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This Day in Georgia History

September 06, 1980

UGA Beat Tennessee

The University of Georgia opened its national championship football season by visiting the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville, Tenn. before the largest crowd (to that time) to ever see a college football game in the South. Little was expected of the Bulldogs after their disappointing 6-5 season in 1979. And indeed things did not start very well. Tennessee controlled the game for the first half and well into the third quarter, building a 15-0 lead. Then Tennessee safety Bill Bates fumbled a punt after a vicious hit; both teams scrambled for the ball but neither could control it as it went through the end zone for a safety making the score 15-2. Seeking a way to jump start his sluggish offense, Georgia Coach Vince Dooley inserted freshman running back Herschel Walker into the lineup. After a pass play moved the ball to the Tennessee sixteen yard line, Walker took a pitch out and exhibited his amazing grace and power. Deftly splitting two defenders he met Bill Bates just inside the ten yard line and proceeded to run over him on the way to scoring a touchdown. (Ironically, Walker and Bates would eventually be teammates on the professional Dallas Cowboys). Still trailing 15-9, the inspired Georgia defense held Tennessee and returned the ball to Herschel Walker. Driving to the six yard line, the freshman sensation showed his speed by taking a pitch and outrunning blitzing Tennessee linebackers to the corner of the end zone. The extra point kick put Georgia ahead 16-15. Tennessee mounted a late challenge by driving to the Georgia four yard line, where the ball was stripped from a running back and recovered by Georgia. Walker’s exploits earned him national notoriety and this big come from behind win propelled Georgia to an undefeated season and a national championship.