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December 13, 2009

Indy Bowl Just Fifth Meeting With A&M

The 34th Independence Bowl on December 28 will counter the Bulldogs against the Texas A&M Aggies. Although these two schools have squared off on just four previous occasions and will play for the first time in nearly 30 years, some of the South's greatest coaches and players have appeared in this brief football series.

12/9/1950: Texas A&M 40, Georgia 20 (Presidential Cup)
10/3/1953: Texas A&M 14, Georgia 12 (at Dallas' Cotton Bowl)
10/2/1954: Texas A&M 6, Georgia 0 (Athens)
9/13/1980: Georgia 42, Texas A&M 0 (Athens)

Only seven days after ending their 1950 regular seasons, Georgia and Texas A&M met in the inaugural, and what would be the only, Presidential Cup.

The bowl was played at the University of Maryland's Byrd Stadium just over two months after it opened, featuring a pregame of the so-called most spectacular military ceremonies ever exhibited at a college game, and was sponsored by Washington D.C.'s American Legion.

The Bulldogs were coached by the great Wally Butts while Ralph "Shug" Jordan was his main assistant. Jordan would become the head coach at Auburn the following year where he'd remain for 25 seasons, becoming one of the most acclaimed coaches in college football during his time.

Georgia's defense was especially relentless; yielding only 65 points the entire regular season (5.9 average--remains a school record), six of 11 starters would eventually be recognized as NFL All-Pros. However, the Bulldog defense would encounter its toughest test of the year in Texas A&M's Bob Smith.

"Bullet" Bob, also known as "The Masked Marvel" because of a a protective face mask he wore, finished the 1950 season third in the nation in rushing, gaining 1,302 yards for a 6.5 average and 14 touchdowns.

The Bullet started the game by returning the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. By the third quarter, Smith and a strong running attack had led the Aggies to a commanding 40-0 advantage over one of college football's best defenses.

Smith gained 160 of Texas A&M's 304 rushing yards and also added 121 yards on kick returns, 22 receiving, and even passed for five yards.

Georgia made the final score somewhat respectable by scoring the Cup's last three touchdowns. Zippy Morocco rushed for a 30-yard touchdown and ran a punt back 65 yards for a score. Lauren Hargrove, who gained 87 of Georgia's 220 rushing yards, also rushed for a touchdown.

Morocco finished the game with 16 touches for 190 all-purpose yards: 57 rushing, 19 receiving, 36 on kick returns, and 78 on punt returns.

If there was any indication the Presidential Cup might not last longer than a single game, it may have been the number in attendance; only a disappointing 12,245 spectators occupied the 34,680-seat stadium.

Three years later, the Aggies and Bulldogs faced one another for the first time in the regular season, meeting in Dallas' Cotton Bowl stadium. Ranked 18th in the nation, Georgia was up against college football's leading passer in Don Ellis.

Late in the game with a 12-7 lead and trying to kill the clock, the Bulldogs turned the football over on their own 27-yard line. In three plays, A&M's Johnny Salyer scored the winning touchdown with only seconds remaining.

Ellis and Georgia great Zeke Bratkowski, quarterbacks who'd finish the '53 season in the nation's top 10 in passing, combined to complete just 15 of 45 passes for 179 yards. Nevertheless, the Bulldogs' biggest downfall was their inability to kick extra points; kickers Sam Mrvos and Joe Graff each missed a PAT attempt in the two-point loss.

By mid-November of the following year, Georgia had achieved a 6-1-1 record and was ranked 20th in the country. Its lone loss had come to Texas A&M for the second consecutive season.

The book and movie The Junction Boys is based on the 1954 Aggies--a team coached by the legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant in his first season at A&M.

Bryant's rigorous, 10-day practice in Junction, Texas, compelled most of his players to quit the squad. After the brutal, summer practice sessions, only 27 to 35 players, depending on various reports, remained on the team. The Aggies won just a single game all season--a 6-0 defensive struggle over the Bulldogs in front of 23,000 spectators at Sanford Stadium; however, Bryant forged a winning program in the process as the Aggies were 24-5-2 from 1955-1957.

The only points of the '54 meeting came on a touchdown pass from Elwood Kettler to Gene Stallings. Eleven years later, Stallings would begin a successful coaching career at Texas A&M and later Alabama, like Bryant, that lasted through the 1996 season.

Bryant's boys held Georgia to only 85 total yards in the shutout victory. Following the loss, Coach Butts said about his offense, "I don't see how any team can look so poor ... Our timing was awful."

When Vince Dooley became the head coach at Georgia in 1964, one of the first items on his agenda was to change the Bulldogs' image and uniforms. Besides placing a Green Bay Packer-styled "G" on the helmets, Dooley took the silver out of Georgia's helmets and pants, replacing it with red and white, respectively.

However, in 1980 and after a 16-season hiatus, Dooley returned the silver to the Bulldogs' britches beginning with the first home game against Texas A&M. The Bulldogs were just two-point favorites against the 19th-ranked (UPI Poll) Aggies and their Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Mike Mosley.

Thanks to freshman sensation Herschel Walker, Georgia held a 21-0 second-quarter lead.  With just seconds left before halftime, Bulldog quarterback Jeff Paulk, a four-year backup from 1979-1982, tossed a 24-yard touchdown to Chuck Jones--Paulk's only touchdown pass while at Georgia.

Playing a near-perfect game, Georgia scored again with 9:09 remaining in the third quarter on a Walker 3-yard run following a 58-yard punt return by Scott Woerner. (Photo: Woerner celebrates a fumble recovery against A&M in '80.)

Later in the quarter, Walker would break loose for his first of several long and memorable touchdown jaunts while at Georgia, dashing for a 76-yard score. Walker rushed for 145 yards and three touchdowns despite sitting the last 19 minutes of the game.

The Aggies' offense never crossed the Bulldogs’ 45-yard line and committed six turnovers in their 42-0 defeat. Mosley, who was constantly harassed by Georgia’s defense, was responsible for just 81 total yards on 33 plays.

Soon afterwards, it was Walker, not Mosley, considered among college football's best as "Herschel for Heisman," along with "Go You Silver Britches," were being barked by the Bulldog faithful.

1 comment:

Stan said...

Thanks Patrick, This is a great piece of history! I will use it to play Smartest Bulldog at www.smartestbulldog.com Stan Winokur