1964 Georgia Tech vs. Navy Game, at the Gator Bowl

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Gator Bowl Stadium

The 1964 Gator Bowl was a Collegiate Football Regular Season game between the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and the Midshipmen of the United States Naval Academy. It took place on Friday, October 9, 1964 in Jacksonville, Florida at the Gator Bowl Stadium. After complete renovation and reconstruction, the former Gator Bowl Stadium is now known as Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League. In this exciting regular season game between what seemed to be two evenly matched rivals, the Ramblin Wreck of Georgia Tech came out and dominated the Midshipmen with a 17-0 victory in front of 40,000 fans.


Contents

Rivalry

The 1964 game at the Gator Bowl was the 8th meeting between these two storied college football programs. The first game between Georgia Tech and the Naval Academy Midshipmen was in 1922, and ended with 13-0 Naval Academy victory over the Yellow Jackets. At the time of the Gator Bowl, the Yellow Jackets led the series 4-3, a lead they would extend to 5-3 after their dominant game in Jacksonville. Their last meeting was a 16-14 Tech victory in Baltimore.[1]

Location

The Naval Academy, being the home team in this game against Georgia Tech got to decide the location of the game. Initially, they had hoped to play in the newly completed District of Columbia Stadium in Washington D.C., but they were unable to complete arrangements for the game to take place on October 9th. Navy then chose to play the at the former Gator Bowl Stadium in Jacksonville because of the number of naval bases in Florida including one in Jacksonville and another in nearby Pensacola.[2]

Georgia Tech head football coach Bobby Dodd was happy with this change of venue because he knew that moving the game to Northern Florida would allow more Georgians to attend the game, “It won’t be too bad a trip for us and a lot of our people will be able to go now. Some of them wouldn’t have been able to make the trip to Annapolis or Washington.”[3]

Staubach Injury

Roger Staubauch, an All-American Quarterback from the Naval Academy's injury was the big story leading up to this game. Roger Staubach strained a ligament in his ankle during the Midshipmen’s first game of the season against Penn State. Navy Head Football Coach Wayne Hardin spoke in his weekly news conference with the media about Staubach's role in this important game, “Staubach will not play at all; in fact, he will not make the trip to Jacksonville (Fla.).” Given Staubach's injury and his role as a midshipmen, Hardin decided to give the lame Staubach the game off to help him recover. “There is no point in having him out there gimping around,” states Hardin. "The daily routine of life as a midshipman is rather strenuous and is his priority; therefore it is important for him to get to a place where he can use his ankle again in the near future."[4]
All-American Quarterback for Navy, Roger Staubach[5]

In 1962, during the 4th game of the season against Cornell, Staubach began his all-American career at the Naval Academy. He has not missed a game in the three seasons since, starting every game for the midshipmen until this point. Navy is hoping that their team will take the “win this one for Roger” mentality into this game against a tough opponent.[6]

Georgia Tech’s Head Football Coach and Athletic Director Bobby Dodd did not overlooking the midshipmen, even without Staubach, instead, he considered what a win over a Staubach-less Navy team meant for his team moving forward, “The thing that concerns me is that if we win, it will be said that we won because Staubach wasn’t in there and if we lose, it’ll be even worse.” Although he admitted that the game itself would be less interesting without Staubach, “It remains a tough one just the same. He’s one of the best in the country. However, he’s no superman and we already have said we’re getting ready for Navy, not just Staubach.”[7] Georgia Tech scout Jess Berry disagreed with Dodd. He stated, “There is no doubt that Staubach is the backbone of Navy’s offense. When he is on the field, Navy plays inspired ball, blocks harder, and does everything better.” He claimed that Navy can be great so long as Roger Staubach was there at quarterback. [8] Georgia Tech spent the remainder of the week trying hard not to let the distraction of Staubach’s health get in the way of their preparation leading up to the game.

Pre-Game

Conditions for the early October game between two rivals were ideal. The temperature in Jacksonville was in the upper 60s, the sky was clear and the field was in excellent shape. After the injury to Staubach, Tech was a heavy favorite in the game behind what coach Bobby Dodd called his "fastest backfield ever assembled".[9] Georgians by the hundreds were seen around the Jacksonville area and pre-game and post-game parties had already been planned.

Tech came into this game on a three game winning streak, defeating Vanderbilt, Miami and Clemson.[10] Navy, on the other hand, was still reeling from two consecutive losses and the loss of their All-American Quarterback, the backbone of their team. The Naval Academy instead started inexperienced Junior Quarterback Bruce Bickel who was just 1/5 passing for 15 yards and 1 interception all season.[11] Georgia Tech was also having passing problems. Lacking an outstanding passer, Tech employed two quarterbacks, Bruce Fischer and Jerry Priestley. The two alternated between games with Fischer starting this game against Navy because Priestly had started their victory over Clemson just last week.[12]

The Game

Tech started its first touchdown drive on its own 23-yard line. The drive was highlighted by a long pass from quarterback Fisher to Tight End George Morris, who eluded two Navy defenders to reel in the 45 yard pass before he was tackled at the 2 yard line. From there, running back Johnny Greesham carried the ball the final two yards for the score. Less than three minutes later, they scored their second touchdown on a 30 yard pass again from Fisher to Morris. The Extra Point was good and Tech was up 14-0 by the end of the first quarter.

With 11:25 left in the 2nd quarter, Jack Clark capped Tech's scoring run for the game with a 20 yard field goal to give the Yellow Jackets a 17-0 lead.[13] Coming out of Halftime, Navy looked more put together and ready to go on a run. During first drive of the second half, they moved the ball to Tech's 16 yard line before losing the ball on downs.[14] They caught a break when Fischer fumbled the ball and Bruce Kenton recovered at the Tech 46 yard line, their best starting field position of the game; however, Navy was punting three plays later.[15] Unable to penetrate deep into Tech territory, Navy's three other second half drives were stalled at the Tech 29, 37 and 12 yard lines without the Midshipmen able to put points on the board.[16]

Postgame Blackout

After such an exciting finish, no one could have predicted what was about to happen next. An unexpected power failure in the stadium just minutes after Tech’s victory left thousands of fans stumbling through the crowded, dark stadium for the exits. According to the power company, an overloaded meter caused the outage. Additional lights had been added for this game and the meters had smoked for most of the contest. The failure also blocked out the press box and the team dressing rooms. Several sports reporters were stuck halfway down in an elevator between the press box and the locker rooms heading to do some post-game interviews. The power was soon restored and everyone was able to exit the stadium safely.[17]

References

  1. 11. [GT vs. Navy (1964 Gator Bowl) October 9, 1964, Box 3, Folder 7, Georgia Tech Football Programs] Ray F. Ellis Papers (MS349), Archives, Library and Information Center, Georgia Institute of Technology.
  2. Associated Press. “Tech to play Navy in Jacksonville Tilt.” Oscala Star-Banner October 23, 1963, Page 12.
  3. Associated Press. “Tech-Navy Tilt in Gator Bowl.” Daytona Beach Morning Journal October 23, 1963, Page 12.
  4. 2. Bus Ham. “Staubach Declared out for Georgia Tech Friday.” Washington Post October 8, 1964, Page C1.
  5. United States Navy, . (Photographer). (1964). 1964 roger staubach. [Web]. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:1964_Staubach.JPG
  6. Bus Ham. “Navy Plays Ga. Tech in Gator Bowl.” Washington Post October 9, 1964, Page E1+.
  7. Associated Press. “Georgia Tech 6-Point Favorite over Navy in Game at Jacksonville Tonight.” New York Times October 9, 1964, page 48.
  8. Bus Ham. “Georgia Tech Scout Says Staubach Lifts Middies.” Washington Post October 7, 1964, Page D1.
  9. Bus Ham. “Georgia Tech Scoots Ahead of Navy, 17-0.” Washington Post October 10, 1964, Page C1.
  10. Bus Ham. “Navy Plays Ga. Tech in Gator Bowl.” Washington Post October 9, 1964, Page E1+.
  11. Associated Press. “Staubach Doubtful for Georgia Tech.” Washington Post. October 5, 1964, Page 1.
  12. Associated Press. “Georgia Tech 6-Point Favorite over Navy in Game at Jacksonville Tonight.” New York Times October 9, 1964, page 48.
  13. Associated Press. “Georgia Tech Overwhelms Navy, 17-0.” Daytona Beach Morning Journal October 10, 1964, Page 9.
  14. Associated Press. “Georgia Tech Overwhelms Navy, 17-0.” Daytona Beach Morning Journal October 10, 1964, Page 9.
  15. Bus Ham. “Georgia Tech Scoots Ahead of Navy, 17-0.” Washington Post October 10, 1964, Page C1.
  16. Associate Press. “Georgia Tech Overwhelms Navy, 17-0.” Daytona Beach Morning Journal October 10, 1964, Page 9.
  17. Associated Press. “Lights out for Navy and Crowd.” Daytona Beach Morning Journal October 10, 1964, Page 9.
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