EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fourth story in a series on the 15 most memorable SEC football games beat writer David Paschall has covered since joining the newspaper in 1990. The games are being presented in chronological order.
Imagine landing your dream job at age 34 only to lose it at 40.
Such was the Ray Goff era at Georgia.
Goff had quarterbacked the Bulldogs to the 1976 Southeastern Conference championship and was the league MVP that season, and he may have been the SEC's most personable coach during the 1990s. Yet he was often overshadowed by the success Steve Spurrier had at rival Florida and Spurrier's countless zingers that came with it.
The Bulldogs lost agonizingly close games against the league's top teams on numerous occasions under Goff, most notably last-minute or last-second finishes against Florida in 1992 and 1993 and against Tennessee in 1992 and 1995.
It was the same story on Oct. 1, 1994, when the 3-1 Bulldogs traveled to Alabama to face the 4-0 and 11th-ranked Crimson Tide. Alabama's offense had struggled in wins over Vanderbilt, 17-7, Arkansas, 13-6, and Tulane, 20-10, but quarterback Jay Barker responded to the challenge Georgia counterpart Eric Zeier presented and rallied Alabama to a thrilling 29-28 triumph.
Zeier, the league's top Heisman Trophy candidate entering the season, threw for 263 yards and four touchdowns inside Bryant-Denny Stadium, becoming the SEC's all-time leading passer in the process. Three of his scoring passes occurred in the first half, when the Bulldogs built a 21-10 lead, and his fourth touchdown toss was a 5-yarder to running back Marisa Simpson that made it 28-19 with 1:19 remaining in the third quarter.
Barker would need a career effort to rally the Tide and provided one, finishing the dizzying night 26-of-33 passing for 396 yards, a staggering total for a Gene Stallings offense. Barker found Toderick Malone well behind Georgia safety Will Muschamp for a 49-yard scoring strike that pulled the Tide within 28-26 with a little more than 11 minutes remaining, and his 13-yard scramble helped Alabama drive to Georgia's 15 in the waning moments.
Michael Proctor already had made two field goals in the game, and his 32-yarder with 1:12 remaining proved to be the difference as Alabama improved to 5-0 in what eventually would be an 11-0 regular season before a painful 24-23 loss to Florida in the third SEC title game and the first to be held inside Atlanta's Georgia Dome.
"Everything was kind of a blur," Barker said after downing the Bulldogs. "The offensive line gave me all day to throw the ball. We exploded tonight."
Barker's heroics resulted in his record as Alabama's starting quarterback improving to 28-1-1, a mark that eventually reached 35-2-1. He wound up finishing fifth in the 1994 Heisman Trophy balloting, with Zeier seventh.
Goff's Bulldogs finished the season with a 6-4-1 record, missing out on a bowl game for the second consecutive year after a 10-2 mark in 1992. He would enter 1995 on thin ice, and a 6-6 record with a Peach Bowl loss to Virginia would not be nearly enough for the seventh-year coach to get an eighth season at his alma mater.
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