G-DAY: By the Names
After posting G-DAY: By the Numbers a couple of days ago, I present the Bulldogs' spring game By the Names—or, the Georgia players and coaches who have made G-Day rather relevant to many fans for decades. Consider it kind of like the Bulldogs’ annual individual spring awards, of sorts, except the following acknowledgements encompass G-Day’s entire 75-year history:
THE PLAYERS: In examining 72 game recaps comprising the history of G-Day, I discovered many remarkable single-game performances by individuals. However, when it comes to a G-Day career—or, three or more spring game performances—two former players stand out above the rest. (And, since both played back when star players indeed saw significant action in G-Day games, a number of you might have actually heard of both of these guys.) My runner-up for G-Day’s all-time best player is quarterback-safety Lynn Hughes who, besides playing on the defensive side of the ball in three games (1964-1966), was the winning quarterback for each contest. As a sophomore in 1964, he led the Red in passing (81 yards and a touchdown) and rushing (51 yards) in a 17-7 win over the Black. In 1965, Hughes passed for a game-winning touchdown—a 10-yarder to Pat Hodgson on 4th and goal with only 12 seconds remaining—in the Red’s 7-3 victory. And, as a senior in 1966 playing for the Black, he scored both of the game’s touchdowns on runs in a 14-0 victory. Still, even more impressive was the career spring performance by wide receiver Lindsay Scott. Playing for the Black three consecutive times (1979-1981)—all victories by an average score of 35.3 to 14.0—Scott not only made 15 receptions for 303 yards (20.2 average), including a staggering six catches for touchdowns, but he also rushed for a 40-yard touchdown, and returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score. If you’re keeping track, yes, that’s eight touchdowns scored in three games—Great Scott!
THE PLAYS: For my all-time greatest play in G-Day history, I had a difficult time choosing between two. In 1979, starting the game from its own 20-yard line, the Black lined up 6-foot-3, 250-pound (which was considered above-average weight for an offensive lineman back then) guard Nat Hudson in the backfield. And, ala the Chicago Bears’ “Refrigerator” Perry from 1985, Hudson was handed the ball on a plunge, but plunge he did not, as he streaked 52 yards before being hauled down at the Red 28-yard line. In 1986, with the Black trailing the Red 17-7, possessing the ball on the opposing 35-yard line with only a few seconds remaining, the side destined for defeat thought it would at least try to end G-Day with a bang. The Black broke the huddle with seemingly just 10 men on the field; however, right before quarterback Wayne Johnson took the snap, junior Miles Smith stepped off the sideline barely inbounds. Smith, an all-state quarterback in high school who was competing for Georgia’s starting free safety position, exhibited he could likely play wide receiver, as well. He raced from just inside the sideline towards the end zone, where he hauled in a 35-yard touchdown from Johnson with no time on the clock.
THE CAPTAINS: A year after the Black team’s trickery, Vince Dooley decided to do something a little different for G-Day in 1987: instead of the coaching staff dividing the teams, like the selection process had always been conducted since the inception of the game, the head coach appointed senior standouts Kim Stephens, an offensive guard playing for the Black, and linebacker John Brantley, a linebacker leading the Red team, to pick the squads in a draft-like manner. So impressed was Stephens with his selections, which included starting quarterback James Jackson and the team’s entire projected starting secondary, he dubbed his Black squad the “Blue Collar Workers.” Nevertheless, G-Day resulted in a dog day afternoon for Stephens’ “workers” as Brantley’s underdogs prevailed, 24-14.
THE COACHES: From 1976 through 1992, G-Day featured primarily popular media personalities as honorary head coaches. These guests included Jesse Outlar, Brent Musberger, Pat Haden, Craig Sager, Monica Kaufman, Rubarb Jones, and Randy and Spiff. Most of these visiting coaches actually did very little coaching—if any at all—while not taking the game very seriously. However, that was not necessarily the case in 1978 when the late, legendary Lewis Grizzard directed the Black team. Defeating the Red 24-0, whereby his Black squad scored a touchdown on the contest’s final play, Grizzard celebrated with a victory ride off the field. In a postgame interview, he was jokingly asked why he didn't go for two points following the final touchdown. Grizzard quipped that he had been too busy hugging the cheerleaders to realize he had even scored, and then added that not going for two was the only mistake he made the whole game.
From honorary head coaches taking the spring game quite seriously to actual head coaches seemingly not wanting one at all. In 1996, or just prior to his first G-Day as Georgia’s new head coach, Jim Donnan stated, “If we look like an outhouse or penthouse [during the game], I'm not going to worry about. I hope people are still going to come see us play next year.” By 1997, apparently other head coaches had a similar attitude to that of Georgia’s head man. "Talking to coaches around the country, it's a real dilemma to have a [spring] game," Donnan said.
AND, THOSE WANTING CHANGE: Notably, the highest scoring G-Day in history resulted in 2012 when the Red defeated the Black, 32-31. On the contrary, the fewest number of combined points scored in a G-Day game to date have been a mere 10, resulting on two occasions, including the aforementioned ’65 affair when only three points would have been tallied if not for the heroics of Lynn Hughes and Pat Hodgson. That same afternoon in 1965, nearly 300 miles away in Tuscaloosa, Ala., an astounding 112 combined points were scored in Alabama’s spring game. The scoring spree prompted the ever-pessimistic Vince Dooley to declare that he didn’t know how his Bulldogs would score enough points a little over four months later when the two teams met in the season opener to even come remotely close to the high-powered Crimson Tide on the scoreboard. (For the record, thanks to Hodgson, a 73-yard flea-flicker, and a successful two-point conversion, Georgia wound up scoring enough points—just enough—on September 18, 1965, as the Bulldogs upset mighty Alabama 18-17 in Athens.)
Finally, speaking of Dooley and the Crimson Tide, just prior to Georgia’s spring game in 1978, it was declared in the media that the upcoming affair could be the last G-Day ever. Dooley had announced that at the annual SEC meetings less than a month later, he was going to ask the conference to approve a move allowing SEC schools to face each other in an exhibition scrimmage every spring instead of playing an intrasquad game. He said the Bulldogs could play Alabama, for example, in a home-and-home spring series since the two schools weren’t scheduled to play in a regular-season game for another seven years. Citing additional revenue and increasing interest in football during the spring, Dooley asserted, “I’ve thought it through, and I can’t see anything negative about it at all.”
Evidently, nearly 30 years ago, the SEC did see something “negative” regarding Dooley’s idea—but, what do you think? What if tomorrow, instead of the Red facing the Black in the G-Day game, it was Georgia vs. Alabama, Texas A&M, or LSU in a spring exhibition?