Sitting with a posse of fellow Bulldog fans and friends in the Tiger Stadium seats under the warm Baton Rouge sun back in 2008, Georgia got off to one of the great starts of all time. On the first play from scrimmage, linebacker Darryl Gamble jumped a short route, picked off a Jarrett Lee pass and returned it for an interception. Our section of red and black was beyond ecstatic. A fan two rows behind me shouted the encouragement to “keep this up Dawgs, keep this up!” I turned and said, “if we keep this up,” my friend Scott interjected, “we’ll win 763-0 because we’ll score on every play!”
It was a great day for Georgia, with Knowshon Moreno, A.J. Green and Matthew Stafford shining offensively, and Gamble’s second pick-six delivering the knockout blow in a 52-38 victory over the Tigers. That was a great trip. Our crew was part of a chartered flight and chartered bus full of fervent Georgia fans – with a police escort – captained by the great Bulldog Bob Rushton.
This “child of Munson and Dooley,” a naturally born pessimist had a good feeling heading into that one. The numbers were with the Bulldogs. The number eight in particular.
Led by Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Rauch, Georgia’s Southeastern Conference champions of 1948 went to Baton Rouge and toppled the Tigers 22-0 under the lights on the bayou.
Georgia would venture to the capital 30 years later, the “Wonderdogs” of 1978 trailing LSU 17-7 at intermission. A Bulldog great would emerge with the first of his many memorable plays, as Lindsay Scott raced through the Cajun night 99 yards to paydirt with the second half kickoff. Great running from Willie McClendon, superb kicking from Rex Robinson, and the Junkyard Dawgs defense – in particular, Ricky McBride stuffing the Tigers stellar halfback Charles Alexander – told the story of the rest of the second half, as Georgia would pull off the upset and win 24-17. How ‘bout those legendary Bulldog names?!?!
The Dogs lost on their next two visits to Baton Rouge, in 1986 and 1990. In between, the 26-23 loss between the hedges in 1987 still stands out as an all-time heartbreaker.
But in 1998, as an eight-point underdog, Jim Donnan’s Dogs stunned Tigers in a battle of unbeaten teams, Georgia prevailing 28-27 with an incredible grab by the one and only Champ Bailey in double coverage providing the clinching play. That thriller was 21-21 at the half, as Quincy Carter had his finest game as a Bulldog. By the way, the Bulldogs also had an All-SEC senior safety by the name of Kirby Smart playing alongside Bailey in the secondary.
What a night, what a win.
Then there was 2008.
So the Bulldogs have won four straight trips to Baton Rouge in those years ending with the Magic Number Eight. And here we are in 2018, with really big stakes. That’s been the norm with Georgia and LSU since these two renewed acquaintances in 1978, the first meeting between the two in 25 years.
One of the big gut-punches for the Bulldogs came in 2003 in Baton Rouge. Defending SEC champion Georgia got inside the LSU 35-year line six times in the first half and came away with only three points. Despite a game-tying 93-yard screen pass from David Greene to Tyson Browning, Georgia would come up short. A should have been called block in the back on the ensuing kickoff return certainly burns the Bulldog faithful. That would be Georgia’s first ever game against Nick Saban. In an SEC Championship Game rematch, LSU rolled to a 34-13 win and went on to capture a share of the national title. What could have been? Had Georgia won in Baton Rouge, it would have been Ole Miss in Atlanta, and maybe, just maybe. The next year, Greene would throw five touchdowns in Athens, as the Bulldogs steamrolled the Tigers 45-16. Saban had a young assistant on that staff by the name of Kirby Smart.
In 2005, D.J. Shockley led Georgia to a 34-14 SEC Championship Game victory over LSU, and first year coach Les Miles. Mark Richt had a young assistant on his staff named Kirby Smart.
A powerful LSU squad dominated the second half in a 42-10 SEC Championship Game victory over the Bulldogs in 2011. The three meetings in the league title tilt makes it the second most frequent in SEC Championship Game annals, behind nine Florida-Alabama battles.
That LSU squad would, by the way, fall in the national title game to Alabama, marking the first of two times that the Crimson Tide found their way to the title game despite not playing for the
For the loser of this one, there is still plenty of hope for a bounce back and great season. For the winner, the dreams are big.
As for Smart, he’s been on the field for a great Georgia victory over LSU, and he’s been on both sidelines as an assistant coach in games with major stakes. Now he takes his first turn against LSU as Georgia’s head coach, and perhaps can join Wally Butts, Vince Dooley, Donnan and Richt with memorable years that end in eight with victories in Baton Rouge.