this was the case), everything was really simple to my father: we Floridians just didn’t eat enough cornbread and collard greens.
Well damn, I thought to myself. I loved cornbread and collard greens. To this day I wonder about people who don’t share that love. And I knew my father was really perceptive and smart, but could it really be that simple?
Anyway, when I completed a tour of duty in the Army and finally began my freshman year at U.F., the most anticipated game for me on our football schedule was the Florida-Georgia game. So when November 8, 1980 rolled around I was hyped. I mean really, really hyped. I attended the game with my younger brother who was actually ahead of me in school as a junior at U.F. – this was because he would do his tour of duty in the Army AFTER graduating from college. As an officer. Smart man.
Unfortunately, by that November date my father was already in failing health and unbeknownst to me, would only live for a few more months. The game, as all Gators and Dawgs know, turned out to be a classic:
Herschel was unbelievable, and thus didn't disappoint. On one play, I saw him get tackled, his legs cut from underneath him, but he before he hit the ground, he tucked forward, somersaulted just inches from the ground, rolled on his back, and sprang up on his legs. He was amazing.
But so were the Gators that day.
Through eight games that season, Herschel had rushed for 1,096 yards, and the Bulldogs were undefeated and ranked second in the nation.
Was he really that good? On the third play of the game, Herschel answered, motoring 72 yards for a touchdown, and it looked as if it was going to be another long day for the Gators. He finished with 238 yards on 37 carries, and you'd have thought that would be enough, but it wasn't.
On the other side of the field, a little-known Gator wide receiver named Tyrone Young was having the game of his career. Young hauled in 10 catches for 183 yards from UF quarterback Wayne Peace. Every time you looked up, Young was making a big play.
The Gators, who came in ranked No. 20 following their forgettable 0-10-1 season a year earlier, trailed just 14-10 at the half. The Dawgs used two field goals to stretch the lead to 20-10 after three quarters.
Then magic happened.
The text above and the subsequent excerpt were from a column by Peter Kerasotis in Brevard County’s Florida Today newspaper. It turns out that he began matriculating at U.F. the same quarter that I did (the last year for quarters at Florida). As he wrote, the Gators made a valiant comeback and in the fourth quarter took the lead, 26-21. Up in the endzone of my hometown Gator Bowl sat me and my brother and a bunch of Florida students. We were going crazy. My memory says we were in the endzone stands looking directly at the Gator defense as they were harassing the hell out of Georgia’s offense. This meant Georgia had their backs to us and all the action unfolded directly in front of us. The screaming was incredible. Georgia was on their goal line and we were doing our best to drown them out. First down and second down occurred. The stadium was literally rocking. Victory was at hand and the partying was going to be super good.
And then them damn cornbread and collard greens-eating Bulldawgs broke our hearts.
Larry Munson’s call of that play up in the Georgia radio booth has become quite famous. This is my interpretation of his exact, heartbreaking call. I’m not so much of a Gator that I can’t acknowledge that this is a classic call:
Florida in a stand-up five, they may or may not blitz.
Belue third down on the 8 . . . in trouble . . . he got a block behind him . . . going to throw on the run . . . complete on the 25 to the 30!
Lindsay Scott 35, 40, Lindsay Scott 45, 50, 45, 40.
Run Lindsay, 25, 20, 15, 10, Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott!
* * *
Well, I can’t believe it. Ninety-two yards and Lindsay really got in a foot race.
I broke my chair. I came right through a chair. A metal steel chair with about a 5 inch cushion, I broke it. The booth came apart. The stadium . . . well, the stadium fell down . . . now they do have to renovate this place . . . they’ll have to rebuild it now.
This is incredible. You know this game has always been called the World’s Greatest [Outdoor] Cocktail Party. Do you know what’s gonna happen here tonight? And up at St. Simons and Jekyll Island, and all those places where all those Dawg people have got those condominiums for 4 days?
Man is there going to be some property destroyed tonight!
26-21, Dawgs on top. We were gone. I’d gave up, you did too. We were out of it and gone.
It was at this game, at this moment, where every other University of Florida football game became simply a game and this became THE game on our schedule for me. Truth be told, it already was that for me but this really, really nailed it down. It was also where I learned to have a certain contempt for the defeatist element among Gator fans. All around me, the students gave up. All around me, it seemed as if the life went out of everyone and we turned the stadium over to Georgia. But there was still time left and we had a potent offense capable of coming down the field. In fact, we did make a bit of a drive (IIRC) but couldn’t quite bring it home.
They had their miracle.
And I had to live with my father’s good-natured ribbing about his Georgia boys. That’s part of what makes this game so special. In some ways, I feel a little sorry for Floridians who don’t have any Georgia relatives and vice-versa. It makes a remarkable social event even more special. For instance, in honor of my father and for psychological satisfaction alone, I try to make sure that I have at least one plate of cornbread and collard greens leading up to this here game. Yes sir, buddy!
And every ass-whuppin we’re able to deliver to them these days, they damn well deserve. So yes, I’m enjoying the hell out of our recent domination.
Beat Georgia. Beat the hell out of Georgia. And then slap ‘em silly some more!
Y’all excuse me while I go get me another plate of them good ole, down home, collard greens.
- End Modified October 2005 post
There you have it. I'll close with the tribute to those Jah-Juh Dawgs.
Good luck to both teams. However . . . Go You Mighty Gators !!!