Midway through the third quarter in Atlanta's Grant Field Saturday afternoon, Tennessee's Volunteers had possession of the ball on their own 38-yard line. There was still no score in the tense battle between the Vols' third-ranked single-wing powerhouse and Georgia Tech's second-ranked split-T Yellow Jackets.
Tennessee Fullback Tommy Bronson had just gained two yards off tackle, leaving second and eight to go. It was a routine play, but alert End Buddy Cruze had spotted something important. For the first time all day, Tech had dropped its double-teaming alignment against him. To Cruze, who had been completely bottled since the game began, the switch was like a tonic. Rushing to the huddle he tapped Johnny Majors, the signal caller, on the back.
"Hey, John," he whispered, "I think I can get off."
The tailback simply nodded.
There followed, in the space of 53 seconds, the only touchdown of the day.
After a successful short pass to Cruze on the right sideline, Majors called Tennessee's weak-side run-pass—the exact play diagramed with SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S manikins last week. Cruze took the pass on Tech's 35 with Safety Man Wade Mitchell looming up a step ahead and Halfback Paul Rotenberry closing swiftly from the right. Cruze cut left, and Mitchell ran headlong into Rotenberry. Both went down as Cruze took off, to be hauled down on the one-yard line. Bronson hurdled the final yard, and Tennessee had enough to win its biggest victory of the year 6-0.
Aside from this opportunistic score, the game produced a nigh-perfect defensive struggle in which the kick held the starring role. There were 23 punts in all, and their beauty lay not so much in distance—or lack of it—as an uncanny sense of placement. Seldom has the kick been used more effectively to stifle the offense.
"Bobby Dodd and I both like to kick," called Bowden Wyatt from under a steaming shower in the Tennessee dressing room afterwards. "We knew we had to keep Tech bottled up deep or they'd run us ragged with those half-dozen good backs of theirs once they got operating room."
What operating room Tech got, they had to get themselves. Receiving Tennessee's 12 kicks, the Yellow Jackets were never able to commence operations farther out than their own 31-yard line. Five times they had to start inside their 10, four times inside their five. Majors quick-kicked 68 yards on first down to the Tech 17 in the first quarter. Bobby Gordon got off another for 60 yards from his own three in the second quarter. Majors dribbled one 43 yards that died on the Tech two-inch line just before the half ended. In the third quarter Majors booted 50 yards to the Tech seven, and Al Carter lofted one 40 to the Tech four. Meanwhile Tech's Kenny Owen and Johnny Menger had both rolled kicks to a stop inside Tennessee's five.
It was a whooping bunch of Volunteers who rushed back to the musty dressing room for their showers. Captain John Gordy, the rugged tackle, flung his helmet chin strap high in the air and crushed Back Bill Anderson in a bear hug.