Summer is for vacations at the beach, barbecues with friends, and watching classic football games of your favorite team in anticipation for the upcoming season. Those classic games help to fill the void until the new games start up in August. Now through the end of summer, Mark Schofield will be rewinding the tape to bring you breakdowns of those classic games to get you through the dog days. Next up is the 1980 Florida-Georgia rivalry game.
At the start of the 1980 college football season, few prognosticators predicted that the rivalry game between the University of Florida and the University of Georgia would have national championship implications, and absolutely none could have foreseen the incredible finish to the contest. Who could blame them? A season prior the Gators trotted out an inexperienced but talented team with a young head coach in Charley Pell. There was excitement down in Gainesville before the season, as Pell was bringing in a new i-formation offense and moving away from the wishbone style of play that had been in place under previous head coach Doug Dickey. With the new offense, some talented skill players, and a reinvigorated fan base, optimism was high.
Unfortunately, the Gators finished 0-10-1.
On the other side of the rivalry, the Georgia Bulldogs were one of the more powerful programs in the Southeastern Conference. They finished 9-2-1 in 1978, ending their season with a loss in the Bluebonnet Bowl. In 1979 they took a step back, finishing at 6-5, but they posted a 5-1 record in the SEC. Since head coach Vince Dooley took the team over in 1964, they endured only a single losing record season as of 1979, when they finished 5-6 in 1976. The Bulldogs began the season ranked 16th in the AP poll, while the Gators were unranked.
As expected, Georgia eviscerated the competition, sparked by a freshman running back steamrolling an opponent in their opening game. The Bulldogs were on the road, visiting the Tennessee Volunteers, and were trailing at halftime by a score of 15-2. Seeking to light a fire under his team, Dooley turned to his third-string running back, who responded by running over All-American safety Bill Bates en route to his first collegiate touchdown. That night, the nation learned the name: Herschel Walker. As Bates described it, “…the next thing I knew, I had footprints on my chest.”
Georgia went on to win that game 16-15, and were undefeated and ranked #2 in the country on the day of the game against Florida. They were in prime position to overtake the #1 team in the country, Notre Dame, down the stretch. The Fighting Irish still had tough contests on their schedule with the University of Southern California and the University of Alabama, but the Bulldogs needed to hold up their end and keep winning.
Speaking of the Gators, a lot had changed from a season prior. They now featured an offense that focused on throwing the football under their new offensive coordinator, 28-year-old Mike Shanahan. One of the leading receivers for the team was a senior All-American candidate, Cris Collinsworth. Florida won their first three games of the season and cracked the AP Top 20 for the first time in a long time. They lost their fourth game of the year to Louisiana State, which saw them fall out of the rankings, but three successive victories brought their record to 6-1, and their ranking to #20.
That is where the two teams stood on November 8, 1980, when they met the Bulldogs in Jacksonville.
Dubbed the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party,” the Florida-Georgia game is special for many reasons. Chief among them is the fact that it has been played at a neutral site since 1933. It earned its nickname from Bill Kastelz, a sports editor for the Florida Times-Union. Kastelz came up with the moniker after watching an intoxicated fan stumble down the street a few days before the game, in an attempt to try and give a uniformed, on-duty police officer, a drink. While the schools have tried to downplay the nickname, it lives on through the years, and Jacksonville turns into a week-long destination for fans of both schools.
The 1980 version of the contest could not have gotten off to a better start for the Bulldogs. They received the opening kickoff and ran the ball on their first three plays, with Walker picking up a first down with a short run on their third play of the game. Then, they ran a fourth:
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Walker takes the toss and explodes around the right end, through a few arm tackles and into the secondary. When the dust settles, Walker has a 72-yard touchdown run just 1:51 into the game. But what really makes this play is the blocking from tight end Norris Brown (#88) and fullback Jimmy Womack (#25). Norris lines up on the right side of the offense, and is tasked with blocking Tim Golden (#57), the left end in Florida’s 5-2 defensive front. Womack leads Walker to the edge and is responsible for the outside force defender.
Watch as Norris fires into the chest of Golden and then gets himself between the defender and the sideline, giving Walker the edge, while Womack eliminates the cornerback:
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Trailing 7-0, the Gators sent their offense out onto the field led by Wayne Peace, a freshman quarterback who would not turn 18 until the week after this game. After a completion to Collinsworth on their first play from scrimmage, Peace threw a quick curl route to Spencer Jackson. The pass went through the receiver’s hands and into the hands of senior cornerback Mike Fisher for an interception.
Not an ideal start for Florida.
Their defense forced a quick turnover of their own (which would become a theme of the game – Georgia turnovers) and after the teams traded punts a few times, the Gators got onto the board with a field goal late in the first quarter. This was the score until midway through the second quarter, when the Bulldogs line up for this play just inside the Florida 15-yard line. Quarterback Buck Belue (#8) is under center and Georgia has 32 offensive personnel on the field, using a full house backfield with the strength of the formation to the offense’s left. The Gators have their 5-2 defense in the game, and cornerback Bruce Vaughan (#47) is the CB aligned to the strength of the offensive formation – he walks down just outside the defensive end:
Belue takes the snap and sprints out to the left, with fullback Womack and Walker out in front blocking for him. Vaughan keeps his eyes in the offensive backfield and, for a moment, loses track of the other fullback – James Stewart (#36) – whom Vaughan is responsible for in man coverage. Stewart is not blocking for his quarterback, but is releasing into the secondary on a pass route. The quick hesitation from the CB allows Stewart go get a step on him. Vaughan recovers well, but Belue puts the throw in the perfect spot:
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The pass leads Stewart back to the inside, and the fullback makes a great adjustment to the pass and falls into the end zone with the touchdown, giving the Bulldogs a 14-3 lead.
Florida soon responded with a drive of their own and, having driven deep into Georgia territory, they face a first and goal at the Bulldogs’ 9-yard line. They line up with Peace under center and dual slot formations, with Collinsworth aligned wide to the right side of the field. Aligned across from the receiver in man coverage is another All-American, cornerback Scott Woerner (#19). Shanahan called for the fade route to Collinsworth, and the freshman quarterback drops in an incredible throw:
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For his part, Collinsworth runs the route perfectly, from snap to finish. Woerner takes an extreme inside alignment presnap, taking away any in-cutting route but giving Collinsworth the sideline. The receiver gets a free release and, after a quick two steps, he ever-so-slightly snaps his head toward the middle of the field. This is enough to get the defender to pause, and Collinsworth immediately accelerates toward the back corner of the endzone, having beaten his man. Peace drops in the perfect throw, and Collinsworth makes a great catch to finish the play.
The touchdown cut the Georgia lead to 14-10, where it would stay during the half. While the Gators failed to muster any offense during the third quarter, the Bulldogs tacked on two field goals, taking a 10-point lead into the final quarter.
It’s a funny word, often thrown about during discussions of football games by analysts and coaches alike. If you watched the national championship game between Alabama and Clemson, specifically the coaches’ roundtable on ESPN, you heard that word used a lot. If you were also on Twitter that night, you saw that there are some firm believers in momentum, and some who think it nonsense.
But these next three plays from Florida demonstrate just how quickly the flow of a game can change, and make you a believer in momentum.
Facing a 3rd and 5 at their own 35-yard line – and with the Gators still trailing by ten – Peace lines up under center with dual slot formations. Tyrone Young (#10) lines up in the slot to the left, and is uncovered at the snap. Seeing this, the quarterback takes the snap and simply flips him the football on a quick sight adjustment:
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Young breaks the tackle attempt of the inside linebacker and is not dragged down until he reaches the Georgia 12-yard line. The 53-yard gain sets the Gators up with a 1st and 10 just outside the 10-yard line, but they’ll only need one play to score:
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Florida shows the option out of the i-formation, and Peace hands the ball off to fullback James Jones (#30). The key blocks on this play are thrown by center Doug Smith (#59) and right tackle Joe Wickline (#70), who lines up at right guard for this snap. Wickline is able to seal off the defensive tackle to the outside, while Smith works immediately to the second level to block the playside linebacker. Jones cuts first behind the block from Wickline, and then inside of the block by Smith, for the score.
Now trailing 20-16, coach Pell is not satisfied to simply make this a one-score game: He wants the chance to take the lead with a field goal, so he leaves the offense on the field for a two-point attempt. The Gators put the ball on the left hashmark, and line up with dual slot formations. They then motion Young from left to right, giving them three receivers on that side of the formation when the ball is snapped. They run a 221 pass route combination (double slants/flat), with Young running the quick 1 route to the flat while the other two receivers run slants. Peace takes the snap and sprints out to the right. He faces pressure off the edge and needs to evade the rusher, but is able to hit Young in the flat who is open:
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The pass is thrown to the inside, but Young makes a great adjustment and crashes into the end zone with the ball and two important points. The conversion cuts Georgia’s lead to two.
On the following Georgia drive, play-by-play commentator Al Michaels and color analyst Frank Broyles start to discuss the momentum of the game. They can sense what everyone in the stadium can feel: The game has shifted. After two plays netted only three yards, the Bulldogs face a 3rd and 7. They put the ball in Walker’s hands, but cornerback Kyle Knight (#24) plays the role of outside containment defender perfectly:
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The CB diagnoses the play and crashes upfield, cutting just behind the attempted block of the fullback and toward the legs of Walker. This forces the tailback to cut to the inside, and right into the pursuit from the middle of the field. The linebackers trail to the ball and stop Walker for no gain, forcing a Georgia punt with 12:16 remaining in the game.
On their next possession, Florida moves the ball very well. Peace turns a near disastrous sack into an incredible scramble and completion to Collinsworth:
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Later in the drive, Peace hits Young for another long gain into Georgia territory. The drive stalls just outside the redzone, but a 40-yard field goal gives Florida their first lead of the game, 21-20.
Just as Pell planned.
Georgia takes over after the kickoff and with 6:52 left in the game; there is more than enough time for them to mount a drive and retake the lead.
The Bulldogs go three and out, with Walker losing two yards on first down and Belue throwing two incompletions. By this time, it is clear how the game has turned. The Florida players are flying all over the field and to the football, and Georgia is on their heels and scrambling. On both incompletions, Belue forced the football into double coverage. Forced to punt, time is now running out for the Bulldogs and their national title aspirations.
The Gators work the clock a bit on their next drive, burning over four minutes and just getting the football into Georgia territory. But facing a fourth down on the Bulldogs’ 40-yard line with under two minutes remaining, they decide to punt. This decision from coach Pell is rewarded with a masterful coffin corner kick that pins the Bulldogs down inside their 10-yard line.
Georgia has the ball and 1:35 minutes left to get into position for the game-winning field goal. But the ineptitude of the previous drive spills over onto the first two plays of this possession. Belue is forced to scramble out of bounds for no gain on first down, and on second down he is again flushed to his right and a pass attempt toward Charles Junior (#80) is dropped along the sideline.
Facing a 3rd and 10 on their own 7-yard line, the Bulldogs lined up with their chances running out. Broyles was talking about the huge momentum shift from above the stadium, as this play got underway:
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Belue is flushed again to his right but, as he is rolling out, he spots senior receiver Lindsay Scott (#24). Scott was running a route cutting to the inside but, with Florida dropping into zone coverage, both receiver and quarterback identified a soft area in the coverage. Belue pointed the way, Scott sat down in the zone – and pulled in the pass. From there it was a race, albeit one with a safety on that side who lost his footing a bit and stumbled. That gave Scott the advantage, and he won the footrace.
“Run Lindsay Run.”
Calling the game for ABC, Michaels blurts out “Can you believe that?” just as Scott crosses the goal line. Now, just months removed from his incredible call of the United States’ thrilling victory over the Soviet Union in the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics, this is a pretty good effort from Michaels. But to truly appreciate the moment, and the magic that became known as “Run Lindsay Run,” you need to hear the radio call from Larry Munson, the “Voice of the Bulldogs.” This video is just under three minutes, and it is worth every glorious moment, as Munson talks about the play, the miracle, the chair he broke, and the property damage Bulldogs fans “are gonna do tonight.”
[Editor’s Note: Seriously, you need to listen through to the end. It’s fantastic.]
But the game was still in doubt. With a five-point lead now, Georgia attempts a two-point conversion to extend the lead to seven. But a Belue pass falls incomplete. It would not matter. On the first offensive play of Florida’s next drive, Peace overthrows a pass over the middle and the ball sails right into the waiting arms of Fisher; the CB’s second interception of the game seals the victory for the Bulldogs.
The win propelled Georgia to #1 in the polls (aided by the fact that Notre Dame would only manage a tie against Georgia Tech on the same day) and they would never look back. They ended their regular season undefeated, and a victory over the Irish in the Sugar Bowl earned them their first national championship since 1942. As for the Gators, despite the tough defeat, they bounced back the following week with a victory over Kentucky. They lost their final two regular season games, but earned a bowl berth and defeated Maryland in the Tangerine Bowl. It was the first time in college football history that a team lost 10 games in one year, and earned a bowl berth the next. The teams continue to meet each year in Jacksonville (save for two years during the 1990s when a new stadium was being built) and have enjoyed some memorable contests since this meeting, but perhaps nothing quite matches a singular moment like Run Lindsay Run.
If you enjoyed this then you may also enjoy reading how Bo went over the top in the 1980 Iron Bowl.