Top 5 Most Notable Intersectional Games in UGA Football History
By Patrick Garbin—Twitter @PGarbinDT
As you know, there’s been a lot of talk and buildup regarding Georgia’s trip to South Bend on September 9 to face the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. Recently, a sports-talk radio host even went as far as saying the contest “as far as an intersectional opponent, is probably the most intriguing road trip ever for the Bulldogs.” Well, for those of you not from the “old school,” yes, Notre Dame is just that—“an intersectional opponent,” or essentially a foe from outside the Southeast. However, the “probably the most intriguing road trip ever for the Bulldogs” part is probably not accurate, at least in my opinion. Accordingly, here is my opinion of Georgia’s top 5 (plus a couple of honorable mentions) all-time most intriguing, anticipated—let’s say—notable intersectional road games entering this season:
5) September 20, 2008 at Arizona State: Marking Georgia’s first intersectional game since 1967 (at Houston), its first outside the South since 1965 (at Michigan), and its first visit out West since 1960 (at Southern California), Bulldog enthusiasts came in droves to Tempe, Arizona. Georgia not only sold its allotted 7,000 seats, but Bulldog fans even bought Arizona State home tickets to ensure themselves a spot. By kickoff, it was estimated that at least 16,000-17,000 spectators, and maybe as many as 20,000, in the 71,706-seat stadium were dressed in red and black. And, they witnessed a good showing from the visitors. Knowshon Moreno rushed for 149 yards, A.J. Green totaled 159 yards receiving, and together they were responsible for all three of third-ranked Georgia’s touchdowns in a 27-10 win.
4) October 2, 1965 at Michigan: Although the Bulldogs had played in the “Big House” before in 1957, it didn’t quite have the buildup as this game. Yet, to hear historians talk about the game since it occurred, it’s was a case of “David vs. Goliath”—Georgia apparently had no chance to upset mighty Michigan, which was ranked No. 7 in the country, and defending Rose Bowl champions. However, the Bulldogs were actually not too shabby themselves, ranked No. 10 and only a touchdown underdog. The game would seemingly rank higher on my list, but this intersectional was not quite as highly anticipated as others. For instance, the Wolverines must have thought they’d win in a walk as only 59,470 spectators showed up to the enormous 103,219-seat stadium. There was speculation that many Michigan fans stayed home because they wanted to rest up for their visitor the following week, rival Michigan State. Still, in front of a sizeable Georgia contingent who made the trip to Ann Arbor, the Bulldogs prevailed 15-7 due in large part to three field goals made by 150-pound Bobby Etter, or “the biggest little man in the stadium today,” according to head coach Vince Dooley.
3) November 7, 1931 at NYU: To help understand how “big” this away intersectional game was for Georgia, simply, there were enough enthusiastic Bulldogs fans who were part of the 63,000 spectators at Yankee Stadium to tear down both goal posts. That’s right, following Georgia’s 7-6 victory over New York University, visiting spectators tore down both posts in the home team’s own backyard—“The House That Ruth Built.” Parts of the goal posts actually rode back with the Georgia players on the team train. Also, as the story goes, pieces of the posts made their way out onto the street outside the stadium. A particular UGA student struggled to carry one of these pieces, which was said to be longer than he was, through the Bronx and back to his hotel. Suddenly, a New York taxicab pulled up beside him and the passenger inside offered the student a ride to wherever he needed to go. From there, the taxi, the student, the prized piece of post, and the generous passenger, who was none other than UGA's Dr. Steadman Sanford, the namesake of Georgia’s football stadium, all somehow, as a newspaper reported, "rode in style to the hotel."
2) November 4, 1967 at Houston: Georgia’s first appearance on artificial turf and in a dome stadium matched the fifth-ranked Bulldogs versus the Houston Cougars, a three-point favorite, at the Astrodome, the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” So foreign was the artificial surface to Georgia that during the team walk-through, standout lineman Bill Stanfill, upon taking his first step on the turf, blurted, it’s “more like a pool table than a football field.” In front of 53,356 spectators—at the time, the most at the site for a sporting event and the second-most for all events, trailing only an earlier appearance by evangelist Billy Graham, the Bulldogs curiously squandered a 14-0 fourth-quarter lead to eventually lose, 15-14. What had happened? Perhaps, Georgia lost its focus, becoming too enchanted with its surroundings. “None of us had ever experienced something like that before—playing football indoors on artificial turf,” a player on the team once informed me in an interview. “Some players were ripping up the turf and putting it inside their helmet to take home for a souvenir.”
1) October 15, 1921 at Harvard: Although Georgia had traveled to Annapolis, Maryland, to face Navy five years before, according to historian Charles Martin, the “real invasion” occurred when the Bulldogs journeyed to Cambridge, Mass., to play Harvard in 1921. The powerful Crimson entered the contest having won 23 consecutive games and were an overwhelming favorite to not only defeat Georgia—that was a given—but to hold the visitors scoreless. In fact, the Harvard team reportedly considered the game to be a practice session for its following week’s contest against Penn State. Yet, the game played in front of 25,000 spectators at Harvard Stadium, was recognized as possibly the most significant intersectional in college football history at that point in time. Trailing 10-0, Georgia amazingly scored a touchdown on “a forward pass that followed a double pass”: Dave Collings to James Reynolds to Dick Hartley. It was the first points Harvard had surrendered in seven games dating back to the previous season, while Hartley became the first southern player to ever cross the Crimson’s goal line. And, get this: At the same time, Georgia Tech was hosting Furman in Atlanta, and the Georgia-Harvard score was being kept on Grant Field’s scoreboard. When Georgia’s touchdown was indicated, Georgia Tech fans cheered and its band played “Glory to Old Georgia.” Despite the Bulldogs’ 10-7 loss, “the glory of the victory was not to go to the players that triumphed,” according to sportswriter Cliff Wheatley. “And finally to the southern team that came up to justify football in the South, and who succeeded better than any Dixie team that has ever attempted the crusade.”
HM) October 28, 1916 at Navy (The Very First): Georgia’s first intersectional game involved 30 of its players in an unfortunate 27-3 loss. The Red and Black’s only score was a field goal by Bill Donnelly drop-kicked from Navy’s 25-yard line. Still, the highlight of the trip was the team’s visit to a burlesque show the night before the game where, reportedly, a “big time” was had until a 9:30 bedtime.
HM) September 19, 1953 at Villanova (The Most Attended): Villanova normally played its home games at its on-campus Villanova Stadium but, to draw a bigger crowd for an intersectional with Georgia, it called Philadelphia's Municipal Stadium home. A crowd of nearly 100,000 spectators (97,803) witnessed an early 12-0 Wildcat lead deteriorate to an eventual 32-19 Georgia victory. Notably, the two teams would combine to record a 7-14 mark that season. So, you might be wondering, why would so many people show up to a football game between two below-average teams? The truth is the Acme food chain bought 60,000 of the tickets and distributed them free to grocery store customers in the Philadelphia area. The attendance of the "Supermarket Bowl," at the time, the largest crowd for a season-opening college football game and a record Eastern football crowd excluding Army-Navy meetings, would be the largest crowd for a Georgia football game for more than 44 years until the Bulldogs played in front of 106,656 at Tennessee in 1997.