13th Annual Sugar Bowl Classic~ January 1, 1947
#3 Georgia 20 (11-0-0)
#9 North Carolina 10 (9-1-1)
How Georgia and North Carolina Met in the 1947 Sugar Bowl
The story Harry Wismer relayed to his listening audience on New Year’s Day, 1947, the one sportswriters conveyed, and what 73,000 witnessed was incredulous.
The MVP of Georgia’s Sugar Bowl victory may well have been the officiating crew with two highly questionable calls which led directly to the Bulldogs’ winning margin.
They came in the second half, after Carolina took a 7-0 lead in the first 30 minutes, looking very much the better team.
Leading up to the referring gaffes, a second-quarter interception of an attempted screen by tackle Bob Mitten of Charley Trippi put Carolina at the Bulldog 5. Walt Pupa cut into the end zone as the ‘Heels’ line leveled everything in his path.
Coach Wally Butts was infuriated by his team’s lackadaisical performance in the first 30 minutes.
“Why in the dressing room between halves,” Butts said, “I told them I found it hard to believe I was seeing what I was seeing I said, ‘Here you boys are getting smacked around and you act like it’s all right because those North Carolina boys are patting you on the back, kidding you, and congratulating you after knocking the heck out of you. Congratulating you! Ain’t that rich! Those boys are not as gentle and kind as they are trying to make you believe. Junk that congratulations business until after the game. Go on like this and they are going to beat us to a frazzle.'”
Trippi recalled, “We hadn’t played against a single wing team all year, and we had a hard time adjusting. We made changed in our line spacing. That got us untracked.”
Joe Tereshinski picked off a Pupa pass at the Georgia 25 in the third quarter. Intended receiver Jim Camp recovered enough to turn and tackle Tereshinski as soon as he made the catch. As he was going down, Tereshinski pitched the ball forward to fullback Dick McPhee.
The ball should have been dead at that point, and field judge Gabe Hill appeared ready to mark the spot. Center Dan Stiegam realized he had not heard a whistle and chased down McPhee at the UNC 14. “It was an obvious forward pass, we thought, and everybody relaxed,” Stiegman said.
Charlie Justice remembered arguing so long and loud that he was threatened with expulsion from the game. The end result was a four-yard touchdown run by John Rauch that tied the score.
North Carolina immediately retaliated, driving to within range of the goal posts where Bobby Cox kicked an 18-yard field goal.
On a broken play, the scrambling Trippi finally got a pass off to Dan Edwards, who made the catch at the 50 and outmaneuvered the frantically clutching hand of Justice before zigzagging to the goal line. George Jernigan’s PAT was blocked, but the 67-yard Sugar Bowl record scoring pass put Georgia in the lead for good.
The Bulldogs built a cushion in the fourth quarter by driving 80 yards as Rauch picked up his second touchdown on a quick-opener from the 13. North Carolina had a chance to close the gap, but another official’s call proved disastrous.
Reaching the Georgia 18, Justice threw to receiver Ken Powell in the end zone. Powell made the reception in front of defensive back Charlie “Rabbit” Smith, who came up to prevent the completion. With Smith hanging on, Powell turned and fell face forward.
Powell was unconscious, apparently the result of a hit by Smith. Head lineman George Gardner threw his flag and interference was called – but on Powell, who was being helped from the field. Gardner ruled Powell instigated the contact before making the catch. The call put a practical end to a 20-10 Georgia victory.
Films later showed Gardner’s call incorrect and also that Hill had missed a call on the lateral that resulted in Georgia’s first touchdown.
Butts credited his Bulldogs with hanging in when things were going bad. “Carolina completely outplayed us in the first half, but our boys had stickability, and that’s what wins games,” said Coach Wally Butts, thrilled with Georgia’s first perfect record team since 1896.
Still, it was a disappointing afternoon in some ways. The game had little of the anticipated Justice-Trippi juice. Camp, a reserve back, was the leading rusher with 68 yards. Trippi had 54 and Justice a meager 37. Trippi and Rauch played 60 minutes – the last to do so in the Sugar Bowl.
It was also the last Sugar Bowl Fred Digby would cover as a newsman, and the last Warren Miller would see.
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.