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LORAN SMITH COLUMN: Bulldogs looking to continue dominance of Commodores

Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith

Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith

It took a late fumble recovery by the Bulldogs and a field goal by Brandon Coutu to eke out a 20-17 victory in Nashville. At that point, it appeared that Georgia's season could have gone either way -- to the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat.

This weekend in Nashville, Georgia can expect the Commodores to put up a formidable fight. Vandy has done that before, and the Bulldogs can expect Vanderbilt to make the visitors pay the price for any on-the-field success.

The two teams played intermittently from 1893 until the mid-1950s, when the two teams began scrimmaging annually. There was a brief break in 1966-67, but the series has been unbroken since that time.

Vandy could compete in the '50s. The headline in the 1961 Georgia media guide carried a headline of the recap of the 1960 game, "Bulldogs Finally Beat Vandy in Nashville."

That was quarterback Fran Tarkenton's senior year. He and Fred Brown, a halfback with a remarkable burst of speed, teamed effectively for an 18-7 victory. Brown returned a punt 77 yards for one touchdown, and Tarkenton directed two drives which resulted in touchdowns.

"Whenever we played Vandy, we expected it to be a battle royale," Tarkenton later said. "They were never a pushover."

Bobby Johnson, longtime coach at Vanderbilt who is now retired in Charleston, often explained Vandy's frustration.

"Our first offensive team and our first defensive team could compete in many years, but we never enjoyed the depth to compete with the stronger powers in the conference. We had trouble staying on the field in the second half," Johnson said. "Every now and then we could beat a good team, but year in and year out, the lack of depth was the big reason that we had difficulty."

For the fans, Vanderbilt is always a fun trip. There are many entertainment options, principally the Grand Ole Opry, which remains one of the biggest attractions in the entertainment world.

One of my favorite stories has to do with the Nashville country music scene. Years ago, when the Opry was held downtown at the old Ryman Auditorium, long lines formed before each performance -- stretching for several blocks down the street. Talk about a tough ticket; getting into the Opry was quite a challenge in those days.

When Tennessee played in Nashville one year, Volunteer ticket manager Gus Manning went to see the lady who managed tickets for the Opry and asked her how she handled ticket problems and issues.

The lady, a hillbilly with a voice with the sharpest twang, looked Gus in the eye and said, "Mr. Manning, we don't have no ticket problems, 'cept them what sits on comps!"