Flea Flicker turned the Georgia Bulldogs around with an official’s bad call


Bulldog fans continue their hailstorm of complaints after Saturday’s disaster in Columbia.


Disastrous play calling. Disastrous defense.

Disastrous officiating and a disastrous spot and measurement.

The spot and measure – the Bulldog Nation will talk about “the spot” for while.

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Referee errors are like the bounce of the ball – sometimes you benefit, sometimes you don’t. Maybe this is a good week to re-visit the biggest officiating “disaster” in Georgia football history – one that Bulldogs will celebrate forever. Using one referee’s mistake, Georgia crawled from the shadows of the college football landscape into the sunlight.

Every Bulldog of proper breeding knows the play simply as, The Flea Flicker.

The 1965 Georgia Bulldogs opened the season against reigning national champion Alabama. A year earlier, unheralded new head coach Vince Dooley breathed new life into a near dead Bulldog program with a 6 – 3 – 1 record, a record that included a humiliating defeat at the hands of a Joe Namath led Alabama.

Few gave the 1965 Georgia team any better chance against the winning-est college football program of the 1960s. Still, Georgia’s resurgence and Alabama’s fame led NBC to make the 1965 season opener in Athens the game of the week, the only televised game of the day from coast to coast.

The game began with both defenses playing well. After watching the first team offense do nothing, Vince Dooley inserted the entire second-string offense. Back up quarterback Kirby Moore set the Bulldogs up for a field goal and a 3 – 0 lead with a nifty 15-yard sweep. Georgia Patton then claimed a mid-air fumble recovery and romped fifty yards. With Georgia leading 10 – 0, the Bulldog faithful became delirious and legendary former Oklahoma coach-turned-TV color man Bud Wilkinson  began openly cheering for the upstart Bulldogs.

Vince Dooley’s historic Bulldog football turn around was propelled by a botched call

Alabama showed its championship mettle in the second half. The Tide took a 17 – 10 lead with just over three minutes remaining in the game on quarterback Steve Sloan’s short run. It appeared the hapless Georgia football program would become just another victim of Alabama football supremacy.

Get the picture: Three minutes and fourteen seconds show on the scoreboard clock. Alabama 17 Georgia 10. Georgia owns the ball at its own 27 yard line. The Bulldogs scored only three offensive touchdowns in their last four games. Georgia starting quarterback Preston Ridlehuber is out with pulled muscles. Backup rookie quarterback, Kirby Moore, is at the helm.

The Georgia football team desperately needed something good to happen.

It did.

Patrick Garbin and A. P. Garbin detail the play as told by Kirby Moore in Game of My Life, Georgia Bulldogs: Memorable Stories of Bulldogs Football:

"I dropped back and threw it kind of low to Pat [Hodgson], who had run about a 10-yard hook just past the 35 yard line. Pat quickly lateralled the ball to Bob, who was trailing the play and Bob took off down the sideline to complete a 73-yard touchdown."

Georgia chose to go for two to win the game and Kirby Moore passed again to Pat Hodgson for the conversion and winning points. The clock rolled to 00:00 with the score Alabama 17 Georgia 18.

While the game ending drama had passed,  Sunday’s  highlight replays and coaching film reviews of the Flea Flicker created controversy.

Before lateralling to Bob Taylor and while possessing the ball, Pat Hodgson’s knee was clearly touching the ground. Alabama fans were outraged and 50 years later, the game still is a “controversial loss” in Alabama lore. Georgia fans argued that the catch and pitch were so quick that the ball was never actually in Hodgson’s possession. It was a good explanation and few fans anywhere wished to grant sympathy to the mighty Crimson Tide.

Before the Flea Flicker, Georgia’s all time football winning percentage was 58% including a 27 – 25 record (5 ties) against Georgia Tech. Since the Flea Flicker, Georgia has won 72% of its games and has dominated Tech 37 – 12.

Vince Dooley’s historic Bulldog football turn around was propelled by a botched call – an official who swallowed his whistle – that gave Georgia a chance to beat the best team in the land before a national TV audience.

The 1965 Georgia team finished 6-4 – one official’s correct call away from a mediocre .500 season. But with the upset of Alabama, along with an upset of Michigan in Ann Arbor and a Sun Bowl win over SMU in the Cotton Bowl, Georgia was back on the college football map.

Of course, Alabama fans maintain outrage, like Georgia fans this week. But despite the disaster, Alabama won the 1965 National Championship.

That’s something to keep in mind.