The 11-year War: 1982, a Labor Day to forget

The 11-year War: 1982, a Labor Day to forget

Football

The 11-year War: 1982, a Labor Day to forget

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By Will Vandervort.

By Will Vandervort

It was built up by ABC as the biggest game of the season in college football. The Georgia Bulldogs, the 1980 National Champions, were hosting the Clemson Tigers, the defending National Champions.

ABC thought so much of the 1982 contest between these two champions they put the game on national television on Labor Day Night. In other words, it was Monday Night Football, the first time a regular season college football game was played on this night.

But like all big games that are overhyped, the overall play of the two teams disappointed the country. Clemson quarterback Homer Jordan, a native of Athens, Ga., threw four interceptions in his homecoming, while Heisman Trophy contender Hershel Walker played very little due to a broken thumb.

In all, there were six turnovers and though the game was very dramatic at times, the offenses combined for only 490 yards in the seventh-ranked Bulldogs’ 13-7 victory over No. 11 Clemson.

“It just wasn’t a very good game, by me or our offense,” Jordan said. “We really could not get anything going and when we did, we would turn the ball over or do something that would hurt the drive. It was a pretty frustrating night.

“It’s one I obviously don’t like to remember.”

A year after he had 194 total yards and played nearly flawless in the Tigers’ stunning upset in Death Valley, the Georgia defense smothered Jordan all night at Sanford Stadium. The preseason All-American quarterback was held to 15 yards rushing on nine carries, was sacked three times and was intercepted a career-high four times.

“The credit must go to our defense,” Georgia head coach Vince Dooley said. “This was a big game and time after time their great quarterback, Homer Jordan, took them down the field. But we must credit our defense with making some great plays.

“The linebackers played well and the secondary also had a fine game.”

As Dooley mentioned the game was a defensive struggle. As good as Georgia played on defense, the Tigers, led by All-American safety Terry Kinard, played just as well. Clemson held the Bulldogs’ powerful running game to 101 yards on 49 carries, while the offense could manage only 241 overall.

Kinard had an interception and middle guard William Perry, who earned his first of three straight All-American honors in 1982, recovered a fumble that set up Clemson’s only score of the day – a six-yard Jordan run with 7:09 to play in the first quarter.

“The Clemson defense was tremendous, especially the front line,” Dooley said. “If we had not been able to throw, I don’t think we would have been able to gain much yardage.”

Georgia quarterback John Lastinger did not throw for many yards—only 140—but when he did he was efficient enough to get the job done. His 53-yard pass to tight end Clarence Kay at the start of the third quarter was the biggest play of the night and led to a Kevin Butler 23-yard field goal for what turned out to be the game’s final score.

But the day was known more for Clemson’s miscue’s than anything else. A breakdown in protection led to a block punt by Georgia’s Dale Carver in the second quarter, which Stan Dooley picked up at the two-yard line and ran into the end zone to tie the game with 14:27 to go in the first half.

The Tigers’ mistakes magnified after that. Jordan led Clemson on a long drive following the Bulldogs’ score, but an offensive pass interference penalty on second down, which would have moved the ball to the Georgia 33, caused the drive to stall.

On Clemson’ next possession, Jordan was picked off for the first time in the game. Then with the Tigers’ driving the football late in the second quarter and with the ball rested at the Georgia 47, Jordan’s first-down pass to K.D. Dunn was intercepted by Carver at the 35 and returned five yards to the 40.

Three plays later, Lastinger found Jackson for a 27-yard gain to the Clemson 33 and a few plays after that, Butler was true from 39 yards out with nine seconds to go to give the Bulldogs a 10-7 lead at halftime.

Clemson continued to shoot itself in the foot in the second half. Trailing 13-7 early in the fourth quarter, Kinard stepped in front of a pass that was intended for Kay and the Tigers were in business at the Georgia 41.

But after moving the ball to the 32, Danny Ford elected to go for it on fourth-and-one instead of kicking a 49-yard field goal that could have pulled the Tigers within three points. Jordan was stuffed for no gain on the play and the Bulldogs took over on downs.

“We figured our defense was playing well enough to back them up,” Ford said.

The Clemson defense did come through, forcing a three-and-out, giving the ball right back to the offense. Georgia managed only 24 yards in the fourth quarter.

The Bulldogs tried to run Walker a few times late, but he was not effective as he was held to a career-low 20 yards on 11 carries.

Vince Dooley said afterwards that Walker was primarily used as a decoy for much of the game due his broken thumb. Regardless, the Georgia offense could do very little.

But the Bulldogs kept coming up with big plays on defense and when Clemson got the football with 9:33 to play and drove the ball 37 yards to the Georgia 36, it appeared it was going to take the lead. But Terry Hoage intercepted a Jordan pass to Cliff Austin at the 35 to the end threat.

After the defense stopped Georgia gain, the Tigers got the ball at their own 20 and were on the move once more, this time driving to the Bulldogs’ 41. But on fourth-and-13, with just over a minute to play, Jordan was hit by Tim Crowe as he went back to pass, knocking the ball into the air, where Nathaniel Taylor came up with the interception to end Clemson’s last opportunity to win the game.

“It was a defensive struggle in every sense of the word,” Dooley said.

Georgia went on to finish the regular season undefeated and played in the Sugar Bowl for the National Championship, where it lost to Joe Paterno and Penn State. Walker went on to win the Heisman Trophy as well that year.

As for the Tigers, the next week they tied Boston College, 17-17, who had a kid by the name of Doug Flutie playing quarterback that afternoon in Death Valley. After that, they won nine straight games to finish the year 9-1-1 and won their second straight ACC Championship.

However, because of pending NCAA sanctions, Clemson withdrew its name from consideration to any postseason bowl game.

“We had a great team that year, too, but Georgia just made a few more plays than us,” Jordan said.

Related stories in the Eleven Year War series:

Tigers turn Georgia over in ’81

Clemson beats Clemson in ’80

Ford leaves his mark in ’79

Tigers are humbled in ’78

1977, the Tigers are back

The Eleven Year War

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