It’s easy to forget how dismal a state Georgia football had fallen into by the mid-50’s. The program which had been a national powerhouse in the previous decade posted only three winning records and appeared in a mere two bowl games from 1950 to 1959.
In 1957, going into its last game of the season, Georgia had won twice in nine games. It had been shut out in three of those matches and averaged scoring less than ten points a game all year.
But that was the least of the Dawgs’ concerns. For in that game, they were facing a Georgia Tech team that had beaten Georgia eight straight years beginning in 1949. For the most part, the games hadn’t been close, as Tech had outscored Georgia over that stretch 156-39. Georgia hadn’t scored a touchdown against the Yellow Jackets in four years.
Tech that season didn’t have that much of an offense either. Like Georgia, Georgia Tech had been shut out three times already. But Coach Dodd’s defense had been stellar up to that point, pitching three shut outs of its own (including a 0-0 tie against Florida) and the Dawgs traveled to Atlanta to face a Tech team with a winning record of 4-3-2.
But things would be different this time, thanks to Theron Coleman Sapp. Here’s the story of the game from a terrific piece about Sapp in Georgia Trend magazine:
… After a scoreless first half, Sapp recovered a fumble at midfield. On third and 12 at the Tech 39, quarterback Charlie Britt hit Jimmy Orr with a 13-yard pass for a first down at the Tech 26. From then on it was all Sapp … Sapp … Sapp.
He crashed into the Tech forewall on six consecutive plays, down to the Tech 1-yard line. On fourth down Britt again handed off to Sapp, who powered his way into the right side of the Tech line for the Dogs’ first touchdown against Tech since 1953 and the only touchdown of the game. Ken Cooper converted the extra point, giving Georgia a 7-0 victory…
Fourth and goal was a gutsy call for a team that hadn’t scored a touchdown in four years.
You want to know how big a deal that score was? In Georgia’s long history, Sapp is one of only four players, including Frankie Sinkwich, Charley Trippi and Herschel Walker, to have his jersey number retired. Pretty impressive for a guy who only scored six touchdowns in his entire career as a fullback.
I’ll leave it to Coach Dodd, always classy, to describe what Sapp’s play meant in the series.
The late legendary Georgia Tech Coach Bobby Dodd said of Sapp, “Walker won the national championship for Georgia (1980) and was awarded the Heisman trophy (1982) but to older Bulldogs who suffered through the 1950s, Sapp’s breaking the drought was greater. He silenced eight years of bragging from Tech students and alumni. Breaking the drought was a remarkable achievement.”