By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
Like the previous eight meetings since 1977, the 1985 clash between Georgia and Clemson had all the big plays, turnovers and momentum swings that made the series between these two rivals one of the best in the country.
But, unlike previous years when the kicking game played a role in the outcome, the Bulldogs’ 20-13 victory over Clemson on September 21, 1985 was decided by a running game that totaled 360 yards, and led to 17-fourth quarter points.
“It was a big victory for us,” said James Jackson, Georgia’s quarterback at the time. “We talked about it the whole week because we knew we had not beaten Clemson (in Death Valley) in about 10 years.
“We knew what it was going to take to win, but we also knew it was going to come down to the last play to win.”
Actually, it came down to a fumble recovery in the end zone and two fourth-quarter interceptions before the Bulldogs could claim the victory.
Trailing 13-10 midway through the fourth quarter with the ball inside the Tigers’ 10-yard line, Georgia running back Keith Henderson broke through for what looked like a sure touchdown, but a Clemson defender was able to pop the football from his grasp, causing it to roll into the end zone. However, center Peter Anderson was alert to the loose ball and jumped on it for a touchdown for a 17-13 lead.
“I saw Clemson put some good wood on the running back. I hadn’t made that great of a block, so I rolled off and I saw the ball bouncing into the end zone. I was not about to let anyone have it,” Anderson said.
The Tigers had two more chances to take the lead or tie the game, put Georgia rover safety John Little ended both drives with interceptions. The first one led to a 31-yard field goal by Chris Carpenter for a 20-13 advantage and the second one came in the end zone to seal the victory as Clemson desperately tried to tie the score.
“I just tried to stay underneath it,” Little said. “When I saw him throw it, I tried to get over there. I knew somebody was going to knock it away.”
With a national television audience watching a football game for the first time from Clemson Memorial Stadium, the Tigers took a 7-3 lead when the late Randy Anderson found tight end Jim Riggs open for a 43-yard touchdown pass.
“It was an all-streak pattern and I think they had doubled up on Terrance Roulhac,” Riggs said. “Nobody picked me up and it was a perfect pass.”
After a scoreless second quarter, Clemson got a 30-yard field goal from kicker David Treadwell for a 10-3 lead, and from there it became the James Jackson show. Nursing an ankle injury for much of the afternoon, the quarterback relieved starter Wayne Johnson, and broke off a run of 17 yards before scampering 11 more for the tying touchdown moments later.
After Clemson got a 40-yard Treadwell field goal—set up by a 40-yard Randy Anderson to Roulhac pass—to regain the lead, Jackson again went on the attack and led the Georgia running game down the field for the eventual game-winning score. The big play was a 36-yard gain by Fred Lane on a wide receiver reverse.
“They had been running the option play all day,” Clemson linebacker Eldridge Milton said. “We were prepared for the reverse because they ran it twice the week before, but when it came, it caught us on our heels.
“We all flowed to the ball and there just wasn’t anybody there to stop the reverse.”
Georgia finished the game 15 of 23 on third down, while using seven different players to carry the ball. Running back Lars Tate rushed 16 times for 96 yards to pace the Bulldogs, while Jackson added 69 yards on 12 carries.
“When Jackson came in the game and we saw he could turn the corner and go outside, it inspired us to block better,” center Peter Anderson said. “It opened up everything else for us.”
The Bulldogs went on to finish the 1985 season with a 7-3-2 record, while Clemson posted a 6-6 mark, which included a loss to Minnesota in the Independence Bowl.
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