The Greatest Game Ever

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The Greatest Game Ever

Photo: Georgia Sports Communications
[su_spacer size=”20″] Yesterday afternoon, my Dad was getting chemo. Having nothing but time and tumors to kill, Dad began to reminisce about the “Greatest College (Football) Game” he ever witnessed. I listened. He was going to UGA on the GI BILL after serving in the signal core (radio communications) while the Army was doing some nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands. Not sure if that exposure was the cause of his cataracts and melanoma, which now has metastasized to his lung and liver, or if environmental factors were. The “environment” was going shirtless picking cotton and tobacco on the farm since he was out of footie pajamas.
[su_spacer size=”40″] The Year was 1959, and the opponent was the Auburn Tigers. At stake for the DAWGS was an undefeated conference record and an undisputed SEC Championship. Auburn HC was “Shug” Jordan; Vince was an assistant for the Tigers. Georgia’s HC was Wally Butts. UGA was led by So. QB Fran Tarkenton and Jr. All-American Defensive Lineman Pat Dye. Both would figure prominently in the outcome of the game.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Dad recalled that it was a beautiful Fall day. Sunshine with a nip in the air combined with the fans’ energy, understanding the importance, Between The Hedges, made for a thrilling atmosphere. Dad remembered that the game was well-played mainly between the 20’s with almost no penalties. He said both teams well prepared. He said it was a tight contest deep into the 4th Qtr. He recalled that the DAWGS got the ball trailing 13-7. Fran Tarkenton drove the team down to AU’s 20 yd line, but the drive stalled and the DAWGS turned the ball over on downs. On the ensuing Tiger drive, he said that Pat Dye forced and recovered a fumble from the Tiger’s QB Bryant Havard, who was just trying to run out the clock. Setting the scene, the DAWGS had to get a TD. They were near AU’s 20 yd line with like 2 minutes left in the game.
[su_spacer size=”40″] After UGA got a first down on the ten yd line; it was 1st and goal with like 1 min left. Auburn’s defense bowed up. It became 4th down; the ball was still near the ten under 30 seconds remaining. The DAWGS most productive play was “student body right”, where they pull the Left guard with a couple of leading backs blocking and the run behind the wall; “getting seal there and getting a seal here”. Fran Tarkenton called UGA’s final timeout. Instead of going to the sidelines to talk strategy with Coach Butts, Tarkenton tells the team to huddle, and he drew up a play in the dirt. Dad recalled the stadium going berserk over the brashness. It was an OMG moment. Tarkenton was telling the HC to ‘talk to the hand.’ Can you imagine any QB or team NOT coming to the sidelines in today’s game, or what would the (social) media reaction be?
[su_spacer size=”40″] “Sir Francis” draws up that they were going to fake the student body right run play. The Sr. Left End (TE/ WR) Bobby Towns, a high schoolteammate of Tarkenton, fakes blocks, falls down for a 2 count, gets up and leaks back out to the left side of the end zone. The play worked perfectly as designed Towns was wide open in the end zone, no one around him. Now, Tarkenton has to commit a couple of more ‘cardinal sins’. He had to throw across his body and late across the field, too. Dad said the ball hung up in the air like it was in slow motion replay. Eventually, the ball fell softly into Towns’ arms; Touchdown! Georgia scores and kicked the point after with like 13 seconds remaining. Fortunately for the DAWGS there were no ACC officials or Cal Band on the field, and UGA won 14 -13!
[su_spacer size=”40″] Then I had to inform Dad that the GA SO game was not a noon or 1 o’clock start. We had brought extra tickets thinking I would take him to see a game (maybe his last opportunity). Indeed, the game had been moved back to 7 p.m. Dad will wake up early on drive to Athens, but he wants to be in his bed by 11. With the night game kickoff that would mean he would get home around three a.m. – that was just going to be too much. All of which I instinctively knew what his reaction would be. After he politely declining, he just said that he missed games starting at 1 o’clock. Me too. Then silence until the last drop was gone.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Salute to All the Veterans and Beat Auburn!
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Greg is closing in on 10 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.