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Football 1943

1943 5-0-1 Oil Bowl Champions Coach: Louis Whitman

Oct 15 Fort Benning (Ga) W,20-7
Oct 23 Southwestern (Texas) W,27-6
Nov 6 Arkansas A&M T,20-20
Nov 13 Lake Charles AAF W,75-0
Nov 27 Randolf Field W,6-0

Oil Bowl
Jan 1 Arkansas A&M W,24-7

Texas didn't play Bulldogs in Cotton Bowl in SLI heyday

Jim Bradshaw is a columnist for The Advertiser. He can be reached at (337) 289-6315 by fax at (337) 289-6443, or by e-mail at jbradshaw@theadvertiser.com

The Fighting Bulldogs of Southwestern Louisiana Institute were one of the best teams in the nation when they played in the Oil Bowl in Houston 60 years ago.

Texas turned down the chance to meet them in the Cotton Bowl, playing instead a team that SLI had already beaten. The Sugar Bowl also gave them a bye.

But the Bulldogs weren't to be denied their chance to shine.

Here is what The Associated Press reported from Houston on Jan. 1, 1944, the day before the game:
The mighty offensive machines of Arkansas A and M and the Southwestern Louisiana Institute - their lineups studded with former Southwest Conference grid greats collide here today in the first Oil Bowl game.

Thirteen of the 22 starters played at Southern Methodist, Rice or Arkansas University before assignment to marine training units at the Lafayette, La., and Monticello, Ark., schools.

SLI relies on speed and passing with Alvin Dark, an All-American of Louisiana State University as the No. 1 runner and passer. A and M specializes in a power attack featuring Charlie Steed, bone-crushing fullback from Arkansas Tech.

The teams ignore all normal defensive tactics in their desire to score. SLI has tallied 148 points in five games for an average of 29.6. A and M has counted 185 in seven games for an average of 26.5.

It will be the second meeting of the teams. Their first game at Memphis ended in a 20-20 deadlock."

Louisiana sports fans will remember that Dark, one of the most versatile athletes to come out of Louisiana, went on to a sterling career as shortstop and manager for the New York Giants.

He was, indeed, the key to the SLI offense, and had come to SLI as a member of the V-12 training program during World War II.

TALMADGE THOMAS, another member of that V-12 program recalled during a recent reunion in Lafayette what may have been the best team SLI ever put on the field.

"We beat some of the best players in the country," he said. "We beat them hands down."

They were ranked 13th in the nation when they went to the Oil Bowl and defeated Arkansas A&M 24-7, but they'd seen a close call against Randolph Field, an Army post. They played the game on a rain-soaked, muddy field, that caused Dark to slip and slosh ... unable to elude the mud-cleated ramblers," according to a report in the L'Acadien yearbook.

But an inspiring halftime talk by a Marine recruiter changed the day.

Uttering the only words that were fired at the Bulldogs during the halftime rest, Major Taft spurred the men to a glorious second half with "I've played on Marine football teams and I've played on Navy football teams. We were never beaten by an Army team and we never will be.' "

SLI came back to win that game, and went on to an undefeated season with only the tie with Arkansas A&M to blot their record.

They fixed that with the Oil Bowl victory on New Year's Day on Jan. 1.

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