Flashback Friday: A shock delivered in Athens

The Clemson-Georgia rivalry should be bigger than it is and should mean more than it does.

From 1977 to 1987, no rivalry in the country was more closely contested (each team went 5-5-1 against the other, and nine of eleven meetings were settled by seven or fewer points) or nationally significant (from 1980 to 1982, the winner of the Clemson- Georgia game played in the bowl that determined the national championship).

– Kyle King, Fighting Like Cats and Dogs

The rivalry stands at 63 games with the 64th coming on Saturday in Athens. The rivalry was renewed from 1962 to 1987 but since then it’s been played only seven times.

The focus of this flashback is the last time the game was played in Athens in 2002. This was the first meeting between these rivals since 1995, and it was Mark Richt’s first game as Georgia’s head coach against the Tigers.

Georgia sophomore quarterback David Greene was coming off a fantastic freshman campaign that saw him throw for over 2,700 yards and toss 17 touchdowns. However, this was not to be Greene’s day. When all was said and done Greene completed 12 of 21 passes with 1 TD and 1 INT for just 67 yards.

Both teams suffered miscues throughout the game and neither team asserted itself offensively, as Clemson finished with 233 yards of total offense against Georgia’s 203.

Georgia jumped out to a 21-7 lead, but Clemson would score three straight touchdowns to take a 28-21 lead into the fourth quarter and had seized all of the momentum. The Georgia offense, which fumbled on three consecutive plays at one point, was sputtering.

Georgia was set up in good field position by a Damien Gary punt return. Wanting to change things up, Richt put freshman quarterback D.J. Shockley into the game. Shockley had been sent into the game earlier on a very short field (after a shanked Clemson punt) and ran three plays (two of them quarterback keepers) culminating with a nine-yard touchdown run.

This time was a little different for Shockley, as the pressure was building with Georgia’s inability to get anything going on offense. On the first play from scrimmage, Shockley was sacked as he had his foot stepped on by an offensive lineman and fell to the ground. Shockley came back on the next play and hit Fred Gibson on a 12-yard out. On third and 3, Shockley hit Terrence Edwards on a slant and Edwards took it to the house to tie up the game.

David Greene would come back and lead Georgia on a short drive that led to Billy Bennett’s game-winning field goal. Without the spark D.J. Shockley provided, though, who knows how this game would have turned out.

Georgia would finish the season 13-1, Richt’s best record in Athens, and ranked third in the nation (a seven-point loss to Florida was the only blemish on the team’s record).

Georgia and Clemson will play for the 64th time this coming Saturday and many are wondering who might be the D.J. Shockley of this game. After a three-point win for Clemson in Death Valley last season, the Bulldogs come home to Athens where they have won three straight against Clemson. Savor this rivalry game on Saturday, as it will probably be a while before you see these two rivals go at it again.

About Kevin Causey

Dry humorist, craft beer enthusiast, occasionally unbiased SEC fan, UGA alumni, contributor for The Comeback.