Over time, iconic moments of the past are often diminished and downgraded as inferior to the accomplishments that have become the norm in today’s sporting competition.
It is certain that today’s athletes, benefiting from diet, training and other influences, are remarkable and extraordinary. And there are so many.
Football has become a fast game. The speed of the game is incredible with the players, as a group, getting faster and faster. Three-hundred-pound linemen who can run 19 miles per hour (like former defensive lineman Jordan Davis) are as common as SUVs on a highway.
It’s been three quarters of a century since Frank Sinkwich set the Orange Bowl total offensive record (all bowls actually) of 382 yards – 139 rushing yards and 243 passing yards.
It was Georgia’s first bowl team and Sinkwich played the season with a broken jaw, which was broken in Game 2 against South Carolina in Athens. Bulldog training staff designed a protective mask that kept Sinkwich playing. He remained the starting tailback through Miami’s Orange Bowl.
In the 1941 season, Sinkwich set the SEC single-season rushing record with 1,102 yards. His 713 passing yards for a total offensive mark of 1,816 was a new SEC record.
By the end of the Orange Bowl, Sinkwich had set records in five categories: total offense, 372 yards; most TD passes, 3; most yards on TD plays rushing and passing, 179: most points, running and passing, 24 and most passing yards TD, 136.
Bulldog coach Wallace Butts would later say that the first half of the 1942 Orange Bowl game was the greatest offensive performance of any team he coached in Athens.
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The opponent in this game was Georgia’s next opponent, TCU.
It was against the rules at the time to trade game movies. A staff member, more than likely JV Sikes, who had connections to the Southwest Conference, came into possession of the films from the Horned Frogs game. This allowed staff to evaluate TCU’s triple wingback set, which was an unusual formation for the time.
According to the late Bill Hartman, the Georgia coaches viewed the TCU films “in secretly kept behind closed doors at night when all visitors and news reporters had retired from the scene.”
Turns out it probably made no difference. Sinkwich and the Georgian offense were so strong that afternoon that it’s unclear when full production might have occurred.
The halftime score had Georgia ahead 33-7 and Butts began to substitute freely. The regulars took advantage of the Miami sun on the sidelines in the second half. One of the team’s colorful players, lineman Harry Kunainsky, had filled his helmet with oranges while posing for a photo.
When TCU scored their second touchdown in the second half to close the gap to 40-20, Butts yelled at the regulars to take the field. Kunainsky slammed on his helmet crushing some oranges in the process. He took the field with orange juice dripping down his face.
It was a colorful moment for Georgia’s first bowling team that had brought a lot of pride to the small community of Athens. Coach Butts and the Sinkwich-led Bulldogs had put Georgia in the bowl business, which had been in vogue for several years.
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The invite had come after Georgia Tech’s game in Atlanta with the Bulldogs beating Tech 21-0. The Georgia team’s headquarters in Atlanta was the former Biltmore Hotel on West Peachtree Street.
Butts had a corner suite at the hotel and his closest friends were stopping by.
Butts arrived around 9 p.m. with the post-game party in full swing. He said quietly, “We just got invited to the Orange Bowl.” Pandemonium ensued. One observer said the reaction “raised the roof”.
Some locked the room to spread the news. Others telephoned and became “town criers”. Calls have gone out across the state. The bell of the chapel of Athens rang with its greatest fervor.
If Butts had decided to run for governor, he likely would have won in a landslide.
The best was yet to come. A year later, Georgia will be invited to play at the Rose Bowl. But the good times didn’t roll, unfortunately. After beating UCLA 9-0 in Pasadena, everyone was paying attention to events related to World War II.
One would think that if World War II hadn’t happened, it’s possible that Butts, the passing gaming guru of that era, would have developed a dynasty that might have endured.