Loren Smith’s column on former UGA football great Frank Sinkwich and the upcoming national title game against TCU
Published 3:22 pm Tuesday, January 3, 2023
With the passing of time, signature moments of the past are often diminished and downgraded as inferior to the accomplishments that have become standard in today’s sports competition. For sure, today’s athletes, benefitting from diet, training and other influences, are remarkable and extraordinary. And there are so many of them
Football has become a fast-moving game. The speed of the game is amazing with players, as a group, becoming faster and faster. Three-hundred-pound linemen who may run 20.3 miles per hour (like former defensive lineman Jordan Davis) are as commonplace as SUVs on a freeway.
It has been three-quarters of a century since Frank Sinkwich set the
Orange Bowl (all bowls as a matter of fact) total offensive record of 382
yards—139 yards rushing and 243 yards passing. That was sensational
back then, and it would be sensational today.
This was Georgia’s first bowl team, and Sinkwich played the season
with a broken jaw. It was broken in the second game against South
Carolina in Athens. The Bulldog training staff designed a protective mask
which allowed Sinkwich to continue playing. He remained the starting
tailback through the Orange Bowl in Miami.
In the season of 1941, Sinkwich set the SEC single season rushing
record with 1,102 yards. His 713 passing yards gave him a total offensive
mark of 1,816, a new SEC record.
When the Orange Bowl was concluded, Sinkwich had set records in
five categories: total offense, 372 yards; most TD passes, 3; most yards on
TD plays, run and pass, 179: most points, running and passing, 24 and
most yards on TD passes, 136.
Bulldog coach, Wallace Butts, would later say that the first half of the
’42 Orange Bowl game was the greatest offensive performance of any of
the teams he coached in Athens.
The opponent in that game was Georgia’s next opponent, TCU
Monday in Los Angeles.
It was against the rules in those days to swap game films. Somebody
on the staff, more than likely J. V. Sikes, who had Southwest Conference
connections, came into possession of Horned Frogs game films. That
enabled the staff to evaluate TCU’s triple wingback set, which was an
unusual formation for the times.
According to the late Bill Hartman, the Georgia coaches viewed the
TCU films “in guarded secrecy behind closed doors at night when all
visitors and press reporters had retired from the scene.”
As it turned out, it probably did not make any difference. Sinkwich
and the Georgia offense were so potent that afternoon that there is no
telling what point production total might have been.
The halftime score had Georgia ahead 33-7 and Butts began to
substitute freely. The regulars were enjoying the Miami sun on the sideline
in the second half. One of the colorful players on the team, lineman Harry
Kunainsky, had filled his helmet with oranges while posing for a photo.
When TCU made its second touchdown in the second half to close
the margin to 40-20, Butts yelled for the regulars to take the field.
Kunainsky slammed on his helmet crushing a couple of oranges in the
process. He took the field with orange juice dripping down his face.
It was a colorful moment for Georgia’s first bowl team which had
brought much sense of pride in the little community of Athens. Coach Butts
and the Sinkwich led Bulldogs had gotten Georgia in the bowl business
which had been the hue and cry for several years.
The invitation had come about following the Georgia Tech game in
Atlanta with the Bulldogs defeating Tech 21-0. Team headquarters for
Georgia in Atlanta was the old Biltmore Hotel on West Peachtree Street.
Butts had a corner suite in the hotel and his closest friends would stop by.
Butts came in about 9:00 p.m. with the post-game party in full swing.
He said softly, “We have just been invited to the Orange Bowl.”
Pandemonium ensued. One observer said the reaction “lifted the roof.”
Some bolted the room to spread the news. Others got on the phone
and became “town criers.” Calls went out all over the state. The chapel
bell in 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 would be invited to
play in the Rose Bowl. But the good times did not roll, unfortunately. After
defeating UCLA 9-0 at Pasadena, everybody’s mind was tuned to events
related to World War II.
One would think that had WW II not come along, it is possible that
Butts, the passing game guru of that era, might have developed a dynasty that might have endured.