AND AT LAST THE DAWGS HAD THEIR DAY
Georgia's luck surely had to run out. In the opening game Quarterback Buck Belue fumbled three times, but the Bulldogs got past Tennessee 16-15. Against Clemson they were outgained 239-33 at the half but led 14-10. South Carolina might have beaten them had Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers not fumbled on the Dogs' 17. Now Georgia was trailing Florida 21-20 with 1:32 left and facing a third-and-11 on its own seven. Belue rolled out unsteadily but hit Split End Lindsay Scott at the 26. First down? Much more. A Gator defender slipped, and Scott ran 74 yards for the winning touchdown. When Notre Dame was tied 3-3 by Georgia Tech on the same day, Georgia rose to No. 1 position in the polls—and remained there by the skin of its teeth.
FOR GEORGIA THE SUGAR BOWL WAS SWEET
Never mind that Georgia's wondrous Herschel Walker set an NCAA freshman rushing record of 1,616 yards and finished third behind South Carolina's George Rogers (1,781 yards) in the Heisman balloting. And never mind that Rogers finished his college career with the fourth-highest rushing-yard-age total ever (4,958). Overall, the emphasis was on passing. Purdue's Mark Herrmann set an NCAA career record by throwing for 9,188 yards, Brigham Young averaged an unprecedented 41.5 passes a game, and BYU Quarterback Jim McMahon set a single-season record by throwing for 4,571 yards.
So what was Georgia—a team with an erratic quarterback and a one-man rushing offense—doing at the top of the polls? Many teams looked better. Trouble was, the other unbeatens kept losing. The theme song could have been the rock group Queen's Another One Bites the Dust. On one Saturday second-ranked Ohio State and third-ranked Nebraska lost, and a few weeks later Alabama, UCLA, North Carolina and Baylor fell on the same day. By season's end only 11-0 Georgia had a perfect record. The Bulldogs' rivals clung to one last hope: that Notre Dame would whip Georgia in the Sugar Bowl and promote either Florida State or Pitt—each beaten once—to No. 1.
February 12, 1981
Georgia's offense did everything possible to cooperate. True, walker gained 150 yards, but his teammates lost 23 and Quarterback Belue didn't complete a pass until the last two minutes of the game. Meanwhile, Notre Dame ground out a statistical edge in every major category. Every one but points. The Irish set up one touchdown by walker when their kickoff receivers got their signals crossed, and another by Herschel when Irish Fullback John Sweeney dropped the ball on his own 20. Trailing 17-10 in the closing moments, Notre Dame threw a pass on fourth-and-one, which was intercepted. That was the ball game. But give the Dawgs their due. They neither fumbled nor threw an interception, and they took advantage of every Irish error. Their march to the national title may not have been a thing of beauty, but en route they had a better turnover margin than any other major team—and a better record.
With 60 catches, Scott Phillips was the leading edge of BYU's aerial attack.
Oklahoma's Steve Rhodes, in an orange Bowl squeeze here, later grabbed the TD pass that, with a two-point conversion, beat Florida State 18-17.
Find of the year was that peach of a running back, hurryin' Herschel Walker.
Michigan stopped Flanker Anthony Allen and Washington 23-6 to give Bo Schembechler his first Rose Bowl win in six tries.
One of four unbeaten teams to lose on a single November Saturday, Baylor—and Jay Jeffrey—were felled 30-22 by San Jose State.
Bears Linebacker Mike Singletary (above) had an All-America style and stare; Buckeye Calvin Murray ran away from Syracuse.
The play of the year: Scott turned a 19-yard pass into a 93-yard gamer as Georgia beat Florida.
Though star runner Sam Piatt (29) separated his shoulder on this first-half play, Florida State got past old tormentor Florida 17-13.
Hugh Green was the nation's No. 1 defender, but Pitt finished No. 2.