As usual, Loran Smith had a great vantage point for the greatest play in Georgia football history.
On Nov. 8, 1980, Smith was the sideline reporter for the Bulldog Radio Network’s coverage of the Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville. So, he had staked out a good spot just beyond the player/coaches’ box and had a clear view of the No. 2 Bulldogs’ desperate situation as they faced third-and-long at their own 7 trailing No. 20 Florida 21-20 with not much more than a minute to play.
Of course, everybody today knows what happened next.
Benjamin Franklin Belue, better known as Buck, found Lindsay Scott open with a mid-range pass in the middle of the field, and Scott did the rest. As if he could hear Larry Munson imploring him from the Gator Bowl press box to “run, Lindsay, run,” Scott did just that. He outran the Gators’ hopeless pursuit all the way to a 93-yard touchdown and the most important of 12 victories in Georgia’s undefeated run to the national championship.
But as Smith and many others who were there that day can tell you, so much more happened before and after the play everybody remembers. Fortunately, this week we all will be reminded of those lost details.
The 1980 Georgia-Florida game will be replayed in its entirety on ESPNU at 8 a.m. Thursday.
It is just one of numerous replays of old Georgia games that fans are able to relive these days. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, live sporting contests (with the exception of South Korean baseball) aren’t being conducted at the moment. So, to fill the considerable programming voids, television and radio networks are filling the silence by replaying great games of old.
The Georgia Bulldog Network has been replaying radio broadcasts, such as Saturday when it recast Georgia's 1987 win over Georgia Tech and this coming Saturday when it will air the Bulldogs' 1991 win over Clemson (3-5:30 p.m., followed with postgame commentary from the game's star, Eric Zeier).
Likewise, ESPN and the SEC Network have been replaying telecasts of great games. In fact, last season's Georgia-Auburn game will air at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday on the SEC Network. And following the 1980 Georgia-Florida replay on Thursday, ESPNU will show the infamous "Between the Hoses" game of 1986 between Georgia and Auburn on the Plains. The AJC recently profiled that game in its ongoing series on bizarre moments in Georgia sports history.
As a UGA track-and-field alum, sports information director, sideline reporter, coaches’ shows producer, historian, university fundraiser and Tailgate Show host, Smith has been on hand for every up-and-down of Georgia football for more than six decades.
As one might expect, he remembers quite vividly Belue-to-Scott.
"Vince ran over me," Smith said with a laugh Tuesday from his Athens home, just up the street from Vince Dooley's house. "Well, ran he into me; knocked me cattywampus. … I remember I was crestfallen. Then, suddenly, 'run, Lindsay, run!' It was just the greatest moment."
Smith never lost his balance, and he was able to see the rest of Scott’s run as he continued down the sideline, with Dooley following not too very far behind.
Sideline security was not then what it is today. So, all sorts of fans were on the sidelines, and the ones cheering for Georgia all made a beeline for Scott and the celebration in the end zone. And though there was still a minute left to be played, pretty much the whole of the Bulldogs’ bench went that way, too.
Soon that entire corner of the field was awash in spontaneous jubilation. This, Smith reminds us, was the reason Dooley was running toward the horde.
“That’s why he ran over me,” Smith said. “He was down there trying to restore order because they could have dropped a penalty flag. Technically there was enough time on the clock for (Florida) to go back down the field and score. We had to go back on the field and play defense.”
Somehow, Georgia was not penalized. The Bulldogs tried and failed a two-point conversion, but Erk Russell’s defense held firm and the result was permanent, a 26-21 victory.
Smith confesses to being ashamed today of what he was thinking in the moments before the greatest single play in Georgia football history. He had just that week entered into an agreement with Peachtree Publishers to write a book on the Bulldogs’ season. But it was contingent upon an undefeated and championship season for the Bulldogs.
“I thought it was over with,” Smith said. “I remember standing there thinking, ‘Well, dang it, maybe someday I’ll write a book.' That was small thinking on my part, and I felt bad about that afterwards. Here’s Georgia being denied, and I’m worried about a book?”
Thanks to Belue-to-Scott, Smith got his book. “Glory, Glory” was published May 1, 1981, and is still in circulation today. Meanwhile, Smith is working on two more books while sheltering in place in Athens. He'll be closing in on 20 books written in his lifetime when those are published this year or next.
“So many of my greatest experiences at Georgia surrounded 1980 and that run to the national championship,” Smith said Tuesday. “I learned then what it meant for something great to happen for Georgia. You just wanted Georgia to be the beneficiary of good things, of high moments, because it meant so much to the state of Georgia. It was such an illuminating experience.”
One we can all relive this week.
GEORGIA FOOTBALL REPLAYS
- Tuesday – Georgia at Auburn (2019), SEC Network, 8:30 p.m.
- Thursday -- Georgia vs. Florida (1980), ESPNU, 8 a.m.
- Thursday – Georgia at Auburn (1986), ESPNU, noon
- Saturday – Clemson at Georgia (1991), WSB-FM 95.5 and WSB-AM 750, 3 p.m.
- May 13 -- Georgia vs. Baylor (2020 Sugar Bowl), SEC Network, 8:30 a.m.
- May 14 – Georgia vs. LSU (2019 SEC Championship game), SEC Network, 9 a.m.
About the Author