August 17, 2010

1951: Browns Dominate College All-Stars

After four seasons of dominance in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC), the Cleveland Browns joined the NFL in 1950 and won that league’s championship as well. As a result, on August 17, 1951 they faced off against a team of college football’s best players in the 18th annual College All-Star Game, sponsored by The Chicago Tribune on behalf of Chicago Charities.

There were 92,180 fans on hand at Chicago’s Soldier Field. The All-Stars were coached by Yale’s Herman Hickman and included future pro stars Kyle Rote, halfback from SMU; Northwestern end Don Stonesifer; tackles Bob Gain from Kentucky and Mike McCormack of Kansas (both of whom would go on to play for the Browns); and guard Bud McFadin of Texas.

Both teams started off slowly in the first quarter, with the lone score occurring when Rote fumbled a handoff in the end zone that was recovered by Notre Dame QB Bob Williams, who was promptly downed by Cleveland DE Len Ford for a safety. The Browns began to gain momentum, however, and early in the second quarter drove 56 yards in a series that ended with HB Dub Jones running for a two-yard touchdown.

Shortly before halftime Cleveland again put together a scoring drive highlighted by runs of 22 yards by FB Marion Motley and 20 yards by Jones. Lou Groza kicked a 17-yard field goal and the Browns had a 12-0 lead at the intermission.

In the third quarter, the Browns methodically moved the ball 62 yards on 10 plays, ending up with Dub Jones again scoring a touchdown on a short (three-yard) run. QB Otto Graham’s passing highlighted the next Browns drive, in the fourth quarter, and Graham connected with end Dante Lavelli on a 14-yard TD pass. The final TD came on a second Graham touchdown pass, this one of eight yards to FB Emerson Cole. When the onslaught was over, the Browns had won by a final score of 33-0.

Just as the All-Stars couldn’t stop the Cleveland offense, they couldn’t generate any offense of their own. They gained only five first downs and never penetrated beyond the Browns’ 45 yard line. Kyle Rote, who rushed eight times for 45 yards, had the longest gain of the day for the All-Stars with a run of 23 yards. Bud McFadin was named MVP for the collegians – the second time a guard had received the honor.

Dub Jones and Otto Graham were the stars for the Browns, with Jones gaining 105 yards rushing and scoring two touchdowns and Graham completing 16 of 30 passes for 263 yards and two TDs. Overall, Cleveland outgained the All-Stars 425 yards to 126.

It was the worst defeat the All-Stars had suffered up to that time, when most of the games had been competitive and the pro teams held only a nine to six advantage in wins, with two ties, coming into the 1951 game. More and more, as the series wore on until its conclusion in 1976, the pro teams dominated – the final tally would be 31 wins for the defending pro champions, 9 wins for the All-Stars, and the two ties.