July 28, 2016

1972: Cowboys Handily Defeat College All-Stars

The 39th College All-Star Game on July 28, 1972 featured the Dallas Cowboys, NFL Champions of the previous season, against an All-Star squad coached by Nebraska’s Bob Devaney.

The Cowboys, under Head Coach Tom Landry, were a formidable team on both sides of the ball. QB Roger Staubach had emerged from competition with Craig Morton (pictured at right) to lead the league in passing in ’71 and the offense also featured a good group of running backs playing behind an excellent line. The defense was strong across the board and contained such stalwarts as DT Bob Lilly, linebackers Lee Roy Jordan and Chuck Howley, cornerbacks Mel Renfro and Herb Adderley, and SS Cornell Green.

The All-Stars had a roster containing future pro stars such as Penn State FB Franco Harris, WR Glenn Doughty of Michigan, and TE Riley Odoms from Houston on offense while the defense featured DT John Mendenhall from Grambling, LSU safety Tommy Casanova, CB Willie Buchanon of San Diego State and safety Thom Darden from Michigan. It was anticipated that Coach Devaney would use QB Jerry Tagge, who led Nebraska to two national titles, on options to take advantage of his mobility and would try to power the ball down the middle.

There were 54,162 fans in attendance on a Friday night at Soldier Field in Chicago. The All-Stars caused some excitement on their first series as Jerry Tagge took off on a 17-yard run and they were at midfield after three plays. However, Nebraska FB Jeff Kinney’s carry for an apparent first down on a third-and-one play was nullified by a holding penalty to blunt the advance. The collegians got a break on the resulting Dallas possession when Willie Buchanon tipped a pass by Roger Staubach and Thom Darden intercepted to once more put the All-Stars in possession at midfield. But two plays later, Tagge fumbled under a heavy rush and DE Larry Cole recovered for the Cowboys.

The Cowboys began the scoring late in the opening period following an interception of a Tagge pass by Mel Renfro at the All-Star 30. Dallas cashed in with a 31-yard Mike Clark field goal.

Midway through the second quarter, Staubach was shaken up after running six yards for a first down. Craig Morton came in to replace him and, two plays later, he threw to WR Ron Sellers, recently acquired from the Patriots, for an 18-yard touchdown that concluded an 11-play, 66-yard possession.  Clark booted the extra point to make the score 10-0.

The All-Stars were unable to generate meaningful offense as Tagge came under constant pressure and the running game was kept in check as well. On the last play of the first half, Chester Marcol of Hillsdale tried for a 68-yard field goal on a free kick that fell far short of the mark. The NFL champs took their ten-point lead into halftime.

Six minutes into the third quarter, the Cowboys extended their margin to 17-0 when Morton connected with WR Bob Hayes for a 24-yard TD. It came five plays after DT Bob Lilly recovered a fumble by Tagge, who lost his grip on the ball as he was rolling out, at the All-Star 41. Toni Fritsch added the point after.

The All-Stars fought back on their next series, moving from their 20 to the Dallas 30 primarily thanks to short Tagge passes. But on a third-and-two play, Oregon HB Bobby Moore lost 12 yards when fumbling out of bounds on an option play and the resulting 49-yard field goal attempt by Marcol was blocked by DE Pat Toomay. Dallas responded with a scoring drive that featured a Morton completion to Sellers for 26 yards to the All-Star 34. Fritsch kicked a 33-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter.

QB Pat Sullivan, the Heisman Trophy winner from Auburn, entered the game on the next possession and the All-Stars advanced 80 yards in 16 plays. Sullivan connected on five of eight passes, including one of 13 yards to Villanova WR Mike Siani in a fourth down situation that put the ball at the Dallas one. FB Robert Newhouse of Houston, who had a 30-yard run during the drive, dove into the end zone from there for a touchdown with 7:25 remaining on the clock and Marcol converted.

That was the high point for the All-Stars, who didn’t threaten again, and the Cowboys, who were sluggish but effective when they needed to be, won comfortably by a final score of 20-7.

Dallas outgained the All-Stars (262 to 233) while first downs were even at 16 to 16. The All-Stars suffered three turnovers, to one by the Cowboys. Craig Morton hit on 6 of 14 passes for 97 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. FB Walt Garrison led the Cowboys with 72 yards on 13 rushing attempts.

Jerry Tagge had a rough performance, turning the ball over three times on two fumbles and an interception. He completed 9 of 20 passes for 92 yards with an interception. Pat Sullivan (pictured at left), who was named All-Star MVP, was successful on 8 of 15 throws for 64 yards. Robert Newhouse topped the runners with 48 yards on seven carries that included the only All-Star touchdown.  

The Dallas win put the pro champs ahead in the series by 28 to 9, with two ties. The Cowboys went on to compile a 10-4 record during the regular season, finishing second in the NFC East and making it to the postseason as a Wild Card. They reached the NFC Championship game before falling to Washington.

Neither Jerry Tagge nor Pat Sullivan enjoyed success in the NFL. Tagge, the first round pick of the Green Bay Packers, lasted three seasons and started a total of 12 games. He passed for 1583 yards and three touchdowns while giving up 17 interceptions before moving on to the WFL and CFL, where he was more productive (he was a CFL All-Star in 1977). Sullivan spent four years with the Atlanta Falcons and had similar results, throwing for 1155 yards and five TDs against 16 interceptions. Robert Newhouse, however, joined the Cowboys, who picked him in the second round, and developed into an effective back over the course of 12 years who ran for 4784 yards and 31 touchdowns, with another 651 rushing yards and three TDs in the postseason.