Opinion Columns & Blogs

Adding to my Bulldog football memories

It’s Sunday, Oct. 2. I am writing this from memories accumulated and stored over 65-plus years, because that’s what I did Saturday night, Oct. 1. I stored another memory when Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs completed a desperation pass to Jauan Jennings as time expired. And rather than a memory of one of Georgia’s greatest comebacks, I added a memory of one of Georgia’s hardest defeats in its storied football history.

This new memory will be kept alive as it is told, embellished, showed, and re-showed, for as long as I live and for years thereafter. It will not be a good memory for me, and the reruns and reruns on the SEC Network, and the telling and retelling by Tennessee fans will just be something I will learn to live with.

My Daddy graduated from the University of Georgia in 1937, Bachelor of Science in agriculture. I came along in 1942, and by the time I became interested in Georgia football, the Bulldogs were beginning their eight straight years of losing to Georgia Tech. In my mind, back then, “my” team would never beat the Yellow Jackets. I had no reason to believe otherwise. Then Macon’s Theron Sapp, the fullback on Georgia’s team, broke the drought and a great, new memory partially replaced eight years of bad memories. If I could survive all these bad years, I guess I might survive what happened in Athens on a beautiful fall afternoon, Oct. 1, 2016.

I pause here to exercise editorial privilege. I abhor a prevent defense. I think it’s a strategy that should be removed from the playbook. With this defense that we ran with four seconds to play and with Tennessee on our 47 yard line, one of three things could have happened. Georgia could have intercepted. Good. The pass could have been incomplete. Great. The pass could have been completed. Awful. Awful happened.

In my way of thinking, Tennessee had a one in three chance of catching this 47-yard pass. They passed 15 other times and averaged 11.4 yards a pass. Run the regular pass defense. Put pressure on the passer. With a 3-man rush, there’s not much pressure. I think we have a great coach, but this new and enduring memory compelled me to express my views on a prevent defense.

We Bulldog fans miss Larry Munson. He is now a memory, but while alive and broadcasting he was probably worth a touchdown a game in getting fans fired up and into the game. (Yes, the fans took their radios to the games.) But, in addition to Larry Munson, I and other old Dawgs remember Ed Thilenius. That goes way back. Ed would start his broadcast, each one, with something about like this: “Imagine your radio as the football field. Georgia is receiving the kickoff and is on your left moving to the right.”

Thilenius was good, and the radio was where I learned to love the Dawgs. He like Munson could paint a picture of what was happening. I heard him broadcast from Miami the night Larry Rakestraw at quarterback set a then NCAA record for completions (which stood for many years) as the Dogs defeated the Hurricanes. Thilenius and Munson: good memories.

And, oh, those Georgia-Florida games in the ‘70s and ‘80s. “Washington to Appleby.” “Run, Lindsay, run.” And what about the ‘76 game when Ray Goff scored 5 touchdowns running and passing on his way to becoming the 1976 SEC Player of The Year.

Then Georgia’s luck changed. Florida started winning the close games and some that weren’t so close. We stopped going, blaming it on “getting old.” But the losses surely had something to do with it.

Then there was Herschel. He too must have created 100 memories himself. You know he’s a superstar because everyone knew who you were talking about when you simply said “Herschel.”

It was probably in the early ‘90s. I was in Mexico with a group shooting doves. Georgia played LSU in Baton Rouge on Saturday night. We tried to listen to the game on the radio and got only parts of the broadcast. But it was enough for us to know that the Dawgs had defeated the Tigers. A good memory.

Speaking of Saturday night, when you read this, and you’re a football fan, you’ll know the outcome of last night’s game between the Dawgs and the Gamecocks. I hope it will be us, but I have lots of South Carolina friends who feel just as strongly for their team. Regardless of how it turns out, life will go on. Perhaps we’ll make new ones, memories that is. And, if South Carolina has a 50-yard desperation pass at the end of the game, I hope that if we run a prevent defense that we’ll have better luck with it than we did last week.


Larry Walker is a practicing attorney in Perry, Georgia. He served 32 years in the Georgia General Assembly, and presently serves on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Email: lwalker@whgmlaw.com.