1958 - 67
As LSU steadily improved, the Rebels found themselves locked into a fierce rivalry on and off the field as they recruited many of the same athletes. While both schools focused on high school players from their respective states and looked for few out-of-state recruits, each sought out a few of the best stars from the other side of the state border. The Bayou Bengals and Ole Miss Rebels proved to be the two best teams in the SEC, and in many opinions, the two best in the nation, and played ferociously against each other. Entering the '58 season Vaught enhanced the familiar Rebel helmet with the addition of white three-inch "Charger-style" numerals on each side of the royal blue shell with one-inch red center stripe. Many graduation losses and a few key injuries including one to end Johnny Brewer that made him unavailable for the season, made 1958 appear to be an expectedly difficult year. By Vaught’s standards it was, a 9-2 slate marred by a 14-0 loss to National Champion LSU and an 18-16 disappointment vs. Tennessee. QB Bobby Franklin headed up the Charlie Flowers-led rushing attack and accounted for 16 TD's running and passing. This held off the charge of highly-touted soph QB Jake Gibbs and back-up “Dog” Brewer but the true rushing was provided by FB Flowers, roundly considered the best in the south if not the nation. Guard Marvin Terrell was special as was Robert Khayat who eventually became the best kicker in Rebel history. Their reward was a chance to defeat Florida 7-3 in the Gator Bowl.
The "Vaught Method" that was widely copied throughout the south, culminated with the 1959 team, designated by the Associated Press as the SEC Team Of The Decade. Vaught recruited and played "locals" and actively sought family and "neighborly" connections. He had five Pooles on the squad at the same time, all from Gloster, MS, and there were four Kinard brothers who wore the blue and crimson and this was typical. His teams were extremely well-conditioned, a carry-over from his military experience, and for the key tackle positions in his innovative Split-T Roll Out Offense he chose tall lean players that he knew would fill out with the challenge of the physical demands placed upon them at Ole Miss. Though it wasn’t his intention, he was perhaps the first to consciously produce prototype tackles for the pro game and he was establishing a pipeline of linemen to the NFL. Only Oklahoma's Bud Wilkinson closed the fifties with a better winning record or percentage. Stability and continuity in the staff, most of the coaches having a Mississippi background and only two coaches leaving in Vaught's twenty-four years at the helm, was reflected in the precision of the offense and defense. Despite the national stereotype and perception of the poor, hillbilly Mississippian, Vaught wanted good students and he had numerous honor students on the field, especially in '59. Flowers was an Academic All American and a first team consensus All American fullback and was joined on the first team by guard Marvin Terrell. Both went on to the pros, Flowers as the first choice of the L.A. Chargers although his career was cut short by injury and Terrell as the Dallas Texans first choice where he played for them there and in Kansas City when they moved and became the Chiefs, for four years. The 1959 team scored 329 points and gave up but 21! The team was three-deep "up the middle"with QB Bobby Franklin (later to star at DB for many years with the Browns) pushed hard by future N.Y. Yankee baseball catcher Jake Gibbs, Doug Elmore, and Billy Brewer. Brewer was versatile, played DB with the Redskins in 1960, and returned to Oxford in 1983 as the Ole Miss head coach in a tenure that spanned eleven seasons. Fullback Flowers was backed up by tough Jim Anderson with rushing aid from James “Cowboy” Woodruff. Larry Grantham, the great AFL Jets linebacker was a captain and two-way star at guard with Bobby Crespino, another future Browns player, and soph Ralph "Catsfish" Smith handling the receiving and blocking chores from the end position. Johnny Brewer’s return from injury solidified the line. Khayat enjoyed the attainment of a Yale degree, tenure as a professor of law, and three seasons with the Redskins, kicking well and honing his "cool" under fire, a trait he would later need for his future position as Chancellor of the University Of Mississippi. Their 7-3 loss to LSU, won by the Tigers' Billy Cannon on his immortal Halloween Night punt return, cost the Rebels the National Championship in what almost all experts considered to be not only the game of the year, but the game of the decade. That heartbreaking loss was avenged when the clamor for a rematch of these two great squads was arranged for the Sugar Bowl. With Larry Grantham shadowing Cannon and the Heisman Trophy winning Tiger held to but eight yards on the ground and the entire LSU rushing total coming to minus fifteen for the day, the Rebels more than atoned for their earlier loss with a sound 21-0 drubbing of LSU in the re-match game. 1959 was the season that stamped Ole Miss on the national consciousness, a football power that attracted students from many parts of the country due only to its football reputation. In a five year span of excellence that went from 1959 through 1963, the Rebels of Johnny Vaught compiled an enviable 43-2-3 record with both losses coming at the hands of their LSU rivals and the 1959 squad was voted by the Associated Press as the SEC Team Of The Decade.
SPOTLIGHT ON MISSISSIPPI 1960, NATIONAL CHAMPIONS:
For those who thrive on drama, there was drama in abundance on October 29, 1960 as yearly nemesis LSU faced undefeated Mississippi. With six seconds on the clock, the scoreboard lights were burning and signifying to the nation that the score was LSU 6, Ole Miss 3. Allen Green bailed out the Rebels with a forty-one yard field goal on the game's final play to earn a 6-6 tie, preventing the Tigers from keeping the Ole Miss team out of the throne room for a second straight year. The week before, the scenario was similar as the Rebels pulled out a squeaker at Arkansas by a score of 10-7. Green’s field goal with no time on the clock set off a fist-swinging melee that had the exhausted players from both teams sprinting to their locker rooms as fans battled on the field. Twelve of fourteen graduating Rebels from the great '59 team were drafted by the pros leading to much speculation regarding the ’60 squad. With the holdovers and some exciting sophomores, Vaught's team bested everyone on the schedule and then defeated Rice in the Sugar Bowl to finish 10-0-1. When Washington upset Minnesota in the Rose Bowl, the wire service rankings moved Ole Miss from number two up to number one. Co-Captain and All American QB Jake Gibbs who was third in the Heisman voting and then played catcher with the N.Y. Yankees, and Second Team All Americans FB “Hoss” Anderson and tackle Bob Benton were national honors winners. FB Billy Ray Adams, rangy 6'4" halfback Bobby Crespino, end Johnny Brewer who later played both TE and LB for the Browns and Saints in a ten-year NFL career, guards "Possum" Price and Co-Captain Warner Alford who later became Athletic Director at Ole Miss and a long list of others who eventually were named All American (FB Adams in '61, tackle Jim Dunaway and QB Glynn Griffing in '62) or went on to pro ball were a cohesive force, playing the tough, disciplined defense and sprint-out offense the Rebs were known for. With Vaught coaching thirty sets of brothers, the feeling of family and the “cause” of representing the State Of Mississippi to the nation became a driving force in the program’s success. The nail-biting victories paced by a defense that stifled eight opponents to the tune of seven points or less was a worthy recipient of the National Championship Grantland Rice Trophy for 1960.
If the high rankings and delirium of the honor-bearing 1959 and 1960 seasons were to be more than past glory, the 1961 Rebel contingent would have to overcome the loss of eleven starters from the National Championship team. The opener had extra tension as Arkansas star Lance Alworth, “The White Knight Of Lincoln County“ who was denied a scholarship to Ole Miss due to Vaught’s refusal to sign married players, could not drive his teammates hard enough to overcome the 16-0 Ole Miss win in the dedication of Jackson’s brand new Mississippi Memorial Stadium. This game also marked the end of what had been a highly popular Arkansas vs. Mississippi rivalry but the Rebels had become a true national power. As Arkansas coach Frank Broyles noted, “Mississippi is just too big and too deep and too rough. They wear you out and leave you in bad shape for your conference games.” End Ralph "Catfish" Smith (Eagles), guard Treva "Bookie" Bolin, a crowd favorite with the NY Giants in six of his eight NFL seasons, future Bills tackle Jim Dunaway, tough-as-nails center Kenny Dill, and a quarterback triumvirate of Doug Elmore, Glynn Griffing, and Perry Lee "Paladin" Dunn as in "Have Dunn, Will Travel" responded with a solid 9-1 regular-season record. The loss cost the Rebels the National Championship, coming on November 5th as number one rated Michigan State lost to Minnesota, while number two Ole Miss dropped their own contest 10-7 to hated LSU, then rated at number six. The Rebels lost another to Texas in the Cotton Bowl in a close 12-7 contest, in part due to the absence of All American fullback and team MVP Billy Ray Adams who was severely injured in an auto accident after the Mississippi State regular season finale. Ole Miss did however maintain their reputation as a stingy defensive unit by giving up but 145.3 yards per game, and enhanced its offensive profile as they led the country in total offense.
In '62 Vaught kept his magic going with a number three national ranking, SEC Championship, and the program’s first perfect season of 10-0 that included a victory over sixth rated Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. The team obviously overcame the key loss of guard Bookie Bolin whose eligibility was denied after he traveled to a 1961 post season all star game on the airplane of a professional team. The now familiar names included two All Americans; Griffing, who had a disappointing run with the Giants and some recognition in the minors with the North American Football League and Continental Football League, at QB and Dunaway at tackle. Regulars Perry Lee Dunn who had moved from QB to fullback, wingback Louis Guy (Giants and Raiders), another Kinard in the form of fullback Frank, son of assistant coach and former Rebel great Bruiser Kinard, and soph end Allen Brown all made important contributions. Dunaway was especially deadly on defense and had an exceptional pro career spending nine seasons at Buffalo and a final one with the Dolphins. The back-up soph QB who saved the Mississippi State game with a forty-three yard TD run, Jim Weatherly, went on to greater fame as an award-winning songwriter, best known for Grammy winning numbers like "Midnight Train To Georgia" and "Neither One Of Us Wants To Be The First To Say Good-bye" performed by Gladys Knight And The Pips among others. During the gunfire that rocked the campus, killing two and injuring three hundred during what was later termed “an insurrection against the Federal Government” FB Buck Randall distinguished himself as he heroically faced down and single-handedly dispersed a hostile and violent mob that was rioting over the attempt of James Meredith to integrate the campus. Coach Vaught addressed his team, stating “We have got to band together. We have a purpose. We must keep our poise. We have to show the people of the United States just what we are down here. We’re not a bunch of radicals. The only way is through our football. “Many felt that the success of the football team played a crucial role in maintaining order throughout the entire state as tensions seethed through the fall season. A bonus was the 15-7 victory over LSU that broke the mastery of the Bengals, and the nation’s top rating for the defense that gave up but 142.2 yards per game.
As Vaught maintained his "old ways" in the face of an improving and nationally feared SEC, he entered the '63 season with an enviable 36-2-1 record for the previous four years and then won yet another conference title in 1963 with two linemen, tackle Whaley Hall and center Kenny Dill named All American. End Allen Brown at end and soph guard Stan Hindman would later develop into all stars though Hindman developed a loyal following by running down swift LSU back Joe Labruzzo to save the LSU contest. Undefeated and SEC champs again based upon their 7-0-2 regular season slate, Ole Miss ended the season with the country’s best defense but also with a Sugar Bowl loss to powerful Alabama 12-7, one of the teams they did not square off against during the season. As an unusual snowfall blanketed the Sugar Bowl field in New Orleans, it also brought a close to one of the most successful eras in college football history.
If one can be too successful, perhaps Vaught was as
expectations of winning the SEC Championship and defeating the power
house teams of the conference became the norm for the vociferous Rebel
fans. The backfield talent of QB’s Weatherly and Jimmy Heidel and FB
Doug Cunningham had led to high hopes despite graduation losses and the
ascension of the SEC as the nation's premiere conference. Vaught’s words
of caution did little to bring these lofty expectations to realistic
levels. Though 1964 produced All American end Allen Brown who went to
the Packers as a TE, QB Weatherly was injured early and the
disappointing record was but 5-5-1, including a loss to the Jerry Rhome
and Howard Twilley Tulsa contingent in the Bluebonnet Bowl. That only a
thirteen point swing could have given Ole Miss a 9-1 mark was lost to
their fans as the most difficult pill to swallow was a nationally
televised 20-17 loss to rival Mississippi State, the Bulldogs first
victory over the Rebels in eighteen seasons.
After suffering his worst record in fourteen years, Vaught kept the Ole Miss bowl streak going in '65 with a Liberty Bowl defeat of Auburn, the reward for a 6-4 season that included a 21-0 shutout of Mississippi State in the finale. The bowl win boosted the Rebs to 7-4. Guard Stan Hindman, the first round draft pick of the 49ers elevated the list of Rebel All Americans and DB Billy Clay added to it when named to The Sporting News first team. Clay spent a season with the Redskins. QB Jimmy Heidel moved over from a 1964 safety's role before going back to DB the following year with the Cardinals. Soph tackle Jim Urbanek gave promise for the future. Despite a slow start 1966 was a rebound to a winning 8-2 record before a 19-0 Bluebonnet Bowl loss to Texas leveled them out at 8-3. Speedy wingback and return man Doug Cunningham who finished his career with 2910 total yards, end Jerry Richardson, and T Urbanek led a no-name squad to a solid season with wins over Houston, LSU, Tennessee, and rival Mississippi State. 1967 would be the final year that the white, three-inch rounded "Charger style" numerals would be worn on the sides of the Ole Miss helmet and the Rebels worked hard to meet their season’s slogan of “Lean And Mean.” With an increase in opponents’ use of the Veer Offense, Vaught changed his usually stifling base 5-4 defense in favor of a Split-Six to better stall outside pitches and sweeps. They fashioned a winning season that took the Rebels to a bowl game but the defense was continuously plagued by an inability to stop the inside option due to a relative lack of size. Facing Alabama and Georgia on successive weekends added more to the year’s challenge but the 6-4-1 record was hammered out by the yeoman work of QB Bruce Newell. Steve Hindman, Bo Bowen, and Bill Matthews supplied the ground attack and future Oiler Mac Haik served as pass-snaring split end. As the season ended with a Sun Bowl loss to Texas at El Paso, the coaches were looking to the skinny 160 pound quarterback from Drew, MS who had taken the freshman squad to an 80-8 win over Vanderbilt and a 3-1 record.
If interested in any of these Ole Miss helmets please click on the photos below.