August 21, 2014

1974: Late Scores Boost Americans Over Sharks


The Birmingham Americans were undefeated at 6-0 as they took on the reeling Jacksonville Sharks in a World Football League game on August 21, 1974. Head Coach Jack Gotta’s team featured ten-year veteran George Mira at quarterback and, as his backup, Matthew Reed (pictured above), who was proving to be effective coming off the bench. Reed, a big quarterback at 6’4” and 230 pounds, had been a very productive passer at Grambling but could only get tryouts at tight end in the NFL with Buffalo, Denver, and New Orleans, and was originally signed by the Americans at that position. Both quarterbacks were helped by the presence of two productive wide receivers in Dennis Homan and Alfred Jenkins.

For the Sharks, it was the first game for Charlie Tate as head coach in place of Bud Asher, who was dismissed after the team’s record dropped to 2-4 the previous week. RB Tommy Durrance was leading the WFL in rushing with 443 yards, and rookie Reggie Oliver from the University of Miami was a promising quarterback, when healthy. But while there was plenty of experience on the roster, the Sharks were having trouble winning close contests.

It was a rainy Wednesday night at the Gator Bowl with 27,140 fans in attendance. Neither offense performed well during the first half. Grant Guthrie kicked a field goal from 31 yards late in the first quarter to stake the Sharks to the lead and added another from 51 yards in the third quarter. Five times during the first three periods the Jacksonville defense stopped Birmingham drives inside its 25 yard line. Safety Ron Coppenbarger had two fumble recoveries and an interception to cap three of those stops.

The score remained 6-0 heading into the fourth quarter, at which point the steady rain finally stopped. In addition, Matthew Reed had come in at quarterback for the Americans after George Mira reinjured his ankle.

Early in the final period, Reed connected with Alfred Jenkins for a 27-yard touchdown that finished off a five-play, 40-yard series. The Americans failed to add the action point, but were ahead by 7-6 (in the WFL, touchdowns counted for seven points and were followed by an “action point” that could not be kicked).

The teams exchanged punts before Jacksonville put together an 88-yard drive that put them ahead by 14-7 with just over a minute remaining. Tommy Durrance ran the final five yards for the touchdown, to the delight of the home crowd. The series included a successful fourth down conversion in their own territory and Reggie Oliver completed four passes along the way. The Sharks failed to add the action point, but were in front and seemed poised for an upset.

The ensuing kickoff was short and returned to the Jacksonville 47 by RB Jimmy Edwards, who nearly broke free. With time running down, Reed tossed a screen pass to HB Paul Robinson for 11 yards and a throw to WR Denny Duron gained another 11. Reed, under pressure, completed a pass to TE Jim Bishop that picked up 19 yards to the Jacksonville six and, three plays later, the Americans scored again with 19 seconds left on the clock when FB Charlie Harraway bulled over for a touchdown from two yards out. Reed rolled out and ran for the all-important action point and the Americans pulled out the dramatic win by a final score of 15-14.

Birmingham outgained the Sharks (315 yards to 200) and had more first downs (19 to 12). The Americans turned the ball over three times, to two suffered by Jacksonville.

Reed completed 7 of 12 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. George Mira was successful on just 6 of 17 throws for 68 yards and was picked off once. Jimmy Edwards rushed for 62 yards on 9 carries and Charlie Harraway was right behind at 60 yards on 13 attempts that included a TD. Dennis Homan caught four passes for 55 yards and Alfred Jenkins contributed three catches for 48 yards and a score.

For the Sharks, Reggie Oliver made good on 7 of 17 passes for 108 yards and was intercepted twice. Tommy Durrance gained 42 yards on 16 rushing attempts that included a touchdown and RB Ricky Lake accumulated 35 yards on 13 carries. WR Tom Whittier caught three passes for 61 yards.

“It was a superlative effort by Matthew Reed that kept us unbeaten,” summed up Coach Jack Gotta. “He’s one of the great pure passers in football.”

Birmingham went on to place second in the Central Division at 15-5 and proceeded to win the first (and only) WFL Championship. The Sharks failed to last the season. Despite respectable fan support, the team was woefully mismanaged and folded after fourteen weeks with a 4-10 record.

Matthew Reed continued to excel in a relief role at quarterback and passed for 1345 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also rushed for 176 yards on 40 carries that included three for scores.

August 19, 2014

Highlighted Year: Ed Brown, 1956

Quarterback, Chicago Bears



Age:  28 (Oct. 26)
3rd season in pro football & with Bears
College: San Francisco
Height: 6’2”   Weight: 205

Prelude:
Brown was the starting quarterback for the undefeated 1951 Univ. of San Francisco team and then went into the Marines for two years. He was chosen by the Bears in the sixth round of the ’52 NFL draft and joined them in 1954 as backup to George Blanda and Zeke Bratkowski. With Bratkowski leaving for military duty, Brown took over the starting job in 1955 as well as handling the punting. He threw for 1307 yards and nine touchdowns and was chosen to the Pro Bowl. With a strong arm, he quickly established himself as the best deep passer in the league.

1956 Season Summary
Appeared and started in all 12 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Passing
Attempts – 168 [8]
Completions – 96 [6]
Yards – 1667 [3]
Completion percentage – 57.1 [1]
Yards per attempt – 9.9 [1]
TD passes – 11 [3]
Most TD passes, game – 2 at Baltimore 9/30, at Green Bay 10/7, vs. Baltimore 10/21
Interceptions – 12 [6, tied with Norm Van Brocklin & Y.A. Tittle]
Passer rating – 83.1 [1]

Rushing
Attempts – 40
Yards – 164
Yards per attempt – 4.1
TDs – 1

Punting
Punts – 42 [7, tied with Yale Lary]
Yards – 1644 [8]
Average – 39.1 [9]
Punts blocked – 1
Longest punt – 53 yards

Scoring
TDs – 2
Points - 12

Postseason: 1 G (NFL Championship at NY Giants)
Pass attempts – 20
Pass completions – 8
Passing yardage – 97
TD passes – 0
Interceptions – 1

Rushing attempts – 5
Rushing yards – -3
Average gain rushing – -0.6
Rushing TDs – 0

Punts – 6
Punt yards – 255
Punt avg. – 42.5

Awards & Honors:
Pro Bowl

Bears went 9-2-1 to finish first in the NFL Western Conference while leading the league in total yards (4537), rushing yards (2468), touchdowns (47), and scoring (363 points). Lost NFL Championship to New York Giants (47-7).

Aftermath:
Brown split time, primarily with Bratkowski, over the next few years and his performance suffered. He achieved highs for his career with the Bears with 1881 yards and 13 TD passes in 1959, and completed 50.6 percent of his passes, the only time he completed more than half of his passes between 1956 and ‘62. Brown lost the starting job to newcomer Bill Wade in 1961 and was traded to Pittsburgh, where he backed up Bobby Layne for a year before taking over the starting job in ’63. The Steelers contended and Brown passed for 2982 yards and 21 TDs but came up short in the climactic battle for the Eastern Conference crown against the Giants. He lasted two more seasons, with diminishing returns, finishing up with the Colts in 1965 who obtained him after injuries depleted the quarterback corps and HB Tom Matte was pressed into service behind center. Overall, Brown passed for 15,600 yards and 102 TDs, and while he averaged 7.9 yards per attempt and 16.4 yards per catch, he also completed just 47.8 percent of his passes and gave up 138 interceptions. He rushed for 960 yards, mostly early in his career with the Bears before his mobility diminished. As a punter, he averaged 40.6 yards on 493 kicks. Brown was named to the Pro Bowl twice.

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Highlighted Years features players who were consensus first-team All-League* selections or league* or conference** leaders in the following statistical categories:

Rushing: Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Passing: Yards, Completion Pct., Yards per Attempt, TDs, Rating
Receiving: Catches, Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Scoring: TDs, Points, Field Goals (min. 5)
All-Purpose: Total Yards
Defense: Interceptions, Sacks
Kickoff Returns: Average
Punt Returns: Average
Punting: Average

*Leagues include NFL (1920 to date), AFL (1926), AFL (1936-37), AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974-75), USFL (1983-85)

**NFC/AFC since 1970

August 17, 2014

Rookie of the Year: Terry Glenn, 1996

Wide Receiver, New England Patriots



Age: 22
College: Ohio State
Height: 5’10” Weight: 184

Prelude:
Glenn was a consensus All-American in 1995 after catching 64 passes for 1411 yards and 17 touchdowns for Ohio State. He was chosen by the Patriots in the first round of the 1996 NFL draft (seventh overall) and had an immediate impact, despite suffering a hamstring injury during training camp that kept him out of New England’s opening game, setting a then-NFL record for pass receptions by a rookie.

1996 Season Summary
Appeared in 15 of 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 90 [7, tied with Tim Brown]           
Most receptions, game – 10 (for 112 yds.) vs. Miami 11/3
Yards – 1132 [11]
Most yards, game – 124 (on 8 catches) at NY Giants 12/21
Average gain – 12.6
TDs – 6
100-yard receiving games – 2

Rushing
Attempts – 5
Yards – 42
Average gain – 8.4
TDs – 0

Scoring
TDs – 6
Points – 36

Postseason: 3 G
Pass receptions – 12
Most pass receptions, game – 5 vs. Jacksonville, AFC Championship
Pass receiving yards - 164
Most pass receiving yards, game – 69 vs. Pittsburgh, AFC Divisional playoff
Average yards per reception – 13.7
Pass Receiving TDs - 0

Awards & Honors:
AFC Rookie of the Year: UPI
1st team All-AFC: UPI

Patriots went 11-5 to finish first in the AFC East while leading the conference in touchdowns (48) and scoring (418 points). Won AFC Divisional playoff over Pittsburgh Steelers (28-3) and AFC Championship over Jacksonville Jaguars (20-6). Lost Super Bowl to Green Bay Packers (35-21).

Aftermath:
In what would become a chronic problem, Glenn suffered through an injury-riddled 1997 season and caught just 27 passes for 431 yards and two TDs, although he grabbed nine passes in the postseason. He again struggled with injuries in ’98, but his production improved to 50 catches and 792 yards and he was named to the Pro Bowl in 1999 after a 69-catch, 1147-yard season. While an explosive receiver with the ability to make spectacular catches, he also was criticized for inconsistency and there were questions regarding his attitude and toughness. In 2000, he played in every game for the first time as a pro and had a solid 79 receptions for 963 yards, but in 2001 he was suspended for most of the season for disciplinary reasons, missing out on New England’s Super Bowl run. Glenn was dealt to Green Bay for 2002 and moved on to Dallas in ’03, where he was reunited with his first pro head coach, Bill Parcells. A fair first year with the Cowboys was followed by a 2004 season in which a sprained foot limited him to six games. He came back to have two of his most productive years in 2005 and ’06, with 62 catches for 1136 yards and a career-best 18.3 average gain and seven touchdowns in the first year and 70 receptions for 1047 yards and six TDs in the second. However, he missed all but one game in 2007 due to a knee injury and was released, effectively ending his career. Overall, Glenn caught 593 passes for 8823 yards (14.9 avg.) and 44 touchdowns, with 329 receptions, 4669 yards, and 22 TDs coming with the Patriots. He was named to the Pro Bowl once, and there was a lingering sense that, considering his level of talent, he could have achieved much more than he did.

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Rookie of the Year Profiles feature players who were named Rookie of the Year in the NFL, AFL (1960-69), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press – Offense or Defense, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, or the league itself – Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year). 

August 15, 2014

1961: Giants Obtain Y.A. Tittle from 49ers


On August 15, 1961 the New York Giants obtained QB Y.A. Tittle from the San Francisco 49ers in a trade for Lou Cordileone, a 23-year-old lineman. The teams had played each other just days earlier and Tittle had nearly pulled out a win for the 49ers, the Giants coming away with a 21-20 victory.

Yelberton Abraham Tittle was 34 years old and a 13-year pro veteran. He had come out of LSU to join the Baltimore Colts of the All-America Football Conference in 1948 (they picked him up from the Browns, who originally signed him, as part of the league’s “lend-lease” program to help spread talent to weaker clubs) and broke in impressively. He beat out veteran Charley O’Rourke to start and was among the league’s passing leaders while the Colts tied for first in the weak Eastern Division, losing the resulting playoff to Buffalo. The team played poorly in 1949, however, and taken into the NFL in ’50, was even worse yet. The Colts disbanded and Tittle’s rights were obtained by the 49ers.

San Francisco had an established veteran quarterback in Frankie Albert, and Tittle backed him up for a full season before moving into the starting lineup during 1952. For the next eight years, the bald-headed quarterback who looked more like the insurance agent that he was during the offseason than a star NFL signal caller was highly productive with a team that often contended in the competitive Western Conference and tied for the division title in 1957. He was named to the Pro Bowl four times and received league MVP honors from UPI in ’57. San Francisco had outstanding running backs during that period, with FB Joe Perry and halfbacks Hugh McElhenny and John Henry Johnson the most noteworthy, as well as fine receivers in ends Billy Wilson, Gordie Soltau, and R.C. Owens.  With Owens, an outstanding jumper, Tittle developed what became known as the “Alley-Oop” play, a high arching throw that Owens, out-leaping the opposing defensive backs, would grab in key situations.

Tittle overcame injuries along the way, such as a triple-fracture of his cheekbone in a game against Detroit in 1953 and a broken left (non-throwing) hand in ’54. He was also an enthusiastic team leader who was quick to display his emotions on the field. Using a long stride and three-quarters sidearm delivery, Tittle’s passing mechanics were somewhat unorthodox, but certainly effective, and he was both patient and fearless in the pocket. At the time of the trade, his career completion percentage of 55.3 was the best among active NFL quarterbacks.

Having suffered through an injury-plagued 1960 season and, with Head Coach Red Hickey committing to a shotgun offense, Tittle no longer was a fit with the team. John Brodie, San Francisco’s first draft choice in 1957, had been developing while in the backup role and was joined by the more mobile Bill Kilmer and Bob Waters.

Tittle initially questioned whether he would report to the Giants, as he had an insurance business in California, but shortly thereafter arrived in camp. Allie Sherman, the new head coach of the Giants, indicated that Tittle would “fill the gap” between 39-year-old veteran QB Charlie Conerly and untested prospect Lee Grosscup.  Another trade brought split end Del Shofner from the Rams, which added a quality receiver to the mix.

The close-knit Giants players were initially standoffish toward Tittle, and it wasn’t helped when he went down with an injury almost immediately after joining the team. He started the 1961 season as a backup to Conerly, but in Week 2 against the Steelers he came into the game, completed his first eight passes, and the Giants won.
Tittle passed for 315 yards the next week against the Redskins and became the starter as the team returned to the top of the Eastern Conference, losing badly to Green Bay in the NFL Championship game. For his efforts, Tittle was selected to the Pro Bowl and received MVP honors from the Newspaper Enterprise Association.

Conerly retired, Grosscup was let go, and Tittle went on to have a bigger year in 1962, tossing 33 touchdown passes to set a NFL record (the AFL’s George Blanda compiled 36 in 1961). He had a 505-yard, seven-TD performance against Washington along the way. The Giants again topped the Eastern Conference at 12-2, although once again they fell short against the Packers. Tittle was a consensus first-team All-NFL as well as Pro Bowl selection and again received league MVP honors, this time from UPI.

The Giants won a third Eastern Conference title in ’63 and Tittle again achieved MVP (AP, NEA, Sporting News), All-NFL, and Pro Bowl honors while breaking his own league record with 36 TD passes and leading the league in passing overall. But torn knee ligaments suffered during the Championship game against the Bears hampered his performance. In perhaps the bitterest defeat of all, Tittle tossed five interceptions, two of which set up Chicago touchdowns, and the Giants came up on the short end by a 14-10 score.

“The Bald Eagle” returned for one more year in 1964, attempting once more to finally achieve the elusive NFL title, but time ran out for him and the Giants. The team crashed to last place with a 2-10-2 record and Tittle, battered in some of the defeats, found himself splitting time with rookie Gary Wood. It marked a miserable end of the line for the 38-year-old quarterback.

At the time of his retirement, Tittle was the NFL all-time career leader in pass attempts (3817), completions (2118), yards (28,339), and TD passes (212). Whatever his shortcomings in the postseason, he had been a highly productive passer for many years, especially during his first three seasons in New York. The Giants retired his number 14 and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971.

As for the player that the Giants gave up for Tittle, Lou Cordileone was New York’s first draft choice in 1959, coming out of Clemson. During his rookie year, he saw action as both an offensive and defensive lineman. The 49ers hoped that he would develop into a solid player, but he lasted one year in San Francisco and became a journeyman thereafter, finishing up with New Orleans in 1968.

August 14, 2014

Highlighted Year: Michael Bates, 1996

Wide Receiver/Kick Returner, Carolina Panthers



Age: 27 (Dec. 19)
4th season in pro football, 1st with Panthers
College: Arizona
Height: 5’10” Weight: 189

Prelude:
Bates was a track as well as football star in college and won a bronze medal in the 200-yard dash at the 1992 Olympic games. A sixth-round draft choice of the Seattle Seahawks in ’92, he delayed his pro debut until 1993 as a result of his Olympic participation. Used as a blocking fullback in college, Bates was shifted to wide receiver by the Seahawks, but he rarely saw action on offense. In two seasons with Seattle, he returned 56 kickoffs for a 19.8-yard average while catching a total of six passes, one for a touchdown. He was also good on kick coverage, but three concussions suffered in 1993 raised concerns. Waived by the Seahawks, he spent 1995 with the Browns before being dealt to Carolina.

1996 Season Summary
Appeared in 14 of 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 33 [17, tied with Tamarick Vanover]
Yards – 998 [12]
Most yards, game – 138 (on 4 ret.) at Philadelphia 10/27
Average per return – 30.2 [1]
TDs – 1 [2, tied with six others]
Longest return – 93 yards

Scoring
TDs – 1
Points – 6

Postseason: 2 G
Kickoff returns – 9
Kickoff return yds. – 214
Most yards, game – 155 (on 5 ret.) vs. Dallas, NFC Divisional playoff
Kickoff return avg. – 23.8
Kickoff return TDs – 0

Awards & Honors:
1st team All-NFL: AP, PFWA, Sporting News
1st team All-NFC: Pro Football Weekly
2nd team All-NFC: UPI
Pro Bowl

Panthers went 12-4 to finish first in the NFC West in just their second season while leading the NFL in kickoff return average (26.2). Won NFC Divisional playoff over Dallas Cowboys (26-17). Lost NFC Championship to Green Bay Packers (30-13).

Aftermath:
The outstanding performance in 1996 marked the first of five straight seaons in which he was selected to the Pro Bowl. Bates again led the NFL in kickoff return average in 1997 (27.3), and in his five years in Carolina returned 233 kickoffs for a 25.7-yard average and five touchdowns. Left unsigned after the 2000 season, he moved on to Washington in ’01 where he averaged 23.5 yards on 49 returns and was cut. Returning to the Panthers for 2002, Bates suffered an injury during the preseason that put him on injured reserve for the year and, after stints with the Jets and Cowboys in 2003, his career came to an end. Overall, he averaged 24.4 yards on 373 kickoff returns, was a consensus first-team All-NFL selection once, received at least some All-NFL or All-NFC consideration after four other seasons, and gained selection to the Pro Bowl five times, noted for both his kick returning and kick coverage. He was named to the 1990s All-Decade team by the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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Highlighted Years features players who were consensus first-team All-League* selections or league* or conference** leaders in the following statistical categories:

Rushing: Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Passing: Yards, Completion Pct., Yards per Attempt, TDs, Rating
Receiving: Catches, Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Scoring: TDs, Points, Field Goals (min. 5)
All-Purpose: Total Yards
Defense: Interceptions, Sacks
Kickoff Returns: Average
Punt Returns: Average
Punting: Average

*Leagues include NFL (1920 to date), AFL (1926), AFL (1936-37), AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974-75), USFL (1983-85)

**NFC/AFC since 1970

August 12, 2014

1960: Unitas to Moore TD Passes Propel Colts to Rout of College All-Stars


The 27th annual College All-Star Game on August 12, 1960 featured the Baltimore Colts, back for a second straight year after repeating as NFL champions, against an All-Star team coached by Otto Graham, former star pro quarterback and now head coach at the Coast Guard Academy.

The Colts, under Head Coach Weeb Ewbank, had a productive passing attack that featured QB Johnny Unitas, HB Lenny Moore, and end Raymond Berry. The defense was strong and had shut the All-Stars down in a 29-0 win in ’59.

Graham, who was coaching the All-Stars for the third consecutive year, had a roster that included future pro stars in Southern Methodist QB Don Meredith, fullbacks Dick Bass of the College of the Pacific and Don Perkins from New Mexico, Vanderbilt HB Tom Moore, ends Carroll Dale from Virginia Tech and Gail Cogdill of Washington State, and Georgia Tech C/LB Maxie Baughan.

There were 70,000 fans in attendance on a warm, moonlit Friday night. On their second possession of the game, the Colts rolled 69 yards in seven plays that culminated in Johnny Unitas tossing a four-yard touchdown pass to Lenny Moore. Steve Myhra added the extra point.

Down by 7-0, the All-Stars responded with an impressive series. Don Meredith connected with Dick Bass on a screen pass for 30 yards and, after Bass carried for nine more yards, a pass interference penalty put the ball on the Baltimore five yard line. However, Meredith fumbled and DE Gino Marchetti recovered for the Colts to end the threat. The Colts then proceeded to drive 95 yards to another Unitas-to-Moore TD, this time covering three yards, and Myhra’s PAT made it 14-0.

Before the half was over, Baltimore took complete control. Myhra booted a 38-yard field goal and then Unitas connected with Moore for a third touchdown of 14 yards. The pro champs had a comfortable 24-0 lead at halftime.



With the game well in hand, Unitas was relieved early in the third quarter by backup QB Ray Brown. The defense put more points on the board when Notre Dame QB George Izo was tossed for a safety by DE Don Joyce and DT Gene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb.

While Gail Cogdill made some good catches for the All-Stars, the running game was kept in check by the savvy Baltimore defense and quarterbacks Meredith, Izo, and Pete Hall of Marquette faced heavy pressure throughout the contest.

Myhra kicked a 27-yard field goal that padded the Baltimore lead to 29-0 after three quarters. Early in the fourth quarter, the All-Stars finally avoided a shutout when Meredith threw a short pass to HB Prentice Gautt of Oklahoma who took off for a 60-yard touchdown. Mississippi’s Bob Khayat added the extra point.

That was all the excitement the collegians would muster, however. Myhra kicked one more field goal, of 26 yards, and once again the Colts were comfortable winners by a final score of 32-7.

Baltimore outgained the All-Stars by 416 yards to 128. The All-Stars managed just 13 yards on the ground and turned the ball over four times, to one turnover by the Colts. Johnny Unitas completed 17 of 29 passes for 237 yards while ends Raymond Berry and Jim Mutscheller combined for nine catches and 153 yards.



Don Meredith (pictured at right) was the most productive of the All-Star quarterbacks, completing 8 of 20 throws for 156 yards and the lone TD. Gail Cogdill made five catches for 64 yards to make him the offensive star for the collegians.

The only downside for the Colts was a broken hand suffered by the All-Pro OT Jim Parker, but he was back in action by the time the regular season came around. Baltimore got off to a 6-2 start but, with a deficient running attack, faded down the stretch to end up at 6-6.

Don Meredith joined the expansion Dallas Cowboys, where he played for nine years and was chosen to the Pro Bowl three times. Gail Cogdill had a stellar rookie season for the Detroit Lions and also went to the Pro Bowl three times over the course of eleven years as a pro.

The win for the Colts put the pro champs ahead in the series by 17 to 8 with two ties, with lopsided results such as that in 1960 becoming more of the norm. 

August 10, 2014

1956: Groza Kicks 4 FGs as Browns Dominate College All-Stars


The 23rd annual College All-Star Game on August 10, 1956 featured the Cleveland Browns, defending NFL Champions for the second straight year, against a squad coached by Curly Lambeau, who had guided the All-Stars to a 30-27 upset win in the previous contest.

The Browns, coached by Paul Brown, were again without QB Otto Graham, who retired for good after the 1955 NFL title game. George Ratterman, who started at quarterback in the previous year’s defeat, was again behind center. Cleveland was better prepared than when facing the All-Stars in ’55, however, and it would show.

The All-Stars featured a lineup that included the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, HB Howard “Hopalong” Cassady from Ohio State, as well as future pro stars such as Michigan State QB Earl Morrall, halfbacks Lenny Moore of Penn State and Preston Carpenter from Arkansas (who had been drafted by the Browns), West Virginia guard Sam Huff, and SMU tackle Forrest Gregg.  

There were 75,000 fans in attendance at Soldier Field for the Friday night game. The All-Stars looked strong on offense as they took the opening kickoff and, with Earl Morrall behind center, got two first downs on an 11-yard pass completion to Navy end Ron Beagle and a ten-yard carry by the quarterback. Cassady ran for nine yards to put the All-Stars at the Cleveland 34. However, Morrall suffered an injury to his throwing hand and, on the next play, DHB Warren Lahr intercepted a pass by QB Jerry Reichow of Iowa in the end zone to snuff out the threat. It would be all downhill for the collegians, as they never again penetrated Cleveland territory for the remainder of the contest.

Cleveland methodically moved 80 yards in 12 plays that concluded with George Ratterman passing to HB Fred “Curly” Morrison for a 13-yard touchdown. Lou Groza (pictured at top) added the extra point and the pro champs were up by 7-0.

Early in the second quarter, the Browns reached the All-Star 25 but, after being backed up by a holding penalty, settled for a 47-yard Groza field goal (some sources show shorter distances on the field goals because, under the college rules that the game was played under, field goals were measured from the line of scrimmage rather than the spot of the kick). On the next Cleveland series, the Browns lined up for another field goal try but pulled a fake instead, with DB Tommy James carrying the ball. However, he came up two yards short of the necessary distance for a first down. James made up for it a short time later when he intercepted a pass that set up another Groza field goal, from 37 yards, just before the end of the first half. Cleveland led by 13-0 at the intermission.

Dominating on defense, Cleveland kept it very conservative on offense, making for a dull display for the crowd. Even with Morrall’s return to action for the second half, the All-Stars could not mount a threat. Midway through the third quarter, the Browns had good starting field position due to a shanked punt. A successful Groza field goal try from short range was wiped out by a holding penalty, but he then connected from 31 yards.

Shortly thereafter the collegians, trying to convert a fourth down, lost the ball when FB Don Schaefer fumbled and the Browns recovered at the All-Star 45. That led to a 34-yard field goal that made the score 19-0 heading into the final period.

Early in the fourth quarter, Lenny Moore created some excitement with a 24-yard run for the All-Stars, but the Browns once again stifled the collegians on offense. One final touchdown came at the end of a 38-yard, seven-play series, with HB Gene Filipski running the last two yards to paydirt. It was set up when Preston Carpenter fumbled a punt and DE Jim Ray Smith recovered for the Browns. Groza’s successful PAT put the cap on a convincing 26-0 win.

The Browns led in first downs (18 to 5) and ground out 191 yards on the ground. The All-Stars, who rushed for 121 yards, managed to complete only two of 10 pass attempts for 12 yards and two were intercepted. The All-Stars also fumbled the ball away three times while the Browns suffered no turnovers at all.

Lou Groza’s 14 points, thanks to his four field goals and two extra points, represented the largest individual total since Don Hutson accumulated 19 in 1940. George Ratterman was successful on 7 of 14 passes for 84 yards and a touchdown and his understudy, Babe Parilli, completed one of four throws for four yards but rushed for 39 yards on seven carries. FB Ed Modzelewski led the ground attack, rushing for 76 yards on 21 carries.



For the All-Stars, Earl Morrall (pictured above) completed one of four throws for 11 yards and Jerry Reichow managed one completion for one yard. Don Schaefer topped the collegians with 42 rushing yards on 11 carries while “Hopalong” Cassady, who was playing with an injured heel, was held to 21 yards on six attempts.

Cleveland’s win put the pro champs ahead in the series by 14 to 7, with two ties. However, it didn’t herald another big year for the Browns. They lost four of their first five games on the way to a 5-7 finish, the first losing record in franchise history.

Earl Morrall spent his rookie season with the 49ers and would play for five other teams in a pro career that lasted 21 years. He would return to the College All-Star Game as a member of the Baltimore Colts in 1971.