If the old “Way Back Machine” was working, for me it’s an easy pick for the one Georgia victory over Tech that I’d love to relive.
One Play and Call It a Day.
It was December 5, 1981 at historic Grant Field, second-ranked defending national champion Georgia, which three weeks earlier clinched the Southeastern Conference title with a 24-13 win over Auburn, blew away the Yellow Jackets 44-7 to cap a 10-1 regular season and drop Tech to 1-10. Some of the most iconic Bulldogs of all time had memorable afternoons on this grandest of Red and Black Saturdays.
On the first play from scrimmage, Tech bit on a play fake for a fairly famous tailback who will be discussed shortly, and Buck Belue hit Lindsay Scott streaking down the right sideline for an 80-yard touchdown pass. The Yellow Jackets were stunned, and the Bulldogs were well on their way.
You may have noticed the date, that first Saturday of December. ABC television wanted to show the defending national champions against their in-state rival, so the game was moved back a week from the customary Saturday after Thanksgiving. Georgia could savor that second straight SEC championship and have plenty of time to turn the focus and fine-tuning to Tech.
As indicated by that famed first play, Georgia was ready.
Completely dominating all three phases, the Bulldogs piled it on following the quick strike, scoring on their first seven possessions. Following a stop of Tech, the Dogs went 88 yards for a touchdown, with the Goal Line Stalker Herschel Walker striking paydirt for the first time. The Greatest College Football Player ever had an incredible day.
Walker broke Pitt legend Tony Dorsett’s NCAA single-season freshman rushing record the year prior, compiling 1,616 yards. Herschel got the mark with 205 on the ground, capped by a 65-yard touchdown that put the pesky Jackets away en route to a 38-20 victory between the hedges. Well, # 34 would go for over 200 yards again on The Flats.
Carrying 36 times, Walker amassed 225 and four touchdowns, with an astounding 15 rushes for first downs and 12 totes for at least 10 yards. Over a four-game stretch, it was the third time that he scored four touchdowns. The magnificent Walker also struck paydirt four times in a 49-3 rout of Temple and 26-21 (Part II) triumph over Florida.
Legend has it that Tech took a couple of shots on Herschel that he took exception to, and he refused to come out of the game. When his fourth touchdown, and the subsequent extra point was made by a fairly famous kicker who will be discussed shortly, put Georgia on top 44-0 early in the fourth quarter, he watched the rest of the day. Enough punishment had been inflicted.
Damage was done to the record books that day. Amongst the many marks he smashed, these three single-season marks stand out. Walker broke the SEC record for rushing yards in a season with 1,891, and his 18 rushing touchdowns and 20 total TDs both set new conference standards. Walker, who the year prior finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting, the best ever for a freshman, would be voted second to Marcus Allen in 1981.
Kevin Butler had enormous shoes to fill – Rex Robinson, All-American for the national champions of 1980 and one of the greatest college football kickers of all time. A great admirer and fan of his friend and predecessor, Butler took on the extra pressure of succeeding Robinson while wearing his jersey No. 5.
He missed his first field goal attempt in the season-opening win over Tennessee. Nerves. “Try breathing next time,” Hall of Fame coach Vince Dooley told him. Butler would go on to make three field goals and five extra points that day in that 44-0 victory over the Volunteers. He would do the same against Tech, setting the NCAA freshman record for converted field goals. He would finish second in the conference that season in scoring. To Herschel Walker.
Belue and Scott hooked up on another big-gainer, with Lindsay making an amazing leaping catch in double coverage to go over 100 yards on the day. Herschel, Lindsay, Buck, and Butler. It was a day to remember.
Of course, football is the ultimate team game. A stellar offensive line, collection of tight ends, receivers, and backs were all an enormous part of this milestone Saturday. And then there was the defense.
Though Tech punched in a late touchdown with Georgia leading 44-0, the Bulldogs stop unit hit an incredible number for the 1981 season – double digits. Yes, Georgia gave up just 98 points on the season, recording three shutouts and holding six of 11 opponents to seven or fewer points. The Bulldogs would win nine games by double digits, seven by at least 21 points.
It was a spectacular climax to a sensational season. For the first time ever, Georgia won successive SEC championships and followed it up with one of the most lopsided victories in series history – with legendary Bulldogs headlining a virtuoso Red and Black performance.