Not all songs of the South on autumnal Saturdays are representative of some great catharsis or emotional realization. Sometimes, these songs are just good, old-fashioned, straightforward expressions of love, loyalty, and a little bit of ass-stomping fun. Such is the song of Georgia alumni and Paul Finebaum fan and Twitter feed fanatic Geoff Rockwell, who—like me—can trace his super fandom back to a single game.
Geoff, who graduated from the University of Georgia in 1986 was an undergrad in Athens for three years. That meant he missed the glory days when Herschel Walker ran all over the competition and into the Heisman book of legends. But the game that destined him to live and die a Dawg fan pre-dated his time at UGA. That game took place on November 19, 1982 between the University of Georgia and Auburn University at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Herschel Walker was a junior, and that game is a legendary SEC contest.
“I was planning to go to school at Georgia and my wife and I had gone to see the game,” Geoff remembered. “Larry Munson was the guy who did the radio call for Georgia then. I wasn’t a student yet, but I was soon after. Herschel Walker was in the game.”
Unless you’re a longtime SEC football fan, you might not realize that Georgia and Auburn have an incredibly storied historic rivalry. In fact, it is the oldest rivalry still played between schools in the Deep South. The first game was played in 1892, and the series record illustrates the absolute contention between the universities.
The record is 55 Auburn wins, 55 Georgia wins, and 8 ties.
Hard to get more even than that.
In the 1982 season, Georgia was vying for its third consecutive SEC championship, and as the football schedule neared its end the Auburn team was one of the last teams with a chance to ruin their so-far undefeated season.
“I do not hate Auburn University,” Geoff qualified. “I have been to Auburn many times. I work with Auburn people; know a lot of Auburn people—good people. So I don’t hate Auburn.”
Geoff paused and the grin on his face was easily heard over the phone line and four states. “I just love beating their ass. It’s just a big rivalry for me. Most Georgia people have Florida as their big rival. My big thrill is beating Auburn University. It’s kind of like a border war between our states.”
The game was close and hotly contested, but in the fourth quarter the Dawgs led 19-14 after a touchdown drive featuring 8 runs by Herschel Walker. With 2:39 left in the game, however, Auburn had returned the favor with a drive of its own. The Tigers were on the Georgia eleven-yard line, with a soon-to-be superstar of its own—young running back Bo Jackson—and four fresh downs.
“Larry Munson was one of those legendary play callers, like John Ward at Tennessee,” Geoff said, thereby earning many brownie points with me since John Ward yelling “GIVE-HIM-SIX!” is the ringtone on my phone. “He said, ‘Hunker down, you Dawgs!’ That’s what we had to do—hunker down for those four plays to win the game. That’s what made that play call so legendary.”
On first down, Jackson was brought down for a loss of two yards. On second down, the Auburn quarterback Randy Campbell was sacked. On third down and twenty-six, Campbell completed a nine-yard-pass, giving the Tigers one last chance—a fourth and fifteen. Campbell dropped back to pass, but his throw was slapped away in the end zone with :49 left on the clock. Georgia’s victory was capped by Munson yelling, “Look at the sugar falling from the sky!”—a prophecy fulfilled when Georgia went to the Sugar Bowl to play Penn State for a shot at the national championship.
“We won in the last few second of the game. That’s what made the play call from Larry Munson so great,” Geoff said. “One of those moments, you know. Beat them at Auburn. Herschel Walker was a junior. Won the Heisman and left for the USFL. He was one of the first college players to leave early for the pros left and they made a big deal out of that.”
Although Georgia didn’t win the 1982 national championship, it was the third straight year they went undefeated in conference play. Herschel Walker finished the game with 177 yards rushing, which made him the first junior to surpass 5,000 career rushing yards and basically made him a lock for the Heisman Trophy. That mid-November victory in Jordan-Hare is still remember as the seminal game in the long life of the Auburn-Georgia rivalry.
“We didn’t do so hot with Bo Jackson after that,” Geoff added. “He ran over us pretty good for a year or two.”
That one game thirty-three years ago cemented Geoff’s devotion to Georgia football, a devotion that remains unchanged to this day. “1980 was the last time we won a national championship, I hear it all the time. We have a good coach, we win ball games—but haven’t won it all since then.”
He paused for a minute, reflecting perhaps on his currently undefeated Georgia Bulldogs and the test they will face this weekend against an always tough Alabama Crimson Tide. “I don’t hate Auburn,” he repeated for the third time. “But man, I sure do love beating their asses.”
That makes total sense to me. Every good song has to have rhythm, and what better rhythm can there be than hearing eleven guys from your school knock your rivals on their backsides? The only accompaniment that might be better is the subtle sifting of sugar, as it falls from the clouds scudding over Jordan-Hare on a grey, windy November day.
Author's note: For more about the 11/19/1982 meeting between Georgia and Auburn, check out Looking Ahead While Looking Back, Georgia Auburn 1982, the full game on YouTube, or the highlights with Larry Munson's play calls. You won't regret it--it's a fabulous piece of SEC football history!
If you have a Saturday Song of your own, drop me a line at kaantira(at)hotmail.com. I'd love to hear it, and who knows--I may use it in a future post! See you next week with a new song to sing!