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  • Bill Chastain

SOUTHERN FOOTBALL FRIDAYS: Jackets Grind Irish Without Throwing a Pass

Life is good for Pepper Rodgers.

“Pep-pah” is 83 and retired in Reston, Virginia, where he can walk everywhere — including to the golf course. The former Georgia Tech coach is energetic and his sense of humor remains in tact.

Since Georgia Tech plays Notre Dame on Saturday, I figured the time was right to talk with Rodgers about one of the more memorable games he coached on the Flats when the Yellow Jackets hosted the No. 11 Fighting Irish on Nov. 6, 1976.

Georgia Tech-Notre Dame

Tech had one of those seasons going in which they were headed nowhere. They’d lost 42-14 to Pittsburgh — a team that featured Tony Dorsett, who won the Heisman that year — en route to a 3-4-1 mark heading into their meeting with Notre Dame on homecoming.

Notre Dame had its usual collection of athletes including Ross Browner, Bob Golic and Luther Bradley. Future NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana warmed the bench. So you get the idea, they were loaded.

Thus, nobody at Grant Field (yes, this was before it became Bobby Dodd) was surprised that Notre Dame jumped to a 14-3 lead. By that point, Rodgers had already decided to make a stance.

“I’d called a pass to see if we could loosen them up a little bit,” said Rodgers with a chuckle. “And a bunch of guys, Golic, Browner, and Wille Fry smashed our quarterback, Gary Lanier. Then they got up and started strutting like they do.

“I turned around and told some of my coaches, ‘I’ll tell you one thing boys, we might not win this game, but that’s the last time they’re going to strut. They are going to have to squat to play against the option. And there ain’t no more strutting in this game.’ We never threw another pass. We never attempted another pass.”

And Tech came away 23-14 winners.

How do you go a whole game wit