College Football Bowl Games: Your Grandpa's Bowl Games, 50 Years Ago (1961-62)
Heisman winner Ernie Davis (left) met President Kennedy (center).
Fifty years ago, bowl games were more meaningful.
They were scarcer. While the number of FBS (I-A) programs today is actually somewhat smaller than the number of eligible football programs 50 years ago, there are almost three times as many bowl games (12 in 1961-62; 35 in 2011-12).
In my previous article, I examined the bowl season of 1986-87; by doing so, I intended to convey to today's college undergraduates (few of whom have any memory of top-tier college football before the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), much less of a Big Ten with exactly 10 member schools) what the college football landscape—especially that of the the postseason—looked like when their fathers were undergraduates (or thereabouts).
In this article, I look to the college football postseason of 50 years ago—two generations (approximately)—when the grandfathers of today's undergraduates were of college age (or thereabouts).
The 1986-87 season marked a major threshold in the college football postseason; specifically, the beginnings of what was to become the BCS. It also planted the seeds for the proliferation of bowl games, for conference expansion and for the disappearance of independents.
1961-62 was not a major threshold in that sense, but it still can be considered a watershed year for three reasons:
1. Syracuse running back Ernie Davis (pictured above meeting President John F. Kennedy) becomes the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy.
2. Ohio State's faculty council turns down the Buckeyes' invitation to the Rose Bowl.
3. Bear Bryant wins his first "national championship" at Alabama; this was also the Crimson Tide's first consensus major poll (AP, 1936-present; UPI/coaches, 1950-present) "national championship."
Other things of note:
TCU, though it finished with a losing record, played spoiler, tying Ohio State and beating Texas. The Horned frogs also beat bowl-bound Kansas, and lost to four other bowl-bound teams: Rice, Baylor, Arkansas, and UCLA.
Most schools played regular season schedules of 10 games, though the Big Ten, MAC, Ivy and some independents played nine-game regular season schedules.
The AP and UPI named their national champions before the bowl games, at the end of the regular season. The AP would continue to do so until the 1968-69 season (with the exception of 1965-66); UPI would continue to do so until the 1974-75 season.
Nov. 23, 1961: Mercy Bowl (Los Angeles, CA)
Bowling Green (in white) was trounced by upstart Fresno State.
Fresno State (in dark in the above picture) met Bowling Green (in white) to help raise funds for the victims' families and the survivors of the 1960 Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo) plane crash.
The game is seen as a bowl game, although it was played before the 1961 regular season was officially over (on Dec. 2). Although there was another game by the same name played in 1971 for much the same reasons (to raise money after a tragic accident), the 1961 Mercy Bowl is seen essentially as a unique (one-off) event.
Interestingly, the Falcons and the Bulldogs would go on to meet in the California Bowl (which matched the champions of the MAC and the Big West) on three separate occasions: 1982, 1985 and 1991.
Bowling Green had finished its season with an 8-1 record and as Mid-American Conference (MAC) champions. The Falcons were in their seventh year with Doyt Perry as head coach. With Perry as coach, Bowling Green would never lose more than two games in a season and had finished an undefeated 9-0 in 1959-60.
However, for much of their existence up to this point, the Falcons (along with the rest of the MAC) were in the NCAA College Division ("small" colleges); the previous season (1960-61) had seen them finish ranked UPI No. 2 (AP unranked) in the "small college poll." The 1961-62 season was their first in the NCAA University Division ("major" colleges).
Fresno State finished its season with a 9-0 record, as champions of the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA). The CCAA (which is now an NCAA Division II conference) was the predecessor to the Big West and included fellow charter members San Diego State, San Jose State and UC Santa Barbara. The Bulldogs were ranked AP No. 3 (UPI No. 5) in the "small college poll," while the Falcons were unranked.
The game matched two different philosophies: Fresno State emphasized passing and quick strikes, while Bowling Green focused on running and ball control.
For part of the first half, Bowling Green seemed to have the upper hand, having gone ahead 6-3 in the second quarter on a touchdown run after a Fresno State fumble. But that would be the last time the Falcons scored.
Fresno State quarterbacks Beau Carter and Jon Anabo carved up the Bowling Green defense from that point on. Carter passed for two touchdowns to receiver Jan Barrett and ran for two more. The Bulldogs finished with 368 passing yards and 449 yards of total offense, and won convincingly, 36-6.
Dec. 9, 1961: Gotham Bowl (New York, NY)
A depiction of Baylor's (left) and Utah State's (right) uniforms.
The Gotham Bowl was originally intended to be a fundraising game for the March of Dimes. It had originally been planned to begin in the 1960-61 season, but the organizers could not find teams to play.
The 1961 game was held, but from the point of view of the organizers, the matchup was not what they had hoped. Neither Utah State nor Baylor had much in the way of national recognition, and neither was an "Eastern" school that would bring in more "walk-up" interest on game day.
Utah State finished the regular season with a 9-0-1 record; the only blemish was a 6-6 tie with Wyoming. Under coach John Ralston, the Aggies had won the Mountain States (Skyline) Conference for the second consecutive year. 1961-62 was the Skyline's final year; the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) formed before the 1962-63 season, though Utah State would become an independent instead of joining the WAC. The Aggies' signature win was a 65-22 rout of MAC member (and Aviation Bowl participant) Western Michigan.
The Aggies were rated consensus No. 10 in the final polls. Their strength was defense, particularly the defensive line, led by consensus All-American and Outland Trophy winner Merlin Olsen. Olsen, who was in his senior year, finished 10th in the Heisman voting and would be drafted the next spring by the Los Angeles Rams.
Baylor had finished the regular season 5-5 and only sixth (out of eight teams) in the SWC (thanks to a 2-5 conference record), but since teams with better records were not willing to make the trip to New York for a charity game, Baylor went. The Bears were not a perennial contender; this was only their fifth bowl game.
Not surprisingly, Baylor had no signature wins to boast of; all five wins had come against opponents who finished the season with losing records.
But sometimes bowl games don't play out according to the numbers. Utah State's stellar record and Baylor's mediocrity were not borne out in the Gotham Bowl. Baylor prevailed, 24-9.
The Aggies were plagued by turnovers, including five fumbles. Baylor's sophomore quarterback Don Trull ran for a touchdown and passed for another in the second half; the game was never close.
Trull would go on to lead the nation in completions and total passing yardage the next two seasons (1962-63 and 1963-64), as well as being named All-American and finishing fourth in the Heisman voting his senior season (the highest a Baylor player had finished in Heisman voting until this year, 2011-12).
Dec. 9, 1961: Aviation Bowl (Dayton, OH)
Lobos RB Bobby Santiago (left) sliced through the Broncos' defense.
The Aviation Bowl is the third and last of the three short-lived bowl games of the 1961-62 season (along with the Mercy and Gotham Bowls). The Aviation Bowl was only held once. The fact that it was held in Dayton, Ohio might have been a factor; the fact that it was played in freezing, snowy conditions (see picture) didn't help sell Dayton as a tourist destination.
The game was intended to be hosted by a MAC member, and Bowling Green (the conference champion) was committed to the Mercy Bowl, so second-place Western Michigan was chosen.
The Broncos came into the game with a 5-3-1 record; one of those losses came against Utah State (see previous slide). The one conference loss, predictably enough, was to Bowling Green. This was the first bowl game for Western Michigan; they would not appear in their next bowl game until 27 years later, in the 1988-89 season.
Either the organizers didn't want to pick the strongest possible team to face the Broncos, or (like the Gotham Bowl organizers) they couldn't persuade better teams to play the game. In any case, the New Mexico Lobos were invited.
New Mexico had finished 6-4 and tied with Utah for third in the Skyline Conference, behind Utah State and Wyoming. Much as was the case with Baylor, New Mexico didn't have any signature wins. As with Utah State, the Lobos were playing their last year in the Skyline Conference; the next season (1962-63) would see them join the newly-formed Western Athletic Conference (WAC).
The pattern was similar to that of the Mercy Bowl; however, in this case, it was the running game (not the passing game) that propelled the relatively unknown Western team to victory over the better-known MAC team.
New Mexico led 14-6 at halftime, as running back Bobby Santiago (pictured above) and quarterback Jim Cromartie both ran for touchdowns. The second half went much as the first had done, with running back Bobby Morgan scoring on a 12-yard run and linebacker Chuck Cummings returning an interception 43 yards for a touchdown. The final score was New Mexico 28, Western Michigan 12.
The Lobos finished with zero yards passing and 339 yards rushing. Western Michigan had 207 yards passing and 96 yards rushing for 303 total yards.
Dec. 16, 1961: Bluebonnet Bowl (Houston, TX)
Roger McFarland (No. 15) scored two TDs for the Jayhawks.
The game was held at Rice Stadium (as it was until the Houston Astrodome opened a few years later). Of course, Rice had somewhat of a home-field advantage.
Kansas came into the game ranked UPI No. 15 (AP unranked) and with a 6-3-1 record. The Jayhawks had finished tied for second with Missouri in the Big Eight. The losses had come by one point against TCU; by one point against eventual Big Eight champion Colorado; and by three points against Missouri.
Kansas coach Jack Mitchell had changed the team's home jersey color from crimson to sky blue (specifically after the North Carolina colors) the season before, and the Jayhawks continued to wear this lighter blue for another few seasons. Quarterback John Hadl was in his senior year and had finished seventh in the Heisman vote, along with being named an All-American.
This was only Kansas' second bowl game, and its first since the 1947-48 season (the Jayhawks lost the 1948 Orange Bowl to Georgia Tech). By contrast, Rice was playing in its seventh bowl game, but would not appear again in a bowl for 45 years (the 2006 New Orleans Bowl).
Rice finished the regular season ranked AP No. 17 (tied with Penn State and Arizona; UPI unranked) and with a 7-3 record, which was on the surface comparable to Kansas' record; however, Rice had a signature win over then-ranked AP No. 5 LSU (in the season opener); this would be the Tigers' only loss of the season. The Owls also had quality wins over Florida and Baylor, and finished third in the SWC, behind Texas and Arkansas.
Rice scored a touchdown in the first quarter to go up 7-6, but that would be the Owls' last score. Their home-field advantage did them no good, as Kansas beat them back with its running game. The Jayhawks finished the game with 293 yards rushing and 64 yards passing, for 357 total yards. Rice had only 58 rushing yards and 163 passing yards, for a total of 221 yards. The Owls also lost the turnover battle, giving the ball up three times on fumbles.
Kansas running backs Ken Coleman and Roger McFarland each ran for two touchdowns, with running back Curtis McClinton accounting for the remaining touchdown. The Jayhawks prevailed easily, 33-7.
Dec. 16, 1961: Liberty Bowl (Philadelphia, PA)
Heisman-winner Ernie Davis (No. 44) led Syracuse's comeback win.
Just like the Bluebonnet Bowl, the Liberty Bowl was in its third year.
The bowl drew inspiration for its name from its original host city, Philadelphia. However, it would only be played in Philadelphia for five years; it spent one year (1964-65) in Atlantic City, NJ, before moving to Memphis, TN, where it remains today.
Much like the Gotham and Aviation Bowls (both in their first seasons), the Liberty Bowl was disadvantaged by its location. Simply put, those fans and alumni who could afford to attend bowl games would rather not take a December vacation in a cold Northern city. The game temperature in Philadelphia was 22 degrees at kickoff.
Syracuse came into the game with a record of 7-3 and ranked AP No. 14 (UPI No. 16), while Miami (Fla.) had also finished with a 7-3 record (though unranked). Both were independents with rather weak schedules. Syracuse lost to Penn State and Maryland, the two strongest opponents it faced; Miami beat Penn State, 25-8, early in the season to knock the Nittany Lions out of the Top 10, but the Hurricanes later lost a squeaker to eventual Big Eight champion Colorado, 9-7.
Interestingly, the game featured the first African-American Heisman Trophy winner, Syracuse running back Ernie Davis. In 1961, most colleges and universities in the American South (not to mention football teams) had not yet been integrated. Davis was part of the 1959-60 Syracuse team that finished as consensus "national champions" and which was subjected to racial abuse during the 1960 Cotton Bowl game against Texas.
Davis had scored two touchdowns along with a pair of two-point conversions in that game against Texas on the way to being named co-MVP; he would be equally important against Miami. He scored one touchdown, but more importantly rushed for 140 of Syracuse's 221 rushing yards, as the Orangemen were able to move the ball effectively against the Hurricanes.
Miami's junior quarterback, George Mira, would go on to finish second in total passing yards in his senior year the following season (1962-63), behind only Baylor quarterback Don Trull; he would also be named All-American and finish fifth in the Heisman voting.
But in this game, Mira was held in check, finishing 7-of-21 with 94 passing yards. He was outplayed by Syracuse's Dave Sarette, who finished 13-of-26 for 148 yards and one touchdown. Although the Hurricanes had started brightly enough, in large part to their punishing defense and special teams (including a punt return for a touchdown), their offense didn't score a touchdown after the first quarter.
Down 14-0 at halftime, Syracuse overcame fumbles (even by Davis himself) in the second half to score twice: on Davis' run, with a pass from Sarette to end Dick Easterly for the two-point conversion; and on a touchdown pass from Sarette to Easterly. The Orangemen's defense shut out the Hurricanes in the second half, and Syracuse narrowly won the game, 15-14.
Davis would be drafted by the Washington Redskins and immediately traded to the Cleveland Browns in the 1962 NFL draft. However, he never played an NFL game. He was diagnosed with leukemia in the summer of 1962 and passed away within a year, in May 1963.
Dec. 29, 1961: Tangerine Bowl (Orlando, FL)
Charles Murphy coached Middle Tennessee from 1947 through 1968.
The Tangerine Bowl (later known as the Florida Citrus Bowl, and now known as the Capital One Bowl) was known for the first half of its existence as the "Little Bowl with the Big Heart;" it usually featured small Southern colleges.
The 1961 edition featured the Lamar (Texas) Cardinals and the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders. This was MTSU's second consecutive Tangerine Bowl; the year before, they had beaten the Presbyterian College (South Carolina) Blue Hose. It was Lamar's first bowl game as a four-year university.
Lamar (then formally known as Lamar State College of Technology) finished the regular season 7-2-1; one of its wins came against an opponent which is now in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS, formerly I-A): 38-34 over Louisiana-Monroe. The Cardinals finished second in the Lone Star Conference, with one of their losses coming to eventual Lone Star champion Sam Houston State.
At this time, the LSC was part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), an association for smaller, mostly private, colleges and universities, although within a few years it would make the transition to the NCAA's "College Division." Currently, the Lone Star Conference is part of the NCAA Division II.
Middle Tennessee had finished its regular season 7-3 in the Ohio Valley Conference, which was part of the NCAA's "College Division," and is now part of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS, formerly I-AA). As with Lamar, it had one win against a team that is now in the Football Bowl Subdivision: 14-6 over conference foe Western Kentucky (now a fellow Sun Belt conference member).
What little information there is about the game itself is contained in the box score: Lamar led 14-0 at halftime, thanks to a 52-yard touchdown run and a recovery of an MTSU fumble in the end zone for another touchdown. The Blue Raiders narrowed the gap to 14-6 on a 32-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter; however, the Cardinals added a two-yard passing touchdown of their own in the fourth quarter to lead 21-6. Middle Tennessee scored on a one-yard run and converted the two-point attempt, but could not get any closer, and the game finished 21-14.
Lamar University would later drop football in 1987, but then returned to the Southland Conference (FCS) in 2011-12, following the departure of Texas State to undergo the transition to FBS football and the Western Athletic Conference (WAC).
Middle Tennessee kept playing football, and stayed in Div. I-AA and the Ohio Valley Conference until moving up to Div. I-A in the 1999-2000 season.
The Tangerine Bowl officially became part of the NCAA's "College Division" (small college, roughly equivalent to today's NCAA Divisions II and III) bowl system in 1964, along with the Pecan Bowl (Abilene, TX), the Camellia Bowl (Sacramento, CA), and the Grantland Rice Bowl (Murfreesboro, TN). The latter was actually held at Middle Tennessee's home field.
Once Divisions II and III were established in 1973-74, the Tangerine Bowl invited only Division I (and beginning with 1978-79, only Division I-A) teams. In 1983-84, it became the Florida Citrus Bowl, and thus the first bowl to formally accept outside sponsorship (in this case, from the Florida Citrus Growers Association, or FCGA). After a series of corporate co-sponsors, in 2002-03, the game became formally known as the Capital One Bowl, and the "CItrus" designation was removed, when the FCGA ended its 20-year association with the game.
I'd rather the game be called the Capital One *Tangerine* Bowl, but at the time of the change a rival Orlando bowl—which was founded in Miami as the Blockbuster Bowl, in 1990—laid claim to the "Tangerine" name, from 2001-02 through 2003-04. Now that bowl is known as the Champs Sports Bowl, and there are no Tangerines to be found.
Dec. 30, 1961: Gator Bowl (Jacksonville, FL)
Footage from a family home video of the game.
The Gator Bowl predates its Florida cousin, the Tangerine/Citrus/Capital One Bowl, by one year. It was played in its namesake stadium in Jacksonville for 48 years, from 1945-46 through 1993-94. After one year at Florida Field in Gainesville (1994-95), it has since been held at the home of the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars (formerly known as Alltel Stadium; currently known as EverBank Field).
Between the mid-1950s and the mid-1970s, the Gator Bowl typically featured a team from the Southeastern Conference (SEC) against an at-large opponent—most frequently from the Southwest Conference (SWC), but sometimes from the Big Eight, or an eastern or southern independent (Florida State was a popular choice, due to geographic proximity).
The 1961 Gator Bowl matched consensus No. 13 Georgia Tech against AP No. 17-t (UPI No. 19) Penn State.
Georgia Tech had finished with a 7-3 record and fourth in the SEC, behind Alabama, LSU and Mississippi. The Yellow Jackets were coached by Tech legend Bobby Dodd, who was the 17th year of his 22-year career. The three losses were all in-conference and all fairly narrow: a 10-0 loss at LSU, a 10-6 loss at Tennessee and a 10-0 loss to Alabama in Birmingham.
That last loss was particularly important, as it marked the beginning of a bitter feud between Dodd and Alabama's Bear Bryant. The enmity between the two would lead to Georgia Tech's withdrawal from the SEC in 1964 and becoming an independent (until joining the ACC in 1982). In particular, Dodd accused Bryant and Alabama of playing "dirty football" after a particularly nasty incident during the game.
Although they were held scoreless twice, the Yellow Jackets could boast of having four shutouts of their own in their seven wins, including a 24-0 win in the home opener over (Bluebonnet Bowl-bound) Rice. That game was notable for marking the first appearance of the "Rambling Wreck," a vintage 1930 Ford Model A, leading the Yellow Jackets onto the field.
Penn State had also finished 7-3. The Nittany Lions were coached by Charles "Rip" Engle (I know... you're asking "Who?"), then in the 12th year of his 16-year career as Penn State head coach. Prior to Penn State, Engle had coached at Brown, where one of his players was quarterback Joe Paterno. Engle hired the newly-graduated Paterno as an assistant when he moved to Penn State in 1950; Paterno became the head coach when Engle retired after the 1965-66 season.
The Nittany Lions' three losses came to Army, Maryland and bowl-bound Miami (Fla.); their two big wins came against Navy and bowl-bound Syracuse. Penn State's schedule as an independent shows how well it would have fit in the Big East, once that conference was formed: annual rivalries with Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia, along with occasional meetings with Boston College, Rutgers, Temple, Army, Navy and Miami (Fla). However, Penn State also regularly faced Boston University (which no longer plays football) and Holy Cross (which now plays in FCS).
Most of the media, including Sports Illustrated, assumed that Georgia Tech would have the edge over Penn State, due to its SEC-tested defense (and the aforementioned shutouts).
In fact, the game started out that way, with Penn State's quarterback Galen Hall (who went on to become head coach at Florida and returned to Penn State as offensive co-ordinator in 2004, where he remains as of this writing) intentionally grounding the ball out of his own end zone under defensive pressure, resulting in a safety. Georgia Tech running back Joe Auer then broke a 68-yard run in the second quarter (seen here on a home video of the game, from 5:30-5:40) to put the Yellow Jackets up 9-0.
Penn State, however, would then stun the Tech defense with its passing game, as Hall passed for two touchdowns in the second quarter (the first is seen in the same video, from 6:30-6:40). The Nittany Lions led 14-9 at halftime, and Hall threw for his third touchdown of the game in the third quarter to make the score 21-9.
Georgia Tech managed to score early in the fourth quarter, as Auer scored on a 14-yard run from what seemed a broken play (seen here on the next segment of the home video, from 4:15-4:25). At that point, the score was 21-15; Tech went for the two-point conversion, but failed. Penn State then closed out the game, scoring 10 more points to bring the score to 30-15.
While Tech had gained 412 total yards of offense in the game to PSU's 313 yards, the Yellow Jackets turned the ball over five times (to the Nittany Lions' once).
Although Georgia Tech would share another "national title" almost thirty years later, it was coming to the end of its golden era under Dodd; Penn State, on the other hand, was a program on the rise, and would soon have back-to-back undefeated seasons under Paterno in the late 1960s, beginning a golden era of its own.
Dec. 30, 1961: Sun Bowl (El Paso, TX)
Villanova (dark) shut down Wichita State's high-powered offense.
Wichita State came into the game 8-2, as champions of the Missouri Valley Conference (which was in the NCAA's "University Division," for larger colleges) for the second straight year. Their two losses were to Arizona State (champion of the Border Conference) and Dayton (a University Division independent).
The signature win of the season was a 25-13 victory over newly added Big Eight member Oklahoma State (which until 1956-57 had also been in the Missouri Valley Conference). The Shockers also had big wins against conference foes (and current FBS members) Cincinnati, North Texas and Tulsa.
The Shockers were coached by Hank Foldberg, the most successful coach in WSU's history (though a glimpse of that history shows the bar was pretty low). Foldberg was in his second and final year; he left Wichita State to take the head coaching job at Texas A&M.
Villanova came into the game 7-2. An NCAA University Division independent, the Wildcats' two losses were to fellow University Division independents Boston College and the University of Detroit. The signature win was a 33-0 away win over Miami (Ohio) of the Mid-American Conference (MAC).
Villanova scored early on a nine-yard run by William "Billy" Joe, and suffocated the Wichita State passing attack. All the Shockers could manage in the first half was a field goal; they trailed 7-3 at the half. The Wildcats then added injury to insult by knocking WSU quarterback Alex Zyskowski out of the game early in the second half, and scoring 10 more points in the third quarter to increase their lead to 17-3.
Zyskowski would return to the field in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, and led a touchdown drive culminating in his own seven-yard run for the score. The two-point attempt failed, however, and the game ended 17-9.
As is often the case, turnovers played a big part in the outcome of the game: Villanova intercepted Wichita State four times in the game, taking away the Shockers' main offensive weapon.
This was Wichita State's third and final bowl appearance, after back-to-back bowl appearances in 1947-48 and 1948-49. The university would drop football at the end of the 1986-87 season (the same year that fellow 1961-62 bowl participant Lamar would end its football program).
This was Villanova's fourth bowl appearance; the Wildcats' fifth and final bowl would come the next season (1962-63). Villanova would continue to play top-tier football through the 1980-81 season, but would then drop football for four years, from 1981-82 through 1984-85. The Wildcats then resumed play in NCAA Division III for two seasons (1985-86 and 1986-87) before moving to then-Division I-AA, where they remain today (having won the FCS championship in 2009-10).
Jan. 1, 1962: Cotton Bowl (Dallas, TX)
Texas' Jerry Cook (No. 38) intercepted two Mississippi passes.
Texas and Ole Miss both had 9-1 records and high-powered offenses coming into the 1962 Cotton Bowl.
The Texas offense was built around the option, with running back Jimmy Saxton being named a consensus All-American and finishing third in the Heisman Trophy voting. Saxton led the nation in yards per carry (at an astonishing 7.9). Texas as a team had the second-highest rushing offense (in terms of yards per game, at 285.8), behind New Mexico State.
The Longhorns, led by Darrell Royal in his fifth season as coach, were champions of the Southwest Conference and ranked AP No. 3 (UPI No. 4). Their only loss had come to TCU, 6-0, when they were ranked consensus No. 1. Their signature win of the season came on the road against Arkansas, 33-7.
Mississippi was more of a passing team, with quarterbacks Glynn Griffing and Doug Elmore sharing the duties and distributing the ball evenly to both receivers and running backs. Mississippi had the second-highest passing offense in the nation (in terms of yards per game, at 182.7), trailing only Wisconsin. Griffing would go on to lead the Rebels to a perfect 10-0 record the next season (1962-63). However, Ole Miss also had the ninth-highest rushing offense (236.0 YPG), and was thus first in total offense (418.7 YPG). Texas, by the way, was fourth in total offense (383.1 YPG).
The Rebels finished ranked consensus No. 5, and third in the SEC, behind consensus "national champion" Alabama and AP No. 4 (UPI No. 3) LSU. Led by longtime coach John Vaught, the Rebels were in the 11th year of a 13-year streak of winning records and appearing in their fifth straight bowl game. Their one loss had come to LSU (they didn't have to play Alabama that year). As with Texas, the quality win came over Arkansas, 16-0, in the season opener.
Despite the impressive statistics of both teams' offenses, the anticipated shootout never materialized. In its stead was a defensive battle that saw a combined 19 points scored by the two teams.
Saxton scored on a one-yard run in the first quarter to put the Longhorns up 6-0 (the point-after was blocked); Texas added another touchdown in the second quarter on a pitch from quarterback Mike Cotten (yes, spelled with an "e") to running back Jack Collins. Texas went into the half leading 12-0 (the two-point attempt had failed). That was it for the Longhorns as far as scoring was concerned; surprisingly, that was all that would be needed.
The reason this was the case was the Texas defense: while not as prominent as the offense, it was ranked eighth nationally (allowing only 176.1 YPG; 90.2 rushing and 85.9 passing). The Longhorns intercepted the two Mississippi quarterbacks (Griffing and Elmore) a total of five times and added a fumble recovery.
The Rebels managed to put together an 86-yard drive in the third quarter to finally put points on the board, with Griffing completing a 20-yard pass to Reed Davis for the touchdown. That was it for the scoring, however. Both teams were able to move the ball, but stalled or turned the ball over once in the opponent's territory. Texas was also plagued by turnovers in the game, with three passes intercepted and one fumble lost.
Mississippi finished with 319 yards total and 192 yards passing; the latter number was actually above their seasonal average. Texas only had 183 yards of total offense and a paltry 123 yards rushing; but the Longhorns had committed fewer turnovers and stopped the Rebels' offense when it counted.
The 12-7 win was Darrell Royal's first bowl win in four tries as Texas coach; he would end up with a 7-7-1 bowl record during his 20-year term in Austin. This was also Texas' first bowl win since the 1952-53 season.
Jan. 1, 1962: Orange Bowl (Miami, FL)
Two blocked Colorado punts led to an LSU safety and touchdown.
As with the Cotton Bowl, both teams came into the 1962 Orange Bowl game with 9-1 records.
Colorado had won its first Big Eight title and was ranked consensus No. 7. Its only loss had come out of conference, against Utah. The Buffaloes notched quality wins over two bowl-bound teams, conference foe Kansas (20-19) and non-conference opponent Miami (Fla.) (9-7). The pass-heavy offense was led by quarterback Gale Weidner, and the offensive line included consensus All-American Joe Romig (who finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting) at guard.
Coach Sonny Grandelius was in his third year at Colorado, which would prove to be his final year. In the months after the bowl game, the NCAA investigated and confirmed the existence of a "slush fund" to pay recruits and their families. Grandelius was fired shortly thereafter in the spring of 1962. As later events would show, this would not be the last time Colorado football ran into trouble with the NCAA.
LSU had finished second in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) and was ranked AP No. 4 (UPI No. 3). Its lone loss came at Rice in the season opener, 16-3 (the Tigers didn't play Alabama). Quality wins came against fellow bowl-bound SEC members Georgia Tech (10-0) and Mississippi (10-7). LSU also boasted a consensus All-American at guard, Roy Winston.
Head coach Paul Dietzel was in his seventh and final year at the helm; he had led the Tigers to a perfect 11-0 season and the consensus "national championship" three years prior, in 1958-59. Shortly after the Orange Bowl, he would accept the head coaching job at Army (which was still a relevant program at the time).
It was quickly evident that the Colorado offense was in over its head against LSU's defense, ranked sixth nationally in yards per game allowed (170.3). LSU was leading 3-0 in the first quarter when a Colorado punt was blocked out of its own end zone for a safety. The Buffaloes would score on a 59-yard interception return by Loren Schweninger in the second quarter to take a 7-5 lead, but that was the sum total of Colorado's points for the day.
LSU answered the Colorado touchdown with one of its own, as Chuck Crawford scored on a one-yard run to finish an 82-yard drive. The Tigers led 11-7 at halftime (the two-point attempt failed).
The third quarter saw LSU score twice more to put the game out of reach. Running back Jimmy Fields scored from nine yards out; then defender Gene Sykes blocked another of Charlie McBride's Colorado punts and recovered it in the end zone.
The LSU defense proved to be as fierce as advertised; Colorado would finish with 129 total yards, roughly 40 yards less than the Tigers' season average in total yards per game allowed. LSU's offense accumulated 315 total yards, 206 of which were rushing, and split quite evenly among the backfield (no rusher had more than 55 yards individually).
The final score was LSU 25, Colorado 7.
Jan. 1, 1962: Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA)
Minnesota QB Sandy Stephens (No. 15) led the Gophers to victory.
The 1962 Rose Bowl was a rather odd affair, and was perhaps more notable for who wasn't participating than for the game itself. It was also the first nationwide broadcast of an entire college football game in color. No doubt this was the beginning of many a move to Southern California based on the sunny and warm weather viewed in color on a TV set in the Midwest or Northeast.
As for the game itself, the 7-2 Minnesota Golden Gophers faced the 7-3 UCLA Bruins.
It was Minnesota's second straight Rose Bowl. The Golden Gophers had been named consensus "national champions" at the end of the previous regular season (1960-61), but then had lost 17-7 to Washington in the Rose Bowl. This did not affect their status as national champions in the main two polls (AP and UPI), however, because at the time those two polls issued their final rankings and named their "national champion" at the end of the regular season and before the bowl games.
Minnesota actually finished second to Ohio State in the Big Ten in 1961, with a 6-1 conference record to the Buckeyes' 6-0. However, in the 1960-61 and 1961-62 seasons, there was no formal arrangement for the Big Ten champion to appear in the Rose Bowl, due to the dissolution of the Pacific Coast Conference (PCC) in 1959 after several years of internal bickering.
The PCC (the predecessor to what became the Pac-8/10/12) began to fragment in 1957 in the wake of public revelations of "slush funds" at UCLA, USC, California and Washington. Oregon was the first accused of having committed such violations (in 1951), but then levied accusations at UCLA and its coach Red Sanders. The Bruins would share the "national title" in 1954 as No. 1 in the final UPI poll (Ohio State was No. 1 in the final AP poll).
So, as there was no Pacific Coast Conference to affiliate with, the Rose Bowl technically did not have to feature a former PCC team—or a Big Ten team, for that matter, as the agreement was made between the two conferences themselves to send their champions to the Rose Bowl.
Nevertheless, the Rose Bowl committee had tried to maintain the tradition, and so Washington and Minnesota had been invited the previous year. Once it became clear that Ohio State would win the Big Ten, the Rose Bowl prepared its invitation to the 8-0-1 Buckeyes (the tie was to TCU; the 3-5-2 Horned Frogs played giant-killer that season).
In a very unusual move, the Ohio faculty council voted not to accept the invitation to the Rose Bowl. They felt that athletics were being "overemphasized" at the university at the expense of academics. Students were not happy; riots in Columbus ensued for two days and nights following the decision.
Needless to say, the very next year Big Ten formalized a new arrangement with the Rose Bowl and the Athletic Association of Western Universities (AAWU), as it was then known. And no Big Ten champion has turned down an invitation from the Rose Bowl since then (of course, if the Big Ten champion is in the BCS "championship game", it does not receive the invite in the first place).
Minnesota's two losses were to Missouri, 6-0, in the season opener; and to Wisconsin, 23-21, in the season finale. Its two quality wins were against Michigan State and Purdue. Both the Spartans and the Boilermakers had finished ranked in the Top 20 in both major polls, but neither went to a bowl game. Today's students are no doubt very puzzled by that; however, between the 1947-48 and 1974-75 seasons, neither the Big Ten nor the PCC/AAWU/Pac-8 sent its teams to any other bowl games.
The "exclusive agreement" thus ran both ways. With the exception of the two years mentioned above, the Rose Bowl was obligated by contract to take Big Ten and PCC/AAWU/Pac-8 teams; likewise, Big Ten and PCC/AAWU/Pac-8 teams could not appear in any bowl game other than the Rose Bowl. Along with the simple fact that it is the oldest bowl game by far, this was the biggest factor in giving the Rose Bowl a specific and recognizable "brand," or public identity; it still holds on to this identity, even while making concessions to the BCS format.
UCLA finished first in the five-team AAWU in 1961 (the four California schools and Washington; the two Oregon schools and Washington State would only re-join them after a few more years). The Bruins' three losses came to Michigan, Ohio State and Washington. The 10-7 victory over unranked Southern California that allowed the Bruins to clinch the conference title was the closest they came to a quality win; with only four conference games, the six-game non-conference schedule was rather weak (save for the two aforementioned Big Ten powers).
Minnesota coach Murray Warmath was in his eighth year; however, the 1961 and 1962 Rose Bowls would be the only bowl games for the Gophers during his term. Minnesota prided itself on its rushing defense, which allowed an average of 84.3 yards per game (sixth-best in the nation).
Senior quarterback Sandy Stephens, who finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting, led a potent passing attack from the "T" formation and was also the team's leading rusher. Stephens was the first African-American quarterback at a major college to be named a consensus All-American; he was also the Big Ten MVP for the 1961-62 season.
UCLA's Bill Barnes, in the fourth year of a seven-year career as Bruin head coach, had the team running the "single-wing" offense, which had been created by Pop Warner and also used by Knute Rockne, but which had become quite outdated by 1961. The "single wing" offense was distinctive in that the ball was typically long-snapped to a running back, not the quarterback. A modern mutation of this is the "Wild Cat" formation popular with some college and pro teams today; the "quick punt" is another popular legacy.
The "single-wing" had been replaced at most colleges and in the NFL by the new (at the time) "T" formation offense by the end of the 1950s. The increasing importance of the passing game made the "single-wing" almost obsolete and particularly ineffective against good rushing defenses.
This was the case with UCLA's opponent in the Rose Bowl. The Bruins were in for a long afternoon. They managed a field goal in the first few minutes to go up 3-0, but failed to score after that. Following a UCLA fumble deep in its own territory, Stephens ran for a one-yard score. The Gophers then used ball-control offense to wear down the Bruins' defense and scored again near the end of the first half on a three-yard run by Bill Munsey.
Stephens ran the ball in from the two-yard line in the fourth quarter to close out the game, 21-3. Minnesota finished with 297 total yards (222 rushing and 75 passing) and held UCLA to an embarrassing 107 total yards. The win proved to be a showcase for Stephens, and he would be drafted in 1962 by the NFL's Cleveland Browns and the AFL's New York Titans (later the Jets). However, neither team wanted him to play quarterback, and so he ended up playing in the Canadian Football League (CFL) for several years.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, this was the end of their golden days; they would not make it back to a bowl game until 1977 and have not been back to the Rose Bowl since then. This is the longest Rose Bowl drought of the 12 current members of the Big Ten conference; even Indiana has been to the game more recently (1968).
This was UCLA's fifth Rose Bowl and its fifth Rose Bowl loss; however, the Bruins would win their next five Rose Bowl games, including three in the span of four seasons in the 1980s.
Jan. 1, 1962: Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, LA)
A video summary of the 1st quarter, in which Alabama QB Pat Trammell (No. 12) scored the game's only touchdown.
This brings us to the game that would decide the "national championship." Well, actually not. As already mentioned previously, the final polls were released at the end of the regular season, before the bowl games were played.
Undefeated at 10-0, Alabama had already been determined the "national champion" of the 1961-62 season, win or lose. Of course, the Crimson Tide wanted to remain undefeated. Also, while it may seem odd to younger viewers, they did indeed wear white helmets in this game (see the video above, and the next slide).
However, the Tide didn't wear white helmets the entire season; they had worn their crimson helmets for the season-ending game against Auburn...the game that actually clinched the "national title."
Coach "Bear" Bryant was in his fourth year at the helm; prior to his arrival the Crimson Tide had suffered four consecutive losing seasons. Alabama had only been to one Sugar Bowl before he arrived; in his 25-year career, the Tide never finished with a losing record. Bryant led Alabama to 24 consecutive bowls, including eight Sugar Bowls.
Senior quarterback Pat Trammell had passed for over 1,000 yards that season (significant at the time), and finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting. In 1958, Trammell had been recruited by both Bryant (who was himself preparing for his first year as Alabama coach) and Georgia Tech coach Bobby Dodd; and as already mentioned, the rivalry between the two legendary coaches had just turned bitter a couple of months before.
Arkansas finished the regular season 8-2, and as co-champions of the Southwest Conference (SWC) with a 6-1 conference record. Since that conference loss was to fellow co-champion Texas, the Longhorns earned the invite to the Cotton Bowl. The Razorbacks' other loss was in the season-opening game to Ole Miss in Jackson, MS. The two biggest wins were over bowl-bound conference foes Baylor and Rice.
Coach Frank Broyles was in the fourth year of what became a 19-year career at Arkansas. He took the Razorbacks to four Cotton Bowls (as SWC champions) and four Sugar Bowls during his time as coach, and would lead them to two consecutive undefeated regular seasons (1964-65 and 1965-66). Broyles would later become Arkansas athletic director, and was the key player in Arkansas' move to the SEC in the early 1990s.
The Razorbacks' star player was senior (and future AFL/NFL star) Lance Alworth, who went on to play for the San Diego Chargers and the Dallas Cowboys. Playing flanker, Alworth was a hybrid of receiver and running back and led Arkansas in both rushing yards and receiving yards. More impressively, he led the nation in punt return yardage in both his junior and senior seasons.
Arkansas was strong on defense as well, ranking 10th nationally in fewest total yards allowed per game (177.4 YPG) and third nationally against the pass (62.9 YPG). However, this paled in comparison to the Alabama defense; the Crimson Tide were *first* nationally in total defense (132.6 YPG) and second nationally against the run (only 55 yards per game!).
These statistics were borne out in the events of the game. Alabama scored on a 12-yard run by Trammell in the first quarter; Arkansas only managed a field goal in the game. The Tide defense held Arkansas scoreless in the "red zone" (i.e. inside the Alabama 20-yard line). Alworth proved to be a non-factor in the game.
Alabama led at halftime, 10-0, and the one Arkansas field goal in the third quarter provided the final points in the game, which ended 10-3.
50 Years Ago: The Same Game, Yet Quite Different.
Bryant won Alabama's (and his) first major poll "national title".
What should be clear by looking at the table below is that in 1961, bowl games were considered exhibitions, or what the British call "friendlies." They weren't so much a measure of a team's quality relative to other teams as they were a chance for alumni and fans to enjoy a trip to warm weather destinations and watch their team play at the same time.
The 12 bowls of the 1961-62 season represent about a third of the number of bowls in the current season (2011-12), and even those 12 bowls included three "first-time" events (the Mercy, Gotham and Aviation Bowls; only the Gotham was played the following year, and then it was also gone).
If we also exclude the two bowls that were only in their third year (the Liberty and Bluebonnet Bowls), and the bowl that usually featured "small-college" teams from the NCAA "College Division" (the Tangerine Bowl), that leaves six long-term bowl games (Rose, Orange, Sugar, Sun, Cotton and Gator) involving 12 teams:
Alabama (10-0), Texas (9-1), LSU (9-1), Mississippi (9-1), Colorado (9-1), Arkansas (8-2), Wichita State (8-2), Minnesota (7-2), Villanova (7-2), Georgia Tech (7-3), UCLA (7-3) and Penn State (7-3).
Here is a table of teams with at least six wins and that didn't participate in bowl games:
|AP||UPI||Name of School||Record||Conference|
|2||2||Ohio State*||8-0-1||Big Ten|
|8||9||Michigan State||7-2||Big Ten|
|n.r.||n.r.||W. Texas State||6-4||Border|
* Ohio State refused the invitation to play in the Rose Bowl.
** Army refused to play in postseason bowl games until the 1984-85 season.
And the games reflected the times, with the civil rights struggle intensifying; Ernie Davis was the first African-American winner of the Heisman Trophy (see first slide), and Sandy Stephens was the first African-American quarterback at a major college to be named All-American.
Most of the southern schools had yet to field their first African-American player, and this shouldn't come as a surprise, since "Jim Crow" laws were still common throughout the American South. Of the 12 teams playing in the six oldest bowl games in 1961-62, fully half of them (Alabama, Texas, LSU, Mississippi, Arkansas and Georgia Tech) fielded teams with no African Americans; The two "Delta" teams, LSU and Ole Miss, would be the last to integrate—in 1972.
So, yes, these were your grandpa's bowl games, because that was your grandpa's America at the time. If your grandfather (or another relative of a similar age) is still alive, and especially if he was/is a fan of college football, ask him about the early 1960s, and about 1961-62 in particular.
Find out what he remembers about that season: which games he watched; which teams he liked; what he thought of Ernie Davis winning the Heisman; and what he thought of Bear Bryant and Alabama winning their first proper "national title."
And then ask him two more questions:
- What does he think about college football today?
- Did he ever ask *his* father about college football?
That second question will be addressed in my next slideshow article, examining the 1936-37 bowl season.