Original date of publication: Jan. 5, 1964
“Darrell, that was a beautiful game- and there’s no damn doubt who’s Number One.” The leathery old admiral shoved through the maze of sports writers to congratulate Texas Coach Darrell Royal. The Navy had sunk, 28-6.
Wayne Hardin, the fleet field mentor who had blasted off like the big guns on the battleship Arizona, had fired his last shot just before kickoff.
“When the challenger meets the champion and the challenger wins, then there is a new champion.”
These were convincing words- and had sailing been considerably better, Hardin might have been some kind of prophet.
That Other Side
But as Sonny Liston said to Floyd Patterson, there’s another side to the coin. When the challenger meets the champion and the champion bursts the little bubble of the challenger, then there ain’t no new champ.
Or to put it in Darrell Royal’s words: “We’re ready.”
The story ironically ends where it began; on the hard, sunny field at Dallas most people call the Cotton Bowl. Navy has other names for it.
It was here that Roger Staubach met an inspired SMU team that matched him score for score- winning 32-28, and knocking Navy from the unbeaten ranks. The next day a team from the South silenced other roars of confidence and became the nation’s top team.
No Doubt Now
Only Hardin and eastern sportswriters, who believe the rest of the football world exists only to provide slaughter lambs for their babies, had any doubt to Texas’s right to be there. Truly it should be hard to doubt now.
For seven tension-filled weeks Texas clung to that position. The Steers had been here twice in successive years- and each time went down. This time there would be no falling.
The ire of the east might have been justified by a weak performance on national television against A&M, except that their pet, Navy, should by all rights have been beaten by Army.
But Texas was lambasted as “fraud,” “unable to pass,” and generally not what it was cracked up to be.
Staubach was shadowed
Roger Staubach, Navy’s great quarterback, was plainly shadowed by Duke Carlisle. But the real victory came not in Carlisle’s usual great play, but in the same old thing that won for Texas all year.
Staubach, great as he might be, has considerable trouble scoring when he doesn’t have the football. And he also has problems when he’s sitting on the barnacles of Navy blue and gold. That latter of course, has also to do with Appleton, Brucks, McWilliams and their cohorts sanding on top of him.
As to the game itself, Navy jostled things just a little with an eight-man line. That clogged up the middle and seemingly said to Carlisle, “Go ahead, you can’t throw.” But he did.
And Phil Harris, the Duke’s chief receiver last spring in the intra-squad game, circled under the first toss, left a Navy defender searching for his bell-bottoms, and scampered away to touchdown.
The sheer shock was enough to upset even most Texas fans, but there it was, 58 yards in one long bomb that struck seamen amidships.
Navy still had hopes on making it another scoring battle when the Middies got the ball. Staubach would show them.
But the vicious rush by Texas started a bad, bad afternoon for Jolly Roger. He gained eight yards, lost 55 and ended up -47.
And the Navy’s not famous for retreating.
Appleton was the main glory gainer- but the whole charging defense really killed Staubach. Early in the game, however, one got the feeling Appleton was playing Staubach alone. He would seemingly watch his every move, even in the huddle. This should, to say the least, have been unnerving.
I Think I’ll Run
Somewhere along here the quarter ended, and Carlisle tried the other end of the field. This time Harris took the ball off defender Pat Donnelly’s hand, saw Donnelly fall and looked around as if to say “I believe I’ll run with it.” He did, and 63 yards later it was 14-0. That includes two boots from Tony Crosby, who ended a perfect season at the PAT department.
By this time Navy was sinking slowly, but Carlisle added another tally on a nifty scamper on the option. That made it 21-0, and as Navy marched upfield, TV announcers, trying to keep from losing their audience, heralded Staubach as “finding himself, and ready to really come back in the second half.” He didn’t.
Fact was, Texas was giving up the short pass to keep from yielding the home run pass.
Wade warmed up
All this time, Royal had Tommy Wade, his star passer, warming up on the sidelines, just in case Navy let an aerial get away.
Rudely ruining the dreams of the nation’s television guys, Texas slowed Staubach’s comeback by taking the ball away from him, scoring again. Finally Roger shoved his men across, but the try for two points failed. Royal, now playing the fourth and fifth teams, let everybody have a chance.
Late in the final period, however, Navy started moving.
Enough nonsense, thought Texas, and in came the first team line.
The extent of the confidence was shown when Navy, having pushed deep into Texas territory, was caught offsides.
To accept the penalty would have made it first down and 15, a rejection made it second and five. Texas declined, almost as if to say, “Okay Rog, make it if you can.” He couldn’t.
Texas took over, and shoved the ball to the six-inch line before time stopped the butchering.
Therefore it ended, just as it had started, Texas with the ball, cramming it down Navy’s throat.
Writers sing praises Sportswriters across the nation sang the praises of the nation’s number one team. There was no question now.
And Texas? It was pretty calm about the whole thing. Quiet contentment riled most of the players. The thought seemed to be if anyone else questioned, let them come down here, too. And there were no takers.
The Navy, the East, the world would have done well to heed the words of a St. Louis writer - penned two days after Navy’s first defeated.
“Who’s Number One?”
“It’s Texas, podner and smile when you say that.”