Second Annual Sugar Bowl Classic ~ January 1, 1936
#4 TCU 3 (Final: 12-1, #1)
#1 LSU 2 (Final: 9-2, #3)
1936 – How TCU and LSU Met in the Sugar Bowl
Bonus Feature: 1936 Sugar Bowl Was Big for Baugh and TCU by Patrica K. Benoit, Temple Daily Telegram, 12/4/08
With two outstanding quarterbacks slated to go head-to-head, the second annual Sugar Bowl was expected to be a high-scoring affair. But three days of steady rain sent the passing game, an essential component for both TCU and LSU, swirling into the gumbo-like surface of Tulane Stadium.
Oddly, the conditions probably hurt LSU more than TCU, whose Slingin’ Sammy Baugh was football’s prototype passer. While the Tigers’ Abe Mickal was also a superb passer, Baugh was more than that. He was one of the best all-around players of the first half of the 20th Century, one who could beat opponents with his blocking, defense and kicking, as well as his arm.
Considering everything, the crowd may have witnessed the finest touchdown-less game ever played, complete with multiple goal-line stands. The Frogs held the Bayou Bengals six inches from the end zone, and, later, twice from the 2. TCU reached the Tiger 16, though the Frogs could penetrate no further. There was also a kicking duel of heroic proportions: The average of Baugh’s 14 punts was 47 yards, and included one of 69 yards; The average of LSU’s 13 punts was 45 yards, including one of 65 yards by Mickal and another of 64 yards by Bill Crass.
Those, of course, were no small feats in the best of conditions, let alone with a water-logged ball, though the athletes themselves were also drenched. Equipment at the time added approximately 15 pounds to a player’s weight. When the leather helmets, woolen jerseys, and awkward-fitting padding became soaked, as happened early in this game, the load increased dramatically.
Three times the Tigers got inside the TCU 2, and three times the Horned Frogs repulsed them. Baugh, as good a defensive back as he was a passer, made two touchdown-saving tackles. Helping the TCU cause immensely was LSU coach Bernie Moore’s stubbornness in going for touchdowns instead of field goals, despite the pleadings of his players.
In the second quarter, the Frogs stopped an LSU drive six inches from the end zone, though the threat did not go unrewarded. Baugh backed up in the end zone on a fake punt. In a play that brought together two future College Hall of Fame inductees, LSU end Gus Tinsley came crashing in as Baugh attempted to get a pass off. The ball slipped off his fingers and fell to the swampish end zone turf, in those days an automatic safety.
After the penalty kick, though, Crass fumbled on the LSU 45 and TCU sputtered and splashed its way for 19 more yards.
“We couldn’t get anywhere,” Baugh said. “So on fourth down, I called for a field goal. I held the ball, and I believe I was more nervous than Taldon [Manton, the place-kicker] was. The kick was from the 26 and, as I recall, it was on the order of a line drive … at first I thought it might go wide to the right … but it stayed inside the posts.”
The points for both teams came within two minutes of each other.
Baugh found a way to win, even with the adverse weather conditions: defense and kicking. Slingin’ Sammy, with two touchdown-saving tackles, two interceptions and his outstanding punting, was the deserved center of attention after his remarkable day in adverse circumstances. He wryly recalled, “Well, I remember doing a little kicking … and I guess you could say I had a hand in all the scoring.”
Baugh’s performance, along with that of the gritty TCU defense when its collective back was pressed to the goal posts, caused ripples; as did Bernie Moore’s stubborn refusal to go for field goals when LSU had the opportunity; and as did the outcome of another game in Pasadena, Calif.
The Mustangs lost to Stanford 7-0 in the Rose Bowl. Because the Dickinson System closed its tabulations at the end of the regular season, SMU remained its national champion. There is no
written history of the Williamson Poll to know exactly what Paul Williamson’s post-game reasoning was, perhaps the rationale being the conditions too harsh to truly gauge the participants. But, in any case, in the records of that poll for that season, LSU and TCU arc listed as co-national champions.
The Horned Frogs’ No. 1 standing made history. For the only time in the history of the Southwest Conference, two of its member schools could lay claim to the national championship in the same season.
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.