Dawgs-Irish settled before

Published 4:41 pm Sunday, September 10, 2017

SOUTH BEND, Indiana­— In the time that has expired since New Year’s Day 1981, in New Orleans, involving a Super Dome skirmish that had major importance in college football, there is the reminder that it was a similar case of taking the opposition for granted as it was in the historical battle of New Orleans. 

If Notre Damehad little clue to where Athens, Georgia was, then the Irish had mighty company.  It was a Rodney Dangerfield moment for the Bulldogs who got no respect, a reminder that flawed thinking when it comes to viewpoints often affects all teams.  Those so called experts 37 years ago, not only considered the Southern opponent inferior, they expected the Irish to emerge from the clash, the victor.  Perhaps, the Dawgs would be easily subdued.

The Dawgs had a running back named Herschel Walker, but what else?

The Irish had already beaten Alabama, so how could Georgia not be a lesser team. If that was not the way Notre Dame felt, then that is the way the Bulldogs took it.

There may have been better physical national champions that the one which ruled college football in 1980, but it would be a challenge to identify one with more heart.   

Little did the Irish know, and the experts along with them, that Walker gained 150 yards in the teeth of the Irish defense hell bent on keeping the Wrightsville wonder from gaining the meaningful standard of 100 yards with a dislocated shoulder.

A pall came over the huddle of trainer Warren Morris, head coach Vine Dooley and orthopedist, Dr. Butch Mulherin. The doctor knew what the issue was. In just a few seconds, he popped the shoulder back in place, expecting the star running back to take up residency on the Georgia bench.    

The freshmen has never exemplified that old football adage that “you gotta play hurt” more than on that day.   

It was a standoff of  epic proportion, with neither team seeming to have the advantage. The difference turned out to be Walker and the big plays, all of which went the Bulldogs way.

This epic battle, from Georgia’s perspective, was one in which the Bulldogs believed they were as good as any team in the country, and being the underdog enhanced the incentive to underscore the role of being the upstart to the fullest, a reminder that the best team doesn’t always win, but the team that plays the best, usually wins.   

Loran Smith is the executive secretary of the Georgia Bulldog Club.