Wade Treutlen Mitchell of Atlanta, Ga. is a straight-A textile engineering student who had the highest scholastic ranking in the 5,300-member student body last year at Georgia Institute of Technology. But the 37,683 football fans who jammed Jacksonville's Gator Bowl Stadium in balmy 62° weather and brilliant sunshine last Saturday will remember Wade Mitchell best as the big quarterback who kept the Georgia Tech legend of bowl invincibility alive.
No school in history has been more successful in postseason competition. Beginning in 1929, when Roy Riegel's legendary wrong-way run helped them to an 8-7 Rose Bowl triumph over California, the Engineers have appeared in 13 bowl games, more than any other college. They have won 11 of these, an alltime record. They are the only college ever to have appeared in all five major bowls, to say nothing of having won in each. Their convincing 21-14 triumph over Pittsburgh on Saturday was their sixth bowl victory in as many seasons, and in this most recent one Wade Mitchell, more than any other man, was the architect of victory.
It was Mitchell's finest and final collegiate football performance. He mixed his plays artistically in leading Tech to its first touchdown, picking openings in the middle of the line, where Pitt was strongest. He set up Tech's third score by firing long passes after alertly perceiving that Pitt defenders were leaving potential receivers loosely guarded.
But Mitchell shone on defense even more brightly—shooting the gap to make the vital goal-line tackle that thwarted a long Pitt march inches from its destination, roaming the secondary all afternoon from his safety position to bring down Pitt ball carriers, covering the Panthers' All-America End Joe Walton so closely that he was never a serious pass-catching threat, and saving the game in the final minute with a beautifully timed leaping interception to grab the ball from the astonished Walton on Tech's 14-yard line as the Panthers were hurrying desperately toward a tying touchdown.
With Mitchell leading the way, the Engineers played a typical Tech game. Troubled with Pitt's well-executed draw plays and reverses, Tech gave ground freely most of the time, conceding the short gains to guard against the long ones. But when Pitt threatened, Tech abandoned its hit-and-float defensive tactics, tightened ranks and held firm. Coach Bobby Dodd frequently interchanged his first and second units, never allowing either to be worn down by the hefty Pitt forwards.
The victory for Georgia Tech also represented a victory for Coach Dodd's "football can be fun" method of coaching. The two teams had prepared for the Gator Bowl in strikingly different ways. Pitt Coach John Michelosen had put his boys through rugged workouts right up to Christmastime, then, after a one-day rest, had them butting heads again until the eve of the game. Dodd's first two elevens had not had a practice scrimmage since before their opening game against Kentucky. Not only that, but the Tech players were given an 11-day vacation over Christmas. They showed their gratitude by keeping themselves in perfect trim and returning to the campus ready to play their best game of the year.