Chris Welton is one of Georgia’s most distinguished football letterman. Starting rover for the 1980 national champions, Chris has had a highly successful career as an attorney, Olympics, television, marketing and business executive. He was a sophomore in 1978 when Georgia came back to beat Kentucky 17-16 on Rex Robinson’s game-winning field goal:
The 1978 Georgia-Kentucky game was the seventh of the season but only my fourth since moving from Quarterback to Roverback, and I played almost the whole game. Prior to that I hadn’t played defense since my sophomore year in high school, so Coach Russell told me when in doubt just to hit anything wearing blue, even if I was near the sideline and the closest thing in blue was a male cheerleader (just make sure it was a male).
Back then we rarely played at night, but this was our third night game of that season. If you weren’t used to it, playing at night created some challenges. Since Sanford Stadium didn’t have lights, we were always away. It also changed up the game day prep schedule, and we tended to get lethargic sitting around all day waiting to play. They fed us prime rib at the hotel on Friday, steak and eggs for breakfast Saturday and another steak for pregame meal, so we had a lot of lipids in the bloodstream. Also, Lexington can get cold in late October, and that night was very cold.
In the three night games that year, we had lost badly to SC, got behind 17-7 at LSU and got behind 16-0 at KY. I can’t remember if they got a safety or missed an extra point to get to 16. I think all of the slow starts were a result of the different game day schedule caused by the late start, and on this night the cold weather had an impact.
Fortunately, as at LSU, we played much better in the second half. We were stopping them on defense and started moving the ball behind some big plays by Willie McClendon, Amp Arnold and Lindsey Scott, scoring two touchdowns and closing to 16-14. We got our final stop and forced a punt with not much time left. Just being down by two, we were very confident that if we got within 50-yard field goal range or less, Rex could make it. We put together a beautiful drive and got close enough to set up for a relatively short field goal with seconds left. But we were in a hostile stadium, it was late at night and very cold, so anything can happen.
When fourth down came and we lined up to kick the winning field goal, something didn’t look right from our sideline. We only had ten men on the field. Somehow, Tim Morrison had come off the field even though he was on the field goal team. Fortunately, Coach Curci hadn’t noticed and called timeout to ice Rex, giving Tim time to get back on the field, and the blocking and kick was perfect. A big on-field celebration ensued.
Final memory is our return to Athens. The game ended at about 10:30, then we showered, changed and bussed to the airport. At that time we flew on two Piedmont Airlines twin-engine prop planes for short trips because commercial jets couldn’t take off and land in Athens. So flight time was about two hours, and we touched down in Athens after 1am. The game and Munson’s call had so energized the student body and the town that the planes couldn’t pull up to the terminal to let us off. They had come out on the tarmac and onto the runway. It took the police almost 20 minutes to get the crowd back to where we could get off the plane, and once we did they broke through again and thronged the team. Not many were sober, and they were pouring drinks and beers on our heads.