SI Vault
John Underwood
October 11, 1976
When the teams took to fighting and they pulled them from the floor, the Tide looked like a jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces gone
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October 11, 1976

Nothing Meaner Than Junkyard Dogs

When the teams took to fighting and they pulled them from the floor, the Tide looked like a jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces gone

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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.

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