November 26, 2010
The Dallas Texans were in the midst of a disappointing season in the American Football League’s second year as they hosted the Oakland Raiders at the Cotton Bowl on November 26, 1961. The club had gone 8-6 in the inaugural ’60 season and had plenty of talent and an able head coach in Hank Stram. The Texans had hoped to challenge the Chargers for supremacy in the Western Division, but after a promising 3-1 start, they had lost six straight games coming into the contest against Oakland.
QB Cotton Davidson lacked accuracy and consistency, and the loss of FB Jack Spikes in the sixth game had hurt the inside running game. It was one of several injuries that had exposed issues with the club’s depth. Still, the team had HB Abner Haynes, an exciting multi-purpose talent who could run, catch, and return kicks equally well. Haynes had been suffering from a shoulder injury at the beginning of the season, but was now healthy – as Oakland would find out.
The Raiders were a 2-8 basket case. After losing their first two games by a combined score of 99-0, Eddie Erdelatz was fired as head coach and replaced by assistant Marty Feldman. It didn’t help much, but Oakland had given the Texans a tough contest in their earlier meeting (Feldman’s first game). The offense, led by capable QB Tom Flores, lacked enough punch and the defense had too many holes. It didn’t help that the situation with the front office was chaotic and the club played its home games across the bay from Oakland in San Francisco. The first meeting had been a back-and-forth struggle, but not this one.
There were 14,500 fans present at the Cotton Bowl as the Texans scored on their first possession. Davidson threw a pass to HB Johnny Robinson for a 30-yard touchdown and quick 7-0 lead. They never looked back.
Later in the first quarter, Haynes caught a pass from Davidson and went 66 yards for his first touchdown. In the second quarter, following a 65-yard run by FB Bo Dickinson, Haynes ran for a five-yard TD and Dallas was up by 21-0.
Meanwhile, Oakland’s offense reached the Dallas seven in the first quarter and came up empty, and a drive to the 11 in the second quarter also ended up without a score. George Fleming finally kicked a 45-yard field goal just before halftime, making it 21-3, but missed on three other attempts.
In the third quarter, Haynes accounted for all but seven of 61 yards in a drive that ended with the fleet halfback scoring from the one. He scored twice more in the same period, first on a 33-yard run over right tackle (followed by a successful two-point conversion) and then a 26-yard carry to the left side.
With the game well in hand at 43-3, Haynes sat out most of the fourth quarter, but did have a 25-yard run to finish off his day. Most of his successful runs came on pitchouts, giving him room to fake out defenders on the flanks.
Flores was relieved in the third quarter. Backup QB Nick Papac finally got the Raiders into the end zone in the fourth quarter with a quarterback sneak and they successfully converted for two points, providing the final score of 43-11.
The Texans piled up 495 yards, to 254 for the Raiders, with 284 on the ground and 228 through the air (147 by Davidson and 81 by backup Randy Duncan). Bo Dickinson, thanks to the long run in the second quarter, gained 79 yards on six carries and split end Chris Burford had a good performance with four catches for 68 yards. But the star of the game was Abner Haynes, who rushed for 158 yards on 14 carries with four touchdowns and caught two passes for 84 yards and a TD, thus accounting for 242 yards from scrimmage.
The touchdown and rushing yardage totals set new records for the young AFL. Haynes broke his old mark of 157, set against the New York Titans in ’60. He had also shared the old record for touchdowns in a game with three.
The 6’0”, 185-pound Haynes had been an unknown coming out of North Texas State in 1960, passing up offers from the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers and CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers to sign with the new team in his native state of Texas. He made a huge impact in the AFL’s first season, leading the league in rushing with 875 yards on 156 carries (5.6 avg.) and punt returning with a 15.4 average on 14 returns. He also caught 55 passes for 576 yards and scored a total of 12 touchdowns while piling up 2100 all-purpose yards. For his efforts, he was named AFL Player of the Year by the Associated Press and UPI.
Haynes, considered the new league’s first home-grown star, had a distinctive running style, with deceiving speed and shiftiness – and a habit of carrying the football in his hand like a loaf of bread (he led the league with 11 fumbles).
The Texans ended the season on a high note, winning their last two games, for a 6-8 record that placed them second in the Western Division – well behind the Chargers. Oakland had the league’s worst record at 2-12.
Abner Haynes, despite missing three games, still finished third among the AFL’s rushers with 841 yards; his nine TDs on the ground tied for first (with San Diego’s Paul Lowe). He caught 34 passes for 558 yards and three more scores and ranked fourth with a 10.3 punt returning average. Haynes returned a kickoff for a TD, one of 13 on the year. His 1399 yards from scrimmage ranked third in the AFL and 1865 all-purpose yards ranked second.