By Mark Bishop
The 1954 Cotton Bowl Classic, part of the 1953 bowl season, took place on January 1, in Dallas, Texas. The competing teams were the Alabama Crimson Tide, representing the Southeastern Conference (SEC) as Conference Champions, and the Rice Owls, representing the Southwest Conference (SWC) as Conference Co-champions. Rice won the game 28-6, but their victory was overshadowed by Alabama’s Tommy Lewis and his “12th man tackle” of Rice running back Dicky Moegle in the second quarter.
After trading punts on the opening pair of offensive possessions, midway through the first quarter Alabama’s Bart Starr intercepted a pass from LeRoy Fenstemaker, returning it to the Rice 48-yard line. On the ensuing possession, Alabama scored its only points of the contest after Tommy Lewis capped the drive with a two-yard touchdown run, and a 6-0 lead. Rice responded with a trio of long touchdown runs by Dicky Moegle to take a 21-6 lead into the fourth quarter. Moegle’s first score came on a 79-yard run on the first play of the second quarter.
Midway through the second, Moegle was awarded a touchdown on one of the more infamous plays in college football history. After taking the handoff from quarterback LeRoy Fenstemaker, Moegle broke free for what was to be deemed a 95-yard touchdown run.
In what was dubbed the “12th man tackle,” Alabama running back Tommy Lewis left the Alabama bench, entered the field of play and tackled Moegle at the Alabama 42-yard line, apparently believing that even if the 5-yard penalty for illegal participation were enforced, his illegal move would have still stopped the score. However, referee Cliff Shaw instead awarded Moegle a 95-yard touchdown on the play under the palpably unfair act rule, which accounts for situations when a flagrant rule violation prevents a player from scoring by awarding the score anyway. As humorously reported in the Reading Eagle, “The incident became the first in bowl game history where a man on the bench tackled a runner, and also the first where a runner received credit for a touchdown while flat on his back 38 yards from the goal line.”
I don’t know if I’m more shocked that Rice beat Alabama or that a man from the bench came onto the field to make the tackle.
Even though this was completely against the rules, unexpected, and out of the box, you have to admit—this young man had passion and acted on it. He did what others wouldn’t, or couldn’t do. He got off the bench.
When it comes to winning souls, spreading the Gospel, encouraging the saints, and reaching the lost; we need people to get off the bench.
We need pastors, evangelists, teachers, students, musicians, and singers to get off the bench, and into the game. The clock is running down and opportunity is slipping down the sideline while too many are sitting on the bench. There are doors to knock, songs to sing, sermons to preach, prayers to pray, and souls to be saved. We can’t be bound to the bench, glued to the Gatorade, and clapping with cheerleaders when the game is on the line. Holidays, vacations, and bad weather are no excuse to sit on the sideline. The bench is full of excuses, injuries, and complacency, while souls are running in the wrong direction. Get off the bench, grab a soul, and change the game!
Pray, fast, study, witness, give, worship, preach, and let’s reach the world. While the devil is whispering, “Stay on the bench. Play by the rules. No one has ever done that before,” God is saying, “Get in the game! Get involved! Teach a Bible study! Tackle a task!” Our evangelists are traveling from state to state to help us all get off the bench. Why not call one into the game to help you out?
Mark Bishop is pastor of Victory Church in New Albany, MS, and serves as the Evangelists Director for the Assemblies of the Lord Jesus Christ.