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December 30, 2013

Just Another UGA-NU Bowl Myth?

The Huskers celebrate with their fans a victory over
Georgia in the '69 Sun Bowla game which lasted
a little longer than it actually should have.
I've posted before about the 1969 Sun Bowlthe first of only three meetings between Georgia and Nebraska all time, including the upcoming Gator Bowl.  It was the bowl game neither team deserved; the Big 8-champion Cornhuskers, a year away from capturing their first of back-to-back national titles, should have been in a much better bowl, while the 5-4-1 Bulldogs should have been at home for the bowl season.
In anticipation of the looming game between Georgia and Nebraska, I recently heard a sports-talk radio host discussing the bowl game from 44 years ago that many older Dog fans would rather forget.  He claimed "some players" from Georgia's '69 team have indicated that a good portion of clock time during the first quarter"about four minutes"should have ticked off during the Cornhuskers' 45-6 rout over the Bulldogs in their initial meeting, but the game clock was delayed in starting/restarting. 
Admittedly, I initially believed the extra-clock-time story to be just thata story, like Loran Smith's tale of Georgia facing a Nebraska player in that same game, who, well, wasn't even on the Cornhusker squad at the time.  However, on Christmas Day, no less, I received an email from a reader, who obviously had been listening to the same radio broadcast I had a few days before, asking if I had ever heard of "extra time" in the 1969 Sun Bowl.  He jokingly added, "If true, maybe we can get UGA to not count it as an official game."
I suddenly wasn't joking.  The more I thought about discounting Georgia's second-worst loss (in terms of the 39-point scoring margin) of the last 60+ years, the program's worst bowl loss in history by more than two touchdowns, and according to a recent poster on SEC Rant, the worst postseason loss ever by any SEC team, the more I was intrigued to discover the truth.  Plus, since it is the holidays, I had some extra time to conduct insignificant, pointless research.  Therefore, 'tis the season...
I first contacted a guru of Nebraska football history, "Husker Jake," who runs Historical Husker Media, asking if he knew of the 1969 Sun Bowl running long.  Referencing his production of the bowlgame film set to the radio broadcastJake concluded, "It's very possible the first quarter ran long.  I just can't confirm it."
I then observed the game's scoring summary:
First Quarter
NU-FG Paul Rogers 50, 11:14
NU-FG Rogers 32, 9:40

NU-Jeff Kinney 11 run (pass failed), 7:21
NU-FG Rogers 42, 4:54
NU-FG Rogers 37, 0:14

Second Quarter – No Scoring

Third Quarter

NU-Mike Greene 8 pass from Van Brownson (Rogers kick), 11:30
NU-Brownson 1 run (Rogers kick), 10:30

Fourth Quarter

NU-Dan Schneiss 1 run (Rogers kick), 13:06
GU-Paul Gilbert 2 run (kick failed), 6:20
NU-Jerry Tagge 2 run (Rogers kick), 4:10

UGA finally gets on the board in the '69 Sun 
as circled QB Paul Gilbert rushes for a TD. 
In the opening quarter alone, Nebraska's offense scored five times.  Now, unless you're facing a Todd Grantham defense, how the heck does a team's offense score five times in a single quarter, including four field goals?  Might I add, the four field goals remain an NCAA record for most successful field goals in a single quarter of play, and were made by a kicker, Paul Rogers, who entered the bowl having made just 7 of 24 field goals for the regular season.

"It was the longest one quarter of football in my memoryfor a lot of reasons!" Coach Dooley informed me when asked about a possible expanded opening quarter.  "There was about a 30 mile-per-hour wind at Nebraska's back; it was a big boost to their field-goal kicking in that first quarter."
Indeed, the Bulldogs won the toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff.  The Cornhuskers chose to defend the north posts, where they would be aided with a brisk breeze at their backs.  And from there, it was a cake walk for Nebraska in El Paso.
"Nebraska would probably have beaten us even if we had the wind in our favor the whole game," Dooley added.  But, as far as a lengthened first quarter, the former head coach was unsure; however, "I do recall the stadium clock not working."
I observed the game film-radio broadcast, noting that the play-by-play man mentions a couple of times during the opening stanza that there was a problem with the stadium clock.  The following day, Bob Ingram of the El Paso Herald Post reported, "The clock...was out of order.  That first quarter seemed interminable.  Maybe the officials were depending on the clock then and it was malfunctioning."
Evidently, for a good portion of the quarter, the officials were forced to keep time on the field because of the aforementioned malfunctioning clock.
"To be truthful I don't remember any time problems," a standout Bulldog player informed me when I inquired with him, "but if the officials were keeping [the game time], they probably screwed it up."   
Please bear with me... I charted the Sun Bowl's opening quarter and found that Georgia and Nebraska combined to run 45 offensive plays, attempt four field goals, punt twice, and return one kickoff.  Now, 45 offensive plays in one quarter seem like an awful lot to me.  However, I found that during the 1969 regular season, the Bulldogs and their opposition averaged just slightly less than that with 38.5 plays per quarter; the Huskers and their foes averaged 39.  Back then, more offensive plays transpired during games than nownearly 10 percent more, in fact, compared to the last several seasons.  And, that's including the plays resulting during today's overtime periods compared to when playing in extra frames was not possible back in 1969.
"I'm not sure if the clock didn't start at some point.  I just know the clock seemed to be in slow motion," All-American Steve Greer told me with a chuckle. 
In looking at the scoring summary and what I charted, I suddenly became rather sure the clock erroneously stopped at a certain pointbetween the game's first two scores, to be exact.  The official clock ran for an average of 19 to 20 seconds for every "snap" (i.e., offensive play, field goal attempt, punt, and kickoff return) during the six intervals between the scores of the first quarter, except oncethe interval between the game's first two scores.
Rogers kicked his first field goal with 11:14 remaining and followed just 1 minute and 34 seconds later with his second field goal at the 9:40 mark.  The problem is that in the supposed 1:34 that elapsed between the two field goals, 11 snaps resulted (four offensive plays for GA, six offensive plays for NU, and the field goal attempt) for an average of only 8.5 seconds per snapnot possible when only two of the 11 snaps were incomplete passes.
In conclusion, and for what it's worth, which is very little, I am rather certain the 1969 Sun Bowl clock was stopped and then momentarily not restarted during the game's first quarter.  If so, I am positive the error occurred between the first and second of Rogers' record-four field goals.  If the average number of seconds per snap of the "correctly timed" intervals are applied to the flawed one, it figures that roughly two minutes of game clock was essentially added to the quarter.  In other words, Nebraska's beatdown of Georgia probably lasted for around 62 clock minutes instead of just 60.
Well, what of it?
I agree with my emailermaybe we can get UGA to not count the 1969 Sun Bowl as an official game.  If the program discounts two rivalry games where the makeup of the teams just happened to be altered because of a raging World War, surely Georgia could disregard and add an asterisk to a bowl game that was subjected to faulty time keepinga tragic error in my book (especially when it occurs during a 45-6 loss).
Seriously, perhaps any consolation to the Bulldog Nation for the time-flawed '69 Sun Bowl is that without those two extra minutes, Georgia's 39-point loss is maybe by a margin of a little less.  Also, considering Rogers made his final field goal with mere seconds remaining in the quarter, the extra time allowed for an NCAA-record four field goals in a single quarter rather than what probably should be an NCAA-record-tying three field goals, as the fourth field goal instead results early in the second quarter.

Nevertheless, as far as any consolation to the Bulldog players and coaches that endured the record-setting lossat least the handful I corresponded withnot a single one was even aware there was an issue with the time to begin with.  Simply, they all seem to have nearly erased the 1969 Sun Bowl from memory, and prefer that the game continues to remain forgotten.

Receiver great Charley Whittemore might have put it to me best: "I do not recall the clock not running.  I do recall that we needed the clock to run a lot faster."

1 comment:

RG said...

I have compiled an article (with pics) on the John T McKnight (UGA Co-Captain 1935) football family legacy (sons - David (1965-1969) and Larry (1968-1971) at UGA that I feel fits with your historical UGA football theme.

Includes info on John T McKnight exploits in WWII, when as a Company Commander he jumped in on D-Day but was subsequently captured

If interested please contact me at gr54male@gmail.com and I will forward the information I have collected..