|Sixth Annual Sugar Bowl Classic ~ January 1, 1940
Remember the old saw of getting what you wish for? Red Dawson, the head coach at Tulane, got his wish: John Kimbrough.
Dawson brought Kimbrough to New Orleans from Texas in the summer of 1937 to work while the Green Wave staff continued to recruit him to wear an olive and blue uniform. He wasn't interested and left in time to enroll at Texas A&M. It was said at the time of his departure that the upset Dawson expressed the fervent hope that someday he would get to coach against his lost recruit.
Now he would.
The crowd of 73,000 had barely reached their seats; the sky-writing planes, hired by Louisiana politicians, were still scribbling their messages of the on-going gubernatorial campaign against the clear blue heavens, when the big fullback began his first football work day in New Orleans.
On A&M's first series the Aggies and Kimbrough bulled to within a foot of the goal line, but Tulane somehow held.
On A&M's second series, the Greenies couldn't hold.
From the Tulane 24, the 210-pound Kimbrough came busting out of the line to bring the ball to the Tulane 16. Two plays later, he hurdled the Tulane line from the 1, his heaving shoulders landing three feet beyond the goal line.
Seven and half playing minutes after the kickoff, Texas A&M led 7-0.
The squads sparred most of the rest of the half, but Bobby Kellogg made Tulane hearts thump harder in the third quarter. Derace Moser quick-kicked from the Aggie 33. The punt flew flat and straight, bouncing high at the 24 while the Aggies bore down on the returner. Kellogg took the ball, sidestepped the first tackler, then took off for the west sidelines. "I came up the middle," Kellogg said, "then cut for the sidelines...I went right to the Tulane bench. A block by Buddy Banker sprung me loose, and another by Al Bodney cleared the last man in my road...I missed some practice because of injuries and when I reached the end zone I was a pretty sick boy."
It was the longest Sugar Bowl run since Tulane's Monk Simons' dramatic kickoff return in 1935.
Jimmy Thibaut tied the game with his placement.
Shortly afterward Tulane got a chance to take the lead after recovering a fumble on the Aggie 39 as the third period ended. With Fred Cassibry and Monette Butler knifing through the suddenly shaken Aggies, Tulane pressed its way to the 1. After Butler scored, the Green Wave seemed totally in command.
However, little Herbie Smith, at 5-foot-8, the smallest man on the field, popped through and blocked Thibaut's PAT. At that juncture, with the Wave energized, the miss didn't appear important.
Starting from its 31, A&M came roaring back in the fourth quarter. After short gains, Kimbrough, taking a snap directly from center, barreled off tackle with Greenies bouncing off at all angles and plowed to the Tulane 27. A&M's double-wing offense had shifted to high gear.
Smith latched onto a pass at the 15 and lateralled to the streaking Kimbrough. "Jarrin' Jawn" ran straight into a cluster of Greenies and left them either sprawling or carried on his back to the end zone. Legendary New Orleans newspaperman Pie Dufour described the touchdown play thusly: "Kimbrough stormed 18 yards on the last scoring run, brushing off Greenie tacklers like Gulliver flicking Lilliputians off his coat lapel."
Price's PAT put A&M back in front, 14-13. The most routine of all plays in football proved decisive.
Texas A&M completed an unblemished national championship season by the thin margin of one made extra point and one blocked extra point. Wave coach Red Dawson was convinced the Aggies benefited from some crucial non-calls, including one on Kimbrough's winning touchdown run.
"They used the same pass play several times during the game," Dawson stewed. "The ends came across the line and blocked the middle linebacker out of the play. The rule states there can be no blocking downfield before the pass is thrown."
Dawson's last look at Kimbrough was something for him - and the entire crowd - to remember: The Aggie fullback finished with 159 yards on 25 carries, a 6.9 average.A&M coach Homer Norton had no problem expressing what he thought of Kimbrough, who the next season would be the Heisman Trophy runner-up to Tome Harmon. "He's the greatest football player in the world," Norton said following the Sugar Bowl victory. "And you can put my name on that with a picture."
Recap excerpted from the book "Sugar Bowl Classic: A History" by Marty Mulé, who covered the game and the organization for decades for the New Orleans Times-Picayune.