Top Georgia Performances (Part V)

Elsewhere in SportsBlogs Nation, fans of Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio State, Texas, and U.C.L.A. are knee-deep in tournament talk, while we here at Dawg Sports are blessed with a basketball program that does not tease us with expectations of postseason success.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.  

For those of us who are spared the dream of March madness by the reality of February fiasco, tournament time is an occasion for taking a pensive pause within which to compile lists of such things as The Five Best Individual Performances Overall in Georgia football history.  

Unfortunately, my initial attempt to compose such a list fell short, as I realized and a reader confirmed.  Consequently, I am expanding the preceding list and providing you with what is now the second half of . . . The Ten Best Individual Performances Overall:  

Herschel Walker v. Tennessee (September 6, 1980)---Ordinarily, 84 yards on 24 carries isn't the stuff of legend, but the Goal Line Stalker was no ordinary player and the 1980 season opener in Knoxville was no ordinary game.  Herschel Walker did not start his first collegiate contest, but he certainly finished it, scoring a pair of touchdowns in a 16-15 victory and providing the first hints of what was to come.  

Herschel Walker is about to make history.  Bill Bates is about to find out just how tough it is to get grass stains out of the seat of a pair of orange pants.  

Scott Woerner v. Clemson (September 20, 1980)---While I take nothing away from such standouts as Buck Belue, Lindsay Scott, and Herschel Walker, the forgotten hero of the 1980 national championship team is Scott Woerner.  I will confess to a certain bias regarding "Woerner the Returner"---he and I both went to high school in Clayton County; his sister and my mother were co-workers at one point; the most treasured item in my collection of Georgia Bulldog memorabilia is a Scott Woerner practice jersey from the 1981 Sugar Bowl---but there is no denying how critical the defensive back and return specialist was to the national championship campaign.  He set school season and career records for return yardage, led the N.C.A.A. in punt return average his senior year, and was a consensus all-American.  Over the course of the 1980 season, Woerner intercepted five passes and made 47 tackles, concluding his career with an interception and a pass breakup in the end zone during the Sugar Bowl against Notre Dame.  Woerner's finest hour, however, came against Clemson.  The Bulldogs beat the Tigers by a 20-16 margin in a typical bruising contest and Woerner was responsible for 14 of the Red and Black's points.  On special teams, he scored a touchdown on a 67-yard punt return, then, on defense, he returned an interception 98 yards to the two yard line, setting up a one-yard Buck Belue touchdown run.  Sports Illustrated named Woerner the Defensive Player of the Week for securing a crucial victory on the road to the national title.  

Terry Hoage v. Vanderbilt (October 15, 1983)---As a freshman, Terry Hoage blocked a field goal in the aforementioned 1981 Sugar Bowl against Notre Dame.  By the time Hoage was a senior in 1983, Vince Dooley described the defensive back as the "best defensive player I've ever coached."  That compliment came after the Bulldogs survived a scare from a pesky Vanderbilt team and sneaked out of Nashville with a 20-13 victory after (as Larry Munson put it) "Hoage got up with one hand and broke up a cinch touchdown" in the game's final seconds.  Hoage finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting during his last year of college, won virtually every academic honor a student-athlete can receive, and played in the N.F.L. for 13 years, winning a Super Bowl with the Washington Redskins in 1992.  

I'm not saying Terry Hoage was a miracle worker, but he does make wine.  

Kevin Butler v. Clemson (September 22, 1984)---Lewis Grizzard never had a son, but, if he had, the boy would have been named "Kevin."  We in Bulldog Nation know this to be true because Grizzard, in one of his most memorable columns for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, wrote an open letter to his unborn son following the Bulldogs' 26-23 victory over second-ranked Clemson.  He ended that article with these words:  

I give this to you, son.  Read it and re-read it, and keep it next to your heart.  And when people want to know how you wound up with the name "Kevin" let them read it, and then they will know.
 
When you kick a 60-yard field goal to beat the No. 2 team in the county, which just happens to be one of your oldest and fiercest rivals, impassioned alumni start naming their kids after you.  If that seems unreasonable to you, you simply need to find yourself another weblog.  

Somewhere, Lewis Grizzard is smiling.  

Champ Bailey v. Louisiana State (October 3, 1998)---In this clash of top 12 teams in Tiger Stadium, Champ Bailey made the difference as Georgia claimed a 28-27 victory over the Bayou Bengals.  Bailey was on the field for 47 of the Bulldogs' 61 defensive plays as the Georgia D took control in the second half, limiting L.S.U. to six points after intermission.  Bailey also lined up on the other side of the ball for 34 of the Red and Black's 71 offensive snaps, making the most of his time on offense with two carries for 15 rushing yards and seven catches for 114 receiving yards.  Early in the first quarter, Bailey brought in the game's first touchdown pass and, in the waning minutes of the contest, he made a catch on third down to keep the game-sealing drive alive.  Finally, Bailey was on the field for 15 special teams plays, returning three kickoffs for 66 yards.  The damage done to the Fighting Tigers' psyches by Champ Bailey's 96-play "iron man" performance is attested to by the fact that Louisiana State came into the game having won 25 of its previous 30 outings, yet the Bayou Bengals went into a slump, losing 16 of their next 22 contests after falling to the 'Dawgs.  

Hopefully, this additional list serves to rectify my earlier oversights, but, as always, I hope you will feel free to offer criticism where warranted, and praise where deserved, in the comments below.  

Coming Soon:  As much as it pains me to do so, I will be rounding out this list-making exercise by recounting the worst individual performances by Bulldog players.  

Go 'Dawgs!  

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