The Bulldogs thumped TCU 40-26 behind 382 yards from Frank Sinkwich. The victory officially marked Georgia as a player in the college football world in the days when only elite teams went to bowl games, and it propelled Sinkwich to the Heisman Trophy the following season.
But, for Dan Magill, it was not the most memorable early bowl game in the school’s history. That would come the next year.
Magill, a University of Georgia senior in 1942, watched every game of the Bulldogs’ regular season that year, but he didn’t get to go to the bowl that year. That’s because he had enrolled in the Marine Corps the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed and he was at basic training when Georgia faced off against UCLA in the 1943 Rose Bowl.
Ever resourceful, Magill knew that one of the drill instructors at Parris Island was a former Georgia letterman, Winston Hodgson, who played for the Bulldogs in 1938.
“I found him,” Magill said. “It was a holiday; he was playing cards, and I went up to him and asked him if he knew where I could get a radio and listen to the game.”
Hodge informed Magill that he would be listening to the game on the radio later that day, but Hodge told Magill that he couldn’t listen along with him because he was “lowly boot,” Magill said. Hodge did offer to leave the window open so Magill could stand outside and listen.
“So that’s what I did,” Magill said. “I stood outside the hut. It was freezing weather, and I was really cold, but I was happy because we won.”
The Bulldogs won 9-0 that day behind an inspired effort from Charley Trippi, who filled in for an injured Sinkwich. Trippi rushed 27 times for 115 yards.
Hodge went on to die a hero in a World War II battle, and Georgia went on play in 40 more bowl games.
“When we went to our first bowl in 1941, it was a big honor because there weren’t but three bowls,” Magill said. “Then it was a big honor, but now it’s a disgrace and you lose your job if you don’t get into bowl games.”
The Bulldogs have had their share of elite bowls and their share of strangely sponsored contests that amounted to little more than an excuse for the Bulldog Nation to make a road trip. The Bulldogs have played in 19 different bowl games, none more times than the Sugar, in which they are 3-5 in eight trips. Georgia is 23-16-3 all-time in postseason play.
The highlight of those contests clearly came on Jan. 1, 1981, when the No. 1 Bulldogs faced Notre Dame with a chance to win the national championship. Freshman running back Herschel Walker became the first player that season to gain more than 100 yards against the Irish defense and finished with 150, while Erk Russell’s defense picked off three passes and recovered one fumble.
Sinkwich, Walker and Trippi, two Heisman winners and a runner-up, are remembered fondly throughout the Bulldog nation for their postseason heroics, but there have been other players with great efforts whose names haven’t lasted as long in the collective memory.
How about quarterback Johnny Rauch, who led the Bulldogs to four straight bowl games, including their first postseason loss, a 41-28 loss to Texas in the 1949 Orange Bowl.
Preston Ridlehuber completed 4-of-5 passes for 77 yards and rushed for 87 more to lead Vince Dooley’s first Georgia team to a 7-0 win over Texas Tech in the 1964 Sun Bowl.
Kent Lawrence set a school bowl rushing record when he rushed for 149 yards in Georgia’s first trip to the Cotton Bowl, a 24-9 win over SMU.
How many people remember Jimmy Poulus? He broke Lawrence’s record with 161 rushing yards in the 1971 Gator Bowl.
How many people remember Wayne Johnson who threw three touchdown passes in Dooley’s final game as head coach, when the Bulldogs beat Michigan State 34-27 in the 1989 Gator Bowl? Dooley’s run-first Bulldogs went to the air that day, and Johnson threw for a career-high 227 yards. (A Michigan State receiver named Andre Rison caught nine passes for 252 yards and three touchdowns that day. Rison would go on to a standout career for the Atlanta Falcons.)
Current Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo set a bowl record in the 1998 Outback Bowl when he completed his first 19 passes. He went on to finish 26-of-28 for 235 yards as the Bulldogs beat Wisconsin 33-6.
That game was the first bowl game the Bulldogs played under head coach Jim Donnan. In Donnan’s last game, which came four years later in the Oahu Bowl, receiver Terrence Edwards had a similarly remarkable day on offense. Edwards caught eight passes for 79 yards, rushed five times for 97 yards and had one touchdown in a 37-14 win over Virginia.
Just like there have been some forgotten names in the Bulldogs’ bowl history, there have been some forgettable bowls. The 1946 Oil Bowl, for instance, a 20-6 win over Tulsa. Or the 1974 Tangerine Bowl, when the Bulldogs lost to Miami. No, not that Miami--Miami of Ohio. And why would anyone want to remember the 1978 Bluebonnet Bowl?
To be sure, none of them ever will stand out to Magill like that cold evening standing outside an officer’s quarters in 1943.