University of Georgia

1952-55 Bulldogs
(Authentic Reproduction)




Georgia football in the suspension helmet era begins with James Wallace Butts, Jr. because anything and everything related to Georgia football from 1939 through 1960 begins with Head Coach Wally Butts. Four SEC championships, an undefeated season, eight bowl games, and an ability to defeat any team he faced made him a College Football Hall Of Fame coach and a force to be reckoned with. Coming to Georgia as an assistant to Joel Hunt in the latter's one and only season on the Bulldog sideline in 1938, Butts took over the head job in '39 and stayed for twenty-two seasons. Known as an offensive innovator and tough disciplinarian, his off-season workouts were so difficult that players would try to get themselves knocked into a stream that was adjacent to the practice field in order to cool down or get a sip of the filthy water. Dedicated to his players' welfare during and after their time at Georgia, he was a popular figure. Butts had lost but ten games in ten years of coaching high school football before joining the new Georgia staff and thus came to Athens with a winning reputation. His success through the 1940's, the development of Frank Sinkwich, the South's first Heisman Trophy winner, and his innovations in the passing game during a run-dominated era made him a legend first throughout the South, and then nationally. After a 5-6 debut season, he did not have another losing year until 1949. Georgia peaked under Butts from 1945 through 1950, going to five bowl games and winning two SEC championships.
As an offensive innovator, it was said that Butts "developed passing further than any other coach" of his era or those before him. In 1944 he introduced the first T-Formation used in the SEC and then watched as his teams set more passing records than any other. He was SEC Coach of the Year 1942 through '46 and in 1946, was also voted as the National College Coach Of The Year after his Bulldogs went 10-0 and then outscored North Carolina in the Sugar Bowl by 20-10. Their number-three finish behind Army and Notre Dame put Georgia on the football map, and Butts was all but deified. His '48 team, with SEC MVP John Rauch at the controls, burned through their SEC schedule winning the conference title. The only in-season loss was to powerful North Carolina and the 'Dogs finished at 9-2 after losing to Texas in the Orange Bowl. They dropped to 4-6 in '49 but began 1950 with a big win against highly rated Maryland. With QB Mal Look throwing for 535 yards and end Harry Babcock on the receiving end of forty-one passes for 666 yards to pace the SEC, the offense was potent. The other end, Bobby Walston, became the NFL's leading receiver and played twelve years with the Eagles. It was Dick Yelvington (six seasons with the Giants at OT) and big DT Marion Campbell leading a defense that yielded but 5.9 points per game, that got them their 6-1-3 record and resulted in a post-season game against Texas A&M for the Presidential Cup that was played on the University Of Maryland campus, a game they lost 40-20. In '51 it was again tackle Campbell, at 240-pounds, keeping both sides of the line honest but the defense was not what it was in '50 and injuries decimated the starting lineup. Edmund "Zeke" Bratkowski set a new conference record with 1578 passing yards, and again end Harry Babcock led the SEC in receiving but the squad slipped to 5-5.
1952 saw the retirement of leather helmets on the Georgia field and the introduction of a silver Riddell RT plastic helmet that had one-inch gold "Eagle style" numbers, trimmed with a black border, at the rear of the shell. QB Zeke Bratkowski had a wonderful season, leading the nation in passing with 1824 yards and was named All American. End John Carson led the SEC with thirty-two receptions for 467 yards, reflecting Butts' passing innovations. "Big John" would go on to be a reliable receiver with the Redskins for six seasons and then joined the Oilers in their inaugural AFL campaign. With Marion Campbell controlling the line of scrimmage from his tackle post, the Bulldogs tallied a fine 7-4 year in an eleven-game season. Once again QB Zeke Bratkowski received All American notice for the 1953 season and added to his region-wide legend by leading the country in punting. He finished his Georgia career with a huge 4836 total passing yards having added another 1461 his senior year despite the team's 3-8 performance. Bratkowski had a fourteen-year NFL career with the Bears, Rams, and Packers, being known for stepping in for Bart Starr at various times and invariably leading Lombardi's great teams to victory. He later became a long-time NFL offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Marion Campbell also moved on to the NFL, playing his first two seasons with the Forty-Niners and then another six with the Eagles, two of them Pro Bowl years. Campbell had the distinction of being the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons from 1974 through '76, going to the Eagles in the same capacity from 1983 through '85 and then returning to the Falcons once again as their head man for 1987, '88, and '89. Butts received a lucrative offer from financier Lou Wolfson who offered to purchase the Baltimore Colts who were for sale, and make Butts a part-owner and head coach but "Weepin' Wally" was loyal to Georgia and chose to remain in Athens.
Picked for tenth in the SEC, the Bulldogs came out swinging in '54, losing only one game until the final two contests of the season. The 6-3-1 finish was a nice turnaround from the disappointment of 1953 and it was done with determination. Center Bill Saye "Hey Kid" typified the effort of the entire squad. In the 14-13 win over favored Florida, Saye had two pass interceptions, recovered a Gator fumble, and then blocked the Florida extra-point attempt to seal the victory. FB and LB Bob Garrard had a big season. Quarterback uncertainty in 1955 dropped the Bulldogs back to 4-6 but soph Jimmy Orr was the "most deadly receiver in the league". Orr who took a circuitous route through Wake Forest and Clemson before becoming a Bulldog, was also an excellent kicker.

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