By WALTER ROBERTSON / The Dallas Morning News
Vandals frisked the shirt right off Jerry Levias' back before he could even get to the Cotton Bowl Saturday.
But that wasn't nearly so aggravating to SMU's Mustangs as what happened to them once they stepped into the jam-packed stadium a little later in the day.
Georgia's Kent Lawrence and Ronnie Jenkins and a bully Bulldog defense stripped the Ponies down to their shorts to take a 24-9 verdict in the 31st annual Cotton Bowl classic.
Levias, SMU's sophomore Player of the Year in the Southwest Conference this year, had to play in jersey No. 26 instead of his familiar No. 23. For when the Mustangs unpacked their gear at the Cotton Bowl Saturday morning, they discovered several jersies and other equipment had been pilfered from the equipment bags.
There was no replacement jersey for Levias' No. 23 so he played in a strange one. The things he did for the Mustangs were familiar, however. But they weren't enough to match what Lawrence, Jenkins and their mates did for Georgia.
Lawrence, the Bulldog's sprinter tailback, sprinted 74 yards for a touchdown on the second play of the game. And there never was an awful lot of suspense the rest of the afternoon, despite attempts by the Mustangs to stage some of their patented late flurries near the ends of both the first and second halves.
Lawrence wasn't able to deal misery in quite such large doses to the Ponies the rest of the day. But he dealt enough in smaller slugs to emerge with 149 yards gained on 16 carries, the second best rushing total in Cotton Bowl history. Only Rice's Dicky Moegle in his fabled 265-yard performance in the 1954 game had a better Cotton Bowl afternoon.
Naturally Lawrence, a miniature (5-10, 165) sophomore who lives fewer yards from the Clemson campus than he gained Saturday, was voted the game's outstanding player.
Lawrence landed 65 1/2 of the 69 votes by writers covering the game. The rest went to Jenkins. And that was no surprise either.
When Lawrence's explosive swiftness wasn't plaguing an SMU defense that actually played better than the score might indicate, Jenkins was. The powerful junior fullback showed little effect of the pulled hamstring muscle which was supposed to hamper his effectiveness. What he did show was some of the best sheer muscle seen in recent Cotton Bowl memory. He punished the Mustang middle with 87 yards net of 21 carries. That included a 4-yard attack against the right side of the SMU line that left blockers and defenders alike piled in his path to the final touchdown which put Georgia out of reach in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. Jenkins or Lawrence carried on every play of the 59-yard drive for the final Bulldog touchdown.
The other Georgia touchdown came on a 20-yard pass from quarterback Kirby Moore to sophomore end Billy Payne, whose father was an all-conference tackle at Georgia. Payne grabbed the ball on a fine catch away from Mustang defensive back Floyd Burke early in the second quarter. Burke was whistled for interference on the play but of course it made no difference.
And for SMU it made no difference that it came back from that score, which had put Georgia out front 17-3, to stage the only sustained offensive spurt the Mustangs managed all day just before the end of the half.
And the Mustangs pulled off that 72-yard drive for their only touchdown the hard way. They overcame three illegal procedure penalties and otherwise ragged offensive play which frustrated them much of the day.
Naturally, it was Levias and quarterback Mac White who did most of the overcoming. Levias grabbed passes of 23 and 19 yards to spark the drive, the latter on a pass which White threaded between three Bulldog defenders and on which Levias made a great catch. Mike Richardson scored the touchdown from the 1-yard line with just 1:14 left in the half.
Dennis Partee, who had kicked a 22-yard field goal in with 6:17 remaining in the first period for the only other SMU scoring, kicked badly to the right on the extra point attempt, which left the Mustangs in arrears 17-9 at halftime.
But that was close enough to give hope to SMU partisans, who had seen the Mustangs forge those incredible comeback wins during the regular season.
But the Bulldog muscle, both on offense and defense, really took command in the second half. Georgia played the ball control it had hoped for in the third quarter, amassing eight first downs to only one for SMU to set up that final touchdown early in the final period. And the Bulldogs' splendid tackle combination, big and mobile George Patton and Bill Stanfill, began to put a tougher rush on White to discourage his passes to Levias. It was just as effective as had been for their first-half strategy fo shutting down White's favorite area of attack, the quarterback rollout inside the ends.
If there was any single key to Georgia's convincing win, in fact, it had to be the Bulldogs' success in forcing White into the air. The Ponies netted a paltry 40 yards rushing. And White, who had averaged 70 yards per game rushing during the season, finished with a minus 21 yards on 19 carries, many of which were pass attempts that never got off the seat of Mac's pants.
But even with the Clear domination Georgia enjoyed most of the afternoon, it looked for all the world a couple of times in the waning minutes like the fourth quarter might belong to the Mustangs, like it had all the dramatic 1966 season.
SMU had been guilty of roughing the kicker on the try for extra point following the final Georgia touchdown. So the Bulldogs kicked off from the SMU 45, an excellent spot for an onside kickoff try and another quick touchdown which would really put SMU out of its misery. The Mustangs' George Gaiser grabbed the kickoff but fumbled as he was hit by the Bulldogs' Ronnie Tidmore. Ken Whiddon recovered for Georgia at the SMU 33.
But Pat Gibson and Jim Wood racked a fourth-down Bulldog try at the Pony 14 a minute later. That was one of the few times the Mustang defense had been able to take the ball away.
Then when Wayne Rape picked off a Moore pass and returned it to the Georgia 38 with 7:11 to play, that old clock-racing blood began to rise in Mustang veins. And when Larry Jernigan danced and wiggled 38 yards to the Georgia 2-yard line on the next play, SMU partisans really stirred for the first time all day.
But alas, the Bulldog muscle was too formidable a foe for the Mustang magic.
Three plays later the Ponies were back on the five. And on fourth down No. 2 quarterback Mike Livingston, who previously had thrown two interceptions in three attempts, was engulfed by an enraged Bulldog defense at the 10.
The Bulldogs spent the last minute of the game paying an old debt to Patton, the all-American who won the outstanding lineman vote by a comfortable 22-12 margin over teammate Jerry Vernado.
Patton, you see, was a high school quarterback. And he came to Georgia on the assumption that he would be playing quarterback there. But he hadn't played a down anywhere except tackle until the final minute Saturday. Georgia coach Vince Dooley, never a man to fudge on a promise, lined up Patton at shotgun back for the four final plays. He didn't complete a pass in three tries. But he thundered 16 yards when his receivers were covered on the game's final play.
That's a varsity career average of 16 yards, you'all. Not bad for a 215-pound tackle.
And much better, than the Mustangs' record Saturday for losing their shirts
Lawrence stunned the Ponies on the second play of the game with a 74 yard TD run.
Moore's 21 yard TD pass to Payne put the game away in the second quarter.
Etter was perfect with a field goal and three extra points.
UGA- Lawrence 74 run (Eller kick)
SMU- FG Partee 22
UGA- FG Etter 21
UGA- Payne 20 pass from Moore (Etter kick)
SMU Richardson 1 run (Kick failed)
UGA- Jenkins 4 run (Etter kick)
UGA- Lawrence 16-149, Jenkins 23-88
SMU- Jernigan 9-28
SMU- White 9-17-160
UGA- Moore 6-11-79
SMU- Levias 3-62
UGA- Payne 3-49