This week’s headlines from sports history come from The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, as published the week of November 4-10, 1970.
The Times-Picayune is an American newspaper serving the New Orleans area with roots dating back to 1837. Originally published separately as The Picayune and The Times-Democrat, the two papers merged in 1914. After a tumultuous few years in the early 2010s, the paper is still published today, although it has since merged with The New Orleans Advocate.
In 1970, the US president was Richard Nixon, who wouldn’t resign for another four years. The Vietnam War was in full swing, and thousands swarmed Washington, D.C. in May to protest both the war and the Kent State shootings. In pop culture, The Beatles disbanded, releasing Let It Be as their final album. In sports, the NFL and AFC merged while UCLA won its fourth straight national basketball championship under the helm of John Wooden.
Here is a sampling of sports headlines The Times-Picayune published this week in 1970:
“Buras’ Mayfield Is Nearing 1,000 Yards with His Aerials”
Publication Date: November 4
This article details the spectacular season Buras High School quarterback Ken Mayfield was having. While high-stat passers are a dime-a-dozen these days, they were a bit of a rarity in 1970.
Through eight games, Mayfield had collected 902 yards via the air and was well on his way to reaching the coveted 1,000 mark with two games left. He had thrown seven touchdowns as well.
Incredibly, Mayfield was doing all that despite getting hurt early in the season.
“Ken has been playing with an injury since the third game of the season,” his head coach, Allen Olsen, told the paper before Buras’ clash against McDonough 35. “In fact, prior to last week’s game, we didn’t run Ken in practice all week long.”
Olsen highlighted Mayfield’s intelligence and cool as two key factors in the quarterback’s game.
Mayfield ultimately finished the season with 1,135 yards passing while completing 71 of 178 attempts. Unfortunately, despite Mayfield’s aerial efforts, his Wildcats limped out the season 5-5.
Perhaps the most intriguing bit about this story is that Mayfield nearing 1,000 yards passing was deemed noteworthy. Football nowadays is much more pass-happy than the early ’70s, even in high school.
For reference, Louisiana had 51 passers eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in 2018. Based on data published by The Times-Picayune at the end of the 1970 season, Buras was one of only three other Louisiana high schoolers to break 1,000 yards passing that year.
Mayfield quarterbacked Buras High School his senior season in 1971, but I couldn’t dig up any info on if he went on to play college ball. He later possibly became a part-time taxidermist by the ’80s.
Buras High School was located on Louisiana’s southeast peninsula along the Mississippi River. After Hurricane Katrina damaged its building, the school was demolished in 2009.
“Bullard’s Bandits Strip Miami Clean, 31 to 16”
Publication Date: November 8
In a record-setting contest in front of a homecoming crowd, the Tulane Wave routed the Miami Hurricanes 31-16.
The most impressive feat in the victory was the Wave’s eight interceptions, which broke a school record of six set against Mississippi State in 1931 and Southern Methodist in 1945. David Hebert and Paul Ellis led the ball hawks by picking off three Hurricane passes apiece.
Hebert returned one of his interceptions for the game’s first score, kick-starting the Wave’s scoring output. The hosts ultimately built a 31-0 lead before Miami tacked on a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns.
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Based on Tulane’s current record book, I was unable to determine if the eight-interception mark is still a school record. Regardless of if that mark is or not, the 1970 squad’s 28 interceptions over the course of the season is still an all-time single-season best for the school.
The win also bumped Tulane’s record up to 6-3, which was the most wins the school had mustered in a season since 1956. The Wave finished the year 8-4 with a No. 17 ranking in the AP Poll and a 17-3 victory over Colorado in the Liberty Bowl.
“Miracle 63-Yard Kick by Dempsey Stuns Lions”
Publication Date: November 9
In the midst of a measly one-win season and only five days after their head coach had been fired, the New Orleans Saints rallied for a miracle 19-17 win over the Detroit Lions. The victory was capped by a 63-yard field goal by Tom Dempsey as time expired.
Dempsey, who was born without toes in his right foot nor fingers on his right hand, set an NFL record with the kick, besting Bert Rechichar’s 56-yarder for the Baltimore Colts against the Chicago Bears in 1953.
“There’s so much involved in kicking one that long but I knew I could do it,” the right-footed Dempsey said after the game. “The only question was if this was going to be the time and if it would be straight enough.”
Dempsey utilized the straight-toe style kick, which was popular back then. Because he lacked toes, Dempsey wore a special boot with a flatted edge, allowing him to kick the football like a hammer.
At the time, the NFL positioned the uprights on the goal line, so Dempsey actually booted the kick from his own 37. It was his fourth field goal on the day.
According to The Times-Picayune’s sports editor, Bob Roesler, the ball cleared the crossbar by a foot and a half and hit the ground three yards behind the uprights.
While Dempsey’s record kick is rightly remembered most from that game, what’s not often mentioned is that Detroit almost won thanks to a referee gaff.
On the penultimate possession, Detroit went ahead 17-16 via an Errol Mann field goal. However, early in that drive, the downs marker mistakenly showed second down for two straight plays. This resulted in the Lions taking four plays before gaining a first down. The officials were eventually notified of the muck-up after the fact; however, they decided that the result was legal because Detroit took the allowed four plays to get the required 10 yards.
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When asked about the extra down, Lions head coach Joe Schmidt told The Times-Picayune: “We lose by a ⸺ ⸺ miracle and you’re worried about a ⸺ lost down?” (Dashes added by the paper).
The Week 8 tilt gave rookie New Orleans head coach, J.D. Roberts, a win in his first game. He had replaced Tom Fears, who had guided the Saints since their inaugural season in 1967.
The thrilling victory didn’t help salvage the Saints’ season, though: New Orleans lost the rest of the way en route to a 2-11-1 mark. Detroit finished 10-4 and fell to Dallas in the playoffs.
In 2013, Matt Prater broke Dempsey’s record with a 64-yard field goal for the Denver Broncos against the Tennessee Titans.
“LSU Shows Disapointment That Manning Is Injured”
Publication Date: November 10
The same day Tulane romped all over Miami, Ole Miss quarterback and Heisman hopeful Archie Manning broke his left arm in 24-13 win over Houston. The injury was predicted to put Manning out for the season.
According to this article, the Louisiana State football team—which was due to play Manning’s Rebels several weeks later—felt sorry to hear of the quarterback’s injury.
“They (they team) reacted as if it were one of their own,” LSU’s sports information director Bud Johnson said at a booster club meeting the Monday morning after the game. “They were disappointed. They wanted a chance to play against him.”
Miraculously, the Tigers got their chance to face Manning.
A month after his injury, Manning led the Rebels into Baton Rouge on December 6 with the Southeastern Conference championship on the line. Manning, playing for the first time since the injury and with a special brace protecting his arm, was called “tired” and “largely ineffective” by The Times-Picayune. He spent the second half on the bench while LSU routed Ole Miss 61-17 to clinch the SEC crown and wrap up a 9-2 regular season.
The Tigers, No. 6 in the AP Poll, would end up losing 17-12 to No. 3 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. Manning returned to the field against Auburn in the Gator Bowl, but his team lost there, too, and Ole Miss finished the season 7-4.
The injury didn’t stop NFL teams from pursuing Manning, and he actually wound up in New Orleans after the Saints took him second in the 1971 NFL Draft behind Jim Plunkett. Manning would spend over 10 seasons in New Orleans, and while the team saw little success record-wise, Manning still earned two Pro Bowl nods and was later elected to the Saints’ ring of honor. He is perhaps now most known for being the father of fellow NFL quarterbacks, Peyton and Eli.
Headlines for this article were sourced from GenealogyBank.