Morgan has chance to join elite list of Georgia place-kickers

sports@macon.comAugust 27, 2012 

Aaron Murray, Jarvis Jones and Bacarri Rambo are all important pieces to Georgia having a successful season, but if Mark Richt’s history in Athens holds true, they will be no more valuable than Marshall Morgan.

The freshman place-kicker from Archbishop McCarthy High School in Miami replaces the graduated Blair Walsh, who finished his career as the SEC’s all-time leading scorer with 412 points.

Walsh, who had a disappointing senior season which saw him make only 21-of-35 field goal attempts, was a sixth-round draft choice of Minnesota and is being counted on to start for the Vikings since they released veteran Ryan Longwell.

Morgan has an impressive high school résumé. In his past two seasons, he made 63-of-64 point-after-touchdowns and 25-of-28 field goal tries, which included successful attempts from 53 and 59 yards. In addition, 98 percent of his kickoffs went into the end zone.

Field goals have played a major role in Richt’s success during his time in Athens, where he has compiled an overall record of 106-38 in 11 seasons. During that span, Bulldogs place-kickers have made 217 field goals.

Place-kickers have been instrumental in some of Georgia’s biggest all-time victories. During the 1959 season, Durwood Pennington (nicknamed the Automatic Toe) made a PAT with less than 30 seconds remaining in the game to give Georgia a 14-13 win over Auburn and the team’s first SEC championship since 1946.

In the 1964 Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville, Bob Etter, a 150-pound specialist, picked up a botched snap on a field goal attempt and raced 12 yards, untouched, for a touchdown that resulted in a 14-7 Georgia win.

During the 1976 SEC championship season, Allen Leavitt booted a 33-yard field goal with 11 seconds remaining to break a tie at 10 and give the Bulldogs a 13-10 win over archrival Georgia Tech. And what Georgia fan could ever forget Kevin Butler’s 60-yard field goal in the waning seconds as Georgia knocked off second-ranked Clemson 26-23 during the 1984 campaign?

Butler, who went on to help the Chicago Bears win the 1986 Super Bowl, also made conversions to give the Bulldogs a 10-9 win over Texas in the 1984 Cotton Bowl and a 10-9 win over Florida during the 1983 season. Butler was named to college football’s all-century team, is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and holds the Bears’ all time scoring record with 1,208 points.

Billy Bennett’s 32-yard field goal with 38 seconds remaining gave the Bulldogs a 27-25 win over Alabama during the 2002 season.

Wally Butts, who coached Georgia from 1939 until 1960, was not a big fan of the three-pointer. Georgia all-time great Charlie Trippi, who coached under Butts between 1958-62, recalled a specific game that bears that out during an interview he had with Fran Lane in 2006.

“We were playing Florida one year, and we got down near the goal line,” Trippi said. “We had a fourth and about 10-12 yards to go to score on fourth down. I say, ‘Coach, don’t you think we ought to kick a field goal?’ and his answer was ‘No, you don’t ever win football games with field goals.’ ”

I doubt Vince Dooley or Mark Richt would agree with that statement.

Trippi said Georgia had a good place-kicker in 1942 in Lee Costa, but in his three years at Georgia Costa never kicked a field goal.

Georgia has had eight place-kickers named All-SEC: Jim McCullough, Kim Braswell, Alan Leavitt, Rex Robinson, Kevin Butler, John Kasay, Billy Bennett and Blair Walsh, with Butler and Robinson also earning All-America recognition.

Contact Bobby Pope at bobbypope428@gmail.com

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