It started out slowly enough but got wild in the second half. The Texans got on the board first with a long drive in the second period, but Oakland head coach Eddie Erdelatz gave his team an ass-chewing at halftime that spurred them on to a 20-19 nail-biting victory over the Texans in Dallas.
There were 21,000 fans in the Cotton Bowl on this hot and humid day, the largest crowd yet to see a Raider game. Player health was a primary concern going into the contest. The Raiders were largely healthy, with the exception of halfback Tony Teresa, who was slated to play despite a painful pulled back muscle. But the Texans were forced to sit several of their key players, including linebacker Sherrill Headrick and fullback Jack Spikes, who would still be in for placekicks, but would otherwise occupy the bench. Spikes’ absence was particularly disruptive as the team had just lost another fullback, Jim Swink, who quit the team less than a week ago to devote himself full-time to medical school. To fill at least one of the gaps, the team switched Clem Daniels from defense to offense. Several other Texans, including defensive lineman Paul Miller would, like Teresa, play through their hurts.
Three weeks ago, the Texans ran all over the Raider defense on the way to a 34-16 thumping and observers expected something similar today.
As mentioned earlier, the game took its sweet time getting up to speed. The Texans put together a pretty good opening drive, but Eddie Macon intercepted Cotton Davidson at the Raider 15 and after that both teams combined for only a single first down for the rest of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Raiders threatened early. Tom Flores, who made his second consecutive start at quarterback, connected with Alan Goldstein for a 45-yard gain, but Larry Barnes pulled his 21-yard field goal attempt to the left and the game remained scoreless. Flores moved his team effectively again on their next drive, but this time it was Dallas who made the play when safety Dave Webster picked him off at the Texan 20 and used some nifty broken-field running to return it all the way for the score. When Flores failed to get much going on his next drive, Erdelatz pulled him in favor of Babe Parilli, who went the rest of the way for Oakland.
The half ended with Dallas ahead, 7-0, and the Raider head coach was not pleased. Addressing his team in the locker room, he said, “You haven’t blocked, you haven’t run or passed well, and you’re just not hitting out there. If you don’t want to play the game the way it should be played, then we’ll get people who will.”
The team must have been paying attention. On the opening kickoff of the second half, JD “Jetstream” Smith took the ball at the two, charged upfield, emerged from the crowd around the 30, escaped kicker Curley Johnson’s futile dive at the 45, and sprinted down the left sideline to the end zone and the game was tied. After Spikes missed a 51-yard field goal attempt, the Raiders continued their inspired play. Putting together a 12-play march, including three third-down conversions, they went on top when Teresa’s halfback pass found Goldstein in the end zone for a touchdown, with the Raider end making a nice falling grab for the ball.
The fun didn’t stop there. When the Raiders kicked off after the touchdown, defensive back Bob Bryant, blocking on the play, let his frustrations show, earning an unnecessary roughness penalty and an ejection for an unspecified, but apparently egregious breach of the rules. Two plays later Dallas halfback and budding AFL star Abner Haynes fumbled and Joe Cannavino recovered for Oakland at the Texans 16. On the next play, Parilli handed to Goldstein on a statue of liberty play and Goldstein scored for the second time in less than two minutes. Webster blocked Barnes’ extra point try, but the Raiders still led 20-7. Haynes coughed it up again on the ensuing kickoff, but this time guard Sid Fournet was there to recover and the flow of Texans blood was stanched.
The Raiders almost did it yet one more time. Late in the third, Parilli led the Raiders on a 14-play drive that made it as far as the Dallas 8 before a Raider holding penalty and a disastrous 18-yard loss by Goldstein on a reverse eventually resulted in Barnes missing another field goal attempt, this from the 34.
And this is where it got interesting. With 8:52 to go and his team down by 13, Davidson led his team on their first effective drive since the beginning of the first quarter. Two Raider penalties and a 30-yard pass to Chris Burford led to fullback Bo Dickinson’s run up the gut for a one-yard touchdown. An unidentified Raider blocked Spikes’ low kick, but the Texans were still just one score away with 5:27 to play.
The Raiders hoped to run some clock, but Webster separated Smith from the ball on the first play of the next drive and Jimmy Harris, a recent addition to the Dallas roster, recovered at the Oakland 33. In five plays, the Texans reached the end zone on Davidson’s jump pass to Johnny Robinson, who had previously left the game because of a rib injury. Dallas coach Hank Stram thumbed his nose at a tie and sent his offense back in to go for two, but the left side of the Oakland defensive line stopped Dickinson at the one to preserve their lead. The Raiders ran five plays to run out the clock and improve their record to 2-3, including 2-1 in their last three, all on the road.
Afterward, Erdelatz couldn’t say enough about his defense, singling out the secondary and the linebacking corps, especially Bob Dougherty, for praise. “That was our best second half of the year,” he said. “Jetstream’s return picked us up a lot, but our defense had a whole lot to do with our winning. The defense was fine all day. Actually, the Dallas offense moved for just one touchdown. They got one on an intercepted pass and the late fumble by Smith gave them a gift shot from the 29.”
Halfback Jack Larscheid wanted to spare a good word for his offensive line. “I don’t know if that’s the best blocking we’ve ever had, but I’ll take that kind any day. Mistakes hurt before when we played them, but today we were getting great blocking. Yet, our defensive team really won the game.”
As good as the defense was, the turning point was probably Smith’s kickoff return. “We planned to run to the right,” said the Jetstream, “but Jack Larscheid and somebody else threw a couple of great blocks and I saw my opening and went for it. Our blocking was real good today. We wanted this one because Dallas lucked out on us before. No, they didn’t luck out, but we thought we should have won. These teams are all even in pro football. Like Green Bay beating (defending NFL champion) Baltimore today. Anybody can beat anybody else any afternoon.”
Stram agreed that Smith’s run was the critical play. “They stunned us with the kickoff to begin the second half and we never regained our balance,” he said. But he also hastened to add that he thought his team was well-prepared. “(The Raiders) pulled no surprises that we were unprepared for.”
The Raiders quarterback battle remained undecided. After two straight fine performances by Flores, the rookie completed just 7 of 16 passes and merited his benching at the end of the second quarter. Parilli threw sparingly, but effectively, connecting on 6 of 10 for 62 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Gene Prebola continued to impress, leading the team with five catches for 79 yards. On the ground, Billy Lott had his best day as a Raider carrying 10 times for 70 yards.
Cotton Davidson had a nice day in the teams’ first meeting, but today he was nothing short of miserable, hitting on just 13 of 30 passes and throwing two picks. Still, Burford looked good on the stat sheet, gaining 99 yards on five catches and Haynes would have been in for some kind words, getting 89 yards on 15 carries, were it not for his two fumbles.
The Raiders could now return home feeling the satisfaction of a job well done following an successful road trip. They would fly home this evening and begin preparations for their first regular season game against the 2-2 Patriots, a team that trounced the Chargers today, 35-0. Meanwhile, the Texans would next head south to meet up with their in-state rivals, the 3-1 Oilers, 27-21 victors over the Titans.
The team entered the game in more or less good health, but didn’t leave it the same way. Teresa played well despite his hurt back and Larscheid left the game briefly after being shaken up in the first period. They were joined in the injury parade by Prebola and Charlie Hardy who each suffered pulled muscles and by Nyle McFarlane who sustained a dislocated shoulder. But most serious of all was Riley Morris’ back injury. On the plane ride home, his condition because so bad that he needed to be given oxygen by the training staff. Upon arrival at the San Francisco airport, he was able to leave the plane on his own, but was taken to the hospital by ambulance as a precautionary measure.
Official American Football League gamebook
Dallas Morning News
Hayward Daily Review
Pro Football Reference
San Mateo Times