BOOK REVIEW: The Georgia Bulldogs Playbook: Inside the Huddle for the Greatest Plays in Bulldogs History

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BOOK REVIEW: The Georgia Bulldogs Playbook: Inside the Huddle for the Greatest Plays in Bulldogs History

[su_spacer size=”20″] For any Dog fan needing extra inspiration getting ready for the upcoming football season, a new book by Patrick Garbin, The Georgia Bulldogs Playbook: Inside the Huddle for the Greatest Plays in Bulldogs History, will certainly help prime the pump. Interspersed with diagrams, quotations, and player/coach profiles, Garbin takes an in-depth look at forty of the most important and memorable single plays in the long and storied history that is UGA football.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Although Garbin examines plays ranging from 1895 to 2014, he does not take a standard chronological approach. Rather, he groups the plays into offensive, defensive, and special teams categories with two additional categories reserved for the most glorious plays when championships were won and for the three most heartbreaking losses that came as a result of egregious calls by the officials. Some might argue that there is no place for infamously bad calls by the referees in a book about the “greatest” plays in Georgia football history. However, when it comes to studying history one must often take the good with the bad if one wants a complete picture of the past.
[su_spacer size=”40″] The Bulldog Playbook is great fun to read. Despite how Garbin organized the plays described above, as I dived into the book I mentally reorganized them into three personal categories: games that were played relatively recently that I can remember vividly, games that were played in my youth that I only remember vaguely, and games before I was a conscious Dog fan.
[su_spacer size=”40″] First, I thumbed through the book searching for plays from the past 25 years or so. It was a thrill to go back and relive and experience those games that I remember so vividly from the recent past like Sean Jones’ goal line fumble recovery in the final seconds of the first half against Tennessee in 2003. I was at that game in Neyland Stadium and Garbin masterfully tells the story of a closely contested game that completely changed with one single play.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Next, I flipped through the book and read about those plays and games from my early youth in the 1980s that I only vaguely remember. Of course, Garbin includes the most famous plays from the 1980s that have been replayed on video hundreds of times and are still talked about around tail-gate parties, like the 93 yard pass from Belue to Scott against Florida in 1980 or Hershel Walker running over (through!) Tennessee’s Bill Bates that same magical season. But for those of us who were just kids during those years the memories of some of the other games of that era might be a little hazy or simply overshadowed by the National Championship season. For instance, I had practically forgotten about Tim Worley’s 89 yard run to help trounce No. 1 ranked Florida 24-3 in 1985 and ruin their hopes for a National Championship. Considering all the terrible loses to the Gators the past 20-plus years, its nice to go back to one of the great wins against them that might be lost in the fog of memory.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Finally, there are those plays that we weren’t alive for and/or not preserved on film for fans to see over and over. For older Dog fans fewer plays might fit into this category, but to truly get a sense of the program’s rich history one must go back and learn about events that took place in previous generations. I really enjoyed reading the selections devoted to Charley Trippi and Frank Sinkwich; however, it was just as interesting for me to read about players and games that I had never heard of. For example, in 1942 the Dogs beat Alabama thanks in large part to All-American George Poschner’s acrobatic 4th quarter touchdown catch while, according to a newspaper account, “standing on his head” (Poschner actually leaped to make the catch and was hit high and low simultaneously by two defenders causing him to do a full flip and a half in the air and land on his head). Another older selection (although not that long ago for some folks) was Jimmy Shirer’s key reception late in the 4th quarter that led directly to a one-yard TD run and a win against Tech on Thanksgiving Day 1971. Although it was great to learn about this play and game that I had never heard of, what I enjoyed most from this selection was the photo of Shirer running down the sideline and seeing clearly the fans and their expressions of joy as they cheered.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Before I began reading The Georgia Bulldog Playbook, I thought that it would focus heavily on the X’s and O’s and the intricacies of football strategy. While there is a diagram of each specific play, Garbin excels at providing the context around each play. Who were the major players involved? What kind of season were they and the team having? What was at stake for that particular game? What happened during the game prior to and after the big play? All these questions, and more, are answered with clarity as if Garbin had been there personally.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Some readers may quibble with the highly subjective and arbitrary nature of Garbin’s selection of greatest plays, but disagreement invites discussion and debate, which is always a good thing, especially around a tailgate party prior to a big game. My only critique of the book is its lack of an index. It was difficult looking for plays and games involving my favorite players. Perhaps the publisher can fix this minor flaw with the second printing.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Overall, The Georgia Bulldog Playbook is an excellent book that provides an intimate look at some of the seminal moments in the history of UGA football. Impeccably researched and well-written, Garbin is able to make the reader feel as if he was actually there. More than just a jaunt down memory lane, this book is an important work that documents our beloved program’s great history and would surely make a great addition to the library of any serious Dog fan.

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Greg is closing in on 15 years writing about and photographing UGA sports. While often wrong and/or out of focus, it has been a long, strange trip full of fun and new friends.