By Charlie Norris
Football is a team sport, but the game is based upon eleven individual performances per play per team for sixty minutes. It would take a series of books to begin to tell all the great Georgia individual game performances, and even then it would only scratch the surface. Heck, it may take an entire series of books about Herschel Walker alone. Who can forget Frankie Sinkwich’s great performance in the 1942 Orange Bowl? Historians say it was the greatest offensive performance in Orange Bowl history and he played with a broken jaw. Who could forget the many great performances by Charley Trippi, highlighted in my opinion by his 1945 play versus Georgia Tech? It was Trippi 33, Tech 0 that day, as Trippi dominated on both sides of the ball and was credited with 517 total yards, a remarkable feat. However, being the greatest player in the Country is not a prerequisite to having an outstanding individual game performance. Today let’s remember three other great Bulldog individual game performances that are not talked about enough.
(1) The date was October 18, 1963, a Friday night. The site was the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. It was a regular season game, UGA vs Miami. George Mira of Miami was an All-American quarterback, the signal caller that all eyes were on each game, because he could light up the place with his passing performances. But on this night, it was Larry Rakestraw, the great Bulldog quarterback, who would take home the honors of best performance by a QB. Rakestraw smashed one NCAA record and three SEC records with 25 completions out of 38 attempts that evening, leading the Bulldogs to a 31-14 victory before 45,000 fans. The records Rakestraw set were:
–NCAA (Major Colleges) and SEC record—most passing yardage in a game: 407 yards breaking the old NCAA mark of 401 yards set by Dick Norman (Stanford vs California, 1959) and breaking the old SEC record of 338 yards set by Babe Parilli (Kentucky vs Cincinnati, 1950) and further breaking the old UGA record of 323 yards set by former Dawg great Charley Trippi (UGA vs Georgia Tech, 1945).
–SEC record—most total offense yardage in a game: 414 yards breaking the old SEC mark of 384 yards set by Trippi (UGA vs Georgia Tech) in 1945 (323 yards passing + 61 yards rushing)—this, of course was also the old UGA record that was broken that night by Rakestraw.
–SEC record—most pass completions in a game: 25 breaking the old record of 20 completions set by Chuck Connerly (Ole Miss vs Chattanooga in 1947) AND by former Dawg great Zeke Bratlowski (UGA vs Maryland in 1951)—the latter, of course, was also the old UGA record that was broken that night by Rakestraw.
By the way, Hurricane QB George Mira didn’t do so bad himself that night. He broke his own record with 25 completions out of 44 attempts for 342 passing yards. After the game Mira addressed Rakestraw with these words, “you are the greatest player I have ever seen.”
Former Dawg great Pat Hodgson caught nine of the Rakestraw passes that night for 192 yards to tie a UGA record for most catches in a game set by another great Dawg, Harry Babcock vs Maryland in 1951.
Bulldog scoring that night: Rakestraw—2 yard TD rush, Rakestraw—1 yard TD rush, Bill McCullough—32 yard FG, Rakestraw to Hodgson—28 yard TD pass, Rakestraw to Hodgson—66 yard TD pass (31 total points). Thanks for the memories Larry Rakestraw!!
(2) 1959 UGA vs Florida: Only a few on today’s internet boards remember the old days when college football players had to play both offense and defense. Most of these old timer Dawg fans have either passed on to Bulldog Heaven, or are dinosaurs in today’s computer technology. While I consider Charley Trippi as being the greatest two-way player in Georgia history (he’s also the #2 All-Time Bulldog player ever on my list behind Herschel, of course), there are many other great two way players in Bulldog history. Today I salute another Charley. Charley Britt is an “all too often forgotten” name when talking about DGDs of the past.
Charley Britt was very good on offense, but he it was on defense where he really shined. This North Augusta, South Carolina native inked with Georgia and was the Dawgs’ starting quarterback in 1957, 1958, and 1959 (yes, the starting QB during the All-American Fran Tarkenton days…and Fran the Man remains today as absolutely one of UGA’s elite QBs of all times). It was because of the old two way rule with limited substitution, and the fact that Britt was so outstanding on defense, that Charley Britt was the starter.
Tarkenton, Britt’s competition for starting QB duties, said that Britt won the Florida game in 1959 single handedly, a vital game victory in Georgia’s SEC Championship run that year. In that game, Britt stood out. He smelled out a Gator quick kick and returned it to the Florida 37. He passed for a TD. He ran down a speedy Gator from behind for a crucial TD saving tackle. He simply played shoulders above all other players on both teams that day. But it was his 100 yard key interception return for a TD that most remember (a play that sits atop both UGA and SEC record books today and forevermore).
There were many great players on that SEC Championship team of 1959 (All-Americans Tarkenton and Pat Dye, Bobby Walden, Fred Brown, Bill Herron, Pete Case, Don Soberdash, Jimmy Vickers, Billy Roland, and Durward Pennington just to name a few), but don’t ever leave out Charley Britt’s name when discussing that 1959 UGA SEC Championship team!! Although not first team, he was awarded All-SEC honors as a back. Britt was drafted in the third round of the 1960 NFL Draft by the LA Rams, the 25th player overall selected (not too shabby at all). He responded with a very good 5 year NFL career by intercepting 14 passes, with an impressive 17.2 yards career return average per pick (including a 73 yard interception return for a TD in his rookie season).
Charley Britt, a name all too often forgotten or unknown by today’s UGA fans. He’s a DGD and his finest collegiate hour was at The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville in 1959.
(3) October 14, 1978 vs LSU in Baton Rouge (their Homecoming game)–LSU was nationally ranked and the huge favorite over Georgia. The Tigers were led by Heisman Trophy candidate Charles Alexander, quarterback Steve Ensminger, and many others. Alexander was one fine running back. But the Bulldogs came into the game hungry, and had some dang good players of their own: RB Willie McClendon, OL Ray Donaldson, Rover Pat Collins, CB Scott Woerner, DE Gordon Terry, and linebacker Ricky McBride to mention a few. Many Georgia players shined that night, but it was McBride’s finest hour as the Dawgs upset LSU 24-17.
Ricky McBride came to Georgia from Groves High School in Savannah. He was voted the best overall athlete in Savannah in 1974 as a football, basketball, and track star in high school. He was the only freshman to earn a letter on the 1975 UGA varsity football team. He was also the only player on the entire Georgia squad to have earned three varsity football letters entering the 1978 season. He played in the shadow of former UGA great Ben Zambiasi, but don’t be fooled, Ricky McBride was a player, and he hit opposing running backs like a Mack truck.
The Dawgs had many stars that night in Tiger Stadium. Willie McClendon ran for 145 yards compared to Charlie Alexander’s 81 total. Freshman wide receiver Lindsay Scott muffled the 78,000 capacity crowd with a 99 yard kick-off return for a touchdown to start the second half. But it was Ricky McBride who pounded Alexander and the LSU offense. McBride finished the game with 18 solo tackles and 6 assists, a total of 24 tackles for the night. That set a modern day Georgia Bulldog defensive record for most tackles in a game at that time.
Georgia has been blessed with great linebackers over the years. Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree this past season were just super. Zambiasi, of course, was a great one, as was Mitch Davis, Knox Culpepper, Mo Lewis, Randall Godfrey, John Brantley, Tommy Thurson, Boss Bailey, Will Witherspoon, Sylvester Boler, and so many others. Ricky McBride never gets mentioned in the same breath as many of the great UGA backers, but let me tell you, he was good, and I mean very good, and he would hit as hard as any linebacker that ever played for UGA. He finished the 1978 season with a team leading 160 tackles, a season mark that was included among Georgia’s best for years until the team started playing more games and counting bowl statistics. I’m not proclaiming Ricky McBride as UGA’s all-time best linebacker ever, but he certainly deserves recognition for his All-American type play in 1978, especially vs LSU. And I’m not alone in believing Ricky McBride was one of the Bulldog’s finest, as he was one of the legendary Erk Russell’s first coaching hires at Georgia Southern. Ricky McBride–a DGD!!
Thanks everyone for my welcome to “Dawn of the Dawg”. I’ll do my best to continue to bring up some of UGA’s great football names of the past, for it is those guys that built the foundation of the great football tradition UGA enjoys today.