NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

Tulsa's Jerry Rhome & Billy Guy Anderson changed college football

Advertisement
Jerry Rhome poses at a Tulsa football practice in 1964. (Oklahoman archive photo)
Jerry Rhome poses at a Tulsa football practice in 1964. (Oklahoman archive photo)


In the last few days, I’ve written multiple times about the OSU-Tulsa series and Mike Leach. And that sparked memories in reader Don Rominger, who coached football in the 1960s and has a keen sense of gridiron history.

He sent me a note that contained lots of good insight as well as sparking a bunch of ideas in my head. Here’s what Rominger wrote:

“Thanks for your nice column related to continuation of the OSU-Tulsa football rivalry. I completely agree. Tulsa is a quality member of the sixth-ranked big time athletic conference and brings a nice comparative opponent for both teams.

“OSU and Tulsa have had some remarkable games over the years, and your column is a walk down memory lane. My 1962-66 sojourn at Commerce and Miami high schools corresponded with the TU's upsurge of the Glenn Dobbs era (1961-68). This correlated also with OU's downturn of 1964-66 and allowed many in Northeast Oklahoma to adopt the Golden Hurricane as our team of choice. My wife and I attended many TU games in 1963, ‘64 and ‘65 and were fascinated with Dobbs' ‘original’ air raid. His arrival at TU correlated also with the end of the one platoon era (around 1962) and fans were thrilled with this new concept of throwing on any down.

“Before Glenn Dobbs' arrival at Tulsa, a team that threw 20 times a game was known as a passing circus. Dobbs's Hurricane would throw a phenomenal 40-45 times. They would throw four times from the opponent's 1-yard line and three times from their own 1-yard line (once completing a pass from Bill Anderson to Neal Sweeney for a 99-yard TD).

“Given the new two platoon rules, Dobbs brought in pass blocking specialists -- big dudes whose wide stance could give Jerry Rhome and Billy Anderson more time to throw. Rhome had succeeded Don Meredith at SMU before transferring to Tulsa and started for the 1963 and 1964 Hurricane, with Anderson succeeding him in 1965. Even with a 5-5 record in 1963, Tulsa was fun to watch.

“The Rhome to Howard Twilley combo of 1963-64 was a thing of beauty. Everyone knew the Hurricane would throw on its first play, a bootleg pass to Twilley. The ‘boot’ was essential to gain time due to rules which prohibited using the hands to block (unlike today), which incurred a 15-yard penalty. Twilley caught 119 passes in one 10-game season. (Who catches 12 passes per game in a season?).

“The 1964 Tulsa-OSU game is on my all-time Tulsa top 10 list. Tulsa's improbable 61-14 victory over the Walt Garrison-led Cowboys, who were in the thick of the Big Eight race at the time, stunned the nation. Skelly Stadium seated only 25,000, and the game ticket was near impossible to buy.

“Then in 1965, Anderson threw a record 65 times in one game; completing 42. His 58 percent season completion mark was a record also (impeccable for the period due to the period's blocking rules).

“After Rhome, Anderson and Twilley and two Bluebonnet bowls, TU's luster began to fade. They dropped to 5-5 and 7-3 in 1966 and 1967. Then in 1968 the bottom dropped out. We had returned to NEO (and Miami) that year. The Hurricane finished only 3-7, and I recall Coach Dobbs' somber demeanor during his post-game show discussing their 100-6 loss to Houston in the season finale. It was the coach's last college game and the end of a brief era in which the pass was king.”

An excellent synopsis of 1960s Tulsa football. A period not really appreciated enough for its historic impact.

Little old Tulsa had back-to-back Heisman Trophy runnersup.

In 1964, Rhome lost out to Notre Dame quarterback John Huarte in one of the closest votings ever, 1,026 points to 952. Dick Butkus was third at 505 points.

In 1965, Twilley lost out to Southern Cal tailback Mike Garrett. That was a star-studded Heisman campaign. Illinois’ Jim Grabowski and Texas Tech’s Donny Anderson finished 3-4; they would go on to form the starting backfield for the Green Bay Packers. Also in that top 10 of Heisman voting – Syracuse’s Floyd Little, Texas’ Tommy Nobis, Purdue’s Bob Griese, Florida’s Steve Spurrier and Alabama’s Steve Sloan.

The Golden Hurricane beat Ole Miss in the 1964 Bluebonnet Bowl, then lost to Tennessee in the 1965 Bluebonnet.

Rhome’s passing statistics defied belief. He set the NCAA passing record with 2,870 yards, 713 yards more than the previous record, held by Baylor’s Don Trull, out of Southeast High School. Rhome in 1964 threw 32 touchdown passes and just four interceptions.

Then Billy Guy Anderson pioneered the pass even more. He was a Texas kid, a junior-college all-American at Navarro, who came to Tulsa but was disenchanted when Rhome transferred from SMU. Anderson left the team but returned and eventually became the quarterback when Rhome left. Anderson spent one year in the NFL, with the Rams. He died in 1997 of ALS.

In 1965, 10 regular-season games, Anderson threw for 3,464 yards. That would stand as the NCAA record for 15 years, until broken by Brigham Young’s Marc Wilson in 1979.

Anderson completed 296 passes, breaking Rhome’s NCAA record by 72 passes. Rhome had broken Trull’s 1963 record of 174. Anderson’s record would stand for 18 years, until broken by BYU’s Steve Young, who had 306 completions in 1983.

Anderson threw 509 passes that season, breaking the previous record of 334 set by Miami’s George Mira in 1963. Anderson’s record would stand for 20 years, until broken by BYU’s Robbie Bosco in 1985. Bosco played 13 games and broke the record by two yards.

Remember what a phenomenon BYU football became in the late 1970s and 1980s? That was Tulsa football in the 1960s.

Dobbs and Anderson, Rhome and Twilley, were magic names in Tulsa and helped change college football more than 50 years ago.

Related Photos
Jerry Rhome, TU football quarterback (Originally ran 10/27/64 and 08/29/82)

Jerry Rhome, TU football quarterback (Originally ran 10/27/64 and 08/29/82)

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-5497379b16bc4b09cb9bb5f01de033dd.jpg" alt="Photo - Jerry Rhome, TU football quarterback (Originally ran 10/27/64 and 08/29/82)" title="Jerry Rhome, TU football quarterback (Originally ran 10/27/64 and 08/29/82)"><figcaption>Jerry Rhome, TU football quarterback (Originally ran 10/27/64 and 08/29/82)</figcaption></figure>
Berry Tramel

Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,... Read more ›

Comments