Ray Goff, the Georgia quarterback who runs, says that being a Junkyard Dog is not always as glamorous as it sounds. Goff shaved his head just like the other 25 or so skinned Bulldogs (the number grows as inhibitions wane) who adopted the sobriquet and the, er, style in an early demonstration of team unity, and now sees himself as being so ugly he "probably won't get another date till the season's over." It has been five weeks since the divestiture, and the stubble on Goff's pallid gray scalp is still shorter than what springs from his chin when he neglects to shave of a morning. Goff hastens to add that he is not complaining.
Neither, it seemed, was Assistant Coach Pat Hodgson as he stood there last Saturday in that slightly balmy Georgia dressing room—well, what do you expect after beating a Bear Bryant-Alabama team 21-0?—and let another razor-wielding Junkyarder harvest his wavy brown hair in front of the bellowing group. As the nap flew, Hodgson was called on to fulfill the second part of his deal—to kiss the pulpy white mush of the Georgia bulldog mascot, Uga III. He did so, not once but twice. And then again. With gusto.
Matt Robinson, the Georgia quarterback who passes, watched Head Coach Vince Dooley take in this moving scene from off to one side. Dooley had been given the game ball and was, then as always, calm in the vortex of the storm. He was heard to marvel at how luxuriant the locks were that Hodgson was giving to the cause. He put his hand on his own somewhat diminished crop. Robinson, himself reshorn just that morning, noted that Dooley's "time is coming." He said Dooley had promised to submit if Georgia continues all the way to an undefeated season.
To appreciate the weight of this prospect, one must understand the type of person Dooley is, and what he has wrought in 13 years at Georgia. His invariably gung-ho teams (he has never had a loser) do not reflect his subdued personality. He is a warm, intelligent, agreeable communicant one-on-one, but his shyness in groups and shortcomings at stand-up humor originally caused him to be thought of as "distant." Remember, this is Athens, where the comedy and con of the late Wally Butts will not soon be forgotten. Dooley's vivacious wife Barbara, who is as much Dooley's opposite as his teams are (she says their solid 16-year marriage is a tribute to his coaching ability), could have told you the truth about "Old Vince" years ago.
October 10, 1976
He is a perfectionist. He leaves nothing to chance. For their vacations, he not only reads the tour books and pores over maps but insists on investigating every attraction. "He never gives up," says Barbara. Do not expect Old Vince to be given to rash judgments or idle promises. When he agreed to risk instant baldness as the price of an undefeated season, he knew his chances. Only a team or two a year go undefeated. "The odds," he said, "are on my side."
The odds are getting shorter. Georgia emerged from the Alabama game as Dixie's best bet in the race for the national championship, a team clamoring for the recognition Alabama has monopolized in winning five straight Southeastern Conference titles. Having lost two games, Alabama would appear to be already out of the dance.
Deadly cool and efficient on the attack, slashing at Alabama's proud defense from every angle, ears laid back and belligerent on defense, swarming over Alabama's proud wishbone, the Bulldogs put together as close to perfect a shutout as one would ever see in what had appeared to be an even match. They did these things with a team that has neither great size nor speed. With no Archie Griffins running the ball. With one quarterback who can't throw (Goff) and another who can't run (Robinson). With a defense so small Defensive Coordinator Erk Russell started calling them the Runts in lieu of Junkyard Dogs this fall. "I am a runt," says 172-pound Safety Mark Mitchell proudly. The defensive line averaged 210 pounds opposite the Alabama offense, outweighed 37 pounds a man.
Yet with all that, Georgia has a splendid singleness of purpose, which is perhaps best seen in the uncomplaining job-sharing of opposites Goff and Robinson—the former a deeply religious "God-Squadder," the latter a freer spirit who doesn't mind risking a nickel or two in the afternoon poker games at the dorm. They seek out each other to be roommates on the road, and ask only to share the load, not carry it alone. "It is something you always wish your best teams will have, but often don't," says Dooley. He has had far more talented teams, he says, but never one that cared more. He told the Bulldogs before Alabama that he did not know if they would win, "but I know you will always give your best for 60 minutes. I can't ask for more."
Even Dooley does not pretend Georgia is without talent, of course. In Guard Joel (Cowboy) Parrish and Tackle Mike (Moonpie) Wilson he has what may well be the finest matched pair of blocking seraphim in the country, as well as the most intriguingly named. Parrish arrived on campus three years ago in a 10-gallon hat, a scruffy pair of cowboy boots and a Texas-type pickup truck—from Douglas, Ga. Publicist Dan Magill likes to point out that Wilson "eats a carton of moon-pies a week," but Wilson, from Gainesville, Ga., says he got the name because his face is the shape of one, not because he stuffs it with them. He says he really can't stand moonpies.
Georgia also has a superb kicking game. Punter Bucky Dilts put 56-and 54-yarders into the thin air over the Crimson Tide when the need for field position was crucial, and though Placekicker Allan Leavitt did not have to kick any 50-yard field goals (he holds the SEC record with five), he boomed his kickoffs so deep into—and sometimes out of—the end zone that Alabama had only two that were returnable.
Beforehand Bryant declared it "the best Georgia team I've seen in years." Georgia had won three straight but had to rally to beat California and South Carolina, and though ranked sixth to Alabama's 10th and playing right there in chummy Athens, went off a six-point underdog. Such is the massive shadow Bryant casts over the SEC; Dooley said that shadow alone "was probably worth a touchdown." A strident Atlanta sports-caster summed it up as well as anyone. He said Georgia was on the verge of a "great game," and that he really didn't like Bear Bryant, because Bear ran away from tough bowl opponents. Then he picked Alabama to win by 10 points.
The night before the game Bryant lamented the fact that many of his young players had been used to Alabama's winning but had "mostly watched others do it." He fretted over the possible exploitation of his pea-green secondary. He pondered the "confidence" his team had not yet achieved from a big victory. Then he padded off to bed in his Georgia red and black silk pajamas.
Every fear was realized. The game plan Dooley worked out with Offensive Coordinator Bill Pace called for attacking the Bama secondary whenever it began rotating too aggressively. Then, with the passing game in order, and using traps and counters that actually called for the Georgia blockers to put their helmets on the wrong side of Alabama's big, strong down linemen, Cowboy and Moonpie ignited the running game. Influenced away from the plays on their own momentum, the Alabama forwards frequently left breaches in the line, not always where the plays were diagrammed to go but big enough for the Georgia backs to sniff them out.
This was after the teams had slugged scoreless and even to Georgia's last possession of the first half. Robinson, having relieved Goff soon after the quarter break, went to work with his two best receivers, Gene Washington and Steve Davis, split to the same side in what Georgia calls its twin set. Given Alabama's aggressive reaction, Robinson said he figured Davis would have "a busy day" from that formation—coming across under the coverage geared primarily to stop Washington.
As it turned out, either Washington or Davis was consistently open. Robinson did not always get the ball to them, but he did twice on important catches as the Bulldogs hurried downfield from their 33, trying to beat the clock. In 12 plays, Georgia marched to the Tide 15. Robinson then tucked in the ball and scrambled to the Alabama three. From there, and with just eight seconds to go, good-pass, no-run Robinson ran a keeper behind Cowboy and Moonpie—fancy that—and wedged into the end zone.
It was as much as Georgia needed, because its runty defense, stunting and blitzing and generally making nervous wrecks of Alabama's two quarterbacks—Jack O'Rear and Jeff Rutledge—pitched a near perfect game in the second half. It is possible that Alabama will meet better linebackers and roverbacks than Bill Krug, Ben Zambiasi and Jeff Lewis, but it is doubtful that it will ever find them again in such clutching, cloying masses.
With Goff quarterbacking, the Bulldogs drove 61 yards without the need of a pass for their breathing-room touchdown, and polished the game off with a 21-yard touchdown drive after an Alabama fumble midway in the fourth quarter. After that, Vince Dooley did exactly what Barbara Dooley would have predicted he would do. He did not jump up and down and throw himself fully clothed into the shower. He stood around answering questions, with the Georgia tie he designed himself only slightly askew, and was so calm and collected he appeared almost bored. He said he couldn't really spend too much time enjoying beating Alabama or Bear Bryant, now could he? There was Mississippi next, and no telling who else now that the SEC is a dogfight again, with Alabama reduced to one of the gang, etc., etc.
And, of course, as Barbara Dooley would be happy to tell you, Old Vince would be absolutely right.