Albeit for a single play, Georgia's all-time "Wonders"
Former head coach Vince Dooley and I were chatting the other day about the Bulldogs’ season opener in less than six months from now, and the fact the Georgia-North Carolina series is actually somewhat of a historic rivalry—albeit, going back at least 45 to 50 years ago but, still, somewhat of a historic series.
“‘Little’ Billy Cloer was just too small of a player to do a whole lot for us,” Vince said regarding the seldom-used Bulldog-turned-hero of the 1965 Georgia-UNC game. “But, he was such an aggressive guy, and we found a spot for him on the onside kickoff team (chuckling). And, that was his one and only assignment!”
Coach Dooley’s comments got me thinking of a list I first compiled a few years back: Georgia’s all-time One-Play Wonders, or Bulldogs players who are revered for making a single play—and, did little else but make one significant play—during their entire Georgia career. Including “Little” Billy Cloer, my revised top-5 “One-Play Wonders” in Bulldogs’ football history:
#5 ADRIAN REESE (1995 vs. New Mexico State)
Reese, one of the most highly-touted prospects from the state of Alabama, contributed as a freshman at Auburn in 1992; however, he would not see the field again until three years later after transferring and walking on at Georgia. In three games for the Bulldogs in 1995, Reese rushed only 6 times for 23 yards with the bulk of his work coming in his first game, a 40-13 win over New Mexico State, including scoring on a short touchdown run early in the third quarter against the Aggies. The score is considered a one-play wonder for little else besides the fact that of the nearing 450 different Georgia players to have scored a touchdown during the modern era, Reese is the only one who did not earn a letter as a Bulldog.
#4 ALONZO AWTREY (1912 vs. Alabama)
Alonzo Freeman Awtrey, nicknamed “Little Hanks,” contributed very little during his Georgia playing career. However, the Red and Black’s backup quarterback in 1911 and 1912, back when top reserves could very well go an entire game or so without even seeing the field, was involved in arguably the most unusual play in Georgia football history.
Against Alabama in 1912, Georgia positioned only 10 players on the field for the opening kickoff, followed by the same number lining up in formation for the game’s initial offensive play, but it was all by design. Awtrey, Georgia’s 11th man, rather than the standard football uniform, dressed out in white overalls while holding a water bucket on the sideline, creating the impression he was the team’s water boy. When teammate Timon Bowden dropped back to pass, Awtrey dropped his bucket, came off the sideline, and raced downfield to pull in a long completion inside opposing territory. Alabama highly protested the play, but officials indicated there was nothing in the rule book specifying the type of uniform a player must wear. The acclaimed “Water Boy Reception” was certainly a point of controversy, yet the main feature in Georgia’s eventual 13-9 victory.
#3 BILLY CLOER (1965 vs. North Carolina)
In one of Vince’s biggest comebacks of his coaching career, the head coach's favorite one-play wonder resulted. Trailing 35-21 in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs rallied for 13 points to pull within a single point, 35-34.
“We called Billy Cloer in for his one play,” Coach Dooley said regarding the ensuing onside-kick attempt. “He went into the ballgame, went under the pile [on the onside kick], and somehow got the ball. He was only a little bitty fella’.”
On the onside-kick attempt, Georgia's kick went directly to UNC tackle Chuck Alexander, who "was looking into the sun and didn't see the ball until it was on him," according to the Tar Heels’ head coach, Jim Hickey, after the game. Alexander fumbled the ball, and there was Cloer for the Bulldogs’ recovery. Soon afterwards, quarterback Preston Ridlehuber scored on a 31-yard run, and Georgia would eventually add another touchdown for a 47-35 road victory—a win primarily resulting because of Little Billy who, listed at 5-foot-10 and 157 pounds, was said to have measurements that were actually slightly exaggerated.
#2 CARVER RUSSAW (1987 vs. Arkansas, Liberty Bowl)
A native of Los Angeles, Russaw transferred to UGA in 1986 and was redshirted after attending California's Glendale Community College. In 1987, the junior third-string cornerback recorded only one tackle the entire regular season. In the postseason against Arkansas, Russaw was inserted with less than a minute remaining of a tied, 17-17 game and with the Razorbacks looking to pass. Georgia's "Cover 8" defense was designed to funnel all pass receivers into the middle of the field and force the Hogs’ quarterback Greg Thomas to throw into traffic. Russaw jammed receiver Tim Horton toward linebacker Terrie Webster, who tipped a Thomas pass towards the little-known defensive back. Later declared academically ineligible prior to his senior season of 1988, Russaw set up Georgia’s winning score of the Liberty Bowl—a John Kasay field goal—with his 14-yard interception return on what would turn out to be his final play as a Bulldog.
#1 DAVID ARCHER (1978 vs. Georgia Tech)
For three football seasons from 1978 through 1980, defensive back David Archer hardly played on Georgia's varsity team before transferring to West Georgia to play quarterback. However, in the handful of snaps he did appear in a Bulldog uniform, Archer would become UGA football's all-time one-hit wonder, resulting against arguably the team's biggest rival. Overshadowed by Buck Belue's "game-winning" touchdown pass to Amp Arnold with more than two minutes remaining against Georgia Tech in 1978, and Arnold's two-point conversion to give the Bulldogs a one-point lead, freshman Archer was sent into the game to solely cover the Jackets' tight end on the ensuing possession. Appearing in his first play of the contest in just his second game as a Bulldog, Archer's diving interception of a Mike Kelley pass clinched a 29-28 victory. Alas, like Russaw's game-clinching pick, Archer's interception would be his final play in a Georgia uniform.
Besides the aforementioned five, anyone know of any others—any one-play wonders which, as Coach Dooley said of Little Billy, “was his claim to fame at Georgia”?