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They Trampled Through The Hedges
Jack McCallum
November 21, 1983
Visitors rarely win amid the flora at Georgia, but Auburn's Tigers did just that to plant themselves in the Sugar Bowl
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November 21, 1983

They Trampled Through The Hedges

Visitors rarely win amid the flora at Georgia, but Auburn's Tigers did just that to plant themselves in the Sugar Bowl

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Aughtman is now part of what may be the best college defensive line. He and fellow seniors Doug Smith, Donnie Humphrey and Williams, along with juniors Ben Thomas and John Dailey, all have pro potential. The only consolation for the opposition is that all six can't play at once. At 6' 6", 275 pounds, Smith is the most fearsome. In the first quarter he stripped Lastinger of the ball, and Williams recovered at the Georgia 24. Five plays later Lionel (Little Train) James circled right end for a four-yard touchdown to put the Tigers ahead 7-0. James's running mate, sophomore Bo Jackson, who would rush for 115 yards on 18 carries, had set up the score on the previous play by mowing over three would-be tacklers in the backfield and continuing around left end for eight yards.

The 6'1", 229-pound Jackson has matured a lot since last season, when he was moody, inconsistent—and almost gone. One evening in November, Jackson left his dormitory at 6 p.m., walked to the Greyhound station in Auburn and looked longingly at the buses that pulled out for his hometown, Bessemer, Ala. Finally, at 2 a.m., a bus station employee asked him to leave.

"I was fed up with everything, the practices, the pressure, the coaches nagging at you," he says. "I just couldn't accept the way it was different from high school, where the coaches had to put up with my selfishness. I honestly don't know whether I really wanted to get on a bus. But I got thrown out of the bus station, and the next morning I went and told my coach [Running Back Coach Bud Casey] the whole story." Casey was sympathetic. He then instructed Jackson to do 25 "stadiums," which are sprints up the 69-row bleachers at Jordan-Hare Stadium, as punishment for violating curfew. Jackson got the message that this was college, not high school.

Jackson's adjustment has been made easier by the counsel of James. "He's my little big brother," says Jackson. "I look up to him." James's blocking has always been an inspiration to Jackson, not to mention an important reason for Jackson's glowing 6.9-yard 1983 rushing average. In return, Jackson has worked hard on his own blocking to help bolster James's stats, and his efforts have paid off. James, who ran for 84 yards on 13 carries against Georgia, is averaging 6.3 yards per carry this season. On James's TD, Jackson got the key block, cutting down Bulldog Cornerback Daryll Jones. After the score Jackson ran over and gently lifted James off the ground, a small ritual that they perform after either one gets a touchdown.

In the second quarter Jackson put the Tigers in position for their next score, a 21-yard field goal by Al Del Greco, with a 20-yard gallop around left end that showed the wishbone at its best. Auburn runs a true triple option, which allows Quarterback Randy Campbell to read the defense before deciding whether to leave the ball in the belly of Fullback Tommie Agee, the first option on most plays, or to take it out and either run himself or toss back to James or Jackson. On this play he took the ball out and made a long, left-handed pitchout to Jackson. "It took me a long while to learn how to do that because my right arm is a lot stronger than my left," says Campbell. "In this offense we have to make some long pitches. It's not a flip with the thumb down like in the veer or other offenses. This is like shooting in basketball."

On another option play later in the second quarter, two Georgia defenders converged on Jackson and ignored Campbell. So he squirted through untouched for 21 yards to the Bulldog 41. Five plays later Del Greco kicked a 41-yard field goal that gave the Tigers their 13-0 halftime lead.

As it so often has, Georgia's superb defense toughened in the second half, holding Auburn scoreless and allowing it only 123 yards. In fact, the best player on the field last Saturday was not Jackson, James or Smith, but Bulldog Linebacker Knox Culpepper, who was in on 21 tackles. And the best player not on the field—most of the time anyway—was Terry Hoage, the Dawgs' All-America rover-back. Hoage had missed the previous week's 10-9 win over Florida and didn't practice for the Georgia-Auburn game because of a badly sprained right ankle. Before the opening kickoff he was in his customary position, wind-milling the crowd into a frenzy, but the pain in his ankle was too much even for the gutsy Hoage, and he played only a couple of series.

Auburn now has a three-week break before facing 'Bama. The Tigers deserve a rest. They have survived one of the country's toughest schedules—six opponents were in SI's Top 20 when Auburn played them—with only one breakdown, a 20-7 loss to Texas on Sept. 17. Since then Auburn has won eight in a row. But nothing is tougher than beating Georgia in Athens; where the fans deeply believe that their Dawgs can't be beaten "between the hedges" that surround the field. Jackson was quietly chewing on a piece of that plant life after the game when someone asked him what it tasted like.

"Tastes like dog meat," Jackson said with a smile.

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