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Looking Ahead While Looking Back: Georgia vs. Florida, 1980

RUN LINDSAY! - runlindsay.com

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 Florida Gators.

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Lindsay Scott runs into Georgia football history via runlindsay.com

November 8, 1980

The Gator Bowl, Jacksonville, FL

Georgia: 26, Florida:21

The Georgia Bulldogs have been playing football since 1892. In these 120+ years of Georgia football, Bulldog backers have been treated to some very memorable games. But ask ten random Dawg fans which game was the greatest in the storied history of our fine football program; at least nine of them will point to the 1980 showdown with rival Florida in the Gator Bowl down in Jacksonville. I wasn't even born when this game took place and I'd pick this one, a contest described as "a masterpiece of a football game" by David Lamm of The Florida Times-Union, and included on countless lists of the greatest college football games ever played.

The Dawgs entered this game at 8-0, beating their opponents by an average score of 28-8, ranked #2 in the land and very much alive in the national-championship race. That said, Georgia had just outlasted the determined South Carolina Gamecocks 13-10 the previous week and entered the Cocktail Party less than crisp. In Jacksonville, our weary heroes met the #20 Florida Gators, who wanted nothing more than to knock their rivals from the ranks of the unbeaten and crush Georgia's national-title hopes. For a brief while, it seemed as though the hated Gators would get their wish, but sometimes miracles just have a way of happening.

Despite being worn down from their previous game, Georgia opened the scoring on just the third play of the contest, a 72-yard touchdown run by star running back Herschel Walker. This was Walker's only major explosive run of the day, but #34 still finished the game with 37 carries for 238 yards, one yard short of former Bulldog standout Charley Trippi's all-time single-game series record set in 1945.

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Herschel on the move against the Gators via www.dawgbone.net

Georgia cornerback Mike Fisher, a Jacksonville native, picked off a pass from Florida quarterback Wayne Peace shortly after Walker's big TD run. The Dawgs then drove to the Gator 26, but Georgia receiver Anthony "Amp" Arnold fumbled to give Florida the ball back at their own 23. Florida got a field goal out of the deal and the scoreboard now read 7-3, in favor of the Dawgs.

Georgia quarterback Buck Belue got things moving for Georgia in the second quarter, engineering a scoring drive in only four plays for a 14-3 lead. The Dawgs then tried an onside kick, which failed, but they regained control of the ball only seconds later via a Peace fumble at the Gator 22. The ensuing Georgia drive resulted in an interception by Florida's Ivory Curry. The following Gator drive fizzled out at the Georgia 37, but Walker, in a very rare moment of poor ball control, fumbled right back to Florida at the Dawg 46. The pinball game was over and Florida found themselves on the move. On the next Florida drive, WR Cris Collinsworth hauled in three straight passes from Peace, the last of which resulted in six points. Georgia now led just 14-10 heading to the half.

At the half, the teams had already amassed 429 yards of offense. 142 of those yards belonged solely to Herschel Walker.

Belue and company threatened on offense in the third quarter, but the Gator defense was determined to keep the game within reach. On the two third-quarter drives that ended inside the Florida 10, the Dawgs were forced to settle for two Rex Robinson field goals. On his second kick, Robinson found himself tied atop the SEC all-time scoring list with 254 points. Going into the final quarter, Georgia led 20-10.

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PK Rex Robinson's third-quarter field goals were key in the 1980 Cocktail Party via www.uga.edu

The Georgia lead was soon cut to 20-18 as Peace and the Gators struck like lightning and converted on a two-point try. After an unsuccessful drive, the Dawgs punted to the Florida 24. Peace soon had the Gators back in Georgia territory. The Bulldog defense held the Gators to a field goal, but Florida now had a 21-20 lead. The Gators found themselves with the ball again with 5:53 remaining in the game, but Georgia's exhausted defense hunkered down and held up once more, giving the Dawgs the ball back with only 1:35 to play.

Penned on their own eight-yard line, the Bulldogs needed a miracle. They got one. On first down, Belue was chased out of bounds for a loss of one. The Georgia QB then fired an incomplete pass to Charles Junior on second down. The clock read 1:03 as Georgia faced 3rd and 11.

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Belue looks for Scott on third down via blogs.ajc.com

Dejected Georgia fans started filing out of the Gator Bowl, including Lewis Grizzard, who would have to witness history from the parking lot. Florida fans had already begun to celebrate. Elated Florida players, thinking they had robbed the Dawgs of a shot at the national championship, began taunting their rivals across the field. Buck Belue was not ready to give up. In the huddle, Belue called L-76, an 18-yard curl pattern to junior WR Lindsay Scott, which was only supposed to deliver a first down. Scott delivered much more than that.

I'll let Larry Munson take it from here.

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Run, Lindsay! via mediad.publicbroadcasting.net

Belue, aided by a key block from Nat Hudson, found Lindsay Scott, his roommate, wide open up the middle. Scott made the catch and ran 93 yards for the touchdown that catapulted Georgia to the 1980 national championship. Those Georgia fans who had left the stadium caused a bottleneck trying to get back in. Now it was the Florida faithful who had to leave the Gator Bowl speechless and deflated.

Gator defensive lineman David Galloway, who played an outstanding game, summed up the feelings from that sideline best when he said, "I went numb when I saw [Scott] running away like that. There was nothing I could do. I would rather have lost a game that wasn't so close than to lose like this. This is the worst loss I've ever experienced."

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Belue and Scott celebrate after beating Florida in 1980 via images.monstermarketplace.com

The final box score:

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via georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu

If you care to relive the memories or experience them for the first time, here is a link to the whole game.

After the game, Jeff Miller of The Jacksonville Journal wrote that the ending was "the kind of 11th-hour heroics that only appear in the Georgia-Florida football games and Flash Gordon serials."

The miraculous triumph in Jacksonville was sweetened by news from Atlanta, where Georgia Tech had just tied #1 Notre Dame, leaving the Dawgs as the #1 team in the land.

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Belue and Scott in 1990, ten years after making history in the Gator Bowl via jacksonville.com

Had the Gators prevailed, the game's hero would have been Florida QB Wayne Peace, who went 20-37 with 282 yards, accounting for a whopping 67 percent of Florida's offensive production on the day. But I've never been one for a story where the Gator is the hero.

The game ball belongs to Lindsay Scott. In May of 1980, Scott had his scholarship revoked for a rules violation in the UGA football dormitory. Later that summer, he suffered a concussion and several broken bones in his foot after a car accident. Just three weeks before the Florida game, Scott was demoted to second-string for missing a team meeting. Yet he never let the tough year get the best of him and earned his place in the Georgia history books as the man who made the most memorable play in the 120+ years of Georgia football.

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A must-read book for recreating the magic of the 1980 Florida game via ecx.images-amazon.com

Scott's phenomenal play was recently immortalized by Robbie Burns in his Belue to Scott!: The Greatest Moment in Georgia Football History. Although not the most beautifully written, the book brings the play to life, covering it in more detail than readers could ever imagine. I would have used Burns's book in preparing this post, but it's with the rest of my Georgia library in a POD somewhere.

Since making the most memorable play in Georgia football history, Lindsay Scott has kept a lower profile than some of the Bulldogs' other higher-profile players, but has been known to make an appearance at various UGA functions from time to time, always obliging fans with an autograph and a smile. I had the pleasure of meeting Scott at a book signing before G-Day last year. He and Robbie Burns, author of the book pictured above, were set up at a table at the Red Zone on Clayton St. hours before the game, shaking hands and signing copies of the book, entertaining visitors with stories from that magical season. Lindsay Scott is a great guy with a clever sense of humor, an all-around fantastic ambassador for UGA and its football program. A DGD if I ever met one.

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Scott (far right) and Matt Stinchcomb (second from left) interact with Dawg fans before the 2012 SEC Championship Game via 2.bp.blogspot.com

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Lindsay Scott, the Saint (literally) via img.fanbase.com

After leaving Athens, Scott became the 13th selection in the 1982 NFL Draft and played a few seasons with the New Orleans Saints from 1982 to 1985. He retired from the NFL with 69 receptions for 864 yards and a touchdown with 12.5 yards per reception. In May of 2012, he was one of more than 100 ex-NFL players that sued the league over brain injuries that resulted from concussions during their professional playing careers.

Scott, along with Terry Hoage, was inducted into the Georgia-Florida Hall of Fame in 1997, the second year of the hall's existence. The native of Jessup has made his home in Valdosta since retiring from professional football and is an avid supporter of UGA athletics and a dedicated follower of local high school football.

Please join me in raising a paw to Lindsay Scott and the 1980 Georgia Bulldogs for delivering an epic performance in a crucial game on November 8, 1980, a game I consider the best ever played against the Florida Gators.

If you were around in 1980, what else do you remember about this contest? What was it like watching the Dawgs go on to win the national championship? What are some of your other favorite memories from that season? If you, like me, did not have the pleasure of watching the 1980 season, what are some of your favorite memories against the Gators? What do you expect in the 2013 Cocktail Party?

Next Stop: The Appalachian State Mountaineers, who present the same conundrum as the North Texas Mean Green did. The Dawgs have never played them, so I will have to get creative again.

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