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May 27, 2009

GREAT but OBSCURE Game #4

NOVEMBER 30, 1940: GEORGIA 21, GEORGIA TECH 19

Frank Sinkwich led the Bulldogs to a thrilling, two-point victory over Georgia Tech in 1940 (photo--GeorgiaEncyclopedia.org).

In the second year of the Coach Wally Butts era while sporting silver britches for the first time in their history, the 1940 Bulldogs were vastly improved from previous seasons. Nevertheless, Georgia's advancement, nor its new pants, did not necessarily translate into victories as it often endured tough-luck losses. Many felt, however, it would only be a matter of time until the Bulldogs turned things around for the better. Led by the super sophomore, halfback Frank Sinkwich, a signature win was greatly anticipated and certainly needed.

PREGAME: After achieving just a 5-6 mark in his first season at Georgia, Coach Butts and his boys had not fared much better in 1940. After beginning the year with two wins, the Bulldogs won just one of their next six games heading into the Georgia Tech contest. A loss in any of Georgia's two remaining games against the Yellow Jackets or Miami of Florida in the finale and the Bulldogs would record consecutive non-winning seasons for the first time since 1905 and 1906. Georgia Tech, on the other hand, had a record of only 2-6, including five losses in a row, after winning eight games and the Orange Bowl in 1939. Thus, the 1940 Georgia-Georgia Tech game was a rare match up--one which paired tradition-filled programs both enduring rare losing campaigns.

DETAILS: A Homecoming crowd of more than 28,000 in Sanford Stadium witnessed the host Bulldogs trail 13-0 late in the first half. Georgia quickly drove down the field from its own 35-yard line to Tech's 11-yard line. With 50 seconds remaining, Jim Todd tossed a touchdown to Carl Grate for the Bulldogs' first points. In the third quarter, Georgia took the lead following a touchdown pass from Frank Sinkwich to Paul Kluk and Leo Costa's PAT. Later in the period, Sinkwich threw a 4-yard touchdown to captain James Skipworth on third and goal. Trailing by eight points in the final quarter, Georgia Tech turned to its passing game--an aerial attack described by Butts as the greatest he had ever seen. From Georgia's 17-yard line, Tech's Johnny Bosch hurled a pass into the end zone. Georgia's Lamar Davis attempted to intercept but instead batted the ball into the hands of George Webb for a Yellow Jacket touchdown. In the closing minutes and trailing 21-19, Georgia Tech drove from its 24-yard line to Georgia's 19 in six plays. Bosch passed for the apparent game-winning touchdown but an offsides penalty called on the Yellow Jackets nullified the score. After three straight incomplete passes, Ralph Plaster's 42-yard field goal for victory fell short and Georgia escaped with a two-point win--its first over Tech since 1936.

PLAYER OF GAME: Towards the end of his first year on Georgia's varsity, Frank Sinkwich was already the main offensive threat for the Bulldogs. The Wednesday before the Tech game, the sophomore sensation was laying in an infirmary with a temperature of 104 degrees. Three days later, he rallied Georgia to three scores in the second and third quarters and an eventual victory. Sinkwich easily led all rushers with 121 yards on 28 carries. His 9 of 11 passing for 70 yards and two touchdowns against the Jackets directed a Georgia passing game that would eventually finish second in the nation in 1940. A Georgia Tech player said of Sinkwich following the game: "[Sinkwich] came on that field for one reason and that was to play football."

STATISTICS:
Georgia- 17 first downs, 172 rush yds, 106 pass yds, 17-12-0 passes, 278 total yds, 3 fumb. lost. Rushing: Frank Sinkwich 28-121; Cliff Kimsey 9-29. Passing: Sinkwich 11-9-0-70; Heyward Allen 5-2-0-25. Receiving: James Skipworth 4-31; Lamar Davis 2-28.

Georgia Tech- 16 first downs, 117 rush yds, 160 pass yds, 24-10-3 passes, 277 total yds, 0 fumb. lost. Rushing: Ralph Plaster 14-41. Passing: Johnny Bosch 12-5-2-84. Receiving: Jack Nettles 4-51.

RUNDOWN: Interestingly, playing its final regular-season game in late December, Georgia Tech somewhat salvaged a 3-7 year with a win over California on December 28th--a full four weeks after its loss to Georgia. Less than a week after defeating the Yellow Jackets, the Bulldogs thumped Miami (Fla) by three touchdowns on a Friday night in the Orange Bowl. Georgia finished the 1940 season with a 5-4-1 record, avoiding a losing campaign for a second consecutive year. The victory over Georgia Tech is hardly recognized as one of Georgia's greatest games. However, it arguably jump-started the brilliant collegiate career of Frank Sinkwich and the highly successful decade of the '40s for Wally Butts and his Bulldogs. Sinkwich would be one of college football's best as a junior and senior, winning the Heisman Trophy in 1942. Georgia would win nine games and the Orange Bowl in 1941, a Rose Bowl and a national championship in 1942, and only four years later, capture a Sugar Bowl and go undefeated in 1946.

Part of the Great but Obscure games in Georgia football history... Previous games in series: #3 1986 vs. Auburn, #2 1974 vs. Florida, #1 1936 vs. Fordham

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