On game day, Raider head coach Eddie Erdelatz was still shuffling players right up until the 8pm kickoff. The biggest news was that Babe Parilli would start over Paul Larson at quarterback. Parilli and Larson were competing to be Tom Flores‘ understudy, as Erdelatz had indicated he would only carry two quarterbacks on the roster in the regular season, but Parilli wasn’t ready to accept second place yet. “I’m going to try and play some football for Oakland. I wouldn’t be here if I had lost my enthusiasm for the game,” he said.
That enthusiasm was bolstered by what he saw from the bench last Friday against the Chargers. “It was a real good, real tough ballgame,” he said. “I think it will take a year or two to catch up with the National Football League, but frankly, the AFL clubs played much better than I had been led to believe.”
In another move necessitated by injury, Dan Edgington, who had been seeing time at the flanker spot would take Gene Prebola‘s place at tight end, while Tony Teresa would move from halfback to flanker.
Both teams hoped for a big crowd with perhaps as many as 30,000 in attendance. Buffalo’s Civic Stadium was being rechristened War Memorial Stadium in a ceremony before the game and the ranks would be swelled by 4,000 veterans of foreign wars who had been given complimentary tickets. The weather certainly cooperated, with the temperature hovering around 60 degrees and a light breeze blowing in under clear skies, but the final paid tally came to a mildly disappointing 17,071.
The Raiders had played just five days ago and had then traveled across the country for their first road game, but if they were tired they didn’t show it. Jack Larscheid took the opening kickoff across midfield and three plays later, Parilli hit him in stride for a 53-yard touchdown to get things rolling. The Oakland defense shut the Bills down on the first Buffalo drive and when the Bills’ fourth-down snap went awry, the Raiders had the ball again on the 13. In another three plays, Parilli connected with halfback Ron Drzewiecki on a 13-yard scoring toss. Larry Barnes, however, missed the extra point.
Buffalo had to punt on their next drive and this time the Oakland offense took five plays to score, aided by a pass interference penalty that moved the ball the Bills nine. From there, Parilli dropped back to pass, escaped three charging defenders and scrambled home for a touchdown. And almost before fans could find their seats, the Raiders were ahead 20-0.
A lull followed until midway through the second quarter, when Barnes kicked a 27-yard field goal to extend the Raiders’ lead. Now, with the local fans booing and the Oakland second unit in, the Bills finally put something together. Just before halftime they scored on a 30-yard pass from Tommy O’Connell to Dick Brubaker and the teams went into their locker rooms with the Raiders ahead 23-7.
Buffalo took the second half kickoff and looked as if they were going to build on their success, but quickly fumbled the ball away. The Raiders capitalized when Barnes kicked his second field goal, this from 42, and expanded a comfortable lead even further, to 26-7.
But it stopped being comfortable in a hurry. A 51-yard O’Connell-to-Elbert Dubenion touchdown, brought the Bills to within 12 and a Larscheid fumble at the Oakland six gave Buffalo a chance to get even closer. After marching the ball to the one, O’Connell carried it over from there and the Bills trailed by just five points with a full quarter to play.
In the end, though, the Bills couldn’t get over the hump. The teams traded interceptions, penalties hurt a promising Oakland drive, then the Buffalo offense had their last best chance, getting to the Raider six before fullback Carl Smith put it on the ground and Oakland linebacker Buddy Alliston recovered. The Bills offense regained possession twice more in the period, but couldn’t do anything with the ball either time and the Raiders won, 26-21.
Afterward, Erdelatz was elated, if relieved, when he addressed his players. “Everybody did his best and you can’t ask for more. You had lots of guts to stick it out. Now let’s profit from the experience we gained here tonight.”
With the win, the Raiders evened their preseason record at 2-2. Buffalo fell to 1-3. Oakland now had four days to prepare for the Patriots game that would close out their exhibition slate.
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