21st Annual Sugar Bowl Classic -- January 1, 1955 – Navy 21, Ole Miss 0



21st Annual Sugar Bowl Classic -- January 1, 1955 – Navy 21, Ole Miss 0

Quarterback George Welsh stepped into the Navy huddle. All he heard was his teammates pleading for a play, not a punt.

It was fourth down with a foot to go at Navy's own 39, against Ole Miss' imposing defense - and on the game's first series.

"The fellows all said, ‘C'mon George, we can make it. Let's try it." Welsh related. "So we had (Joe) Gattuso slant off tackle."

Gattuso gained four yards. Mythology of this memorable game says this call spurred the Midshipmen to its victory.

Actually, Ole Miss was offsides and, in fact, Navy accepted the five-yard penalty. But the play seemed to prick the poise and pride of the Rebels. "The coach tells us only one thing," explained Navy second-string quarterback Dick Echard. "If you think you can make it, go for it. Because if you believe you can, then you will."

"When I saw them do that," said Coach Eddie Erdelatz, "I knew we were going to play a whale of a game."

Welsh ran options for short, but surprisingly consistent, gains, sending a flanker to one side, then running the play the opposite way. It led to a Gattuso touchdown of three yards. John Weaver, who had a 24-yard gain in the drive, kicked the extra point.

Navy's bug-sized defense, using 14 different looks, played head-to-head with the fearsome Rebel offense the remainder of the quarter. In the second period, it was Navy who again threatened, going from its 40 to the Ole Miss 8. Three plays at that point produced nothing. On fourth down Welsh threw a pass to Ron Beagle, who made a flying catch right on the goal line. It was originally called a touchdown, but head linesman Charles Wood, who was in better position to judge, overruled it. Wood said that while Beagle's feet were in the end zone, he fell just outside when he made the catch. Film revealed it to be a highly questionable call.

Navy probably secured the victory in the third quarter when Gattuso broke through right tackle, going 17 yards to the Ole Miss 17. On fourth down, after picking up one yard, Weaver eased into the end zone and Welsh threw straight into the Rebel coverage. Weaver, with Billy Kinard's arms around his neck and Eagle Day practically inside his jersey, went up and made a miraculous catch.

Day, one of the nation's outstanding quarterbacks, gave the outplayed Rebels a sliver of hope with a 72-yard punt to the Navy 7. If Ole Miss could hold them, or force Navy to make a mistake, the Rebels might turn the tide. Instead, Navy ran off four successive first downs, one on a 22-yard run by Gattuso and another on a Gattuso fumble that bounced 14 yards up-field to be recovered by teammate Wilson Whitmire. Then Weaver raced 21 yards around right end. Gattuso scored from two yards out on his third consecutive carry from the 5.

Gattuso (111 yards) and Weaver (106 yards) each outrushed the Ole Miss offense, which had just 78 yards rushing and 43 passing.

"The difference," Erdelatz told the press, "was desire." The coach asked the media to move from the center of the locker room, saying he wished to speak to his team. "Men," he said simply, "you were terrific today. Let's get down on our knees and thank God." A moment of silence was offered by the grateful Midshipmen who knew full well what they had accomplished.

Then Erdelatz leaped up, fist in the air, and shouted, "Now let's go raise hell in Noo Awleans."

Recap excerpted from the book "Sugar Bowl Classic: A History" by Marty Mulé, who covered the game and the organization for decades for the New Orleans Times-Picayune.



Agreed to by the Virginia Senate, January 25, 2001

Agreed to by the Virginia House of Delegates, January 26, 2001

WHEREAS, George Welsh, the most successful football coach in the history of the University of Virginia, has announced his plans to retire; and

WHEREAS, the head coach of the Cavaliers for 19 years, George Welsh has compiled an exemplary record, has led Virginia to 14 consecutive winning seasons, and has taken the Cavaliers to 12 bowl games; and

WHEREAS, a native of Coaldale, Pennsylvania, George Welsh graduated from Coaldale High School and won appointment to the United States Naval Academy, where he was a star quarterback; and

WHEREAS, George Welsh led the Midshipmen to a 21-0 upset over heavily favored Mississippi in the Sugar Bowl following the 1955 season, a season in which he led the nation in passing and total offense and placed third in the Heisman Trophy balloting; and

WHEREAS, following 10 years as an assistant coach under Rip Engle and Joe Paterno at Penn State, George Welsh became head coach at his alma mater, coaching Navy to a 55-46-1 record during his nine-year tenure and leading the team to victory in the 1978 Holiday Bowl, Navy's first bowl appearance in 15 years; and

WHEREAS, in 1982, George Welsh took over the football team at the University of Virginia, and by his third season, had turned the program around, coaching the Cavaliers to a record of 8-2-2 and their first bowl appearance, a thrilling 27-24 victory over Purdue; and

WHEREAS, beginning in 1987, the Cavaliers began a streak of 14 consecutive winning seasons, including 13 seasons in a row with at least seven victories, and appearances in 11 post-season bowl games; and

WHEREAS, George Welsh retires as the winningest coach in the history of the University of Virginia, with a career record of 134-85-3, and as the winningest coach in the history of the Atlantic Coast Conference, with a career conference mark of 85-51-3; and

WHEREAS, for all of their success on the field, George Welsh's Cavaliers have also excelled in the classroom, as Virginia won the College Football Association's Academic Achievement Award in 1985 and 1986 and has been honored nationally for its graduation rate among scholarship football players every year since 1987; and

WHEREAS, for his remarkable achievements, George Welsh has been honored repeatedly, including being named Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year five times and NCAA Coach of the Year in 1998; and

WHEREAS, many of George Welsh's Virginia players have won All-American honors, and George Welsh and his staff have produced eight National Football League first-round draft picks; and

WHEREAS, throughout his long coaching career, at the University of Virginia and elsewhere, George Welsh has been successful, his teams have won, his players have graduated, and his programs have been run according to the rules; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED by the Senate, the House of Delegates concurring, That the General Assembly hereby commend George Welsh on the completion of an exemplary career as head football coach at the University of Virginia; and, be it

RESOLVED FURTHER, That the Clerk of the Senate prepare a copy of this resolution for presentation to George Welsh as an expression of the General Assembly's admiration and gratitude for his service to the University of Virginia and the Commonwealth.