Saturday, November 8, 2008
- by B.B. Branton
Fifty years ago - Saturday, November 8, 1958 - the Chattanooga Mocs football team turned a two-hour bus ride into a legendary sports journey and accomplished the seemingly unthinkable task of beating big brother - the University of Tennessee - 14-6 in Knoxville.
Fifty falls ago, on a cool, sunny Saturday at UT's Shields-Watkins Field, UC All-American quarterback Johnny Green engineered a pair of time consuming touchdown drives - one in each half - for the win of a lifetime.
And coupled with a stingy UC Moc defense (allowed only 177 total yards), the Scrappy Moore-coached team had pulled the upset which sent shock waves throughout the South that afternoon and had many newspaper copy editors take a second look at the score as it came across the AP and UPI wire services.
"It was a great win for the football team, but it was a real upper for the University as a whole," said Scrappy Moore Jr., son of the late UC coach. "That victory carried the school for a long time."
Tomorrow - a half century later to the day - several members of that 1958 squad will be introduced at halftime of the Mocs-Appalachian State game at Finley Stadium in recognition of arguably the greatest gridiron win in school history.
The current Moc players will also honor that victory by wearing 1958 style UC jerseys with a commemorative patch against Appy State.
"I think many fans thought beating UT was a big upset, and maybe it was, but we (the players) really believed we could win the game," said Green, who prepped at West Point (Miss.) High School and, along with former Moc Carey Henley, is a member of his home state's all-century football team. "We were a veteran team and had outplayed UT the year before, but lost the '57 game (28-13) on turnovers and a kickoff return for a touchdown."
Many of Green's fellow students had his confidence, as a boisterous Thursday night pep rally sent a myriad of excited students from campus to the nearby downtown streets. A long line of cheering young people passed in front of several businesses including the Tivoli and Rogers theaters and eventually back to campus in anticipation of a big Saturday two hours up the road.
All-American running back/safety Bill Butler pointed to ball control and a stout defense as keys to the victory a half-century ago.
"We had some long drives which ate up the clock and kept the Vols out of field goal range," said Butler who led all players in rushing that November afternoon with 62 yards on 12 carries and was tops in receiving yards with 43.
"Our defense was able to pin UT on its side of midfield most of the game to keep (UT kicker) Gene Etter out of field goal range which was key."
The senior-laden Mocs were not in awe of the Vols, having faced UT in Knoxville each of the three previous seasons.
"We were a good team, and could stay on the field with SEC teams for three quarters or so, but we didn't have the numbers (roster size) nor the talent at all positions as did the Auburn's and Tennessee's," stated Butler who played eight years in the NFL and Canada.
The '58 Vols had a handful of players destined for the NFL including Bill Majors. Joe Schaffer, Lebron Shields, Ken Frost and Carl Smith. But the Mocs - ranked No.11 in the small college poll that week - nearly matched the Orange and White pro for pro as Green, Butler, Dan Sheehan and Charley Long (All-Pro) all played at the next level (AFL, NFL and/or CFL), while teammates Bill Rewis and Jim Tucker were part of the NFL draft, but never played.
"We were a solid football team and during my four years we beat Memphis State three times, plus Southern Mississippi, Tennessee Tech, Middle Tennessee State, Tampa, North Texas and Furman," stated Green, who was a triple threat that day, intercepting a third quarter pass in the end zone and averaging 33 yards a punt.
The '58 Mocs scored more points - 14 - against UT that fall than five SEC schools; Alabama (7), Auburn (13), Mississippi State (8), Kentucky (6) and Vanderbilt (6).
The Game - Mocs 14, UT 6
UC entered the game at 4-3, while UT was 2-4.
The Mocs controlled the ball and the clock but came up empty as their first two possessions which ended inside the Vol 5-yard line on an incompletion and a fumble.
But Chattanooga would not be denied as Green then guided the Blue and Gold 80 yards in nine plays, including a 30-yard pass play to Butler on a 4th-and-2 at the Vol 32. Green needed two quarterback sneaks to find the end zone and Bob Waller's first of two extra points made it 7-0 before halftime.
In the fourth quarter, UC stopped the Vols on the Mocs 43 and then marched 57 yards in 14 plays to pay dirt, eating up a previous 6:10 off the Shields-Watkins Field clock. Don Hill scored on a one yard plunge and Waller once again split the uprights for a 14-0 lead.
"Scoring the touchdown was a great thrill and I also made a real good tackle on the kickoff," said Hill, who prepped at Bradley Central. "Coach Moore complemented me on that tackle and his words meant a great deal."
"We had four good opportunities to score and could have won 28-0," Green said.
UT got on the board in the final five seconds as an Etter-to-Don Stephens 26-yard scoring strike capped a 77-yard drive. Junior lineman Jerry Arnold blocked Etter's extra point attempt.
Five seconds later, the players, coaches, band members and nearly 2,000 Moc fans celebrated the monumental win.
Fights broke out, fans were arrested and goal posts were torn down, but in the end little Chattanooga had knocked off SEC member Tennessee who just two years earlier were 10-1 and conference champs.
"We knew the Mocs had a good team and simply put, they just outplayed us that day," said Etter, currently the Baylor School baseball coach.
"In the postgame press conference (UT) coach Wyatt was asked what he thought about the upset and he told them it wasn't an upset at all and that Chattanooga had the better team."
It was a compete victory as the Blue and Gold led in first downs (14-8), rushing yards (130-64) and passing yards (117 to 74). Green was 12 of 20 through the air with Harold Wilkes (5 catches for 43 yards) as his favorite target.
Moc players and fans had descended on Knoxville by bus, car, plane and train and left the field with victory and goal posts in hand. UC officials were true to their pre-game promise of no school on the following Monday.
"I enjoyed the outcome of this game more than any other contest I've ever been in," said Coach Moore to the media after the game.
Honoring The '58 Team: Several activities this weekend involving team members include a dinner at the Chattanoogan Hotel tonight, while the Saturday schedule shows an 11 a.m. reception at the Finley Stadium Pavilion, pre-game coin toss and introduction at halftime.
UC-UT Series: UT leads the now defunct series 37-2-2 as the two schools haven't played since 1969 when the Vols won 31-0 ... The 1958 win was the second for UC in the series which started in 1899 ... Originally known as Grant University, the Mocs were triumphant, 5-0, on December 2, 1905 and played to draws in 1909 (0-0) and 1910 (6-6).
The Next Game: Tennessee rebounded in style seven days later with an 18-16 Homecoming upset of No. 7 Ole Miss ... Chattanooga lost to Tampa, 25-19, on the road ... Tennessee played five, top 20 teams in 1958 and beat three of them; No. 11 Mississippi State, No. 7 Ole Miss and No. 15 Vanderbilt ...
"That loss to UC may have helped us in our win against Ole Miss," said Etter. "They couldn't have taken us too seriously after seeing the UC score."
Etter's Career Run: Trailing Ole Miss in the fourth quarter, Etter, from his tailback position in the single wing formation, made his greatest college play, running 75 yards from scrimmage for the winning touchdown.
"One Ole Miss defender had me by the ankle about 20 yards downfield, but I was fortunate to pop free and score," the Chattanooga Central grad stated. "That run was the highlight of my career. Nothing else comes close."
Interested Spectator: One fan in the crowd of the 20,000 in 1958 who had a real interest in the game was Jones Beene II who had played in the first Mocs win against UT in 1905.
The Mocs (then known as Grant University) defeated Tennessee, 5-0, in a game played behind the Old Station House near the Southern Railway in Chattanooga.
Beene was a player/coach and scored the only touchdown of the day (worth five points) on a 65 yard run. He had also played for UT the previous four seasons, including the 23-0 triumph against Grant in 1904.
Butler's Pro Opportunities: Butler was a four-star athlete at Berlin (Wisc.) H.S. - football (all-state), basketball, baseball and track (state champion)- and as a teenager was invited for a tryout with the Milwaukee Braves baseball team, but his mother refused to sign a waiver since her son was under 18 at the time.
"The Braves were hoping that I would be the heir apparent to replace centerfielder Billy Bruton, but when my mother wouldn't sign the waiver that ended any future tryouts with them," said Butler who once played a couple of games for the Chattanooga Lookouts in college under an assumed name.
Even though Butler never had the opportunity to play in the same outfield with Braves right fielder Henry Aaron, he did meet Hammerin' Hank a few years later while playing for the Green Bay Packers in 1959.
"Aaron sat next to me on the bench during the Chicago Bears game in Milwaukee's County Stadium and when it started raining I loaned him my Packers rain coat," Butler stated.
"Aaron forgot to return the rain coat after the game and (coach) Lombardi charged me to replace it."
Butler was drafted by Green Bay and was a territorial pick of the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League (CFL) and chose the NFL. He played for Green Bay, Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings, before one season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL and three seasons as an assistant coach with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Too Small For the Big Time: In high school, Butler (5-8, 145 pounds) was recruited by Notre Dame, Ohio State and Wisconsin, but each said he was too small.
"At Christmas of my freshman year at Chattanooga, Wisconsin came calling with a full scholarship offer to switch schools, but my dad reminded them that they thought I was too small the previous summer and ï¿½thanks but no thanks we will stay where we are," said Butler.
Contact B.B. Branton at email@example.com