LITTLE KNOWN FACTS FROM LNO: First Posted February 11, 2008
It was one of those great days for a bowl game. Football season was coming to a close for yet another year and the grand culmination of the season was upon us. The bowl games were in full swing. The Rose Bowl in Pasadena is the granddaddy of them all, of course. But this particular day, the focus was on the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
It was a beautiful Texas day in 1954 when Rice University met on the gridiron with Alabama to see who was going to hold the bragging rights for the next 12 months. In the early going, it appeared that the teams would be fairly well matched. But then, as does happen, one team broke free. Rice went in for a touch down and it almost seemed to demoralize Alabama.
When things start going bad for a team, sometimes they seem to steam roll, don’t they? And that must have been how it looked to Tommy Lewis that day. Tommy was a fullback for Alabama, and as Rice started to rack up more and more points and take down after down, he just got more and more frustrated.
But it was when Rice halfback Dicky Moegle found himself in the clear and racing toward a 95-yard touchdown that our young Tommy Lewis just couldn’t take it anymore. He had to do something. Suddenly out of nowhere, Tommy jumped off the bench as Moegle was running past him. And Tommy stopped the ball carrier with a beautiful flying tackle.
Yeah. That’s right. He came off the bench to tackle him. And 75,000 fans stood in silent complete disbelief. Tommy was instantly horrified at his own foolishness and he literally crawled back to the bench cursing himself for his impulsiveness.
As the crowd watched, the referee himself picked up the ball and carried it the rest of the way to the Alabama goal line, giving Rice the touchdown that Moegle surely would have scored. Well, Rice went on to win that game 28-6. And you would think that little embarrassment would be the end of the story, wouldn’t you? But sadly, no.
It’s a Little Known Fact that years later, as a high school coach, one Tommy Lewis watched in complete disbelief as one of his own players made the exact same mistake, this time with his team ahead 12-7 and just one minute left to play. The ref was not at all understanding. Tommy’s team lost 13-12 that day, and the vision of his own college ball days came back to haunt him once again.