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April 20, 2012

Bomber Sunk 'Dores

In September of 1955, Georgia rallied to defeat Vanderbilt in the final
minutes at Sanford Stadium for the second straight season.
I recently received an email, asking about the Georgia-Vanderbilt football series, including if the two teams had ever not played in the month of October prior to this upcoming season.

For 11 consecutive seasons from 1955 to 1965, the Bulldogs and Commodores faced off in September for the first or second game of every year.  Beginning in 1966, the series took a two-year hiatus and when it resumed in 1968, the game had been moved back to mid-October, where it remained for 44 straight years until this September.

The first in the string of these Georgia-Vanderbilt early-season affairs has been recognized as "one of the most thrilling finishes in Georgia history," featuring, at the time, the most unlikely of Bulldog heroes.

Quarterback Dick Young, nicknamed the "Blond Bomber," transferred to Georgia as a junior in 1954 to begin his first season of major college football.  Backing up junior Jimmy Harper, the Bomber was an absolute bust, throwing for only 26 yards all season while completing more passes to the opposition (3 interceptions) in 15 attempts than to his own teammates (2 completions).

In the 1955 season opener against powerhouse Ole Miss at Grant Field, the Bulldogs' offense was stagnant and head coach Wally Butts sidelined starter Harper.  Coming off the bench, Young threw for 129 yards and a touchdown on just 4 of 6 passing, shaping a Georgia defeat into somewhat of a respectable 26-13 setback

A year after beating Vanderbilt 16-14 in Athens on a rare field goal in the final minutes, the Bulldogs hosted the Commodores for a second straight season.  On the day of the 1955 meeting, former Georgia head coach and Vanderbilt player, Alex Cunningham, led a pep rally at the University’s Stegeman Hall.  Artie Pew, a UGA player under Cunningham, joined in the rally, recalling memorable incidents of the Georgia-Vanderbilt football series (Note: this was prior to Vanderbilt's football history becoming forgettable, after being somewhat memorable).

Vanderbilt considerably outplayed Georgia through the first three quarters and held a 13-0 lead early in the final stanza.  Again, Harper had been benched for Young, and the Blond Bomber began his reserve role by passing long and overthrowing his targets.

"He gave me anxious moments when he [threw] those long [passes],” said Butts following the game.  However, Young settled down, shortened his passes, and rallied the Bulldogs for one of their most furious comebacks of all time. 

In a day of Wally Butts and flat top haircuts (and apparently
when "blonde" was spelled without the "e"), the Blond
Bomber came off the bench to lead the SEC in passing.
Young led Georgia on a 56-yard drive capped by an 11-yard touchdown pass to Cleve Clark with 13:25 remaining in the game.  Ron Cooper’s PAT was successful and the Bulldogs had reduced their deficit to six points.  With less than four minutes remaining in the contest, Young scored on a 2-yard run following a 27-yard completion to Jimmy Orr. Joe Comfort’s successful PAT attempt gave Georgia a slim 14-13 lead.

The Bulldogs would eventually regain possession and run out the clock to record their second straight victory over the Commodores in comeback fashion.  And this particular Vandy squad was no slouch... The 'Dores would later win the Gator Bowl that season; they did not capture another bowl victory until 53 years later.  Vanderbilt also finished the 1955 season with eight victories -- a single-season mark it has yet to surpass entering 2012.

As far as Dick Young, in essentially his only season as a Bulldog, he likely became one of UGA football's all-time One-Hit Wonder honorable mention performers (if there was such a list).  Most notably, completing 48 of 97 passes for 875 yards, 8 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, the Blond Bomber joined Georgia greats Frank Sinkwich (1941-1942), Johnny Cook (1943), John Rauch (1948), and Zeke Bratkowski (1952-1953) to become the seventh Bulldog in 15 seasons (1941 to 1955) to lead the SEC in passing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

:Blonde" was used to refer to women. "Bond" was used to refer to men.