What Went Around, Came Around
The closer we get to the Texas game this Saturday, the more my thoughts go back to Sept. 25th, 1948. It is a date that older Tar Heels will never forget and ranks high on the list of all time big UNC football victories.
For those of you not familiar with the situation, let me set the scene for you.
In 1947 the Heels opened with a 14-7 victory over the Georgia Bulldogs, gaining revenge for our loss to those same Bulldogs the previous year in the Sugar Bowl. The Heels were rated high in preseason polls and, as usual, there was talk of a possible national championship. The second game of the season was played in Austin, Texas and there was no reason to think that we couldn't come away with a victory there. To make a long story short, we didn't come close. Texas and the heat that the Heels were not accustomed to took it to us and Texas won the game 34-0. Choo Choo didn't do much ( 24 yards rushing ) and was pulled in the second half for his substitute Jack Fitch who surprisingly had a pretty good game. The Heels returned to Chapel Hill demoralized and the following Saturday they lost to Peahead Walker's Demon Deacons for the only time during the Justice era, 19-7. Things did not look good.
The season turned around after the Wake Forest game and we didn't lose another game on the schedule. There are many stories of why we didn't go to a bowl that year but the cold hard facts are that we didn't make a post season appearance when most people thought we deserved it.
All summer long the Heels seethed over the Texas loss and vowed to exact revenge on the Longhorns when they opened the '48 season in Chapel Hill. Little did Texas know what awaited them in Kenan Stadium. I remember the game well, not because I saw it or even heard it on the radio because it wasn't broadcast in the Raleigh area. Instead I heard the N.C. State-Duke game on the radio and was poised for periodic announcements as to how the game in Chapel Hill was going. The Heels were unbelievably fired up and took it to the Longhorns from the outset. We scored three quick touchdowns and Texas was never in the game. The only thing to go wrong all day was that we allowed Texas to score 7 points or we would have completely reversed the score from the previous year.
Several months ago, I asked a viewer who lives in Austin if he would research the game to determine how the Longhorns reacted to the stunning defeat the Heels handed them on that bright Sept. day in 1948. Fortunately, he was able to locate the write ups from the UT "The Daily Texan" and has shared them with us. You can't imagine how much I have enjoyed them or maybe you can.
I guess the write-up I enjoyed most was the one where the reporter went to the student activities center to observe the students as the game was being broadcast over the radio and loudspeaker system. Isn't that something. I couldn't get the game on the radio in Raleigh but the UT students could get it in Austin.
The students had interest at first but as the score mounted, the interest in the game waned. Some of the quotes and descriptions are priceless. One group sat around on the shady lawn of the University Baptist Church looking at each other and not saying a word. After the third UNC touchdown, one UT student exclaimed that "we won't catch up now". One curvaceous blond exclaimed, " Gosh, I just hope nothing happens to Puppy Gillory". Byron Gillory was a Texas halfback Wonder where ole Puppy is now.
One female student was playing cards in the Student Center and when the game ended she made a misplay , threw her cards into the air and went back to her law books. She's probably a judge somewhere now.
The most exciting thing to happen on the field that day other than the UNC scores was when a Texas tackle named Ed Kelley slugged UNC lineman Bill Wardle and was ejected from the game. Wardle, who had no face mask, was knocked to the ground in full view of the 43,500 fans in Kenan and Tom Landry who was on the Texas team later said that for an instant he didn't know if they would get out of Kenan without serious harm. Cooler heads prevailed, however, and Kelley along with Coach Blair Cherry went to the Carolina dressing room after the game and apologized for the incident. I later learned the reason Kelley punched Wardle was that Wardle had said to him, "It's going to be a long ride back to Texas tonight". Some Carolina players said that Texas had said the same thing to them the previous year after the game in Austin.
A couple of observations on the game that might surprise you. Texas did not have a player who weighed more than 216 pounds. Carolina had a few who were heavier but the starting line averaged a little over 200. Another thing was that Texas only brought 38 players to the game ( remember, players played both offense and defense) and stayed at the Washington Duke Hotel in Durham. They worked out at Kenan on both Thursday and Friday.
Horace Williams Airport was jammed with private planes that had brought UT fans up for the game. They had erroneously assumed they would have no trouble purchasing tickets from scalpers ( now called brokers) but they were mistaken. I don't know if some of them ever got in. A canvas covered truck backed up to the fence at Kenan and a group of fans came out from underneath the canvas and jumped from the back of the truck over the fence into Kenan Stadium. Nobody had to urge the Carolina fans to holler that day. And guess what. Ole Andy (Griffith) would have been there in the Tar Heel Marching Band playing the trombone Bet he can remember it.
There is going to be a reunion of the Justice era players the weekend of the SMU game and I can't hardly wait to cheer them as they are introduced. There are many pleasant memories associated with these teams but none so gratifying as the 1948 win over the Texas Longhorns. Can't wait to see them in Kenan Stadium again.