How Arkansas and Georgia Met in the 1969 Sugar BowlNorth Carolina lost a heartbreaker to Georgia in the 1947 Sugar Bowl. It’s doubtful, though, that the game mean any more to the participants than to 14-year old Vince Dooley from Mobile, Ala. A neighborhood friend and his father asked him to accompany them to the game. Young Dooley received his allowance, one dollar, from his father and was permitted to go. “I thought I could buy a ticket,” Dooley recalled. “But when we got there, all I could see was people holding tickets up and offering two for $100. It was harder to get in then than now.”
The boy sat on a curb outside the stadium and listened to the crowd cheer the exploits of Charley Trippi and Charley Justice for a heartbreaking half. Eventually he made his way downtown and into a bar. “No one questioned my age,” said Dooley. “In fact, I don’t think anyone even noticed me. Everyone was involved with the game … I recall a TV in the place, but I know that was before television so I guess it was a radio everyone was huddled around.”
“That was my first Sugar Bowl, but I remember while I was sitting outside the stadium a policeman asked me what was the matter. I told him, ‘I didn’t get in. But someday I will!'”
Twenty-two years later, Vince Dooley did return, as head coach of Georgia’s unbeaten Bulldogs. It took some doing to get Georgia in the 1969 Sugar. Early indications were that the Orange Bowl gambled and packaged a Penn State-Kansas game, which was a fine pairing. After the Jayhawks lost to Oklahoma though, it lost some of its appeal. On the surface, Georgia was still the pick of both the Orange and the Sugar. The Bulldogs, leaders in total offense and defense for the SEC, were atop the standings with an undefeated but twice-tied record.
The Sugar Bowl was not an object of Georgia affection. Bulldog officials felt Georgia, not LSU, should have been asked to the 1968 game. But while the Orange Bowl said it wanted to await the outcome of the Georgia-Auburn game, the Sugar Bowl offered Georgia a no-strings attached invitation which was accepted.
Missouri was the first choice for the visitor’s berth, but a loss to Oklahoma forced the Sugar to look at the Southwest Conference. Texas and Arkansas were tied for the conference lead. An expected Longhorn victory over Texas A&M and a Razorback win over Texas Tech would put Texas in the Cotton Bowl and send Arkansas to New Orleans. The reverse would put Texas in the Crescent City. However, it worked out as planned.
The eighth-ranked Hogs had given up a very noticeable 187 points during their 9-1 season. Dooley immediately explained Arkansas’ success, “Overall, I believe the Arkansas defense recovered 22 fumbles and make 20-odd interceptions. To put it simply, they did an exceptionally good job of getting the football for their offense.”
Coach Frank Broyles relished the role his seven-point underdog Hogs took against the fourth-ranked Bulldogs. “You know, it’s not cricket for an underdog to talk about the favorite,” he grinned. “They are favored, and a year older and stronger across the board.” Broyles 80-year old mother was going to be at the game, and even she knew not to believe everything a coach says before a game. “She hasn’t missed one of our bowl games,” laughed Broyles. “I remember in 1945, when we (Georgia Tech) played Tulsa in the Orange Bowl, my father couldn’t make the game so mother put an ad in the paper saying, “I’m Frank Broyles mother. I need a ride to the Orange Bowl.” Needless to say, she got it.
Georgia’s SEC-leading statistics in total offense (391.7 yards), total defense (235 yards), scoring offense (28.2 points), and nation-leading scoring defense (9.8 points) brought reminiscences from Broyles. “I’d like to thank the Sugar Bowl for being so nice to us,” said Broyles. “This is our third trip here. Our first two opponents were Southeastern Conference champions (Alabama in 1962, Ole Miss in 1963) and both led the nation in scoring defense. This year, we’re playing Georgia, another SEC champion, and they had the best defensive average this year. Why pick on us?”
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.