Wednesday Duckstory: 1949 Cotton Bowl


Last week we took a look at the 1920 Rose Bowl so next up on the Duck’s bowl history timeline is the 1949 Cotton Bowl.  It was a long dry spell for Oregon, going 29 years without a bowl game but in 1948 the Ducks finished their season with only one loss under head coach James W. “Jim” Aiken.  Oregon ended the season sharing the league championship and boasted a No. 10 ranking.  Despite their success they were passed over for a spot in the Rose Bowl.  Instead USC would play in the Rose Bowl so the Ducks were invited to play in the Cotton Bowl Classic pitted against SMU.  This game was the first meeting of these two schools.  It would be a contest between Oregon QB Norm Van Brocklin and SMU’s Doak Walker (running back, defensive back and place kicker).

Race was an issue at this point in college football – in the Northern states schools had been accustomed to integrated teams.  The Rose Bowl had not been putting restrictions on who could play in the bowl game for years at this point, but the Southern schools were a different story.  The Cotton Bowl, which was first played between two college teams starting in 1937, had forced teams such as Boston College to bench African American players on their squad in order to play.  Eventually Northern teams started to protest this system and some of these bowl games were being cancelled.  When Penn State was selected to play in the 1948 Cotton Bowl the committee was forced to reevaluate their policies – they were losing out on money at this point because the fans wanted to see the best match-ups.  So in 1948 the Cotton Bowl became one of the first Southern bowl games to take down their segregation policies.  The game was hugely successful and set a new precedent for Southern bowl games.  The following year Oregon would come onto the field as the second integrated team to be invited to the Cotton Bowl.

The game took place on New Year’s Day 1949 in front of 69,000 fans in Dallas, TX.  This match-up was all about offense with two of the most powerful offensive teams fighting for victory.  Despite such a drought of post-game play this game would be a disappointment for Oregon that ended in a 13 -21 loss.  Going into this game Oregon had a high-powered offense but the Ducks didn’t get a score until the fourth quarter rolled around.  Let’s take a look at this game…

SMU would score two touchdowns during the first three quarters with no Oregon answer.  It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that Oregon finally put some points on the board with a 24-yard pass to Dick Wilkins.  Oregon scored again in the fourth with a run by Bob Sanders but it wouldn’t be enough for the Ducks.  The game ended in an Oregon loss.


SMU……Doak Walker 1 run (Walker kick), 9:48, 1st
SMU……Kyle Rote 36 run (Walker kick), 9:44, 3rd
UO……..Dick Wilkins 24 pass from N. Van Brocklin (kick failed), 12:23, 4th
SMU……Chicken Roberts 8 run (Joe Ethridge kick), 8:45, 4th
UO……..Bob Sanders 1 run (Chet Daniels kick), 6:20, 4th
Individual Leaders

Bell (UO) 17-93, Lewis (UO) 12-63, Sanders (UO) 12-63.
Rote (SMU) 16-93, Walker (SMU) 14-66,

Van Brocklin (UO) 19-8-0-145,
Walker (SMU) 10-6-1-79, Johnson (SMU) 10-4-1-32.

Wilkins (UO) 4-57, D. Robinson (UO) 3-56.
Rote (SMU) 4-55

Next week we’ll take a look at Oregon’s third Rose Bowl performance in 1958 against Ohio State.