GREATEST MOMENTS | ‘12th Man Tackle’ couldn’t stop Rice in 1954 Cotton Bowl


Rice-greatestBecause Dickey Maegle could see Alabama’s Tommy Lewis out of the corner of his eye, he shifted his stride running down the sideline. That’s what he said prevented a serious injury when Lewis came off the sideline to tackle Maegle in one of college football’s most memorable plays.

“I saw him crouching down like he had dropped his headgear,” Maegle told the Houston Chronicle in 2013. “A thousand things went through my mind, and son of a gun if he didn’t block me down. If I hadn’t stepped one half-step to the left, he would have broken my leg.”

“I guess I’m just too full of Alabama,” Lewis said after the game. “He just ran too close. … I know I’m going to hear about this for the rest of my life.”

But he didn’t. Maegle survived and prospered, as the Chronicle reported. Meanwhile, Rice’s website recounted the sports moment judged the greatest in school history.

One of the most celebrated plays in college football history highlighted the Owls’ fourth straight bowl victory, a 28-6 triumph over Alabama at the 1954 Cotton Bowl.

Facing an Alabama team led by future NFL legend Bart Starr, the Owls fell behind early as the Tide drove to take a 6-0 lead after one quarter on a short plunge by fullback Tommy Lewis. The 6-0 first quarter lead would be the last moments that ‘Bama fans would have to smile on this day.

Rice junior Dickey Maegle answered Lewis’ score with a 79-yard scoring run early in the second and with the PAT, Rice held a 7-6 lead. On Rice’s next possession, the two players who had scored in the game would become forever linked in history.

Taking a handoff from quarterback Leroy Fenstemaker, Dicky Maegle took off around right end. A block by Blois Bridges allowed Maegle to turn the corner. Mac Taylor flattened another ‘Bama defender while Gordon Kellogg took out the last man (Starr). Maegle seemed to be long gone on his way to his second touchdown of the game.

As Maegle approached midfield, Lewis jumped off the ‘Bama bench, stepped around a couple teammates, then threw a body block into Maegle’s legs at the Crimson Tide 42-yard line. Moments later, referee Cliff Shaw awarded Maegle and the Owls a 95-yard touchdown, the longest run in Cotton Bowl history.

Long after other details of the game faded into the general history of the game, the tackle of Maegle by Lewis remains an iconic moment, recognized yet again by the Cotton Bowl during its 75th Anniversary Celebration.

Maegle added a 34 yard touchdown in the third quarter en route to 265 rushing yards on only 11 carries, an unbelievable average of 24.1 yards per attempt which remains the NCAA record for bowl games.

Rice finished the season with a 9-2 record, ranked sixth in both the final AP and UPI.


• Rice Athletic Hall of Fame

On the cover and above: Tommy Lewis comes off Alabama’s sideline to tackle Rice’s Dickey Maegle in the 1954 Cotton Bowl. Referee Cliff Shaw awarded Maegle a 95-yard touchdown, the longest run in Cotton Bowl history. (Courtesy Rice University Athletics)

Monday: Quinnipiac and Radford
Tuesday: Rensselaer (RPI) and Rhode Island
Wednesday: Rice and Richmond
Thursday: St. Bonaventure and St. Cloud State
Friday: Saint Joseph’s and St. Lawrence

Mike Bambach

Mike Bambach is senior web producer for ASN.