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Looking Ahead While Looking Back: Georgia vs. Vanderbilt, 1924

Since the departure of Kyle Weblog, I have been going through Georgia football history withdrawal. I figured I would attempt to take Dawg Sports readers on an excursion throughout the glorious history of our program, but with a bit of a twist. I plan on launching a series where we will go through the 2013 football schedule with yours truly selecting a past memorable game against each foe, provided there has been one.

Without further ado, I present you with Georgia's most monumental showdown with the Vanderbilt Commodores.

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Legendary Vanderbilt coach Dan McGugin via sitemason.vanderbilt.edu


October 25, 1924

Dudley Field, Nashville, TN

Georgia: 3, Vanderbilt: 0

The Georgia Bulldogs are 54-18-2 against the Vanderbilt Commodores all time. Eight of the Vandy wins came before the teams' 1924 meeting. Yes, you read that correctly. From 1893 to 1923, the Commodores owned a record of 8-1-1 against the Red and Black/Bulldogs (the name "Bulldogs" was formally adopted in 1920). It was not until George "Kid" Woodruff's Bulldogs bested Dan McGugin's Commodores by a 3-0 score in 1924 that Georgia started beating Vanderbilt with any sense of regularity.

Since most of my personal Bulldog library is currently packed up in a POD as I endure one of life's many transitions and since there is a lack of information available online regarding the scoring details of this contest, all I can tell you is that the Bulldogs were able to score a field goal and hold the Commodores scoreless in this game. I can't even tell you the name of a single player on either team's roster. What I can tell you is that this game was huge in the grand scheme of Georgia football history as it marked the first time the Dawgs beat coaching legend Dan McGugin and his powerhouse Vanderbilt squad, forever turning the tide against the Commodores.

In case you are not familiar with the name, Dan McGugin was a big deal in his day. I'd liken him to Nick Saban in today's college football landscape, but I fear that would be somewhat of a slight to McGugin, who introduced multiple innovations to how college football was played, built one of the sport's first dynasties in the South and helped ingrain the college game as the integral part of Southern sporting culture that it is today. Unlike many coaches both before and after him, McGugin refused to jump around to attractive new jobs, spending his entire illustrious coaching career in Nashville.

From 1904 to 1917 and again from 1919 to 1934, McGugin's Vanderbilt squads terrorized opponents throughout the South as he racked up an all-time record of 197-55-19 (.762 winning percentage, which still ranks in the all-time Top 25) as the head man in Nashville. Coach McGugin is credited with bringing cutting-edge systems of interference and defense to the South, along with a no-huddle style of offense that baffled opposing defenses. In McGugin's debut, his Commodores destroyed Mississippi State 61-0 and humbled their next two opponents by 60 points, as well. This scoring margin, of course, still stands as an NCAA coaching record. McGugin won his first eleven games by more than 20 points. In his first season alone, the Commodores outscored their opponents 452–4. Four of McGugin's teams went undefeated and eleven of them suffered only one loss. The first time a McGugin-coached Vanderbilt team lost to a team from the South was 1909, five years after he took over in Nashville.

During McGugin's first tenure as coach at Vanderbilt from 1904 to 1917, the Commodores won the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (one of the SEC's predecessors) title eight times in fourteen seasons. Vanderbilt also claims two Billingsley National Titles in 1906 and 1911, both won under Coach McGugin. When Coach George "Kid" Woodruff's Bulldogs bested McGugin's Commodores in 1924, Vandy was coming off of two consecutive seasons in which they claimed a share of the Southern Conference (the SIAA's successor and immediate predecessor of the SEC) championship. Georgia's monumental victory over Vanderbilt in 1924 was a key win in a season in which Georgia finished tied for second in the Southern Conference standings, the team's highest final ranking of the "Kid" Woodruff era.

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The McGugin Center, home of Vanderbilt athletics via www.vanderbilt.edu

Fred Russell, a sports writer of the time, said of McGugin, "For years he ruled supreme in Dixie, and his teams won many glorious intersectional victories. More than any one man, he was responsible for the progress of southern football... He was the first coach to successfully work the onside kick. He was among the first to bring out guards in the interference... His name will never die." Russell was right- the VU athletics office building, pictured above, bears McGugin's immortal name.

Grantland Rice, another leading sports writer at the time, had this to say of the coach and his legacy, "I didn't have anything to write about in Nashville until Dan McGugin came to town."

It should also be noted that Tennessee hired General Robert Neyland with one primary objective: to beat Dan McGugin.

McGugin had friends in high places. The Tingley, Iowa, native played left guard for fellow coaching legend Fielding Yost while enrolled in law school at Michigan. He was on the 1901 Michigan team that beat Stanford 49-0 in the first-ever Tournament East-West Game (now known as the Rose Bowl), the first bowl game ever played in America. It was Coach Yost's connection to Dr. William Dudley, the President of Vanderbilt University, that landed McGugin the job in Nashville.

Vanderbilt under Dan McGugin was such a large draw at the time that the university constructed Dudley Field (later Vanderbilt Stadium at Dudley Field) in 1922, upon which the Commodores still play, to be the first stadium in the South intended exclusively for college football. The Commodores invited Yost's Wolverines down to Nashville for the inaugural game at the 22,000-seat venue on October 14. Although the game ended in a 0-0 tie, it is widely regarded as one of the program's proudest moments; rightfully so. Michigan was among America's premier college football dynasties at the time and many programs in the South were still finding their footing on the national level. Hosting Yost and the Wolverines was an occasion deemed worthy of the attendance of politicians, dignitaries and Cornelius Vanderbilt, the great-great grandson of the university's namesake.

Like I said, Dan McGugin was a big deal in his day.

Not only did Woodruff's victory over the legendary Vandy coach mark a tremendous accomplishment for the Georgia football program, it helped turn the tide in the Vanderbilt series once and for all. Before the 1924 meeting, Georgia was 0-4-1 against McGugin. After the 1924 triumph in Nashville, the Bulldogs went 2-2 against McGugin's Commodores from 1925 to 1932 and have never looked back. With the exception of a three-game losing streak to Vandy from 1956-58, Georgia has absolutely dominated this series, losing only in 1973, 1991, 1994 and 2006.

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Coach George "Kid" Woodruff via 2.bp.blogspot.com

The game ball goes to Woodruff for being the coach whose team played such a significant role in the Georgia Bulldogs forever turning the tide against the Vanderbilt Commodores. You now know about Dan McGugin, let's talk about George Woodruff.

George "Kid" Woodruff was the 16th coach in Georgia history and the third former player to serve as the program's head coach. He played quarterback for the 1907 and 1908 squads and, after taking time off to travel the country (and Mexico), he rejoined the team, captaining the Red and Black in 1910 and 1911. He received his AB from UGA in 1912. Woodruff then served in the U.S. Army during World War I and worked in insurance in his hometown of Columbus before being hired by UGA Athletic Director Herman Stegeman to coach the football team for $1 a year.

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Coach Woodruff in action via www.georgiaencyclopedia.org

Woodruff coached at Georgia, his alma mater, from 1923 to 1927 and left Athens with a 30-16-1 record (.649 winning percentage). He left UGA in 1927 to focus solely on his Columbus insurance business. In 1932, Georgia governor Richard Russell, Jr. appointed Woodruff as an initial member of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents, where he served until 1945. Coach Woodruff passed away in Columbus in 1968 at the age of 79.

The Woodruff legacy has been alive and well in Athens ever since "Kid" left town. UGA named its former basketball arena after Coach Woodruff and his brother Harry, also known as "Big Kid," another former Red and Black QB. Woodruff Hall served as the home of Georgia basketball from 1923 until 1964, the year Stegeman Coliseum was erected. The arena stood on the site of what is now the Grady College of Journalism and the Psychology building, where current Bulldog QB Aaron Murray is currently working on his Master's degree. The Georgia outdoor football practice field is also named in Coach Woodruff's honor.

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Woodruff Hall via grfx.cstv.com

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Woodruff Practice Field via onlineathens.com

Please join me in raising a paw to Coach George "Kid" Woodruff and the 1924 Georgia Bulldogs for delivering an epic performance in a crucial game on October 25, 1924, a game I consider the best ever played against the Vanderbilt Commodores.

What are some of your favorite Georgia-Vanderbilt games from bygone years? What do you expect to see when the Dawgs and Dores battle in Nashville this year? Can Coach Todd Grantham's defense keep them out of the end zone for a second consecutive year?

Next stop: The Florida Gators. With all the great games played between these two teams, I feel like a "Kid" in a candy shop trying to pick this one: the first series victory in 1904 (yes, UF, it counts), the 75-0 whooping laid down by Sinkwich and Trippi in 1942, 1975's Junkyard Dog shutdown of the Gators, the "Run, Lindsay!" triumph of 1980, the Gator Stomp of 2007... So many great choices.

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