When Georgia’s football team opened the season earlier this month in Atlanta against Boise State, it wasn’t the first time the Bulldogs had kicked off a season in the capital city.
The Bulldogs did it twice in the mid-1950s at -- of all places -- Grant Field on the Georgia Tech campus as part of a day-night doubleheader with the Yellow Jackets.
For younger Bulldogs fans, in those days Tech was a member of the SEC and was the dominant football team in the Peach State, having beaten Georgia eight straight times. Georgia put an end to that streak in the final game of the 1957 season when Macon native Theron Sapp scored the winning touchdown in a 7-0 victory.
With that score, Sapp secured his place in Bulldogs history, becoming forever known as the “Drought Breaker.” Even his jersey -- No. 40 -- was retired, primarily for that touchdown. That is just one of four Georgia Jerseys so honored. The other three belong to Frankie Sinkwich (21), Charlie Trippi (62) and Herschel Walker (34).
Georgia’s first game of the 1955 season came Sept. 17 against Mississippi at Grant Field, when the Bulldogs lost 26-13 to the Rebels under the lights. The Rebels went on to a 10-1 season and won the SEC championship.
In the marquee game that afternoon, 10th-ranked ranked Georgia Tech had beaten No. 9 Miami 14-6 in a nationally televised game. That win vaulted the Yellow Jackets to No. 2 in the next poll.
Tech went on to finish the year 7th in the nation with a 9-1-1 record, a season that included a 7-0 win over Pittsburgh in the Sugar Bowl. Georgia, meanwhile, ended that season at 3-7.
Tech’s game with Miami sold out the 40,000-seat stadium, while Georgia and Mississippi had 36,000 attend their game.
Two years later, Georgia opened the 1957 season on the Tech campus by losing 26-7 to the Texas Longhorns. The Bulldogs’ only score came on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Charlie Britt to Jimmy Orr.
Orr never dropped a pass during his playing days in Athens. He went on to a 13-year NFL career, spending three seasons with Pittsburgh and his final 10 seasons in Baltimore. He was named NFL Rookie of the Year in 1958.
Tech was a winner that afternoon, disposing of Kentucky 13-0. Once again, the Tech game had the bigger attendance figure. The Yellow Jackets and Wildcats played before a capacity 40,000 fans, while 33,000 saw Georgia and Texas.
Can you imagine less than a capacity crowd for Texas-Georgia today?
Both the Yellow Jackets and Bulldogs had disappointing years in 1957, with Tech finishing at 4-4-2 and Georgia at 3-7.
The Georgia-Texas matchup is significant in the history of Longhorns football. It marked the debut of Darryl Royal as the Texas head coach. Even while Royal spent two seasons as head coach at Mississippi State and one at Washington, he established his reputation as one of college football’s best leaders in Austin. During his tenure at Texas, he compiled a 167-45-5 record and had national championships in 1963, 1969 and 1970. His teams also won or shared 11 Southwest Conference titles, and they participated in 16 bowl games.
Five of the six head coaches who took part on those doubleheaders -- Royal at Texas, Bobby Dodd at Georgia Tech, Wally Butts at Georgia, Johnny Vaught at Mississippi and Andy Gustafson of Miami -- are in College Football’s Hall of Fame. Blanton Collier, who coached at Kentucky, is the lone head coach involved in those games who is not included in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Prior to those doubleheaders, Georgia opened the season two previous times in Atlanta. The Bulldogs beat Georgia Tech 12-0 to start the 1900 season and routed Oglethorpe 53-0 in 1940.
Bobby Pope hosts the Saturday Football Scoreboard Show on 1670 AM. The show is in its 37th year this fall.