If his Southeastern Conference co-champion Georgia Bulldogs were scheduled to play the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Coach Vince Dooley would be terribly worried. "I know we're favored," he would probably say, "but remember, they beat the DAR by 14 points last week. And that lady at left tackle loves to hit." Dooley has been drawling wolf at Georgia for three years, and in that time his teams have almost always proved him wrong. But at Clemson, S.C. last weekend the highly rated Bulldogs nearly made a prophet of their coach.
There were those who thought Clemson would serve as Dish of Dogmeat No. 2 for Georgia, which had crushed Mississippi State 30-0 the week before. But Dooley, true to form, was pessimistic, for the Tigers had started off their season by drubbing Wake Forest 23-6.
"Everything Clemson did against Wake Forest was like being at midseason form," Dooley said. "They didn't lose a fumble. They didn't miss any assignments. They were just tremendous. I really think Clemson should beat us." On Saturday, in their own friendly Clemson Memorial Stadium, the Tigers almost did, before surrendering 24-17.
Memorial Stadium is the pride of Clemson Coach Frank Howard, a bald, fat and funny man who chews Penn's Thin tobacco and seldom loses at checkers. The stadium is down a little hill, nestled in a gully. The Army Corps of Engineers, not long ago, had to build two dikes to keep a flooding reservoir from filling it up to the 27th row. Everybody calls it Death Valley, because it is usually a graveyard for visiting teams. This year Howard has installed a rock from the real Death Valley, in California, and it sits on a pedestal near the Clemson players' entrance. Each man pats it before running down a 103-foot orange-and-purple rug and onto the field.
In spite of Georgia's reputation, Howard was reasonably optimistic. "I think this is one of the best teams I've had in a long time," he said. "I'm not like those pretty coaches up the line who talk about what poor teams they're going to have. They don't sell tickets."
One of the added attractions of this particular episode of "Death Valley Days" was the presence on Georgia's squad of Kent Lawrence, a 9.5 sprinter from the Clemson area. Some folks in Pickens County say Kent sprinted down to Georgia because his college entrance-exam figures were not up to ACC standards. They, and Coach Howard, refer to the SEC as the Knucklehead League, which is not the kind of sentiment that makes for peaceful southern afternoons.
By half time last Saturday few in the capacity crowd still shared Howard's optimism. Georgia was out in front 17-3 after intercepting two passes, recovering a fumble, kicking a field goal and—led by Kirby Moore, a husky little senior quarterback—scoring two touchdowns. Obviously Coach Dooley had been playing psychological games with that Clemson-in-midseason-form propaganda.
But Clemson was not about to roll up its rug and retire graciously. Behind their powerful offensive line, the Tigers advanced to a third-period touchdown with all the delicacy of an armored division, and moments later Frank Liberatore returned a punt 52 yards for another Clemson touchdown, tying the score 17-17.
Clemson had the momentum and against most teams would have gone on to win, but Georgia's defense lived up to its reputation through the whole fourth quarter, and the offense, which previously had not been able to move the ball on the ground, slowly drove for the winning touchdown. It came when local-boy-makes-good Kent Lawrence dashed around end for 14 yards and went sailing into the end zone upside down.
"I told the coaches a while ago that we seemed to be lackadaisical," said Kirby Moore. "But I think we got the test today, and we passed it. Coach Dooley had us well prepared. He's really smart."
He is, indeed, and he may even start to develop the kind of following that hallowed Bear Bryant has over at Alabama. Jokes about Bryant's near divinity have been all the rage in Dixie, and there is a famous trick photograph that shows the Bear walking on water. Last week a cartoon was circulated on the Georgia campus that showed Vince Dooley running on water—and carrying Bear Bryant in his arms.