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AU vs. UGA: A southern tradition

As his players celebrated around him, Jack Meagher wept. Tears of pride and joy streamed down his face as the seconds melted off the clock at Memorial Stadium in Columbus, Ga.

George Petrie introdced football to Auburn and was its first coach. Front page photo is of the 1892 Auburn football team.

The day was Nov. 21, 1942, and the guns of World War II were growing louder Meaher had brought his Auburn football team to play Georgia in a game that seemed a lost cause. In nearby Phenix City, Ala., bookies were giving four or five touchdowns to anyone foolhardy enough to put money on the Tigers. After all, Georgia had Frank Sinkwich ad Charlie Trippi and was on its way to the Rose Bowl.

Football had been a lot of fun at Georgia in 1942. The Bulldogs rolled into Columbus unbeaten. They'd beaten Florida 72-0, the same Florida team that had beaten Auburn 6-0. Auburn was 4-4-1.

But on that day, Meagher's men reached to the sky and brought down a football giant. Meagher had a plan for Georgia, and his players made it work. The stunned Bulldogs, anticipating a rout, had no answer. Auburn won 27-13, and it could have been worse.

Auburn ran from the T-formation for the first time that day, catching Georgia by surprise. Meagher also unveiled a new defensive plan. Tackles would drop back, covering for rushing ends. Fifty years later, a similar scheme became popularly known as the zone blitz.

Georgia scored first when Sinkwich went over from the 2, and it seemed this one would go like it was expected to go. But Auburn tailback Monk Gafford and his teammates, most of whom would be gone to war a year later, had other ideas. Not only did the Tigers beat Georgia's greatest team, they dominated. All through the afternoon, they threatened to blow it open and make an embarrassing Georgia day even more embarrassing.

It was a glorious day in Auburn's football history, an upset that has stood the test of time. And it was another memorable day in the most memorable of southern college football series.

Auburn and Georgia will meet Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium for the 116th renewal of the Deep South's longest-running football show. Auburn has won 54, Georgia has won 53 and there have been eight ties.

George Petrie, a history professor at Alabama Mechanical Military College, and Charles Herty, a chemistry professor at the University of Georgia, couldn't have imagined such when they arranged for teams from their schools to meet in a game of football, the ne game that was quickly gaining popularity on campuses across the country. Petrie and Herty, classmates in graduate school at Johns Hopkins University, had introduced the sport to their respective campuses and had become their schools' first coaches.

Pat Dye played at Georgia and won championships at Auburn.

Alabama Mechanical and Military College became Alabama Polytechnic Institute and finally Auburn University. But even in the 1890's, most people referred to it as Auburn.

On Feb. 20, 1892, at Piedmont Park in downtown Atlanta, Auburn and Georgia played for the first time. Georgia had already played its first game, easily defeating Mercer. But this would be Auburn's day. Auburn got touchdowns, which counted four points, from Rufus Dorsey and J.L. Culver. It got a goal, which counted two points, from Frank Lupton.

Thousands came to watch - some in carriages, some in buggies, some on horseback. The teams wore rugby caps and white jackets and trousers trimmed in school colors. Georgia brought along a goat as a mascot.

When Auburn and Georgia officials gathered at the site of the original game in 1992, then-Georgia athletic director Vince Dooley paused to remember the goat, "Sir William."

"A billy goat might well have become Georgia's official mascot instead of a bulldog," Dooley said, "if shortly after the game Sir William hadn't become barbecue."

A tradition was born that winter day in Atlanta. Except for 1917, 1918 and 1943, when world wars intervened, Auburn and Georgia have met in football every year since.

Generations of young men have gone proudly to represent their schools. They have played with uncommon ferocity and dedication and have written proud chapters in the history of southern football. Brothers have played against brothers, friend against friends. So close are the tied between Auburn and Georgia that Auburn men have made their marks at Georgia and Georgia men at Auburn.

Shug Jordan, who played and coached at Auburn, was Georgia assistant when he was named head coach at Auburn in 1951. Joel Eaves, who had been an outstanding Auburn athlete, had achieved exalted status as Auburn's basketball coach when he was named athletic director at Georgia in 1963. He promptly hired Dooley, Auburn's freshman coach and a former Tiger quarterback, to be Georgia's head coach. Pat Dye was an All-American Georgia lineman before he led Auburn to the greatest decade in its football history.

Vince Dooley played at Auburn and won championships at Georgia.

Even Saturday, former Georgia defensive coordinators Brian VanGorder and Willie Martinez will be on the Auburn sideline. Former Auburn offensive lineman Rodney Garner will be on the Georgia sideline.

It is fitting that Dooley, an Auburn man, won six SEC championships at Georgia and Dye, a Georgia man, won four SEC championships at Auburn. Both are proud of their coaching accomplishments and equally proud of their heritages.

"You had a tie-in from the beginning because Dr. Herty and Dr. Petrie were classmates doing graduate work," Dooley says. "That's when they were introduced to football. They vowed they would start football teams and play each other.

"You had Coach Jordan, Pat, me, Coach Eaves. There are so many unique traditions. It all comes together to make the rivalry special."

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