Champion 1980 Bulldogs have waited long enough for company

Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett seems to strike a pose when in fact he's running away from Michigan Wolverines defensive lineman Julius Welschof during the college football's playoff semifinal. One more win, and he's a certified Georgia legend. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett seems to strike a pose when in fact he's running away from Michigan Wolverines defensive lineman Julius Welschof during the college football's playoff semifinal. One more win, and he's a certified Georgia legend. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

INDIANAPOLIS – To the bulk of those as young as, say, Georgia receiver Kearis Jackson (22), 1980 might as well be the Pleistocene Age. Why, back then they were just imagining cellphones the approximate size and weight of paving stones. Streaming was something only water did. “The Jetsons” was a fantasy cartoon in 1980, but a documentary today.

So, it was of no surprise earlier this week when Jackson was asked about Lindsay Scott – who authored the greatest single play of Georgia’s 1980 championship season, the miracle 93-yard reception against Florida – that the reference sailed high over his head. Lindsay Scott, Lindsey Buckingham - all the same to him.

Through such exchanges, the great span of time since the Bulldogs last national championship is made even clearer. So, to recap: Yes, seems like forever, that’s how long Georgia has been waiting for another night like Jan. 1, 1981 at the Sugar Bowl.

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Georgia coach Vince Dooley, center, and a group of his Bulldogs display their 1980 national championship football rings presented to them Thursday in Atlanta. The Bulldogs went 12-0 in 1980 with a victory over Notre Dame in Sugar Bowl to give them the championship. (File photo)

Credit: AJC FILE PHOTO

Georgia coach Vince Dooley, center, and a group of his Bulldogs display their 1980 national championship football rings presented to them Thursday in Atlanta. The Bulldogs went 12-0 in 1980 with a victory over Notre Dame in Sugar Bowl to give them the championship. (File photo)

Credit: AJC FILE PHOTO

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Georgia coach Vince Dooley, center, and a group of his Bulldogs display their 1980 national championship football rings presented to them Thursday in Atlanta. The Bulldogs went 12-0 in 1980 with a victory over Notre Dame in Sugar Bowl to give them the championship. (File photo)

Credit: AJC FILE PHOTO

Credit: AJC FILE PHOTO

Monday night inside Lucas Oil Stadium comes the next best chance to build a bookmark moment for the Bulldogs, one that might rival 1980 as a frame of reference for their followers for generations to come. This second coming of a modern title is long overdue.

The opponent this time – Alabama, led by a Heisman-winning quarterback and a coach who has rewritten the physics of winning in Einsteinian ways – is a much sterner challenge than was Notre Dame, the final opponent of that ‘80 season. Those Irish had a quarterback named Blair Kiel, who was solid but was nobody’s Bryce Young.

And Herschel Walker is not walking through that door, fans. At least not in pads.

Just because the specifics can sometimes get lost in the mist, that doesn’t mean the ideal of 1980 ever vanishes. As Jackson himself said of what awaits these Dogs should they vanquish Bama, “We have to go make a statement so we can be the next ones that people are going to be talking about, the 2021 team.”

What is out there in the short term for Georgia is a title won on the recommendation of an overwhelming regular season and confirmed by beating the source of so many tears and shortfalls, Alabama. On the grander scale, what is in reach for these Bulldogs is the opportunity to cast themselves in bronze as a forever team, as did the 1980 bunch.

In the face of such heavy possibilities, maybe that’s why those with a chance to author history dare not look beyond the hard work of Monday night.

Quarterback Stetson Bennett is one win away from becoming a certified Georgia legend. He’s a South Georgian, with a better feel than most in that locker room for Bulldogs history.

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Lindsay Scott runs for a famous touchdown against Florida in 1980.

Credit: AJC archive

Lindsay Scott runs for a famous touchdown against Florida in 1980.

Credit: AJC archive

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Lindsay Scott runs for a famous touchdown against Florida in 1980.

Credit: AJC archive

Credit: AJC archive

This is how he tackles the subject of trying to measure up to a 41-year-old memory: “I know Lindsay Scott, he’s from Wayne County, down there from where I’m from. And obviously I know Herschel. Talked to (1980 quarterback) Buck Belue and a few other guys on the team. And I grew up listening to (late radio voice) Larry Munson highlights on YouTube, all his calls.

“But there’s a point in time when you become a player that you can’t really be a fan anymore. And I don’t really know when that switch was.

“I guess I do know the magnitude for everybody else out there because I was a fan at one point. I know it’s a pretty big deal.”

Yeah, a pretty big life event. Somewhere between getting your learner’s permit and the birth of a child.

Asked Sunday about how much thought he gives the possibility of Monday being a legacy game, Georgia coach Kirby Smart couldn’t put enough distance between himself and that thought. Such is the life of a coach, existing in the prison of the moment.

“What I feel is how do we stop Bryce Young and how do we control their front and how do we run the ball, how do we throw the ball with efficiency, how do we convert third downs and stop them in the red area,” Smart said.

Others feel a little freer to admit they see outside the narrow tunnel of game day.

“To be the first (championship team) since the drought, I tell people, you’ll be a Georgia legend,” linebacker Nolan Smith said. “We came in to be legendary, be special, leave your mark.”

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Linebacker Frank Ros talks to defensive coordinator Erk Russell in `1980.

Credit: AJC archive

Linebacker Frank Ros talks to defensive coordinator Erk Russell in `1980.

Credit: AJC archive

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Linebacker Frank Ros talks to defensive coordinator Erk Russell in `1980.

Credit: AJC archive

Credit: AJC archive

Frank Ros, a middle linebacker and team captain of the 1980 team, is forever talking about how Georgia has waited long enough for another championship. “Forty-one years, it’s a generation (plus some). It’s amazing a storied program like Georgia has not been able to win another one,” he said. Recovering from minor surgery, Ros won’t be in Indy for the game. (Definition of a minor surgical procedure: Any surgery you’re not having).

Ah, but he’ll be back in the Atlanta area watching intently, and as hopeful as he has been at any time in the last four decades.

“I think everybody is thinking that we’re ready to win one,” he said. “We feel like we have an opportunity, but we have to play to our best. When you get to the finals of any championship you have to be at your best or you don’t have a chance.”

Thus has the 1980 captain cleared room on the pedestal upon which the last championship team stands. They’re beckoning 2021 to take a step up, to lend glory some new blood.

“We’ve been wanting company for a long time,” Ros said.

About the 1980 Georgia championship team

The legacy of Coach Vince Dooley

1980 quarterback Buck Belue returned in September to call the Dawgs

From 2020: Georgia fans get TV replay of 1980 ‘Run, Lindsay’ win over Florida

Where was writer Lewis Grizzard in 1980 when Buck Belue threw that pass to Lindsay Scott?

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Frank Ros directs the Georgia defense.

Credit: AJC archive

Frank Ros directs the Georgia defense.

Credit: AJC archive

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Frank Ros directs the Georgia defense.

Credit: AJC archive

Credit: AJC archive

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Georgia's Scott Woerner celebrates a big play against Texas A&M in 1980. AJC file photo

Credit: AJC file photo

Georgia's Scott Woerner celebrates a big play against Texas A&M in 1980. AJC file photo

Credit: AJC file photo

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Georgia's Scott Woerner celebrates a big play against Texas A&M in 1980. AJC file photo

Credit: AJC file photo

Credit: AJC file photo

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Georgia's defense makes a big hit in 1980.

Credit: AJC archive

Georgia's defense makes a big hit in 1980.

Credit: AJC archive

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Georgia's defense makes a big hit in 1980.

Credit: AJC archive

Credit: AJC archive

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