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Top Georgia Performances (Part IV)

No sooner had my earlier posting hit the internet than I immediately thought of two or three more individual performances that warranted inclusion.  

Almost immediately thereafter, an insightful reader brought another such example to my attention.  

If I made you feel second best, Champ, I'm sorry, I was blind, but you were always on my mind, you were always on my mind.  

I will, therefore, be updating my list of Georgia's best overall individual performances in the near future.  For now, though, I bring you The Five Best Individual Performances in Games I Attended:  

Garrison Hearst v. Cal State Fullerton (September 19, 1992)---After playing sloppily against the same opponent between the hedges the year before, the 'Dawgs were determined not to make the same mistake twice.  The defense not only kept C.S.F. off of the scoreboard but also held the opposition without a single completion.  Early in the first quarter, the Red and Black returned a fumble 43 yards for a touchdown, then, late in the fourth quarter, the Red and Black returned another fumble 55 yards for a touchdown.  In between, though, it was all Garrison Hearst, who had 17 carries for 119 yards in the first half and scored three touchdowns in the second quarter alone.  Although Hearst only got the ball twice in the second half, he tacked on an additional 45 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown run for his fourth score of the day.  The 56-0 blowout of Cal State moved Hearst into seventh place in career rushing yardage at Georgia and provided grist for his Heisman Trophy candidacy.  

They can take back Milli Vanilli's Grammy, but this clown gets to keep his Heisman Trophy?  

Eric Zeier v. Southern Miss (October 9, 1993)---The 'Dawgs set a school record for total offense with 667 yards in a 54-24 rout of the Golden Eagles, thanks largely to the efforts of the Georgia quarterback.  Eric Zeier set single-game school records for pass attempts (47), pass completions (30), touchdown passes (4), and total offense (527 yards) and established a new Southeastern Conference high water mark for passing yards in a game (544).  Generally speaking, the Eric Zeier era was a time of gaudy numbers and mediocre records, perhaps confirming the dictum that statistics are for losers, but it is hard to argue with performances like this one, in which Zeier had what was numerically the greatest day ever for a Bulldog Q.B.  

As chairman of the N.C.A.A. Football Rules Committee from 1994 to 1999, Vince Dooley fought valiantly for rules changes designed to ensure that no S.E.C. quarterback would ever again be permitted to abuse the so-called "forward pass" as flagrantly as Eric Zeier did against Southern Miss in 1993.  

Robert Edwards v. South Carolina (September 2, 1995)---Ray Goff began what was to be his final season as the Bulldogs' head coach with a Sword of Damocles hanging over Sanford Stadium, in the form of Vince Dooley's ultimatum that his successor as head coach would have to show "significant improvement" to keep his job for another year.  Some witty critics stated the matter more succinctly, breaking out the following banner for the season opener against the Gamecocks:  "If you can't beat the Poultry, go back to Moultrie."  I was sitting in the end zone for this contest and, during halftime, one old-timer seated near me looked up at the scoreboard, noted that South Carolina was leading by a touchdown, and wryly remarked, "I haven't seen significant improvement."  That fellow should have been more patient.  Robert Edwards, a converted cornerback playing his first game at running back, exploded in the second half, scoring five touchdowns after intermission.  In addition to rushing for 169 yards on 30 carries and finding the end zone five times on running plays, including a 58-yard burst, Edwards hauled in a 45-yard T.D. pass, as well.  Edwards's performance paved the way for a 42-23 Georgia victory in the Red and Black's conference opener and set up a showdown in Knoxville the following Saturday in which the Bulldog tailback ran for 156 yards and two touchdowns before leaving the game in the third quarter with a fractured left foot.  Had Edwards remained healthy, there is no doubt the 'Dawgs would have beaten the Volunteers and little question that Georgia's season would have gone much differently, perhaps well enough to have saved Coach Goff's job for another year.  Despite the Bulldogs' bad luck, though, Robert Edwards's first game against the Gamecocks represents one of the finest debut performances in Georgia lore.  

Fred Gibson v. Kentucky (October 20, 2001)---With seven minutes remaining until halftime, the Wildcats held a 22-7 lead in Sanford Stadium.  Fred Gibson's 68-yard touchdown reception with 5:50 remaining before intermission began the Georgia comeback, which was secured when Gibson brought in a 56-yard T.D. pass early in the fourth quarter to put Georgia ahead for good.  Following the Bulldogs' 43-29 homecoming victory, Mark Richt stated the facts succinctly:  "We wouldn't have won the game without Fred Gibson."  Over the course of the afternoon, Gibson caught nine balls for 201 yards, breaking Lamar "Racehorse" Davis's school record for receiving yards in a game (198, set in the 1942 Cincinnati game).  When Gibson's 84 yards in kickoff returns are factored into the mix, the sophomore from Waycross tallied 285 all-purpose yards, falling just shy of the school record of 290, set by Rodney Hampton against Ole Miss in 1987.  Gibson's achievement between the hedges that afternoon was a classic case of an individual accomplishment contributing to a team goal, which is, of course, the only way in which the success on the field of a single player matters in a team sport.  

Asked if he was upset that Fred Gibson had broken his 59-year-old receiving record, "Racehorse" replied, "Nay!"  

D.J. Shockley v. Boise State (September 3, 2005)---Most of us in Bulldog Nation anticipated a close contest.  What we got instead was a nice guy finishing first as D.J. Shockley accounted for one touchdown with his feet and five more with his arm, tallying 289 aerial yards despite some drops by his receiving corps in a 48-13 thrashing of the Broncos.  The knock on Shockley heading into his senior season was that his best game was his first one (against Clemson in 2002) and his last game was his worst one (against Georgia Tech in 2004), but the career backup dispelled all doubts in his initial start wearing silver britches.  It was a first-rate performance by a first-class individual.  

As always, these are just my opinions and I invite your confirmation or refutation in the comments following this posting.  

Coming Soon:  An updated edition of The Best Individual Performances Overall.  

Go 'Dawgs!