Sam Houston 33, Stephen F. Austin 20
In 1952, Paul "Red" Pierce became head football coach at Sam Houston, inheriting a program that had produced only one above .500 season record since football resumed in 1946.
But that was about to change.
On the arm of a quarterback from Galveston with little football experience before coming to Sam Houston, coach Pierce's Bearkats came into the regular season finale needing a victory in the 26th "Battle of the Piney Woods" to clinch that elusive winning record.
Don "Cotton" Gottlob was the Bearkats' quarterback and, before he was through at Sam Houston, he would break every passing record in the Lone Star Conference and at Sam Houston. The Kat offense had another powerful offensive weapon in McNeil Moore from Center, Texas, who would set Sam Houston rushing records that would not be broken until 1994.
Stephen F. Austin, coached by veteran Tedd Jefferies, came into the contest having won two of its last three games with victories over Southwestern Louisiana and Sul Ross.
Gottlob put the Bearkats on the board quickly with an 81-yard scoring strike to Dub Allee, at the time the third longest touchdown pass in Sam Houston history. Gottlob posted the Kats' second TD on a short two-yard plunge.
Stephen F. Austin battled back to equalize, but Moore turned on the speed to rush for three touchdowns to power Sam Houston to a 33-20 victory.
The win also earned the Bearkats' their first post-season football invitation and Sam Houston received a berth in the inaugural Shrimp Bowl game in Galveston.
On December 27, the Bearkats defeated Northeastern Oklahoma State 41-20 at the Shrimp Bowl. In a unique marketing ploy, each fan attending the game received a free live gulf shrimp as they entered the stadium.
Gottlob ended the 1952 season passing for 2,325 yards, then a school record and still the sixth highest single season total by a Bearkat quarterback. During his three seasons at Sam Houston, Gottlob completed 234 of 517 passes for 3,832 yards and 33 touchdowns which today ranks as the seventh highest career total in SHSU passing annals.
Moore also was etching his name in the record books. In 1952 he led all Sam Houston rushers with 771 yards and 12 touchdowns in nine games. His 2,578 yards rushing in three seasons from 1951 to 1953 stood as the school career record until 1994 when Charles Harris totaled 2,688 yards. Moore went on to play in the National Football League for the Bears.
Gottlob, Moore, Allee, lineman Larry Keisling, Bill Newman and back Bill Nelson all earned All-Lone Star Conference honors following the 1952 season.
The next chapter in the "Battle of the Piney Woods" football rivalry sees Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin battle at Reliant Stadium in Houston Oct. 6 at 3 p.m.
Crowds of more than 25,000 have packed the lower bowl at Reliant each of the past two years and tickets are going fast.
Battle of the Piney Woods Tickets are now on sale through the university's athletic website. Fans also can purchase tickets at the Sam Houston athletic ticket office located in the Ron Mafrige Field House in the south end zone at Bowers Stadium or by calling ticket office at (936) 294-1729.