Jess Neely's first bowl team in 1946 was dominated by a senior class who had faced far greater foes than anyone they would meet on a football field. The impact of their maturity and leadership was not lost on a group of freshmen, who three years later would lead Rice to its greatest season and a date against North Carolina in the Cotton Bowl.
Seniors such as All America Froggy Williams and quarterback Tobin Rote had learned their lessons well and settled many scores during their last season on South Main. While most recall Williams' singular career field goal to beat Texas as time ran out as the pivotal moment of the year, the wild win over SMU in Dallas, defeating reigning Heisman winner Doak Walker in the process was the game the players on the team held especially close to their hearts.
As a reward for the only undefeated conference season in school history, the Owls were presented with a date in Dallas where they once again would face one of the iconic players of his age in North Carolina's Charley Choo Choo Justice.
Unlike their first Cotton Bowl, in which the Owls spotted the opposition a pair of quick scores before racing to a win, Rote and Williams, along with running back Billy Burkhalter, wasted little time and left no room for drama when they took the field against the Tar Heels.
Rote threw for two scores, one each to Williams and Burkhalter, who later added a 12-yard scoring run. Justice could only find success after the Owls had staked out a 27-0 lead, cutting the final margin to 27-14 with a pair of late touchdowns.
The win was the Owls 10th against one lone loss, a 14-7 setback at LSU in the season's second week. They would rise to fifth in the final AP poll and their impact on the sports fans of the Gulf Coast was so profound, that the effort to jump start the construction of a new stadium was oversold and construction began immediately.
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