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Under LaVell Edwards, BYU gained national respect by being able to compete with the nation’s best. Often times, the Cougars would go into hostile territory and knock off major programs.
On this day 40 years ago, however, it was a case of “not quite.” BYU took a lead to the fourth quarter in Athens, but Georgia scored the game’s final 10 points to prevail, 17-14.
Setting the Stage
Georgia was playing on short rest as it arrived at Sanford Stadium on Sept. 11, 1982. Ranked No. 6, the Bulldogs had defeated Clemson just five days earlier on Labor Day. Under legendary head coach Vince Dooley, Georgia had gone 24-2 in its last 26 games.
It wasn’t alone.
Fresh off an 11-2 record and top-15 finish in 1981, BYU had also opened its season with a win, blanking UNLV, 27-0. Despite also being 24-2 in its previous 26 games, BYU arrived unranked.
Georgia Finds a Way
A 63-yard interception return for a touchdown by Tom Holmoe and a 21-yard touchdown pass from Steve Young to Scott Collie had given the Cougars a 14-7 lead after three quarters. More than midway through the final period, that lead remained.
Georgia had been held scoreless for more than two quarters but finally mounted a drive when it needed to. The Bulldogs rode Herschel Walker, who ultimately dove into the end zone, with 5:36 remaining. Rather than trying for the 2-point conversion, Dooley elected to tie the game.
It would be the right choice.
After the defense got a key stop, a 23-yard run by Walker put the Bulldogs in field goal range. Kevin Butler’s 44-yard field goal with just over a minute to go put Georgia in front for the first time since the first quarter and for good, 17-14.
Ronnie Harris intercepted Young with 43 seconds left to preserve the win. It was Harris’ second pick of the game. Young threw for 285 yards but was picked off six times. Walker, the eventual Heisman Trophy winner, rushed for a game-high 124 yards in the victory.
New York Times
BYU lost again two weeks later to Air Force but won seven of its final eight games to win the WAC title. The Cougars finished 8-4 following a Holiday Bowl loss to Ohio State.
As for Georgia, it would win the SEC again, ascend to No. 1 in the polls and complete a perfect regular season. A loss to Penn State in the Sugar Bowl, however, would keep the Bulldogs from repeating as national champions.
For the second time in three years in 1982, however, Georgia finished the regular season unblemished. Its closest game came at home against BYU on this day four decades ago.