It was the rivalry’s golden anniversary game. And there was no way a 4-4-1 Auburn team that had been shutout by Florida, a team the Bulldogs had shutout 75-0, was going to win it.
Auburn was going up against the best Georgia squad in forever — a “Dream Team” heralded the headlines, No. 1 by a mile, just coasting to California en route to a national championship. The bags for the Rose Bowl were packed. And one of those bags belonged to All-American halfback Frank Sinkwich, that season’s eventual Heisman Trophy winner — the best football player in the world…
… not named Monk Gafford.
All hail Mighty Monk! Let the national press be late to the party! Let some poor fool in Philadelphia who’d never seen him put him as a second-teamer! Let some poor fool in Los Angeles who’d never heard of him leave him off his list completely! The Fort Deposit Express didn’t care about kudos in the papers. He cared about “hallelujahs” in the stands.
And God was praised.
During Gafford’s All-American senior season, you’d seen pure joy on the faces of all the peanut-poppin’ Auburn old-timers as he made another cut toward a thousand-yard season. But that day, the smiles had never been bigger. George Petrie was there. He felt reborn watching that kid. Monk Gafford was Dutch Dorsey and Moon Ducote and Jimmy Hitchcock rolled into one — a gridiron god. 149 yards on 20 carries.
Sinkwich? Six yards on 23 carries.
Final score: Auburn 27 — Georgia 13.
Afterward, Georgia coach Wally Butts did the whole “Auburn had a better team today” routine. Screw that, said Auburn coach Jack Meagher — Auburn had the better team, period. The best he’d ever coached.
Sure, there had been a few hiccups — all on the road, all in the rain, let it be known. But get’em on a dry field and, Lord, were the Auburn Tigers ever better than that final No. 16 ranking! Those final three games? The blowout vs. Clemson in the only game at home? The upset over LSU? And then Georgia? That wasn’t some last-second miracle. It wasn’t a Hail Mary. No, it was a beating — a beating you were going to tell your grandkids about, the biggest upset of a generation, a coach’s film no one would ever lose, all thanks to the best man he’d ever coached. The best man he’d ever seen play the game.
Gafford even wound up winning MVP in an SEC coach’s poll that year; Sinkwich came in second. The same thing happened in the SEC’s referee poll.
Translation: The men who saw both boys in action, who knew the game better than anyone, thought Monk Gafford was better than the guy who was supposed to be the best player in the country. So, with all due respect to Butts, and to the Ohio Buckeyes, who were also claiming the crown, soft-spoken Jack Meagher had no problem with shouting it from the rooftops… For the month of November, at least, he’d been in charge of the best damn football squad in America. Gafford and the gang had embarrassed the No. 1 team in the nation, right at the end of the season, right before the Bulldogs blanked No. 2 Georgia Tech 34-0 and shut out No. 13 UCLA in the Rose Bowl.
Georgia had a great team. Auburn blew them out of the water.
A remix of excerpts from War Effort Eagle: The year Auburn canceled football and That time Auburn tore down the goalposts after upsetting undefeated Georgia and put them up at Toomer’s Corner for a week or so