Here's where Kelee Ringo's pick-6 ranks amongst UGA football's all-time greatest plays
Almost every day there is a reminder of a highlight, a repeat of a magical moment and/or further review of the high times with the Georgia football team’s performance last year.
There are calls and emails that confirm Bulldog fans still dial up video replays of specific games and unforgettable moments. From Chris Smith’s interception versus Clemson in the opening game in Charlotte to Kelee Ringo’s pick six that confirmed the national championship trophy would accompany the team back to Athens.
For years following championship seasons, there would always be highlight films which were shown at Bulldog Club meetings around the state. Having a film review of the season just ended and a report on spring practice from the head coach or an assistant coach was a routine that resonated with alumni and fans.
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Even in an off season, it was easy to excite a doting audience with a couple of dozen big plays which everybody enjoyed reliving, especially if there were success against a big rival such as Florida, Auburn, Georgia Tech.
If you took two plays from each game of the 2021 season to develop a highlight reel, you would leave a lot of exciting plays on the cutting room floor.
With a fun project recalling the championship run, I have seen many of the outstanding plays from the road to Indianapolis over and over again. I can’t get enough of those highlights. Players who experienced a high moment, have videos on their cell phones. Fans, too—the beauty of technology.
Naturally, highlight replays often involve memorable moments that involve touchdown runs and passing touchdowns. In the Herschel years, you could cobble together highlight reels of his runs alone that would wow an audience. Such power and speed in one package.
Most of the exciting plays naturally involves touchdown passes. There have been many in Georgia history which won a big game and, in some cases, had a bearing on a championship.
There is nobody living today who saw what, perhaps, is the most dramatic Georgia touchdown ever scored which came about in Columbus on Nov. 1, 1941.
In a scoreless game with only seconds left on the clock, tailback Frank Sinkwich dropped back and fired a pass downfield which a speedy wingback, Lamar “Racehorse” Davis, caught for the winning touchdown.
The gun, signaling there was no time left in the game, was fired while Sinkwich’s pass was in the air. Georgia won 7-0, a classic victory that led to an Orange Bowl invitation. That play helped get the Bulldogs in the bowl business, a milestone of major importance.
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Eighteen years later, Fran Tarkenton late in the fourth quarter between-the-hedges, came with an unforgettable pass on 4th down and 13 at the Auburn goal line. He rolled to his right, pulled up and threw to his left and connected with Bill Herron for a memorable touchdown that clinched the SEC championship.
In 1965, in the first nationally network televised game in Sanford Stadium, there was the unforgettable flea-flicker when Kirby Moore threw a buttonhook pass to Pat Hodgson who lateralled to a fleeting Bob Taylor for a sensational 73-yard score which, following a two-point conversion, enabled the Bulldogs to upset defending national champion Alabama, 18-17. That remains one of the greatest plays in Georgia history.
Then there was the sensational pass in 1980, in the old Gator Bowl, (Buck) Belue to (Lindsay) Scott for a 93-yard touchdown that preserved Georgia’s opportunity to win the 1980 national championship.
In 2002 David Greene and Michael Johnson connected on a 4th and 19 pass to give Georgia its first SEC East title at Auburn. The Bulldogs then won the conference championship with a 30-3 defeat of Arkansas at the old Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Georgia had not won the SEC title in 20 years.
In a review of Georgia’s greatest plays, Dan Magill, Bulldog historian thought Belue to Scott “might” be the greatest play in Bulldog history, but he did not leap over the table at Harry’s Restaurant in Five Points when he conceded that this touchdown bomb may have taken the prize as Georgia’s greatest play. “I’d have to think about it for a while,” he smiled.
The preceding is certainly not a definitive list. Those plays are, without doubt, among the memorable offensive milestones. Unforgettable and enduring.
Emotions have a lot to do with ratings. Perhaps, the most appreciated touchdown ever was Theron Sapp’s one-yard plunge to beat Tech, ending an eight-year losing streak in 1957. Fans were so appreciative of Sapp’s touchdown that they clamored and campaigned to have his jersey retired. They succeeded.
Of course, there have been spine tingling punt and kickoff returns and resonating interceptions from Charley Trippi to Jake Scott to Scott Woerner to Terry Hoage, but the greatest pick-six belongs to Kelee Ringo whose 79-yard theft and return against Alabama in Indianapolis sealed victory, 33-18.
That play is the only one that won a national championship. The others were classic and important, fun and memorable, but Kelee’s masterpiece may get acclaim as the greatest play in Georgia history to cinch a national title.
Loran Smith is a UGA historian and contributor to the Athens Banner-Herald.