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As Dooley had feared, the smallish Bulldog defensive forwards were kept on the field too long. Until Pitt had stretched its lead to 21-0 late in the second quarter, the Georgia offense choked on its own exhaust. It never had the ball more than 2� minutes at a time. It was unable to put first downs back to back. It failed consistently to make a strong opening statement, gaining only 17 yards on 13 first-down plays in the first half. Twice on first down it had passes intercepted, and four times threw incomplete. It was suffocation—181 net yards—for a Bulldog offense that had averaged 367 yards a game. How did it happen?
Roper said the wheels were put in motion on the second day of Sugar Bowl preparation, a plan so simple that the team might lose interest in it if it were practiced too much. The coaches determined, he said, that the way to stop Georgia was to stop Quarterback Ray Goff's option runs and pitches off the Veer, the SEC's most prolific rushing offense. And the best way to do that was to blunt the cutting edge—the blocking leads of All-America Guard Joel (Cowboy) Parrish.
Parrish ordinarily pulls to lead the option, but from the start he found he could not because, instead of the customary five-man front, Pitt had gone to a six on running downs. (When Goff is the quarterback, most Georgia downs are running downs. As a high schooler he once threw 36 passes in a game, but at Georgia he has never passed more than five times.) All-America Middle Guard AI Romano slid over to one side of Parrish, and Dave Logan, Pitt's sixth lineman, was positioned to the other side. Thus, if Parrish pulled to lead the option, Romano or Logan was free to break past the Georgia center and run down the play from behind. The Panther ends, Ed Wilamowski and Cecil Johnson, and Linebackers Arnie Weatherington and James Cramer consistently jammed the option when it reached the corners, reading off a key Roper had picked up in films. Romano and Tackles Randy Holloway and Don Parrish shut off the Georgia dive plays that usually succeed when the option is going well. The proud Georgia rushing attack was held to 135 yards, most of those Goff runs that were supposed to be passes.
Meanwhile, Cavanaugh was able to do things to Georgia's three-deep secondary that Georgia could not do to Pitt's. Goff and substitutes Matt Robinson and Tony Flanagan had abysmal stats: more interceptions (four) than completions (three). The Georgia secondary was not nearly so effective. Swarming to stop Dorsett—they held him to 34 yards in his first 14 carries, and 16 of those were off a sprint draw—the Bulldogs sacrificed double coverage in the secondary. Their defenders could not handle Pitt's receivers one-on-one, especially with Cavanaugh out there throwing strikes.
Cavanaugh is Dorsett's socio-physio opposite at Pitt. The office secretaries flip over his shy good looks and boyish diffidence, says Publicist Dean Billick, and his teammates refer to him as "the Kid." But the Kid is a 6'2", 210-pound specimen athlete whose ability to loosen up the rest of the Pitt offense invariably makes Dorsett's way easier as a game wears on, as he did against Georgia.
On Pitt's second possession of the game, Cavanaugh whisked the Panthers 80 yards in 12 plays to what might just as well have been the game's only touchdown. With Georgia overly aggressive—"It was their only way," said Majors, "because we were stronger physically"—in its pursuit of Dorsett (he got only 10 of the 80 yards), Cavanaugh started firing: first a 13-yarder to Split End Gordon Jones at midfield; then, on a five-man flood pattern, a bull's-eye to Fullback Elliott Walker by himself in the middle underneath the coverage. Walker was not the primary receiver, but what did he care? He was on the Bulldogs' 10 before they noticed. Two plays later Cavanaugh ducked inside the pursuit on an option left to score.
Midway through the second quarter, Cavanaugh cranked up again. From his 26 he passed to Willie Taylor for 15 yards. Then, off the option as he came down the line, he rose up to hit Jones slanting in toward the exposed underbelly of the Georgia secondary. Jones did numbers on two Bulldog defenders, broke free and scored, the play covering 59 yards. A Dorsett touchdown of 11 yards sealed Georgia's fate with two minutes to play in the half. The teams had a field-goal-kicking contest after that. Pitt won that, too—two to one, the first set up by Dorsett's 67-yard burst.
Majors, still being pressed to defend his liberal player-relations policies, was asked after the game if this was not just a victory for the national championship, but a triumph for hedonism as well. He said, axiomatically, that "championship teams always rise to the occasion," no matter what that occasion might be, and after billeting the team for seven days in Biloxi, Miss., en route, he knew better than to not let them rise in New Orleans.
Pitt Tight End Jim Corbett said that his teammates were actually more inhibited in New Orleans than they had been before beating Kansas in the Sun Bowl last year. Corbett said it was harder to get to bed early in El Paso because a fellow could buy a good bottle of tequila in Juarez for $1.50.