18th Annual Sugar Bowl Classic ~ January 1, 1952
#3 Maryland 28 (10-0-0)
#1 Tennessee 13 (10-1-0)
How Maryland and Tennessee Met in the 1952 Sugar Bowl
Catching Up With…Ed Modzelewski by Mike Klingamen for the Baltimore Sun, 10/31/13
“The closer it gets, the scareder I get,” quipped Jim Tatum, whose coaching role model was General Bob Neyland – and who fully appreciated the capabilities of the Tennessee single wing offense and fundamentally sound defense.
He changed the Maryland defense and alternately to four and five-man lines with three linebackers up front in the order to cut off Hank Lauricella’s wide runs and to put additional pressure on the passer. The changes also upset Tennessee’s blocking schemes.
“Coach told us over and over that Tennessee’s offense was (really) on the ground,” said Terp center Bob Ward. “He told us the Tennessee team had been overpowering teams all season long – four yards, three yards, five, and four again. So we dug in and did our best to stop the running.”
Ed Modzelewski, called “Mighty Mo” to distinguish him from his brother Dick “Little Mo,” said the Maryland offense was pared to a fairly simple operation. “Our plays were designed to gain three or four yards at a time,” he said.
Tatum targeted Tennessee All-American guard Ted Daffer as the point of attack. “We decided to slant our offense at Daffer,” said Tatum. “He’s built pretty much like Bobby (Ward, who would play on Duffer), about 190 pound and extremely fast for a lineman. But a study of game pictures showed Daffer couldn’t handle plays run straight at him. He could make tackles all over the field, but when a play was run straight at him he couldn’t handle it.”
Neyland’s 6-2-2-1 defense was rigged to stop the option and wide plays – all tailor-made for Tatum and his very confident line-buster Mighty Mo. Trying to emphasize the quality of an opposing lineman, a Terrapin assistant told Modzelewski this was biggest, strongest, quickest, and smartest lineman he’d ever face. “Don’t worry,” Mighty Mo replied. “After I hit him a couple of times he’ll be as dumb as I am.”
It was a Terrapin day from the start. Midway through the first quarter, after Modzelewski paved the way, Ed Fullerton scored from the 2.
That was the last time the game was close.
On the ensuing kickoff Lauricella was sandwiched, the ball popped loose, and Maryland was back in business at the Tennessee 13. Fullerton tossed a halfback pass to Bob Shemonski in the end zone.
Maryland, a seven-point underdog to the national champions, was an astonishing two touchdowns ahead with the second quarter barely under way.
Fullerton had his hand in a third Maryland touchdown by intercepting a Lauricella pass and returning it 46 yards for a score.
“Lord, what a day that was,” moaned Lauricella, who finished his collegiate career in his hometown with his poorest day as a Tennessee Vol. He had one-yard rushing, fumbled the kick that led to Maryland’s second touchdown, and threw three interceptions in five attempts.
Hal Payne finally got Tennessee moving in the latter stages of the half, and put the Vols on the scoreboard with a 4-yard pass to Bert Rechichar.
Modzelewski picked up 46 yards in the third quarter before quarterback Jack Scarbath sneaked in for the last Terp touchdown. That pushed Mighty Mo’s rushing total for the day to 153 yards – 72 more than the entire Tennessee team, helping offset Maryland’s incredible 120 yards in penalties.
A crushed General Neyland wouldn’t even meet with the press; he simply sent out a release praising Tatum and the Terrapins.
For the second consecutive year, a national champion left its bones on the Sugar Bowl field.
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.