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 Clemson Tigers.
September 22, 1984
Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.
Georgia: 26, Clemson: 23
Although I was a little over a month old at the time, I am well aware that the 1984 clash between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Clemson Tigers is widely regarded as the best game ever played between the hallowed hedges.
The Dawgs and Tigers entered this game as heated rivals and national powerhouses, having earlier kicked off the decade with one national championship apiece. Clemson came to Athens in 1984 as the country's second-ranked team and, for the first half of the game, they played like it, overwhelming the home team for a 20-6 lead at the half. After the intermission period, the Dawgs somehow tied the game at 20 and later seized their first lead of the contest on a field goal from senior kicker Kevin Butler (more on him later). Clemson answered with a field goal of their own after a 48-yard drive. The game was again tied, this time at 23.
Georgia took possession at their own 20 with just over two minutes remaining in the contest. Time was ticking and it looked as though the rivals would call this one a draw, as they had done the year before at Memorial Stadium in Clemson. The Dawgs had just barely reached Clemson territory when Butler came onto the field to attempt a 60-yard field goal, a feat which no Georgia kicker had ever accomplished. (Note: a certain Georgia kicker had made a 59-yarder in 1982, though).
I'll let Larry Munson take it from here.
Butler split the uprights with 11 seconds remaining, sending the Dawgs to a 26-23 victory over the second-ranked Clemson Tigers and costing the visitors another shot at a national title. Butler's kick, it should be noted, tied the current SEC long and cleared the crossbar by a good five yards.
Not only did Butler's almost inhuman kick inspire one of Muson's greatest calls, (the stadium likely was "worse than bonkers") the kick electrified all of Bulldog Nation, prompting the late humorist Lewis Grizzard, UGA alumnus and diehard Dawg fan, to write a letter to a son he did not have and blogger emeritus T. Kyle King to write a similar letter to a son he does have many years later.
This game bore great historical significance for several reasons. First, the Dawgs beat a team that brought a ton of national-title hype with it to Athens. Second, it was Clemson, who at that time was one of Georgia's most hated foes. Finally, Kevin Butler.
And what would become of our hero? Kevin Butler went on to a very successful career as a Chicago Bear, retiring from the NFL as the league's all-time leading scorer among kickers and as the Bears' all-time leading scorer. His 1,116 points easily surpassed the 750 of the late, great hall-of-fame running back Walter Payton. Butler was also fortunate to play on the Bears team that won Super Bowl XX and left us with this.
Years after his legendary kick, in a way, Kevin Butler continued to contribute to the University of Georgia legacy. His son Drew served as the Dawgs' punter from 2008-2011 and racked up some UGA records of his own (45.4 yards career average, 48.1 yards per punt in 2009, 41.9 yards net punting in 2009). Drew currently punts in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Please join me in raising a paw to Kevin Butler and the 1984 Georgia Bulldogs for delivering an epic performance in a crucial game on September 22, 1984, a game I consider the best ever played against the Clemson Tigers.
Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. Were you at the game? Where were you when you heard the news? What are some of your other favorite contests between Georgia and Clemson? Do you think it's worth doing a series like this?
Next stop: Georgia vs. South Carolina. If you have a favorite game between the Dawgs and the Gamecocks, please feel free to share. I'm yet to make up my mind on this one.