The announcement about the UGA Orange Bowl match-up with Michigan had hardly been announced a few minutes until One Old Dawg’s (Jerry Varnado’s) phone rang. It was our son informing him the last time we played Michigan was when the 1965 team Jerry played on at Georgia beat them.
Then Jerry was contacted by a local radio station who wanted to interview him about the upcoming Orange Bowl game.
So, we thought we’d rev up things here at One Old Dawg, too.
From the newspaper clipping’s One Old Dawg’s mama saved, Jesse Outlar’s AJC article on the game begins, “Georgia’s Cinderella Bulldogs used Bob Etter’s magic toe, Preston Ridlehuber’s crazy legs and fierce defense to shatter powerful Michigan, 15-7, Saturday afternoon, before 59,470 dazed fans.” And just to make sure we understood how powerful Michigan was, Outlar goes on to say, “Vince Dooley’s miracle men from Athens achieved a tremendous upset triumph over the defending Big Ten and Rose Bowl Champions almost on the heels of an opening success over defending national champion Alabama of the SEC.”
Georgia beating Michigan on October 2, 1965 was a huge deal.
In addition to Etter (Atlanta Falcons) and Ridlehuber (Atlanta Falcons, Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets), a host of other legendary Georgia Lettermen’s names show up in the article:
George Patton (All-American All SEC, Atlanta Falcons)
Jiggy Smaha (BC Lions, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Sharks)
Lynn Hughes (All SEC, All American, New York Giants, Coaching positions Georgia and Vanderbilt)
Doug McFalls (All SEC, Chicago Bears)
Frank Richter (Denver Broncos)
Pat Hodgson (All SEC, Washington Redskins, Coach at San Diego Chargers, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets).
|Coach Vince Dooley and a few of Jerry's teammates from his playing years at a letterman's event. Pete Dickens, Anthony Dennard, Jerry Varnado, Coach Vince Dooley, Joel Darden, Preston Ridlehuber, Jack Davis, Barry Wilson. (photo Beverly Varnado).|
One Old Dawg writes, "My best memory of the game is one written here on One Old Dawg back in 2015:
'We were on a high, having beaten defending national champion Alabama two weeks prior to boarding the planes for our trip to Ann-Arbor to face Mighty Michigan. They were much bigger and highly favored, but we were quietly determined and confident we could take them down, just like we did Alabama.
I was reading an account of the game that stated Michigan outweighed us fifteen pounds per man. I don’t know what scale that writer was using but every player but one on their starting offensive outweighed me by at least twenty-five pounds, many of them by forty pounds.
My biggest hope was their All-American tailback, who was 6’ 2” and weighed 220 pounds, would not recover from his knee injury in time to play in the game. When he was in there, they liked to run the power sweep, which routes right over the defensive end position. He didn’t start the game, but he came in the middle of the first quarter. Sure enough, it was pro-set to my side, which meant the power sweep my way. The quarterback pitched the ball to that big tailback who was led by the fullback, a pulling guard, and the quarterback. That was over nine hundred pounds of human flesh about to attack my puny 185-pound frame. I felt like I was trapped in an old west cattle stampede. God bless Dickie Phillips or the late Jimmy Cooley.
One of them shot through the hole left by that pulling guard and cut down that tailback to stop the play before one person hit me. Whew! Close call, I thought I was about to meet my Maker.
We hung in there with those big guys and came home a 15-7 winner.’
As I mentioned before here on One Old Dawg, we returned to Athens that night and were greeted by more than ten thousand exuberant fans who had clogged the small airport and backed up traffic for the four mile stretch to downtown Athens. What a day! We felt we had set Georgia on a new course, which would raise us above the muck and mire of mediocracy to the higher echelons of college football. Time would prove we had done just that with an SEC championship the following year and a ranking of number four in the nation.
In any event we will be squaring off against the Wolverines again this coming Friday night to decide which of us will play the winner of the Alabama-Cincinnati game for the national championship; we’re all figuring that will be Alabama who beat us handily in the SEC Championship game. How do we deal with the disappointment of that loss and the future prospect of playing them again? Philippians 3:13-14 gives us a hint: “… one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” That loss was a dose of humility which we may have needed to push us to our full potential. So rather than bemoaning and regretting let’s takes Paul’s advice; forget and press on to the goal we started with, to make the playoffs and hopefully win a national championship.
We don’t have wolverines in Georgia, so most of us have never seen one. They are defined as Mustelids, small to medium-sized mammals in the same family as skunks and weasels. Many call them skunk-bears, I guess because they look something like a small bear, but they are just skunks without a stripe on their back. On the other hand, the noble English Bulldog has been defined by someone “as a brawny little powerhouse whose characteristic crablike waddle exudes great strength, stability and vigor.” Which one would you put your money on? I’m going with the Bulldogs! Let’s get the job done again this time!
Goooo Dawgs, sick ‘em, woof, woof, woof.”
Jerry Varnado played defensive end at the University of Georgia on Vince Dooley’s first three teams. No, he did not wear a leather helmet, but he did play on the 1966 SEC championship team, which placed Georgia fourth in the nation. One Old Dawg went on to help coach the UGA football team while he was in law school, and after graduating, he practiced law for over a decade.
Later, after a series of tragedies, he gave his life to Jesus Christ. After much soul searching, he left his law practice and has now been faithfully preaching the gospel for over thirty years. Though semi-retired, he’s still at it every Sunday.
Inducted into the Valdosta/Lowndes County Sports Hall of Fame, he is the recipient of the Athens Athletic Hall of Fame Fosky Henderson Award for community service. He is happy to say he was president of The Athens Touchdown Club when his beloved Bulldogs won the 1980 National Championship.
He is the proud father of four children, sweet Alden who is now with Jesus, Mari, Aaron, and Bethany, and he's the grandfather of two of the best grandkids ever, Walker and Sara Alden.