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LSU Bowl Games: 1938 Sugar Bowl

Since the last Sugar Bowl game in 1937, Tulane Stadium had been enlarged.

  • With demand exceeding the number of tickets at the last two games, the Mid-Winter Sports Association proposed to Tulane University that the wooden bleachers in the North end be replaced by a steel stand.
  • The university agreed to loan the Association the money for the expansion, which brought the permanent capacity to 37,000. With temporary (bleacher) seating, several thousand more could be accommodated.

Tulane Stadium with new north end zone seats 1937

The Sugar Bowl wanted to pit 9-0 Alabama, the SEC champion, against either 9-0 Pittsburgh or 7-0-1 Fordham (with its "Seven Blocks of Granite," one of whom was Vince Lombardi) for the fourth edition of the game to be played January 1, 1938.

  • However, Bama wanted to go to the more prestigious Rose Bowl to meet California, champ­ions of the Pacific Coast Conference as did Fordham.
  • Pittsburgh's players voted to decline the Rose Bowl invitation any other because they were miffed that they weren't paid what they were promised for the previous season's Rose Bowl trip although that reason was not made public.
  • Tired of waiting for the Rose Bowl to make its choice between Alabama and Fordham, the Sugar Bowl gave both schools 24 hours to make up their minds. Take the Sugar invitation or gamble on the Rose. Both chose to wait for word from Pasadena. Alabama got the selection.
  • The Sugar then turned to the same two schools that had appeared the year before: 9-1 LSU, #8 in the final AP poll, and 8-0 Santa Clara, tied with Notre Dame for 9th in the poll. This would be the Tigers' third straight "trip" to the Sugar Bowl. A Sugar Bowl spokesman called the matchup "the finest intersectional football attraction attainable." The last word spoke volumes about the organization's frustration.
LSU's Season
  • The Tigers' 1937 campaign was defined by one game, the 7-6 loss to Vanderbilt in Nashville that ended LSU's 13-game SEC winning streak. The Commodore TD came on a "hidden-ball" play, with a lineman picking up the ball after it had been laid on the ground by the blocking back. The score was the first one allowed by LSU that season and one of only four yielded all season.
  • The 9-1 record was remarkable considering that 13 of the first 22 players from the 1937 team graduated. But lack of experienced depth would hurt the Tigers in their bowl game.
  • Senior TB-S Charles "Pinky" Rohm excelled on both sides of the ball. Sophomore Young Bussey, who arrived in Baton Rouge with so much buildup, led the second string in Coach Bernie Moore's system of substituting eleven-man units en masse. Both Rohm and Bussey were considered among the finest passers in the country.
  • Another sophomore, E Ken Kavanaugh, gave promise to filling the shoes of the great Gaynell Tinsley, now playing for the Chicago Cardinals of the NFL.
Three 1937 Tigers would play pro football: Backs Young Bussey (three years), linemen Ben Friend (one), and E Ken Kavanaugh (three).

LSU Coach Bernie Moore
LSU 1937
Opponent
Score
Florida
19-0
Texas
9-0
@Rice
13-0
Ole Miss
13-0
@Vanderbilt
6-7
Loyola (NO)
52-6
Mississippi State
41-0
Auburn
9-7
Northwestern State
52-0
@Tulane
20-7
Santa Clara 1937
Opponent
Score
@Stanford
13-7
St. Mary's
7-0
@San Jose State
25-2
@San Francisco
20-0
Portland
27-0
@Marquette
38-0
Gonzaga
27-0
Loyola (Los Angeles)
7-0
The Opponent
  • Like the Tigers, the Broncos lost more than half their bowl starting lineup from the 1936 team. Yet Coach "Buck" Shaw ran his two-year record at Santa Clara to 16-1.
  • Shaw's D surrendered only 9 points, 18 less than LSU, although the Tigers played a much stronger schedule.
  • Another similarity between the teams was the substitution of a full team of 11 men on a change of possession or the end of a quarter.
  • Word from the West Coast described the Broncos as having a staunch line cen­tered around captain Phil Dougherty and a versatile backfield led by sophomore sensation Jack Roach.
  • Buck admitted to the press that he had found no one to supply the blocking power of the departed BB Nello Falaschi.
G Dick Bassi (six), T Frank Cope (ten), C Phil Dougherty (one), and FB Everett Fish­er (three) would play in the National Football League and the All-America Football Conference. Falaschi was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1971, one year before Coach Shaw.

Preparation

  • Coach Moore had dismissed his players after the finale against Tulane. But when the Sugar invite came, he resumed practice December 16 after final exams.
  • If the LSU players were not happy about going 85 miles down the road to the Sugar Bowl for the second straight time the year before, they were even less enthusiastic for trip #3, especially against the same foe as the year before. However, Moore proclaimed the day before the game that his team was more "mentally ready" than they had been for either of the two previous bowl games.
  • Departing from his habit of naming a different captain for each game, Moore announced that six senior Bengals would act as co-captains for the bowl game. Arthur "Slick" Morton, who had moved from HB to FB to make room for Rohm, would be the "speaking captain."
  • Following his Sugar Bowl script, Moore kept his 37-man squad in Baton Rouge until the morning of the game.
  • Santa Clara followed the same plan as the year before. After arriving in the Crescent City by train four days before the game, the Broncos bussed to Bay St. Louis MS where they stayed at St. Stanislaus College before busing to New Orleans New Year's morning.
  • The team voted to dedicate the game to Manuel Gomez, the plucky little halfback who helped win the 1937 Sugar Bowl but had been hospitalized with a six-month illness. Shaw announced that first string FB Everett Fisher would not play be­cause of a broken leg. E Bryce Brown, who fractured a rib in practice, would play wearing a brace.
  • LSU's line averaged 200 lbs per man, five more than the Broncos' forward wall.
  • The Tigers ruled as a slight favorite in betting circles although the arrival of Cal­ifornia fans with money to "put on the line" caused the odds to drop from 8-to-5 to 6-to-5. (Point spreads were not popular in those days.) 1500 coaches who gathered in New Orleans for their annual meeting were polled concerning the outcome of the Sugar Bowl. Those who responded favored LSU by a 3-to-1 margin.


Santa Clara Coach Buck Shaw


Phil Dougherty


Arthur "Slick" Morton

Starting Lineups
Santa Clara
Pos.
LSU
Jesse Coffer (sr)
LE
Ogden Bauer (so)
Francis Cope
LT
Ben Friend (jr)
Louis Farasyn
LG
John Smith (jr)
Phil Dougherty (sr)
C
Dick Gormley (jr)
Leslie Cook
RG
Blythe Clark (so)
Al Wolff (jr)
RT
Eddie Gatto (jr)
Bryce Brown
RE
Larry King (jr)
Chuck Pavelko
QB
Barrett Booth (jr)
Jack Roche (so)
LH
Pinky Rohm (sr)
Tom Gilbert (jr)
RH
Guy Milner (jr)
William Gunther (jr)
FB
Arthur Morton (sr)
The Game

A crowd of over 40,000 sat through a light drizzle throughout the first half and tem­peratures in the 50s. They saw the defensive struggle you'd expect from two teams who gave up a total of 36 points between them in 18 games.

  • Q1: Guy Milner kicked off for LSU to Roche who returned the ball from his 4 to the 25. Santa Clara ran its plays from the Notre Dame box, the entire backfield shifting left or right just before the snap. Despite an offside penalty against LSU, the Broncos couldn't gain a first down and punted, Rohm returning 12y to his 33.
    Facing a five-man line most of the game, the Tigers' single wing attack lost 2y on the first two snaps as Santa Clara implemented its plan of taking out the inter­ference to expose the ball carrier. So Rohm punted. HB Orv Hanners, Santa Clara's only married player and a recent father, kicked the rolling ball as he tried to pick it up, bobbled it again on the second try, and Barrett Booth recovered for LSU at the 29.
    Rohm immediately hit Milner down the middle for 12. Then Pinky slashed over RT to the 4 for a second straight first down. Two plays later, Milner pushed to the 1. On 3rd down, 220 lb T Al Wolff tackled Milner from behind for no gain as Guy attempted to sweep LE. On 4th down, Rohm rammed up the middle but met a wall of defenders a half-yard short of the goal line.
    As teams often did in those days, the Bronks punted out of danger on 1st down. Milner fumbled Chuck Pavelko's kick on the SC 45, but Rohm retrieved the pig­skin and returned it to the 37.
    After two plays netted -3, Rohm quick-kicked over the goal line.
    Once again, the Broncos went three and out. Pavelko got off a good punt that Rohm fielded at his 33 and returned 13y.
    But the Tigers' possession also ended quickly when E Ogden Bauer dropped a 3rd down pass that hit him in the chest on the SC 38. Rohm's punt kept the Broncos bottled up on their 10 after a 6y return. After a 1y loss, Pavelko kicked out of bounds on his 48.
    Enjoying good field position again, the Tigers couldn't take advantage. Milner's 2nd-down pass was intercepted by Pavelko on the 31.
    Santa Clara ran two plays before the teams changed ends.

  • Q2: Both teams sent in new elevens to start the period as the slow rain contin­ued. Santa Clara's second team, known as "Schiechl's Snipers" in honor of the 6'3" 245 lb C who was its captain, would soundly outplay their LSU counterparts throughout the afternoon.
    Even though there were only 2y to go for a 1st down, the Broncos punted on 3rd down. Bussey ran back the kick 15y to the 20.
    Jabbo Stell ripped off 6 around LE, then Bussey slashed through the middle for 4 more and a 1st down. But after several failed reverses and a penalty, Young quick-kicked.
    From their 34, Santa Clara ran just one play, a loss of 3, and quick-kicked back. But the ball slid off the side of HB Bruno Pellegrini's foot and out of bounds on his 47.
    Could the Tiger B team finally capitalize on field position on the SC side of the 50? The possession started promisingly when Bussey's pass to Kavanaugh was ruled complete at the 34 because of interference. On 3rd and 11, Young's aerial fell incomplete but the Tigers were penalized 15y for an illegal shift. So Bussey punted, but T George Locke blocked it. G Jerry Ginney picked up the ball and tried to lateral the hot potato to no one in particular. The ensuing scramble re­sulted in SC QB Ray McCarthy diving on the ball at the LSU 38. That proved to be the break the Broncos were waiting for but they didn't capitalize right away.
    Starting 1st-and-15 after being penalizing for excessive timeouts, the Broncos gained only 3y on three snaps. Rohm returned the ensuing punt 5y to the 12.
    A holding penalty on the first snap moved LSU back to the 1. So Bussey launch­ed a punt to Jim Barlow on the LSU 45. With the Tigers in maximum protect for­mation, the Bronk took the ball on the run and sped back 15y before any de­fender could get near him until Jimmy Cajoleas brought him down on the 21.
    Given an even better chance to score, SC began with Pellegrini running right to throw a pass. But he couldn't find an open man, and Kavanaugh tossed him for a 9y loss. Then Pellegrini took a handoff and ran left before turning and lofting a pass back to McCarthy, who caught the ball amid two Tigers on the 12 before Bussey downed him on the 9. The same play had worked against the Tigers on the same field a year earlier. 190 lb FB James Smith ran twice to put the pigskin on the 4. With the defense massing for another plunge on 3rd down, Pellegrini took the snap and threw quickly to E James Coughlan who slipped into the left flat, took the ball on the 1, and fell into the EZ while being tackled by LB Roy Joe Anderson. Pellegrini's PAT kick sailed wide. Santa Clara 6 LSU 0
    Bussey took the kickoff on the 8 and made a good return to the 30. On 2nd down, Bussey tried to punt, but G Russ Clark shoved his chest into Young's foot, the ball bounding out on the 33.
    LSU called timeout to allow the rest of its B team to enter the game. On a no-in­terference play, McCarthy broke loose around RE for 15 as his mates went the other way. But the Tigers drew a line there. After an incompletion and a 5y re­verse, Pellegrini tried the same run-left-toss-right play that had set up the TD. But this time the wet ball slipped through Barlow's fingers. So Bruno tried a FG on 4th down from the 15. But the boot went wide.
    The Tigers then went backwards from the 20, Rohm losing 5 and then 6. So Pinky dropped back to punt. But a bad pass from C caused him to get off a poor punt that sailed out on the 10. Fortunately, the Broncos were penalized 15y for roughing the kicker. Given new life, Rohm fired a low bullet that Larry King caught for 10y. On 3rd and 6, Rohm faded to pass but, not finding a receiver, got away to the LSU 46 where the half ended.

Times-Picayune 1/2/1938
The Tiger band performed during halftime. Also, notable coaches in town for their con­vention were introduced including the dean of all grid mentors, Amos Alonzo Stagg, as well as three of Notre Dame's Four Horsemen, Harry Stuhldreher (Wisconsin), Elmer Layden (Notre Dame), and Jim Crowley (Fordham).
  • Q3: The rain stopped during the intermission. However, the teams had to con­tend with the wet field.
    Santa Clara's second string kicked off to LSU's B unit, Stell returning 18y to the 24. After two runs, Bussey punted on 3rd and 13. Papa Hanners, determined to make up for his earlier bobble, picked up the ball on his 37 and raced back 10y.
    Three plays later, Pellegrini ran the same play he had used twice earlier but to the opposite side. Rolling right behind two blockers, he tossed a long pass to Pa­velko running all alone down the left side. Chuck had to wait for the ball at the 25, giving Morton enough time to run over and make a TD-saving tackle at the 19. The way the Bronco D was playing, LSU could not afford another score of any kind. Two runs that netted only 1y and two failed passes turned the ball over to the Tigers.
    Since the last incompletion traveled over the goal line, LSU started from the 20. Bussey tried a long pass to Kavanaugh that came in a bit short and slipped through his fingers. Stell limped to the sidelines with a charley horse after being stuffed for no gain and was replaced by Milner. Hanners returned Bussey's punt to the SC 43.
    King made the key play that disrupted the Broncos' possession when he slam­med into the backfield and spilled FB Bill Gunther for a 6y loss.
    Bussey quick-kicked on 3rd down. Hanners took the ball on his 35 and sprinted through traffic up the middle to the LSU 44 where Blythe Clark and Booth finally corraled him. On 3rd-and-6, Pellegrini hit Coughlan, the TD man, racing across the middle for a first down on the 20. But the Bronco advance ran out of gas when Morton came up fast from his safety position to drop Hanners for a 2y loss on a LE sweep on 3rd down and Pellegrini's pass under pressure to Pavelko was too low.
    Bussey faded deep and fired a pass to midfield for Kavanaugh, who made a flying leap but could not quite reach the oval. When Milner's 7y run and a short pass to Kavanaugh just missed the first down mark, Bussey punted out on the SC 46 as once again a Bronk brought pressure.
    Four plays later, Bussey's punt return gave LSU the ball on the 26.
    The Tigers ended the period with only 10y of offense and no first downs com­pared to 63y and two firsts for Santa Clara.

  • Q4: The first units came in for both sides.
    Rohm gained 6 on two runs, then sailed a sensational 56y quick kick that bound­ed down the right sidelines and went out of bounds on the 9.
    LE Bauer tore through and grabbed Roche at the 1 and twisted him around and down just short of the goal line. In a repeat of what happened to LSU in Q2, the Broncos lined up in tight punt formation, and Barlow boomed a punt to Rohm at the Tiger 45. He ran free for 15y until the coverage caught him at the 32.
    That set up the most crucial sequence of the game for LSU. After sophomore FB Anderson gained 2, Rohm threw two incompletions. He then pooched a coffin corner punt that barely went into the EZ. When Santa Clara was penalized for offside, the Tigers decided not to punt but instead to use a trick play. Rohm went back in punt formation again. But Morton, lined up right WB, spun around on the snap and took a handoff from Rohm and headed around the left side on the soggy field. He cut back and set sail for the goal line before Ginney dove and tripped him up at the 5. Slick fell to the the ground at the 2, but the officials placed the ball on the 3. The small Santa Clara contingent in attendance began to envision losing the game 7-6.
    Rohm tried to skirt RE but was thrown for a 7y loss by Roche in perhaps the key defensive play of the afternoon because the loss caused LSU to take to the air, with bad results. Pinky took the snap, stood tall and fired a quick pass over the middle to Bauer breaking into the EZ. But Roche struck again, knocking the ball down at the goal line. LSU tried something a little different on the next snap. Rohm lined up at left WB but immediately came back and took a handoff and threw a pass that sailed over Bauer's head out the back of the end zone. That gave Santa Clara possession at the 20 because of two incompletions over the goal line on the same offensive series.
    But the Tigers weren't finished. Following the common viewpoint of the era - that is, I'd rather give the ball in your territory than I keep it deep in mine - Santa Clara punted dead on the LSU 47.
    Rohm went through RT and 11y. Then Ginney made another fine play, smashed through center to throw Pinky for a 2y loss. The Tiger TB wanted to pass but ran instead. Clark's shoestring tackle dropped him for just a 1y game. On 4th down, Rohm was hit as he threw, and Jim Smith intercepted the pass, racing to the LSU 45 where C Dick Gormley tackled him. As he went down, Smith lateralled to McCarthy who continued to the 38.
    Barlow ran wide to the left, turned, and tried to shoot a pass intended for E William Anahu down the middle of the field. But the ball was short and almost intercepted by a leaping Morton. Coach Shaw could not have been pleased that his team threw a pass. After Barlow gained 8 on a reverse around LE, he proba­bly provoked his coach's ire again when he took the snap and started around RE. As he was hit, he tried to toss a lateral to the back leading interference. But the ball hit Kavanaugh, who covered it on the 34.
    The Bengals had plenty of time for a last-ditch effort. Rohm faked a shovel pass but meandered around LE for 6. Then Pinky hit King for a first down at the SC 43. Santa Clara called timeout to make some substitutions with six minutes left to play. Milner also faked a shovel pass and ran off RE for 2. Rohm dropped back and connected with Kavanaugh down the middle for another first down on the 32. But the pattern that prevailed throughout the game continued. The Santa Clara defense never allowed the Tiger offense to string together consistent gains. Milner tried a reverse, but one gold-clad blocker couldn't block three red­shirts. The result was a 4y loss. Rohm faded to pass but ran instead for 3. The gain was nullified by offside against the Tigers. The upback took the next snap, turned and lateralled to Pinky who hit Kavanaugh to the 25. But Wolfe made another fine play, tackling Rohm 3y behind the line of scrimmage. On 4th down, Rohm's long pass intended for Ken was batted down by Gunther. The Broncos took over on their 28 with three minutes remaining.
    Shaw rushed in eight of his first stringers while Bussey came in for LSU. Instead of "running some clock," the Broncos punted out of bounds on the LSU 40.
    Bussey took to the air right away but, with a rusher in his face, his pass aimed at Kavanaugh fell short into the hands of Hanners at the SC 38. The return covered 6y.
    This time the Broncos didn't punt right away. Offside penalties against each team disrupted the possession, which ended when a 4th down run by Pellegrini turned the ball over to LSU at midfield with only 20 seconds on the clock.
    Out of timeouts, LSU took the 5y penalty to get organized for a desperation ef­fort. Bussey faded back and shot a pass to Milner, who broke loose before being tackled from behind in bounds on the Bronco 30. As soon as he hit the ground, Milner shouted for time, but no official heeded his plea, and time ran out before LSU could line up for another play.
    Final: Santa Clara 6 LSU 0

L: Rohm sweeps RE; R: Milner sets sail before being tripped up at the 3.


Pinky Rohm


Barrett Booth


Guy Milner


Al Wolfe


Chuck Pavelko


Ogden Bauer


John Schiechl


Young Bussey


Jabbo Stell


Ray McCarthy


Jim Barlow


Jimmy Cajoleas


Roy Joe Anderson


Ken Kavanaugh


Larry King


Blythe Clark


Dick Gormley

The statistics told a misleading tale.
  • LSU garnered 12 first downs to just four for the Broncos.
  • The Tigers also led in yardage 156-90.
  • The Bengals threw the ball 21 times but completed only 8.
  • Santa Clara committed five turnovers, three INTs and two fumbles.

Postgame

  • Moore was brief. It was a tough one to lose. Oh, hell, there's nothing to say.
  • Jubilant Buck Shaw praised the Tigers and the hospitality of the city of New Orleans. He also explained why Roche did not play much until the fateful series in the red zone late in Q4. The sophomore nursed a bad shoulder. With Pellegrini passing so well, we didn't have to worry about Roche.
  • Notre Dame coach Elmer Layden gave this summation of the contest. It was a fine game all the way through, and I enjoyed it much more sitting up there in the stands than being on the bench. It was probably the line of Santa Clara that decided it. Their blocking and tackling and charging was fine. It was a game between two reat teams and a fine spectacle all the way. I liked LSU's LE Kavanaugh, and Young Bussey is a good boy.
  • Villanova coach Clipper Smith, who preceded Shaw at Santa Clara, said it was an unusually well-played game under adverse conditions. I thought the outstanding feature was the all- around line play of both teams. Santa Clara's first and second-string linemen played well ... Pink Rohm and Ken Kavanaugh are two exceptionally fine players. The game was interesting and instructive from my point of view.
  • University of Detroit coach Gus Dorais, who threw passes to Knute Rockne at Notre Dame: It was a fine climax to the football season to have such a splendid game played here under the conditions. As usual, the breaks decided it. LSU got a break on a dropped punt but failed to score. Santa Clara got hers on an intercepted pass and made good. The speed and fine blocking made the game worth while.

Film of 1938 Sugar Bowl (35 mins.) - the rest of Q2 after the TD is missing

 

LSU BOWL GAMES

1936 Sugar Bowl

1937 Sugar Bowl

1944 Orange Bowl

1947 Cotton Bowl

1959 Sugar Bowl

1968 Peach Bowl

1996 Peach Bowl

2005 Capital One Bowl


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