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Counting the Days – Day 68

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(L to R) ELI's coming for a 68-yarder; so did the legendary TRIPPI in the '46 Oil Bowl; and, No. 68 PIE FACE, who executed the "Pie Face Pitch."

Dave McMahon and Patrick Garbin

Welcome to our countdown! Over a month ago we started this countdown and, in case you’re wondering, we are not stopping until we get to “1,” and we might even go to “zero” for good measure. Anyway, each day leading up to the season opener, Patrick Garbin and I will each show three unique and creative ways why we feel that number is special to the Dawgs. An alternative rock band from Wales, The Alarm, had a hit single in the early 80s, “68 Guns,” derived from a book they read in the 1960s. It reached the top 40 on some U.S. charts and peaked at No. 17 in the U.K. While the song is catchy and I have sung it in my car a few times, one thing has always confused me: the lyrics mention, “Guns Forever, that is our battle cry,” but the chorus says, “68 Guns will never die, 68 Guns our battle cry.” So, Mike Peters and Eddie MacDonald, which is your true battle cry? Or, are you pulling an Auburn card, and saying different things to cover your bases? Either way, I hope I didn’t ruin that song for you. If so, hopefully we can somewhat make it up to you by bringing back some good Georgia football memories involving “68”:

By Dave McMahon

3 – I have done this a few times before: I am going with the power of rounding numbers. Hutson Mason had the difficult task of following the record-breaking Aaron Murray behind center. Well, in 2014, Mason broke a record that many Dawg fans would perhaps think might belong to Murray, Matthew Stafford, D.J. Shockley, David Greene or even Fran Tarkenton: highest completion percentage in a season. Finishing with 188 completions on 277 attempts, Mason completed 67.87 percent of his passes in 2014, or 68 percent for the sake of this article, breaking the record held by his then-offensive coordinator. Here is a list of the top ten single-season completion percentages in Georgia history, whereby some of the names might surprise you:

Top Ten Single-Season Completion Percentage
Season Comp Pct

Hutson Mason

2014

67.87

Mike Bobo

1997

65.03

Aaron Murray

2013

64.84

Aaron Murray

2012

64.51

Eric Zeier

1993

63.29

Greyson Lambert

2015

63.28

Hines Ward

1995

61.61

Matthew Stafford

2008

61.36

Aaron Murray

2010

61.11

Fran Tarkenton

1959

60.78

2 – Fred Gibson had a very good career for the Dawgs, practically placing in every Georgia receiving category. As a freshman in 2001, he made 33 receptions for 772 yards and six touchdowns. The six touchdown receptions were tied for the team’s lead that season with Terrence Edwards. Gibson was essentially unstoppable in the game against Kentucky in 2001. The Dawgs trailed the Cats 22-7 in the second quarter, and then it was all Fred, catching a 68-yard touchdown from David Greene and, later, being on the receiving end of a 56-yard score. Other Bulldogs got in the act and, before you knew it, Georgia had won the game, 43-29. Gibson’s totals for the game were amazing: nine receptions for 201 yards and two touchdowns. The 201 yards receiving broke a school record that had been held since 1942 by Lamar Davis. Gibson’s mark has since been passed by Tavarres King against Michigan State in 2012, but remains rather impressive.

1 – One of the greatest Bulldogs ever (and, likely one of the greatest athletes anywhere of all time) is Charley Trippi. I am sure there will be a lot of things mentioned about him in the next week or so, but this one deals with his performance in the 1946 Oil Bowl. Trippi spent time in the U.S. Air Force from 1943 to 1945 but, following his discharge, he got to play the final six games of the 1945 season. Facing Tulsa in the Oil Bowl in Houston, Tx., Georgia held a 7-6 fourth-quarter lead when it was the future Hall-of-Famer’s time to shine. First, Trippi passed to John Donaldson for a 64-yard touchdown, followed by him returning a punt where he reversed his field, and ran over tacklers to score a 68-yard touchdown (by the way, the last player in NCAA history to have a 60-yard pass completion and a 60-yard punt return in the same game was Iowa’s Tim Dwight in 1997).

By Patrick Garbin

3—I have several memories of offensive guard No. 68 Kim Stephens (1984-1987), like in the infancy of him carving out a career as a respected local defense attorney, Stephens taught a Legal Studies course I took at UGA in the summer of 1997. On the field, until the mid-1990s, he was the only Georgia offensive lineman to have started for four seasons and, as a senior in 1987, he received First Team All-SEC honors. Still, what I may remember most about Stephens is a catch he made against Auburn in 1987—that’s right, the guard caught a pass. After being inducted into Sphinx—the highest non-academic honor a male student at Georgia can receive—in a pregame ceremony, Stephens’ reception covering 11 yards (although color analyst Lee Corso inaccurately claims it was a seven-yard gain), from what I figure, remains the only catch made by a Georgia offensive lineman the last half century:

2—From 1946 through 1949, although reserve halfback Eli Maricich didn’t score a ton of touchdowns—eight in total—he scored them four different ways: three rushing, two receiving, one via punt return, and two on interception returns. In the third game of the 1948 season against Kentucky, Maricich intercepted a pass thrown by future NFL legend George Blanda at his own 32-yard line and started sprinting towards the opposite goal line. Maricich, who hadn’t played football while in high school because he was too small, and only pursued the sport during a stint in the Marines, appeared he would get chased down by Wildcats before cutting back at their 30-yard line, eluding tacklers, and dancing around defenders, until finally completing a 68-yard touchdown return—a return which was estimated to actually cover well over 100 yards. Ironically, Maricich’s 68-yarder came on the heels of a 75-yard interception return he had just the week before against North Carolina in Athens, corralled nearly at the exact same spot on the field whereupon the ball was toted back in the same direction, ending in the same result.

1—No. 68 John Jennings had an admirable career as a Bulldog, standing out as the team’s starting offensive left guard in 1970 and 1971. Still, likely no moment for this No. 68 could beat when he executed the “Pie Face Pitch” against Ole Miss in 1971. Facing the Rebels in Jackson, Georgia tailback Ricky Lake broke off a first-quarter, 5-yard run from the Ole Miss 44-yard line, but was suddenly blindsided by a defender as he attempted to break a tackle. The ball popped in the air and into the awaiting arms of Jennings, who had been nicknamed "Pie Face" by animated teammate Bobby Poss (Aaron Bonding, where it's always springtime... I heard 'dat!). In the modern era of UGA football, by my count, five offensive linemen have "rushed" for touchdowns; however, four of them resulted by falling on a fumble in the end zone. Standing alone is No. 68 Pie Face, who scored his touchdown by not falling on the ball, but by grabbing it in mid-air and rumbling for a 39-yard touchdown, and thus executing the “Pie Face Pitch.” Jennings later claimed he had never signed so many autographs when the Bulldogs' plane later landed in Athens after the game, adding, "Funny, what a touchdown will do."