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.
After three games, with a 1-2 record, the Raiders were a definitively middling team. All three games were close and the team’s point totals on both sides of the ball were near the league median. The Raiders had significantly outscored their opponents in the first and fourth quarters, but the reverse was true in the middle two periods and they had yet to score at all in the third. Yes, it was the preseason and this was all meaningless, but the Raiders were thought to be under a real handicap because of their late start and to see them play competitive ball was both a relief and encouraging.
Overall, the Raider play calling on offense was balanced, with a 98 to 104 run/pass ratio, but the running game was lagging behind at this point, with the team averaging less than 3.5 yards per carry. Only Jack Larscheid, with his 6.3 yard average, was anything more than workmanlike in the run game. Billy Lott and Buddy Allen were given the lion’s share of the work in the backfield, but Lott’s pass catching ability gave him the advantage when it came to competing for a starting spot. Tony Teresa was the only other runner getting a serious look, but he, too, was more effective catching the ball and, in fact, was going to get his reps in at the flanker spot going forward, at least until tight end Gene Prebola returned from injury.
As for the quarterback spot, there was no competition. Eddie Erdelatz had to all intents anointed Tom Flores the starter and, despite his recent injury, he would presumably get his job back as soon as he returned. In the meantime, Babe Parilli and Paul Larson would fight over the scraps.
The biggest area of uncertainty, though, was at wide receiver. Prebola was the tight end, by default, and Charlie Hardy seemed to be taking the split end spot as his own, but the other side was still up for grabs. Teresa was working there for now, but the team’s long-term plans for him were still unclear. He had thrown a few halfback passes and was adequate catching passes coming out of the backfield, but he was woeful in the running game, averaging just a couple of yards per carry and was often stuffed behind the line.
On the offensive line, only 5’9″ Don Manoukian was mentioned with any regularity in press dispatches, so it was hard to tell what was going on there. It was clear, however, that the offense was still very much a work in progress.
The Raider defense was in the same boat. They were good at getting the ball from their opponents—eight turnovers in three games—but they were giving up a lot of yards otherwise. Opponents were averaging nearly a yard more per run and better than six yards a clip through the air, and the Oakland rush had sacked opponent quarterbacks only once for a paltry five yards.
On the defensive line, end Carmen Cavalli was getting the most attention, but it was clear that the unit wasn’t getting it done. Among the linebackers, Bob Dougherty and Tom Louderback seemed to be doing a fair job, but still needed to get stouter against the run. And in the secondary, cornerback Joe Cannavino was rising above the crowd in pass coverage and was showing a nose for loose balls.
Erdelatz appeared to have settled on linebacker Larry Barnes to do the placekicking. He was true on extra points and was okay so far on field goals as well. Halfback Wayne Crow had laid claim to the punting job with his 45-yard average. The return and coverage teams were performing within expected norms.
The consensus among observers was that the Raiders had beaten expectations so far. They held their own in preseason losses against the Texans and the Chargers, teams that were thought to be title contenders and, above all, they hadn’t embarrassed themselves. And it was clear that many people thought they would. They were about to face a pretty stern test of two games in five days, but they were also in a position to get a good feel for the players who, to this point, hadn’t played all that much. After that, they would have two full weeks to get ready for the Oilers in the regular season opener.
With Tom Flores unavailable to play quarterback in the near term and with roster reductions looming, Raiders head coach Eddie Erdelatz was planning to give more playing time to the men on the far end of the bench, starting with Paul Larson. So far, Larson hadn’t shown all that much in camp, displaying an inaccurate arm. Consequently, he had received almost no in-game opportunities, but he was going to get a chance tomorrow, sharing time with Babe Parilli. Plenty of other neglected players were going to get their chances, too.
With the Raiders leaving Santa Cruz to head east and play the Bills, today marked the end of team’s first training camp, but bad news accompanied the departure. Head coach Eddie Erdelatz revealed that quarterback Tom Flores was likely to miss the rest of the preseason. The cause was a shoulder injury suffered at the hands of the Chargers on what Erdelatz called a “hit after the whistle.” That meant the signal-calling chores would be performed by Paul Larson, who had thrown but a single pass in live action so far, and newcomer Babe Parilli, who had less than a week’s familiarity with the playbook.
Raider head coach Eddie Erdelatz remained positive about his team after the close loss to the Chargers the previous evening and attributed it to the attitude of his players. “This club right now has as much spirit and hustle as any team I ever had at Annapolis,” he said. “We need help in some spots, but even if we don’t get it, this club will still do okay.”
Attitude was all he had to gauge his players by right now, because Friday night’s fog-obscured game films “looked like two polar bears fighting on an iceberg,” according to the Raider coach.
It was one of those late August evenings in San Francisco where the first hint of autumn chill reminded everyone that summer doesn’t last forever. A stiff breeze off the water was present as usual, but there was a thick fog filling the bowl of Kezar Stadium that refused to budge. It was hard to know if it was the weather that kept people away, or if it was simple disinterest, but just 6,521 curiosity-seekers came out to watch the Chargers play the Raiders in the first meeting of these California rivals.
The Raiders announced a big signing today with the addition of Babe Parilli, a 6’2″, 205-pound quarterback out of Kentucky. He had a storied college career with the Wildcats, making first-team All-America in 1950 and 1951 and leading his team to an upset win over Oklahoma in the 1951 Sugar Bowl and was named player of the game in the 1952 Cotton Bowl. His pro career was a little less successful. The Green Bay Packers chose him in the first round in 1952, but poor accuracy and a tendency to throw interceptions limited his opportunities during his time in the NFL. After the Packers let him go in 1958, he played a season in Canada for the Ottawa Rough Riders. His arrival in Oakland followed a long period of negotiation, but the Raiders finally hooked him.
After his first practice, head coach Eddie Erdelatz said he “liked what I saw.” Parilli’s signing increased the number of quarterbacks on the roster to five: Tom Flores, Paul Larson, Bobby Newman, Bob Webb, and Parilli.
Additionally, the team signed 5’10”, 185-pound halfback Luther “Hit and Run” Carr. A third-team All-Pacific Coast Conference performer at the University of Washington, Carr had been drafted in the 21st round of the 1959 draft by the 49ers, but was cut by them just before the start of the regular season. More recently, Carr had been in camp with the Chargers, but that team had let him go just a few days prior to his signing with the Raiders. Initially, he would be fourth on the depth chart at the position.
From the medical staff, the team received some bad news when they learned that their starting right tackle, Chris Plain, was probably out for the year with torn cartilage in his knee and a broken ankle. Plain had left the Titans game in the first quarter, but at the time the team didn’t consider the injury serious. However, x-rays showed differently. Either Joe Barbee or Don Churchwell would take his spot on the line.
Hayward Daily Review
San Mateo Times
After having watched films of the Titans game, Raider head coach Eddie Erdelatz said he was making some changes to the offense. The team would now use a split end and a tight end instead of the two tight end formation they had previously been using. Along with that change, Erdelatz announced a shuffling of the depth chart at the ball-handling positions. To wit:
Split end: Charlie Hardy, Alan Goldstein, John Brown
Tight end: Gene Prebola, Charles Moore
Flanker: Dan Edgington, Irv Nikolai, Brad Myers
Halfback: Tony Teresa, Jack Larscheid, Ron Drzewiecki
Fullback: Billy Lott, Buddy Allen, Dean Philpott
Despite the changes, the Raider coach had nothing but good things to say about his team’s performance, praising the interior of the offensive line — Jim Otto, Wayne Hawkins, and Ron Sabal — in particular.
“We played well as a team against the Titans,” he said, “It appears as though the way we practice is paying off. The kids could have gone another half had they needed to. This gang has great spirit. I’ve seen such hustle work wonders before and it looks like it’s happening again.”
Hayward Daily Review
San Mateo Times
A day after the team’s first win, Raider head coach Eddie Erdelatz reminded everyone he had no intention of taking his foot off the pedal in preseason games. “Winning comes number one with me,” he said, “It’s even more important than the money. I can’t speak for other coaches, but when a team of mine plays football, it plays to win. That’s the purpose of the game, isn’t it?”
The team provided an update on the two players injured in the Titans game. Fullback Billy Lott had suffered a neck injury and tackle Chris Plain hurt his leg. Both injuries were described as “minor” and the team expected both players to be ready to go against the Chargers.
It had been an uncomfortably hot day in Sacramento but by game time the sun had gone down and the temperature had dropped into the mid-70s. A pleasant breeze took any remaining heat off the air and clear skies promised a perfect evening for football. It was under these conditions that the Oakland Raiders and New York Titans took the field at Hughes Stadium, on the campus of Sacramento City College. Just 9,551 paying customers filled the 22,000-seat facility to see the 0-1 teams get acquainted for the first time.