It’s easy to talk about the great moments in Georgia football history. But what about ones that made the most impact?
In other words - if not for one event, something significant, good and bad does not happen for the Dawgs.
Here are a few of the top ones.
Hiring of Joel Eaves
Anything significant that happened for Georgia football into the late 1970s was a credit to one person - Joel Eaves. The Bulldogs athletics director from 1963 to 1979, his hiring of Vince Dooley as head coach laid the groundwork for any and all fortunes, including of course the 1980 season.
Erk comes to Athens
A defining characteristic of Georgia’s teams, among others, was being tough defensively. It was a result of the hiring of Erk Russell as defensive coordinator in 1964. And yes, it’s idiotic that he’s not in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Herschel’s summer workout
The story is the stuff of legends. A young Herschel Walker wanted to be bigger, faster and stronger. Taking the advice of Johnson County HIgh School coach Tom Jordan, he spent the summer doing pushups, situps and sprints. That dedication transformed Herschel Walker in more ways than one, and the journey to being one of the most revered in Georgia and college football history was well on its way.
Dooley says no to Auburn
The call of home nearly lured Vince Dooley back to Auburn after 1980. His decision had a very good share of ripple effects and ‘what ifs.’ By staying in Athens, it more or less sealed the legacy of Dooley as a Georgia lifer, meaning that the job was his until her retired. In other words, if Erk Russell ever was going to be a head coach, it would not be at UGA, at least in the short term. It also spelled out that Pat Dye ended up at Auburn. Would Dooley on The Plains have meant Erk being the head coach at Georgia? Would Dye have come to Athens instead and with it, found great success with the backdrop of NCAA sanctions? One can only guess.
Spurrier rues Stanfill
In 1966, Steve Spurrier’s Heisman Trophy season was spoiled by Bill Stanfill sacking him three times in a Georgia win. It’s easy to argue that Georgia paid dearly for that win, as Spurrier treated the WLOCP like a personal revenge tour. Other than 1997, the Florida game from 1990 to 2001 was like getting hit in the face with a 2x4 and expecting different results each time. That stretch also included the famous “half a hundred’ game in Sanford Stadium. A Georgia player on that team? Kirby Smart, who now is taking great pride in Georgia owning the Florida rivalry. Funny how grudges turn out…
The source of endless Lewis Grizzard standup material, her allegations of lack of academic rigor among student-athletes were not only a black eye for Georgia, but also enabled in the late 80s and early 90s other schools, such as one in East Alabama to take advantage of more lax academic standards. It’s no coincidence that some of Auburn’s highest success under Pat Dye came then, something that did Ray Goff few favors
1995 in Knoxville
To say the least, Ray Goff entered 1995 on the hot seat. A loss in Knoxville took away a win that would have likely bought more time. Having just pasted South Carolina, Georgia came in on a roll, but a foot injury to Robert Edwards, Brice Hunter drop and missed field goal allowed the Vols to steal a victory. The loss to Edwards for the season hampered Georgia in what would be an injury-riddled season. A win that night may not have outright saved Goff’s job, but it would have made the call much harder to replace him.
Joe Hamilton’s existence
Speaking of Goff, he famously said that ‘if you don’t think that Tech is Georgia’s biggest rival, just lose to them once and you’ll find out.” That was never more famously shown than with the Trade School taking full advantage of Joe Hamilton at the offensive controls to help win three in a row from 1998 to 2000...ok, technically only in 1998 and 2000 since Jasper was down in 1998.. But Georgia’s lack of success in that span served to plant the seeds of looking for a coach who could regularly beat Georgia’s rivals. Enter, Mark Richt.
The Hobnail Boot
I have always had the thought that Mark Richt had championship-level teams that didn’t win the championship (think 2002, 2007 and 2012). That path was set in 2001 with the famous ‘Hobnail Boot” game. Georgia didn’t just beat Tennessee...it did so in Knoxville against a team that talent-wise was loaded. The win served notice to the former standard bearers in the East that Georgia was going to be reckoned with on the road to Atlanta, a far cry from what was usually the case in the 1990s.
This one is one we’d like to forget. Fact of it is that that 2008 nightmare was Saban and Bama’s arrival moment, and you can argue that mentally Georgia never recovered.
Bama in Athens, again
You could honestly do a full-on 30 For 30 on what all happened in 2015 within the inner sanctum of Butts Mehre. And there’s also conjecture of what moment sealed Mark Richt’s fate. To me, and maybe it’s because I sat there soaking wet in person, being routed in a big-stage moment, again reinforced that Georgia may have finally had one too many disasters under the bright spotlight. That Bama loss alone cost Richt his job, but it sure accelerated it, Add in the trainwreck of offensive decisions in Jacksonville a good chunk of the stadium being taken over by Georgia Southern fans, and it became clear Richt was a goner. Ironically, an assistant coach on the Bama side that day was Georgia’s head coach a few months later.
The South Bend Takeover
Was it the massive influx of Georgia fans on a once in a lifetime trip? Was it Jake Fromm’s nerves of steel? The Dawgs winning with all the nation watching? Whatever it was, it served notice that Kirby Smart was quickly building something special in Athens, probably quicker than expected. With that win, Georgia showed could possibly be a special year, and it was up until some game went into overtime in Atlanta the following January. Oh, and Tyler Simmons and still onsides.