Georgia’s 1968 team shined

sports@macon.comOctober 28, 2013 

When ranking the all-time best teams at Georgia, there is no question that the 1942 and 1980 national championship squads would be at the top of the list, along with the unbeaten 1946 team led by the great Charlie Trippi.

The 1968 team should be included among the best all-time, as well.

They went through the regular season unbeaten, but there were two ties. They battled the Tennessee Vols to a deadlock at 17 in the season opener in Knoxville, and then in November the Bulldogs got out with a tie at 10 against the Houston Cougars and their triple-option veer offense thanks to a fourth-quarter touchdown pass and a 38-yard field goal from Macon’s Jim McCullough with 12 seconds remaining in the game.

Georgia’s signature win in the 1968 season was a 51-0 shellacking of the Florida Gators in a driving rain in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville following the week of the Houston game. The rain was so hard that an official had to keep his foot on the ball between plays to keep it from floating away. The 51 points are the fourth most ever scored by the Bulldogs in that storied rivalry. The 1942 squad destroyed the Gators 75-0 in Jacksonville, the 1920 team won 56-0 in Athens and, in the first game ever played in the series, which took place in Macon in 1904, the Dogs won 52-0.

In the 1968 contest, Georgia built up a 35-0 halftime lead behind a stellar performance from quarterback Mike Cavan. Cavan, on his way to being named SEC Sophomore of the Year (freshman were not eligible at the time), had one of his finest days in a Georgia uniform. In the first half, he connected on 10-of-12 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns. In addition to his passing totals, he rushed for 25 yards on six carries.

Coming out of high school at R.E. Lee Institute in Thomaston, Cavan had all intentions of playing college football for Bear Bryant at Alabama and committed to the Crimson Tide, but his high school coach, who was also his father, Jim Cavan, nixed that idea and actually gave Mike no option. The elder Cavan had played at Georgia in the late 1930s.

The Gators fumbled on the first play of the second half, and Georgia recovered and quickly moved in for a score to take a 41-0 lead after failing to convert on the extra point. That marked the end of the afternoon for Georgia’s starters, who became spectators. One of those spectators was defensive tackle Bill Stanfill, who went on to win the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman and then to an All-Pro career with the Miami Dolphins.

After departing the game, Stanfill took a seat on the Bulldogs bench, which backed up to the hedges close to the stands, and he held a cup over the back of his head where Georgia fans provided him with liquid refreshment, filling up his cup the remainder of the game. It all makes sense to me, as the Georgia-Florida game has always been referred to as “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.”

Another standout on that 1968 team was safety Jake Scott, who was a consensus All-American. Scott set up Georgia’s first score on a 58-yard interception and run to the Gators’ 5. That was one of 16 interceptions for him during his two-year varsity career at Georgia. He is tied with Bacarri Rambo for the Georgia record for most career interceptions with 16. Rambo needed four seasons to match Scott’s mark.

Scott left UGA following his junior year to join British Columbia in the Canadian Football League for one season before signing with for the Miami Dolphins, where he spent six seasons playing in three Super Bowls. He was the MVP of Super Bowl VII in 1972. He was with the Washington Redskins his final three years in the NFL.

Cavan, Stanfill and Scott are all members of the Florida-Georgia Game Hall of Fame.

Even though Georgia lost to Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl 16-2 on New Year’s Day in 1969 in New Orleans, the Bulldogs were declared national champions by the Litkenhous poll, whatever that is. As one member of that team said, they might have lost the game to Arkansas, but they won Bourbon Street.

The forecast for Saturday’s game in Jacksonville: 50 percent chance of rain with a high of 71.

Bobby Pope, who hosts the Saturday Scoreboard at 4 p.m. on Fox Sports 1670, can be contacted at bobbypope428@gmail.com

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service