August 9, 2016

1957: Conerly TD Passes Lead Giants Past College All-Stars

The 24th annual College All-Star Game on August 9, 1957 matched up the New York Giants, reigning champions of the NFL, with an All-Star team coached by Curly Lambeau for the third straight year.

Head Coach Jim Lee Howell of the Giants placed great authority in Vince Lombardi, his offensive assistant, and Tom Landry, who operated the defense. Behind center was QB Charlie Conerly, who platooned with Don Heinrich, and the offense also featured star all-purpose HB Frank Gifford as well as capable runners in HB Alex Webster and FB Mel Triplett. The tough defense contained All-Pros in DE Andy Robustelli and safety Emlen Tunnell plus a rising second-year talent in MLB Sam Huff.

Coach Lambeau, the head coach of the Green Bay Packers for many years who finished up with the Cardinals and Redskins, had the All-Stars well prepared to face the Giants. The roster contained several offensive players who would become pro stars such as quarterbacks John Brodie from Stanford and Notre Dame’s Paul Hornung, Syracuse FB Jim Brown, halfbacks Jon Arnett of USC and Billy Barnes from Wake Forest, and Michigan end Ron Kramer.

It was a wet Friday night with over 75,000 fans in attendance at Soldier Field and the start of the game was delayed due to a major deluge of rain combined with a gusty wind that caused the elimination of pregame introductions and other festivities. The Giants had the ball first but Alex Webster fumbled it away on the third play and the All-Stars capitalized. With John Brodie behind center, they advanced 55 yards, the key play being a 22-yard gain on a triple reverse, and Billy Barnes capped the series by running wide for a two-yard touchdown in a fourth down situation. Paul Hornung missed to the left on the extra point attempt but the collegians held the early 6-0 lead.

The Giants had to punt following their next series but regained possession on the All-Star 20 when Barnes fumbled. A running play lost a yard and two throws by Charlie Conerly were broken up, but the pro champs got on the board when Ben Agajanian, just short of his 38th birthday, kicked a 33-yard field goal with a minute remaining in the opening period to narrow the score to 6-3.

Early in the second quarter, New York put together a drive that covered 88 yards in five plays. It featured Conerly passes to Webster for 33 yards and then to end Ken MacAfee, who took advantage of a good block by end Kyle Rote after hauling in the throw at the All-Star 25 and going the distance for a 38-yard touchdown. Agajanian’s conversion put the Giants ahead by 10-6.

Late in the period, Barnes created some excitement for the All-Stars by breaking away on a carry from his 35 that nearly went the distance before a diving DHB Ed Hughes tripped him up at the New York 37, a distance of 28 yards. Three plays later, Brodie suffered an injury but Hornung came in at quarterback and ran for a first down at the nine. New York’s defense held and the collegians settled for a 12-yard field goal by Paige Cothren of Mississippi. The Giants maintained a 10-9 edge at the half.

In the third quarter, the Giants put together a long drive of 77 yards in 10 plays, helped along by a questionable pass interference penalty on Michigan State DHB Clarence Peaks, who had nearly pulled the ball away from Frank Gifford. That moved New York to the All-Star 15, and two plays later Conerly threw once again to MacAfee, who was open in the end zone for a 10-yard TD. Agajanian booted the point after.

Later in the third quarter, and with Hornung still at quarterback, the All-Stars drove into New York territory but came up empty when Cothren missed on a 33-yard field goal try. However, early in the fourth quarter the collegians got a break when Sam Huff flagrantly interfered with Ron Kramer and Cothren this time came through for a 24-yard field goal that made it a five-point contest.

That would be it for the All-Stars as the Giants responded by advancing to a 45-yard Agajanian field goal. Then, with three minutes left to play, New York DHB Dick Nolan capped the scoring by foiling a double-reverse and tackling Illinois HB Abe Woodson in the end zone for a safety. The Giants came away winners by a final score of 22-12.

New York had the edge in total yards (281 to 220) while the All-Stars led in first downs (16 to 14)
Each team turned the ball over once.

Charlie Conerly completed 8 of 17 passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns and Mel Triplett led New York’s ground game with 74 yards on 17 attempts. For the All-Stars, Paul Hornung, utilized on option plays, was successful on 5 of 7 throws for 39 yards and John Brodie was 8 of 20 for 94 yards. Billy Barnes rushed for 60 yards on 11 carries, scoring the lone All-Star TD.  

“They stopped us as well as anybody in the league stopped us,” said New York’s Coach Howell of the All-Star defense. “Their defensive line and linebackers were excellent.”

The win for the Giants marked the 15th in the series for the pro champs, against seven for the All-Stars and two ties. New York followed up by going 7-5 during the season to place second in the Eastern Conference.

The game marked the finale for Curly Lambeau as coach of the All-Stars. As a former pro coach, his selection in 1955 had marked a departure from the practice of using college coaches for the contest. Lambeau had coached the Packers in the game three times, going 2-1, and his record with the All-Stars was 1-2.