Eight major bowl games will be played this year, spotted over 11 days and the breadth of the country. Beginning with Philadelphia's Liberty Bowl and ending with the Rose in Pasadena, bands will march, majorettes will strut and queens will be crowned. There will even be, as Artist Arnold Roth admits in the panels beginning below, football—and lots of it. The parade is headed by the game of the year, Texas versus Navy. The burning question is: In this year of the quarterback, can the most sensational of all, Navy's Roger Staubach, avoid the perils of on-coming Texas tacklers often enough to bring his team out on top? The answer—and selections of the victors in all the bowls—can be found in the scouting reports starting below.
THE COTTON BOWL
Texas against Navy is the game that had to be. Throughout the whole last half of the 1963 regular season the Longhorns and the Midshipmen were rated one-two in the national polls, and that is how they finished, amid a generous showering of trophies and plaques. Texas, the only major college team to wind up unbeaten and untied (10-0), was appropriately crowned national champion. Its leader, Darrell Royal, was voted Coach of the Year, and its tackle, Scott Appleton, was voted Lineman of the Year. Navy, a restless No. 2 team with a 9-1 record, had to settle for the Lambert Trophy, awarded to the best football team in the East, while Navy Quarterback Roger Staubach took the Heisman Trophy as Player of the Year. Now they meet in what should be the best of the postseason games.
That the game is in the Cotton Bowl spreads irony everywhere. It was in the same stadium on successive days in mid-October that Texas became No. 1 by defeating Oklahoma and that Navy lost all chance of attaining the same first-place rating by suffering an upset to SMU. Navy continued to lay claim to the national championship by defeating a variety of impersonal intersectional opponents by impressive scores. But Texas was even more impressive, shouldering the burden of the top rating week after week and surviving.
December 23, 1963
All season the strength of Texas lay in its alertness, agility, depth and courage. At the core was a group of 22 seniors known as the Duke Carlisle Crowd, named for the Texas quarterback who became their leader when they were recruited by Royal in 1960. In three years these two full teams won 28 regular season games, lost one and tied one. But they did not have to play all the games alone. They had so much help, in fact, that they were able to suffer injuries that other teams would have considered grievous. Before the season began, Sandy Sands, the Longhorns' best end, dropped out because of injury. Ken Ferguson, the tackle opposite Appleton, was injured and has never won back his position. Ernie Koy, one of the nation's best punters, was lost in the third game and out for the year. By the seventh game Royal was down to his third-string fullback.
Texas will need every bit of its depth if it is going to prevent Navy from tarnishing its trophies. Coach Wayne Hardin's team is as thoroughly aggressive as Royal's, and many of its weapons are obscured by Roger Staubach's fame. Hardin has good reason to believe that Fullback Pat Donnelly is the best there is, that Halfback Johnny Sai, given daylight, can outrun any defender with his 9.7 sprinter's speed, that Tackle Jim Freeman is among the best in the East, and that Staubach is blessed with wonderful receivers. But it is Staubach, of course, who makes Navy a superb team. "He's a good enough runner to make a fine pro halfback, but he's even a better quarterback," says Royal.
Texas has not seen a passer who can escape rushing linemen like Staubach. Navy, on the other hand, has not tried to block any linemen, linebackers or ends as fast or as determined as the Longhorns'. Texas may well use a concealed rush on Navy, as it did on Baylor's Don Trull, never letting Staubach know whether the linebackers, led by sophomore Tommy Nobis, or the ends are going to fire through. And Texas' hard-tackling secondary will punish the Navy receivers for every completion. With its aggressiveness, however, Texas will be vulnerable to the big play, Navy's specialty.
In the end the question is not whether Texas' defense is as good as Navy's offense, but the opposite. Is Texas' offense, a grinding ground attack with Duke Carlisle keeping and running, and with Halfback Tommy Ford (738 yards gained) going under and over tacklers, better than Navy's defense? It most likely is, for Navy surrendered too many points this year to lesser opponents. Navy, the team learned against Army, cannot score if Staubach cannot get the ball, and Texas is the type of team that keeps it all afternoon—and then takes it home. Texas will do it again.
THE ORANGE BOWL
For three years Miami's football enthusiasts watched local boy George Mira put more passes in the air than there are Capri pants on Biscayne Bay. Thus it may be a welcome if less stimulating change when these same ticket buyers go to the Orange Bowl to see two other gifted quarterbacks, Auburn's Jimmy Sidle and Nebraska's Dennis Claridge, operate in a wholly different way. Theirs is the art of running. And in that special event known as the quarterbacks' 10-game dash, both Sidle and Claridge ran a 9-1. Miami may come up with the day's best game, even though Mira has to watch it in golf shirt and sunglasses.
Claridge, a 6-foot-4 222-pounder, is a long-striding power runner who telegraphs his destinations but gets there anyhow. Nebraska's game is to control the ball, and no one controls it better than Claridge, who was drafted a year ago by Green Bay. For that matter, ten other Cornhuskers have also been drafted by the NFL and AFL pros. Two up front who clear the debris for Claridge's keeper plays are Guard Bob Brown (6 feet 4, 269) and Tackle Lloyd Voss (6 feet 3, 247). They were first-round choices. It was with such raw power that Nebraska was able to win the Big Eight title.
For all its brute strength, Nebraska has weaknesses, a fact of which Coach Bob Devaney is only too aware. His ends can be circled, his defensive secondary pierced by good passing. His only defeat, in fact, came after a long Air Force pass.
All of which brings up Auburn and Jimmy Sidle. Sidle, only a junior, is a dazzling option runner who lost the national rushing championship by ten yards. More important, Sidle is a sharp passer. He completed 53 of 136 passes for 706 yards and five touchdowns while leading Coach Ralph Jordan's team to a season that included victories over mortal enemies Alabama (10-8) and Georgia Tech (29-21).
Auburn has two other weapons that give it an edge: the place-kicking of Woody Woodall (six field goals and 23 straight conversions) and the punting of Jon Kilgore (41.3 average). One last item: Auburn, coming from the Southeastern Conference, also plays defense. This should make Auburn's day.
THE ROSE BOWL
A year ago Pasadena, fog and all, had the best of the bowl games as Southern California outrebounded Wisconsin 42-37. This time the score may be closer to 4-3, give or take a fumble, as the Big Six and Big Ten send two entirely different teams—different from last year's but, unfortunately, not different from each other—into the oldest of all post-season games. Washington, the West Coast representative, and Illinois, from the Big Ten, are both coached by disciples of Oklahoma's Bud Wilkinson—which is to say they are conservative. Washington's Jim Owens, who played for Wilkinson, would sooner swallow the ball than order it thrown. And Pete Elliott of Illinois, who coached under Bud, is a chip off the same block and tackle.
During the season Washington was an infuriating team even for the home folks. Admittedly, its best player, Fullback Junior Coffey, was out for several games with a preseason injury, but that hardly explained the team's first three games—all losses. Owens had not been 0-3 since the last time he played baseball, and gloom hung heavy over Puget Sound. But then the Huskies won a couple, got Coffey back and won three more, including the big one—22-7 over USC. If Washington suddenly seemed the power it was supposed to be, just as suddenly it again became a powder puff—it lost to woefully weak UCLA. Only victory in its last game over old rival Washington State clinched the Rose Bowl berth.
"This team," says Owens, "lacked stability all year." And how. Washington fumbled 40 times in 10 games and lost the ball 21 of those times. The Huskies drew penalties at roughly the same rate, nearly 60 yards per game. "But," says Owens, "there were moments when we were very good and did some things better than our previous teams."
Washington was most effective when running opponents into the ground, with perhaps the best 1-2 fullback punch in the land: Coffey, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound speedster, and the 6-foot, 197-pound Charlie Browning, who was second-team All-Pacific Coast. Defensively, the Huskies had the best rushing defense on the Coast, and a vicious tackling secondary, led by Linebacker Rick Redman, which yielded short gains but never permitted long ones. Indeed, a linebacking duel between Redman and Illinois own All-America, Dick Butkus, who is 24 pounds heavier and four inches taller, may prove to be the most fascinating thing about this Rose Bowl game. Coach Elliott takes such pride in Butkus and his line defense that he bribes his deep defenders with gold stars for each intercepted pass. The theory is that if a team suffers enough interceptions, it will revert to smashes at the line. It works fine. Halfback Mike Dundy now wears seven stars pasted to his helmet, and Butkus personally made 144 tackles this season while causing seven fumbles.
When the time comes for Illinois's offense, the attack is inside power and outside sweeps supplied by two fine sophomores, Sam Price and Jim Grabowski. Like Washington, Illinois was at times awfully sloppy and unimaginative, but it won when it was expected to lose. The outcome should be decided by Washington, a far better team now than its 6-4 record indicates. The Huskies' lighter but more agile line will be difficult for Illinois to block or get around, Junior Coffey poses more of an all-the-way threat than anyone the Illini have, and Washington Quarterback Bill Douglas can throw a spiral if it comes to that. Washington should win in a mild upset.
THE SUGAR BOWL
A lot of teams never play each other in the overburdened 12-team Southeastern Conference. For 19 years the closest that two of the best of them, Alabama and Mississippi, have come to meeting has been in the newspapers. Now, happily, all is coming to a head. Beginning in 1965, Alabama's Bear Bryant and Ole Miss's Johnny Vaught, two of the country's three winningest coaches, are taking out after each other. But New Orleans has arranged a sneak preview, and Sugar Bowl sponsors were so eager to consummate the meeting that they did not care what happened in Ole Miss's final game, or in Alabama's last two, or what worthy teams—Memphis State or Pittsburgh, to name just two—were overlooked. Still, because of the natural rivalry between the two schools and coaches, they wound up with a real ball game.
The regular season schedules of both teams would not frighten the ordinary sandlot club in any given year, but one must never be misled by that. Alabama and Ole Miss are among the fine football dynasties of the U.S., and each is likely to flatten any opponent it meets. True, Mississippi was tied twice in 1963, and Alabama lost twice—the most games a Bryant-coached Alabama team has lost since 1958. Will failure spoil rock-hard Alabama?
Permanently, no, but on Jan. 1, yes. And the reason is Ole Miss, which has its usual legion of 6-foot-2, 220-pound, fast, talented natives, once described by a pro scout as "the finest looking group of athletes in the country each year." Two of them are splendid quarterbacks, senior Perry Lee Dunn and junior Jim Weatherly, who run hard, throw long passes and play defense. Up front there are Center Kenny Dill, Tackle Whaley Hall and End Allen Brown, each an accomplished athlete.
Alabama, by contrast, has all kinds of problems. Joe Namath, one of the nation's most gifted quarterbacks, has been booted off the squad until next season for a training violation. This promotes Jack Hurlbut, who has seen little service. And Bryant can never be certain whether his very good but often injured fullback, Mike Fracchia, will be able to play or, if he does, how long and how effectively. Alabama's offensive burden thus falls heavily on Halfback Benny Nelson, a shifty and fast operator who is referred to as one of Bryant's "sweethearts." This means that he plays at 100% efficiency, but he is not as effective as the more gifted Namaths or Fracchias or, worse luck, Ole Miss's winning Rebels.
THE GATOR BOWL
For rich suspense there was no better team in 1963 than Coach Ben Martin's Air Force Falcons. Almost everything that happened to the Falcons happened late. It was late when Quarterback Terry Isaacson passed the Air Force to upset victories over Washington (10-7), a Rose Bowl team, and Nebraska (17-13), an Orange Bowl team. It was late when Army came back to beat the Falcons 14-10, and it was very late—the last play—when Maryland defeated Air Force 21-14. Such things combined to make Air Force both exciting and attractive for the Gator Bowl game on Dec. 28 against North Carolina.
The most glamorous aspect of events in Jacksonville, however, will be the individual quarterback duel between Isaacson and North Carolina's Junior Edge. Both quarterbacks prefer to use the rollout pass-run option. Edge will have more backfield help in the persons of pro-type Running Backs Ken Willard (6-2, 220) and Eddie Kesler (6-0, 215). Willard gained 648 yards during the year. Isaacson, without very much help, represents more than half of Air Force's total offense. Both teams have fine receivers but, again, North Carolina has in End Bob Lacey perhaps the best of the lot.
The Tar Heels, too, know how to create some suspense of their own. Needing a victory over Duke in their final game to share the Atlantic Coast title, Coach Jim Hickey's team discovered itself trailing 14-13 with only 1:23 to play and the ball on its own 28. Edge went to work. With flare passes and options to the sidelines, North Carolina kept the clock in check, gained ground and finally kicked a winning field goal. But despite all of this, the Air Force seems to have come through a tougher schedule, displayed more quickness along the line and survived more crises. Hence—the Falcons in a thriller.
THE BLUEBONNET BOWL
Baylor's Don Trull was the nation's leading passer in 1963, and its Lawrence Elkins was the leading receiver. The question in Houston is whether the two can play keep-away from LSU's hard-scrabble defenders.
Coach John Bridgers' team will certainly try. As Arkansas' Frank Broyles put it during the season, "Baylor is running more offense and running it better than any team in the country." Beautifully guided by Trull, it is unlikely that any other college team ever has employed such a pure pro approach to offense (or sustained so much confidence in offense) as Baylor. With a pretty quick defense to go with the passes, it won seven games and was 6-1 in the Southwest Conference, losing only to National Champion Texas 7-0.
LSU's season record was identical to Baylor's (7-3), but the Tigers got there by different methods, most of them involving a limp. At various critical interludes, LSU lost its first-team quarterback, its fullback and center and its second-team guards, some of them concurrently. Still, the Tigers go to Houston with an explosive running game that features sophomores Don Schwab and Joe Labruzzo and junior Danny LeBlanc and Coach Charles McClendon's tough defense that has beaten two other fine quarterbacks, Miami's George Mira and Georgia Tech's Billy Lothridge. LSU has not, however, met a combination of the likes of Trull and Elkins. The guess is that the Tigers will not be able to bat down enough Baylor passes on Dec. 21 to win.
THE SUN BOWL
The Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, which is only a drop kick from Juarez, Mexico, has a new 30,000-seat stadium and a yearning to get on national television. To raise its prestige, the sponsors this year were determined to line up known teams from major college ranks, regardless of their won-lost records or the absence of name performers. They managed to do exactly that, matching Southern Methodist, which did not win many games (4-6), against Oregon (7-3), which must play without its brilliant halfback, Mel Renfro, who would have missed the game because of injury had he not also signed a professional contract. But for all of that the game on Dec. 31 could be a good one. Mac White of SMU and Bob Berry of the Webfoots are quarterbacks who enjoy rolling out and running or passing with great abandon. SMU, despite its six losses, still managed to be good enough to defeat Navy, the Cotton Bowl team, 32-28, and Air Force, the Gator Bowl team, 10-0, on a couple of hot Saturdays. The Mustangs of young Coach Hayden Fry are wonderfully aggressive, exploit the intricacies of the I formation and are likely to be more inspired for the game than Oregon. That, plus Renfro's loss, should give SMU the necessary edge.
THE LIBERTY BOWL
For a team that has long dwelt among the have-nots of recruiting, Mississippi State had quite a year. The Maroons finished 6-2-2, missed the Southeastern Conference championship by three points, tied Ole Miss in their blood game and got through the rest of their "November nightmare" by upsetting LSU 7-6, and Auburn 13-10 and losing a close one to Alabama 19-20. As reward, Paul Davis was the SEC's Coach of the Year and Mississippi State won a chance to go to the Liberty Bowl, which has survived for one more year. It should celebrate by defeating North Carolina State, co-champion of the Atlantic Coast Conference, on Dec. 21.
Mississippi State's prime assets are Hoyle Granger (pronounced Gron-jay), a 215-pound sophomore fullback who gained 481 yards; Linebackers Pat Watson, a 60-minute man who was called the best Maroon all-round performer since Quarterback Jackie Parker, and J. E. Loiacano; fast Halfback Ode Burrell; and Place-kicker Justin Canale, whose foot tied or beat four teams. More important than anything, Coach Davis insists, is the fact that "this team never had a letdown all season."
Offensively North Carolina State will resemble closely its opponent, with a wing T and slot T attack, hoping to move on the ground rather than in the air. It is a senior team, and therein lies its strength. Quarterback Jim Rossi heads a backfield that has played together for four years and includes Joe Scarpati, Tony Koszarsky and Pete Falzarano, a foursome sometimes referred to, in all good humor as "the Mafia." Even if they take their violin cases to Philadelphia, the Polish-tainted Mafia will not beat Mississippi State.