"If the ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we'd all have a merry Christmas," said Allen Trammell, an assistant coach for Florida, another victim of the underdog bite. Doing the biting in the Southeastern Conference clash were Georgia's Bulldogs, 10-7 winners.
A couple of hours before game time, Georgia Coach Vince Dooley minimized his team's chances by saying, "We're small, but that's O.K. because we're also slow."
Florida Coach Doug Dickey tried to pep up his Gators by saying, "Just keep piling the chips on the table and tell 'em to deal. Now go out there and get ugly."
Getting ugly, and just plain dirty, was easy, because a thunderstorm had gunked up the Gator Bowl. Florida repeatedly turned scoring chances into "ifs" and "buts," and led only 7-3 with less than four minutes left. Then Georgia got the ball on its own 20 and Offensive Coordinator Bill Pace sent in a play, one he changed because of a TV timeout. His second thought was the wide-counter-pass, which Quarterback Matt Robinson got in motion by handing off to Tight End Richard Appleby, who is eminently strong of arm but horribly lacking in form. Appleby wafted a pass more than 50 yards to the Florida 30, a pathetic, struggling-for-life toss that served its purpose when Flanker Gene Washington caught up with it and took it into the end zone. There was still time for the ugly Gators; they had possession on the Georgia 21 with 1:09 to play. Then came more "buts" and an "if." Florida tried three passes. Zero. So the Gators went for a field goal and a tie. They might have achieved that if the ball had been centered properly. It was not, and the Gators were through.
Alabama struggled to a 23-10 win over LSU. The victory was the 250th for Bear Bryant and assured the Crimson Tide of at least a lie for the SEC title. Alabama, which forced seven LSU turnovers, got all of its second-half points on field goals of 50, 42 and 25 yards by Bucky Berrey.
Auburn salvaged a 21-21 SEC tie with Mississippi State, thanks to four field goals by Neil O'Donoghue, one from 54 yards out.
Richmond beat The Citadel 7-0 to wrap up the Southern Conference championship. East Carolina set league records for rushing (633 yards) and total offense (690 yards) in demolishing Virginia 61-10.
Air Force came from 12 points back to down Tulane 13-12. Navy also rallied, falling behind 16-3 to Miami before revving up for a 17-16 win. But Fairleigh Dickinson did not come from behind. It got there fast, stayed there and lost to Bowie State 83-0.
1. Alabama (8-1)
2. Georgia (7-2)
3. Florida (7-2)