Ray Goff’s name never set the record books ablaze, not even in the seventies, his time as Georgia’s quarterback. He didn’t earn his keep by throwing the football, which is the route to statistical honor, but he had abundant passing superlatives as a high school signal caller, which enhanced his quarterback reputation.
You will find his name listed twice in the section in the Georgia football record book labeled “Passing TDs.” He connected with Gene Washington in 1976 versus Kentucky for 87 yards and earlier in the season for 75 yards to Washington against Ole Miss. There were numerous touchdown “bombs” to add to his resume.
Additionally, in the category “Touchdown Responsibility — Game,” he is tied for second place with five others with five TDs: three rushing and two passing. His career was very productive, leading the Bulldogs to the SEC title in 1976 when he was named SEC Player of the Year.
His value as a quarterback was noteworthy — he won a championship — but first some background. Following the frustration of a distasteful 6-6 season in 1974, Vince Dooley decided to install the Veer option in 1975 and hired Bill Pace to run his offense. Pace, former head coach at Vanderbilt, was comfortable with the Veer; nonetheless, he had a predilection for the forward pass.
Nothing like run and shoot, but he had an inclination to throw — at least as much as you ran the ball. Early in the season, the Bulldogs settled on Matt Robinson who was the better passer, but when Robinson was hurt, Goff got the job and never relinquished the starter’s role.
In the era when Bill Yeoman of Houston developed the Veer, which prominently featured passing concepts, option football was still king. The wishbone had been dominant for some time, but the Veer was more explosive. There was a lot of movement at the line of scrimmage with the Veer, a quick-striking offense.
Goff, certainly not a sprinter, was nonetheless a quick and powerful runner, perfect for the Bulldog offense. When he came out from under center and moved down the line of scrimmage, his big thighs churning, it created consternation for the defensive ends and line backers.
Their options, in turn, were not uncomplicated in the least. Goff could grip the football about as well as any quarterback who ever ran the option. He’d hold the football in his right hand and tease defenders. He could fake a pitch to the tailback and cut inside for big gains. If the defense tightened, angling inside, Goff looked like a locomotive when he ran to the outside and headed up field.
When he got up a head of steam, he was a challenge to bring down. If the defense ganged up on him, he would, with propitious timing, flip to a trailing back. What Goff could do was move the chains. He took a beating, however. As the season wore on, he was the leading member of the black and blue club.
In Georgia’s opening game with Pittsburgh in 1975, Goff was getting settled into the offense and the afternoon was not one to remember. The Bulldogs lost, and at Ole Miss in Oxford, Ken Cooper, who had played and coached at Georgia, had his team primed for the visiting team.
After getting up on the Rebels, 13-0, a downward slide took place, Ole Miss winning, 28-13. Victory there, as it turned out, would have meant the SEC title. However, the Bulldogs, 9-3, became the surprise team in the SEC.
The next year, back to Oxford to play Ole Miss on the road again, the Bulldogs were far from sharp mentally. They had dominated Alabama the week before, 21-0, and students partied so intensely that classes were called off. Traffic came to a dead stop on Milledge Avenue. Ole Miss won again, 21-17, but Georgia still claimed the SEC title.
Nobody could stop Goff and the Veer after that — except Pittsburgh in the Sugar Bowl. With a month to prepare, the Panthers gave up only a field goal, winning 27-3.
As Georgia’s 22nd head coach, Goff had a winning percentage of 58.1 (46-34-1), his high-water mark coming in 1992 when his team finished 10-2, defeating Ohio State, 21-14, in the Citrus Bowl.
When he was inducted into the State of Georgia Sports Hall of Fame last weekend, his most distinguished coaching statistic for Bulldog partisans is that in the series against the big rival, Georgia Tech, his record is a sparkling 5-2.
[For 36 years the sideline radio reporter for the Georgia Bulldogs, Loran Smith now covers a bigger sideline of sports personalities and everyday life in his weekly newspaper columns.]