The result was in doubt until the second-to-last play, but the Raiders got their first regular season win in franchise history by beating the Oilers 14-13. The day started when forecasted rain showers never arrived, but protesters outside the stadium did. Picketers stood outside Houston’s Jeppesen Stadium gates protesting racially-segregated seating arrangements. The actions may have had some effect as only 16,421 people took their seats, far less than the 25,000 expected or hoped for by the teams and the league.
In any event, the game, under smoky, rather than cloudy, skies was marked by a multitude of errors, missed opportunities, and occasional exhibitions of bad blood between the teams. The Oilers committed five turnovers and missed a pair of field goals, while the Raiders turned the ball over six times: once on an interception, twice on fumbles, and three times on downs, including twice from the Houston three-yard line.
After having the upper hand for most of the first quarter, the Raiders, led by Babe Parilli at quarterback, who started in place of Tom Flores, scored first on a three-yard touchdown run by JD Smith. The Oilers responded in kind with an 85-yard drive that ended on an eight-yard touchdown pass from George Blanda to John Carson. The teams swapped promising, but unproductive drives in the second quarter, until the Oilers broke through with Blanda’s 36-yard field goal with 27 seconds to go in the half.
Raider halfback Tony Teresa fumbled on the second play of the third quarter, one of Teresa’s three miscarries on the day, but Houston failed to turn it into points when Blanda yanked a 17-yard field goal attempt wide to the left. Oakland head coach Eddie Erdelatz now installed Flores at quarterback, but he didn’t provide the hoped-for spark, and Blanda redeemed himself on Houston’s next drive, kicking it true from ten yards out. Not much happened in the rest of the quarter, aside from Parilli’s return to the game, and going into the final period the Oilers were up, 13-7.
The fourth quarter opened with a quick exchange of interceptions and an Oiler three-and-out, followed by a Raider score. Flores, back in again, signalling great uncertainty on the part of the Oakland coaching staff, put together the eventual game-winning drive, marching his team 68 yards and closing it out with a 14-yard scoring toss to Gene Prebola. Nursing a one-point lead, the Raider defense held, but the offense almost gave it back anyway. With 1:02 left, Houston defensive back Joe Gordon ripped the ball from Raider halfback Jack Larscheid at the Oakland 28. Running a couple of plays to burn some clock, Houston advanced to the 22, where Blanda set up for the placekick that would win it, but he again missed it left. The Raiders ran out the last ten seconds to get the 14-13 win.
Afterward, Erdelatz was buoyant. “They were just great out there and it was strictly a team effort,” he said, refusing to name standouts when asked. “I’m really proud of this club and the victory even made me forget about my toe.”
This was the big toe on his right foot that he had broken in practice the day before. “I didn’t feel normal until the second half,” he said, and proved it during a testy exchange between the teams near the end of the third quarter. An unidentifed Oiler defender had thrown a knee into Larscheid’s face long after the whistle had blown and the Raider coach had taken such demonstrative exception to the lack of a personal foul call that he earned his own penalty, for unsportsmanlike conduct. Two plays later, the teams nearly came to blows again. To even things up, the officials flagged Houston’s Billy Cannon for bad behavior, and after that tempers settled down somewhat.
Raider assistant Marty Feldman echoed his boss’s sentiments. “They didn’t need coaching,” he said, “They wanted the game so badly, they just wouldn’t give in. They made mistakes but they overcame them and beat a good club.”
For all the praise for the players on the field, the team didn’t forget one of their own who couldn’t make it. Erdelatz awarded the game ball to assistant Ernie Jorge, who was back home recovering from his recent heart attack. The Raider coach said he had never asked any team of his to win a ballgame for someone before, but this time he asked his players “to win this one for Ernie.” And they did.
For all the lack of scoring, both teams produced pretty well on offense, especially on third down. From the Raider perspective, most of the drama, aside from the win, came from the frequent switching of quarterbacks. Most observers thought Flores had shone brighter, completing 7 of 10 passes for 57 yards and the winning score. Parilli went 7-for-13, for 118 yards. The Oakland running game didn’t amount to much, but fullback Billy Lott showed his value catching the ball six times for 90 yards. On defense, Eddie Macon intercepted Blanda twice to run his season total to three in just three games.
Blanda, in addition to throwing three interceptions, completed 17 of his 36 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown. His favorite target was Carson, who caught eight balls for 98 yards. The Oilers’ top rusher was Dave Smith, who gained 85 yards on 15 carries, giving him 189 yards in two games against Oakland.
With the win, the Raiders improved to 1-2 and looked forward to traveling to Denver where they would meet the 2-1 Broncos. The Broncos had suffered their first defeat Friday night, in heartbreaking fashion against the Titans when New York’s Roger Donnahoo scored on a blocked punt with under a minute to play, giving his team a 28-24 win.
For the Oilers, their record slipped to 2-1 and they wouldstay at home to meet those same Titans next Sunday.
Hayward Daily Review
Official American Football League gamebook
Pro Football Reference
San Mateo Times