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Ghosts of Bowl Games Past, Part I: Dogs vs. Hogs in the 1987 Liberty Bowl

Clarke Central alum John Kasay - Kevin C. Cox

In a previous post, I mentioned three of Georgia’s past bowl appearances (1989 Gator Bowl, 2001 Liberty Bowl, 2006 Chick-fil-A Bowl). With the 2013-2014 bowl schedule set and ready to go, I thought it would be fun to look back on a few other UGA postseason games in recent years. I’ll start with the first Georgia game I ever remember watching from beginning to end…

I remember watching the 1987 Liberty Bowl with my dad at our house in Madison County, GA. I was eleven years old at the time, and just beginning to turn into the obsessed sports fan I would become later on. Georgia had finished the regular season with a record of 8-3 which, by the standards set by the Bulldogs in the first part of the 1980’s, was something of a disappointment. The Dawgs’ reward for their season was an invitation to play Arkansas in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee. Arkansas would become a member of the SEC in 1992, but back then the Razorbacks belonged to the now defunct Southwest conference. The Dawgs had lost in two previous bowl meetings with Arkansas, but the this time things would break in their favor.

Arkansas struck first on a 43 yard field goal. Georgia countered with a one yard touchdown run by running back Lars Tate. Arkansas would score the next ten points and take a 17-7 lead in the third quarter. At this point, I was inclined to give up. As a newcomer to SEC football, I did not yet possess the never say die attitude which is required to follow big time college football. Just as I was about to abandon the game for an evening of Nintendo, John Kasay kicked a twenty-four yard field goal to cut the Razorback lead to seven. Minutes later, Georgia quarterback James Jackson scored on a five yard run to tie the game. Suddenly, I was riveted to the television in anticipation of what might happen next.

With time winding down, Arkansas drove into Bulldog territory and lined up to attempt a thirty-five yard field goal for the lead. Certain that the game was over, I prepared myself for the worst. But the kick sailed wide, and hope remained! Unfortunately, Georgia was unable to move the ball and gave up possession with very little time remaining. But then, the Razorbacks attempted a pass, and Carver Russaw intercepted and returned the pick to the Arkansas thirty-three yard line. Jackson then passed to tight end Troy Sadowski for sixteen yards to get the Dawgs into field goal range.

The Bulldogs lined up for the kick with only seconds remaining. I remember my dad saying he didn’t want to see a tie. I asked if he would rather see a tie, or an Arkansas win. He replied that he would rather for Georgia to win. Try as I might, I couldn’t get him to say that he would rather see a Razorback win than a tie.

I had jumped up and down when Arkansas missed a field goal minutes earlier, but I saved my best celebration for the moments following the game winning kick by Georgia kicker John Kasay. Kasay was a freshman, and had never been in this type of situation before. Now here he was, with the game riding on his left foot. Kasay would go on to become an all-SEC kicker, but my favorite moment of his career was the thirty-nine yard kick that won the game for Georgia that day. I fell asleep with a smile on my face. From then on, the Dawgs were my obsession, and I would live and die with each game that they played.

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