Magical gridiron memories

You know that lift you get upon checking the pockets of an old suit and finding money you didn't realize you had? I got that same sort of boost today while checking out a retrospective piece on college football at espn.com.

After reading numerous books on Tennessee football – and writing one, to boot – I thought I already knew every interesting anecdote in Vol annals. It turns out I was in for a pleasant surprise. Ivan Meisel shares a colorful UT tale that was new to me in a piece called "The 100: The plays, performances and moments that define college football."

Meisel's picks for magic moments No. 81 through 100 are posted today. He'll post the other picks as the week progresses. Anyway, pick No. 94 on his list concerned Tennessee coach Bob Neyland's ill-fated meeting with Boston College in the 1941 Sugar Bowl game. Without further adieu, here is Meisel's version of the story:

#94

SUGAR RUSH

New Orleans | Jan. 1, 1941

Boston College's Charlie O'Rourke raised his arm to pass and the Tennessee defense bit. Instead, O'Rourke raced 24 yards for a touchdown and the Eagles upset the Vols, 19-13, in the Sugar Bowl. Tennessee should have recognized the play. Boston College coach Frank Leahy borrowed it from the Vols because his team couldn't stop it in practice. Six weeks later, the 32-year-old Leahy returned to his alma mater, Notre Dame, as head coach.

Interestingly enough, Meisel's pick for magic moment No. 95 also has special meaning for me.

On Oct. 4, 1969 I was a 17-year-old kid sitting spell-bound in front of the family TV set watching the greatest individual performance I've ever seen on a football field. It occurred at Legion Field in Birmingham, and the performer was an electrifying Ole Miss quarterback named Archie Manning.

Alabama scored a late touchdown to win the game 33-32 but that made Manning's heroics no less mythical. He compiled 540 yards of total offense that evening – 436 passing and 104 rushing – and made a lasting impression on at least one future sports writer.


Inside Tennessee Top Stories