In 1969, the NCAA College Division football post season was
structured with four regional bowls determining the champion of the of
the West , Mideast, Midwest and Southeast. The West playoff game was the
Camellia Bowl at Sacramento, CA, the East was decided at the Boardwalk
Bowl in Atlantic City, the Midwest was decided at the Pecan Bowl at
Arlington, TX. But the game that garnered the most attention in 1969 was
the Mideast Championship, the Grantland Rice Bowl at Baton Rouge, LA.
The excitement was due to the star attraction of this game, Terry
Bradshaw of Louisiana Tech University.
Bradshaw, a strong armed quarterback from Shreveport had been a backup
at Louisiana Tech in his first two seasons. He got his opportunity in
his junior season (1968) after the starter was injured in the opening
game. Bradshaw replaced him and went on to become a Division II
All-American, leading the nation in total offense with 2,987 yards. The
Bulldogs defeated Akron, 33-13, in the 1968 Grantland Rice Bowl and
Bradshaw was named the game's MVP after completing 19 of 33 passes for
261 yards. In 1969, he repeated as a Division II All-American and led
Tech back to the Grantland Rice. Coached by Maxie Lambright, the
Bulldogs won the Gulf States Conference with an 8-1 record. Bradshaw had
2314 yards of total offense, ranking third nationally, and 136 pass
completions. One reason for the slight decline in statistics was Tech's
changing from 10 games to 9 in regular season. Furthermore, Bradshaw had
less playing time because of the many lopsided victories. In his final
home game, Nov. 22, 1969, he left the field with seven minutes to play.
The crowd gave him a standing ovation. He held 25 school and conference
records. Louisiana Tech retired his jersey, No. 12; the announcement of
this was made by the university president. A press release stated,
"There will never be another one like him in this school or this
Louisiana Tech’s opponent in the Grantland Rice Bowl got little pre-game
publicity. East Tennessee State University, the little school from
Johnson City, TN, had its finest year in history under Coach John Robert
Bell. The Buccaneers won the Ohio Valley Conference and went undefeated,
posting a 10-0-1 record. Defensive Coach Buddy Bennett had quietly put
together a monstrous defense at ETSU called Bennett's Bandits. The
Bandits were led by Billy Casey and Al Guy. They combined for 20
interceptions on the year. The season record reflected a dominating
defense and developing offense. The Buccaneers gave up only 93 points in
10 games in 1969. The defense picked off 34 passes on the season. The
largest margin of victory was 30-0 over Tennessee Tech. A 10-10 tie with
Murray State was the only blemish on the year.
At the Grantland Rice Bowl, the Buccaneers got on the scoreboard in the
first quarter with a one yard touchdown run by Jerry Daughtry to take a
6-0 lead. East Tennessee extended its lead to 13-0 in the second quarter
on a 37 yard halfback pass for a touchdown from Pat Hauser to Mike Young
and took that lead into the locker room at the half.
The Bulldogs finally found the end zone in the third quarter on an
eight-yard pass from Bradshaw to fullback Buster Herren. The Buccaneers
added a third-quarter touchdown on a 5 yard Young run before the
Bulldogs pulled within 20-14 on a 19 yard touchdown pass from Bradshaw
to Tommy Spinks. It appeared that Bradshaw and the Bulldogs would launch
a second half touchdown barrage, but that never came to pass. That was
as close as Louisiana Tech would get as the Bucs defense took over. East
Tennessee iced the game with two Larry Graham touchdown passes, 39 yards
to John Gibson and 10 yards to Rich Anderson, in the last stanza. The
final score was 34-14.
In Terry Bradshaw’s final appearance as a Bulldog, he completed 20 of 39
passes for 299 yards, outstanding numbers. But, he was sacked an
incredible 12 times for 143 yards in losses in probably the roughest
afternoon of his career. Bennett’s Bandits stole three of his passes.
The Buccaneers used a well-balanced offense gaining 245 yards on the
ground and another 174 in the air. Jerry Daughtry gained 106 of those
yards, including one run of 62 yards. Quarterback Larry Graham completed
10 of 16 for 136 yards.
The fortunes of all involved would take different twists in the future.
Bradshaw would go on to be the number one pick of the 1970 NFL draft,
Super Bowl MVP and lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to a dynasty. Louisiana
Tech would grow its program, eventually joining Division I and the WAC
by the turn of the century. But, the victor of the 1969 Grantland Rice
Bowl, Eastern Tennessee State University, would disband its football
program forever 34 years later. The ETSU football team played their last
game on Nov. 22, 2003 against The Citadel. The Grantland Rice Bowl of
1969 may well have been their finest hour.