It is called the Georgia football team, but that is ridiculous. Georgia has about 10 good football players in the entire school, and half of them are on the coaching staff. The Bulldogs are small and not very fast, but neither do they have much of a passing attack. They are the kind of people who, with their hair dripping wet, cannot get their parts straight. When they tie their ties, the thin ends are longer than the fat ends. They have a linebacker named Jiggy Ephram Smaha. How can you figure a team with a guy named Jiggy Ephram Smaha? They have another linebacker, Thomas Walter Lawhorne Jr., who has a straight A-plus average in premed. That is how much sense Georgia makes—except when it whomps you. Georgia whomped Alabama. It also whomped Vanderbilt and last weekend in Ann Arbor it whomped Michigan 15-7. You have to believe that Georgia knows what it is doing.
Preston Ridlehuber, the Georgia quarterback, is one of those who has trouble getting his part right. Harry Mehre, the old ex-Georgia coach who, as "football analyst," now appears regularly in The Atlanta Journal, loves Ridlehuber. Why not? Ridlehuber runs like a Citation—and he is color-blind. When he passes, he throws to any color jersey, just as long as it seems to contain a receiver. Ridlehuber, whose friends call him Preston for short, walked out into the middle of that breathtaking Michigan Stadium on Friday to have an early look at the place where his team would compliantly lose by eight or more points, and somebody said, "It really gets you, doesn't it, Preston? The tradition and all." "Shoot," said Preston, "we played in big stadiums befoah. We played in the Sun Bowl. We played in the Gatah Bowl."
The Georgia football coach is named Vince Dooley and he, like Ridlehuber, is almost unbelievable. He is only 33 years old. He is an intellectual. He smokes a pipe. When he goes to bed at night he reads Civil War history and his dreams are uncomplicated by the X's and O's of more believable coaches. His master's thesis (The United States Senator James Thomas Heflin and the Democratic Party Revolt in Alabama) has been called the equivalent of a doctoral dissertation. On an office wall where you might expect to see Frankie Sinkwich or Charley Trippi gripping a football he has world maps. Dooley has three small children and a vivacious wife named Barbara, who also has a master's degree. Barbara keeps close enough to the action to shoot down a young coach's ego when it tends to fly too high. While driving to the beach one beautiful day last summer, Vince could not help but reflect on his marvelous first season as head coach. Expected to lose most of his games, he won six, lost three, tied one and upset Texas Tech in the Sun Bowl. "Barbara," Vince asked, "do you know how many good coaches there are in the South right now?" "No, honey," Barbara said, "but I do know there's one less than you think there is."
The probability, however, is that Vince Dooley is about to become a great coach before his time. Georgia is back on top—or near it—and this accomplishment is Dooley's miracle. He is a splendid organizer, already a tough enough recruiter to beat Georgia Tech to the state's best high school players. He is enough of the ex-marine to be dispassionately demanding of his players, enough of the natural leader to be inspiring (Georgia football coaches now do calisthenics with the team). When Dooley played quarterback at Auburn, Jim Tatum of Maryland called him the "greatest competitor I have ever seen." Dooley has made competitors out of the Bulldogs. But, best of all, says Joel Eaves, the Georgia athletic director, "Dooley does not panic." After the last few trying years in Athens, Ga., this is considered a rare quality.
What Dooley's unorthodoxy means in terms of profit and loss at Georgia is that he and his staff have converted a depressing example of mediocrity—before the Michigan game Dooley termed his players "absolutely the worst I've ever been associated with from the standpoint of talent"—into a soaringly dedicated team. Dooley could denigrate the Bulldogs openly because he knew they would not believe a word of what he said and they would go out and play like maniacs and wind up carrying him (their calm and beloved detractor) off the field triumphantly on their shoulders. If ever there were people born to be loved they are Vince Dooley and his wretched bunch.
Naturally, they are not all bad. Preston Ridlehuber, for example, is much like Jimmy Sidle, the skinny ex-Auburn star, when he runs the football—slipping into little crevices like a crab, running off from his interference, scrambling free from a pass-rush. Ridlehuber has been known to run 82 yards just to get himself a touchdown. Pat Hodgson, the end who caught the pass that beat Alabama, is genuine material, Tackle George Pat-ton is an outrageously strong defensive player and Bob Taylor gets to and through a hole as quickly as any halfback in the country despite, or because of, a disconcerting habit of taking the hand-off on his hip, thus giving one the impression he is going to leave the ball behind him.
"Michigan probably has more respect for us than we deserve," said Dooley on Friday. He was standing in the empty stadium, shivering a little in the chilly, gray afternoon because he had not thought to bring a long-sleeved shirt to wear under his blue blazer. "We could get beaten badly," he said. "We could be humiliated."
Michigan did not take Georgia lightly. On that same day Rick Vidmer, the hypochondriac who plays quarterback for Michigan, explored a chart the coaches had prepared on Georgia. Hung on the field-house wall, the chart bore mug shots of the Georgia players and a turgid exhortation: WE HAVE NOT BEGUN TO PLAY OUR TYPE OF GAME—HIT HIT. GO GO GO. BE READY. THIS IS IT. Vidmer wears glasses for his nearsightedness, arch supports for his flat feet and keeps a dehumidifier with a blinking red light going full tilt in his room to mollify his asthma. He hounds roommate Don Bailey about open windows, and he makes Bailey dust. But he is a fine quarterback, and his infirmities have a way of vanishing on Saturday afternoons. "They hit," he said of Georgia, squinting and blinking at the chart. "You can see it in the movies. They really come at you. But the big thing is, they take advantage of your mistakes, and we're big on mistakes. Even beating North Carolina and California we've given up the ball 11 times already on fumbles and interceptions."
There is, of course, no way of coaching fumbles, but Head Coach Bump Elliott was doubly concerned because in the heat Georgia demonstrated as much vigor in the fourth quarter against Alabama as it had in the first, while Michigan had wilted badly at North Carolina when the heat became a factor.
In a general search for incentives, Bob Hollway, Elliott's defensive coach, made inflammatory references at meetings to the Big Ten-Southeastern Conference rivalry. (Teams from the two most powerful leagues in college football seldom meet, but the SEC, formed in 1933, holds a 9-7 edge over Big Ten schools.) Hollway suggested that it would be un-American to give Georgia a touchdown. "Michigan has never—never—lost to a SEC team [in three previous games], and it better not start now." "Call 'em Rebs, call 'em Bulldogs, call 'em suckers," warned The Michigan Daily, "but don't call Georgia just an old, sweet song."
At the beginning of the game on Saturday the Wolverines did not appear capable of losing to Georgia. But as time went on they looked more and more like players capable of losing to themselves. As Dooley said afterward, a precision team (presumably one from the SEC) would have had Georgia down 21-0 at the half. If that was an overstatement, it certainly did not seem likely that Georgia would leave the field at half time trailing by only 7-6.
Georgia was smaller, and perhaps even a little slower than Michigan, and Elliott went to a tight slot T—for the first time this year—intending to ram right at the Bulldogs. Michigan did, but it had bad luck. Halfback Carl Ward, coming back to the weak side, sprinted 28 yards to an apparent touchdown the first time Michigan had the ball, but the Michigan split end was caught leaning on the play. Illegal motion. Michigan came right back but got hit with a holding penalty, then an interception.
It must be some consolation to Elliott that fumbles, as inexplicable as they usually are, tend to run in cycles. His cycle is about ended. But how maddeningly unreal it must have seemed when his excellent punter, Stan Kemp, dropped a perfect snap from center to set up a Georgia field goal late in the first quarter. Until then Georgia had moved only fitfully, and the shotgun attack Dooley had installed to open up Michigan's bigger—by 10 pounds to the man—defense had proved ineffective. From the Michigan 34 Bob Etter kicked the field goal, first of three for Georgia in three attempts.
Midway in the second quarter Vidmer set up Michigan's touchdown with a 38-yard pass. Moments after the score Michigan was driving again after an intercepted pass, but substitute Fullback Tim Radigan fumbled the ball away at the Georgia 28. Now for the first time Georgia began to take the initiative, as Michigan, playing a yard off the ball, was consistently outcharged. Georgia quickly moved 36 yards to set up Etter's 44-yard field goal one second before the half ended.
The second half was Georgia's. The Bulldogs, controlling the ball for the first time this year, ran 43 offensive plays to only 22 for Michigan. They were on the offensive for 22 of the 30 minutes. Dooley tightened down his ends to cut off the Wolverines' power and held them to 28 yards rushing in the second half. Getting the break behind Tackles Ken Pillsbury and Edgar Chandler on wide dives, Taylor ran 13 times for 71 yards. Once he fell just as he broke free at the Georgia 22 on a run that would have covered 91 yards. But Kemp, punting out of bounds once at the Georgia one-yard line and again at the seven, kept the Bulldogs off the scoreboard.
Finally, halfway into the fourth quarter, the Georgians worked their way 51 yards to their touchdown. On the 28 Ridlehuber rolled left as if to throw. "My receiver was covered," he said later, "and I thought I'd better run for it. Then I saw [Bill] Yearby running parallel with me toward the sideline. I knew he was Michigan's trailer on the play, and when I looked back behind me there was nobody there—nothing except Georgia helmets. I turned and ran the other way and headed for that little flag."
Ridlehuber made it only to the six but, after a delaying penalty, he passed 10 yards into the end zone to Hodgson. "My first touchdown pass," shouted Ridlehuber afterward. "Maybe I'll get another one someday. But I'm not making any wild predictions.
"As individuals we're nothing," said Ridlehuber as he dressed. "What's so wonderful is that this team knows that. When we play together we're something. Michigan hit as hard as any team we've played against but, man, the) were suck-in' wind at the finish."