Has Georgia discovered athletic kryptonite to neutralize college football's superman?
That is perhaps the only unanswered questions left on the eve of Saturday's Sugar Bowl showdown between No. 1-ranked Pittsburgh's Tony Dorsett and a bunch of Georgia players who seem incredibly confident despite being just hours away from confronting one of the game's all-time greats. The contest will be televised at 12:30 p.m. on WMAL-TV-7.
Georgia coach Vince Dooley, who pinned the nickname "Superman" on Dorsett, says the Heisman Trophy winner is the only difference between the team. "They have Superman and we don't," he said. "But that's a heck of a difference."
Then why are the Georgia players smiling so much? "We have had to do a lot of things this year nobody else thought we could," answered center Joe Tereshinski. "We feel comfortable in this underdog role."
Pitt probably would feel more comfortable if it was playing an opponent that behaved like a normal football team. But Georgia is different. For example, what other head coach in America has shaved his head completely fo a bowl game? And what college defensive unit takes pride in calling intself the Junkyard dogs?
It is those Junkyard Dogs, a group of undersized defenders who play like men possessed, who stand between Pitt and its coveted national title.
The dogs swarm and attack, and jump around with the type of enthusiasm that can turn good players into even better ones. Pittburgh has not had to face anything its 11 regular-season victories, and coach Johnny Majors is rightfully concerned.
"They are extremely quick and they pursue very well," he said. "They are going to make it tought for us to get around the corners."
The Dogs and the Panthers have met twice before since Dorsett arrived in Pittsburgh four years ago. The teams played to a 7-7 tie his freshman year and Pitt won, 19-9, in the season opener last season. Dorsett gained a little more than 100 yards in each game.
This however, is a better Georgia defense. It has small but hard-hitting members like rover Bill Krug (from McNamara High) and linebackers Ben Zambiasi and Jim Griffith. And Georgia's basic defense, a wide-tackle six, is ideally suited to stopping option offenses, such as Pitt's veer attack.
If Georgia can shut off Dorsett, who picked up an average of 214 yards his last six games this season, then the pressure of preserving Pitt's national ranking will fall on quarterback Matt Cavanaugh, a fine passer who threw for five touchdowns in one game this season, and all-America tight end Jim Corbett, who had 33 receptions.
Georgia quarterback Ray Goff wasthe team's second-leading rusher (724 yards) in the Bulldogs' veer offense. He isn't much of a passer but Dooley always can turn to Matt Robinson, a starter two years ago who can throw well. Flanker Gene Washington, a 9.2 sprinter, is usually on the receiving end of the few passes Georgia does attempt.
Pitt's defense, which is centered around all-America middle guard Al Romano, linebacker Jimbo Cramer and tackles Don Parrish and Randy Holloway, also will worry about halfback Kevin McLee, a Pennsylvania native who is only the second Georgia player to ever gain more than 1,000 yards in a season (1,058). Pitt is foringan average of four turnovers a game.
Both squads have remarkably similar statistics. Georgia averaged 29 points a game and gave up just 10.7. Pitt averaged 32 and gave up only 11. Georgia averaged 279 yards rushing and 366 total yards a game, Pitt 318 and 379. And only a 21-17 loss to Mississippi prevented Georgia from having an identical 11-0 record.
But Pitt also has Dorsett. "We can't let him kill us," said Dooley. "Which means we can't let them have the gall that much. We have to exercise ball control, something we've done very well this year." Indeed, Georgia, which had the ball for almost 75 per cent of the second half while rallying to beat Florida, has run off 133 more plays than its opponents.
Dooley also hopes he can help his lightweight defense against Dorsett's heavyweight runs by playing at linebacker. "We want to stay quick all game," he said. "It's obvious he gets stronger as the game goes on while defenses get tired. We want to avoid having that happen."
The Junkyard Dogs have been running extra laps at the end of workouts all week to build up their endurance, and a few will shave their heads prior to the kickoff for added emphasis.
"It gives us something to identify with," explained Zambiasi about the head-shaving, which has been going on all season.
Georgia players also remember that Pitt chose the Sugar Bowl - and what they decided would be an easier opponent - over the Orange Bowl and a confrontation with the Big Eight representative. That's enough to make any Bulldog growl.
Pitt's incentive is the national championship, last won by an Eastern team (Syracuse) in 1959.
"All week, people have been asking whether we've really been asking whether we've really been concentrating on this game," said Romano, talking about Pitt's easy-going training methods. "Wait until kickoff and then ask whether we are ready.
"Wouldn't it be stupid, really stupid on our part to come this close and then blow it because we weren't up for the game."
Pickets were posted today by the Service Employee International Union, which represents cleanup crews, ushers, ticket-takers, security and some maintenance men. However, officials said the strike would not interfere with the football game.