Duke Bowl Recap: 1961 Cotton Bowl - Duke 7, Arkansas 6
Courtesy: Duke Sports Information Release: 12/01/2012
Photo Courtesy: Duke Photography
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Duke won its fourth ACC football title in 1960 and landed squarely in its first Cotton Bowl. But don’t get the impression that the Blue Devils and their 7-3 record rolled into Dallas on a high note. Coach Bill Murray’s team lost its last two regular season games and had plenty to prove when it met Arkansas.
Two of the nation’s premier passing teams were to showcase their aerial talents, but it was defense that proved to be the final factor. Quarterback Don Altman led the Blue Devil attack as the Blue Devils captured a narrow 7-6 victory over Arkansas in Duke’s only trip to the Cotton Bowl.
The first ever tilt with the Hogs marked one of Duke’s all-time great comeback victories. The Blue Devils didn’t have far to come back from but they waited until the very end and did it in a dramatic fashion.
After a scoreless first half, Arkansas’ great back, Lance Alworth, ended the shutout with 2:53 remaining in the third period by returning a Duke punt 49 yards for a touchdown. Duke stopped the extra point when Dave Unser broke through the line to smother the attempt.
Finally, Duke’s offense came to life in the fourth quarter. Arkansas had yielded only one touchdown in its final four regular season contests. Duke knew the yards would come tough, and they did. The Blue Devils managed only 189 yards for the game and 73 came on one drive.
Duke’s game-winning touchdown drive came in the face of this defense and can only be called remarkable. With gritty determination, the Blue Devils marched 73 yards into the teeth of the Razorbacks and scored with just 2:45 to play. Altman engineered the drive which featured no long gains and took 18 snaps to accomplish. Two of those plays were fourth down conversions and six were passes hauled in by All-America end Claude “Tee” Moorman.
Three plays leading up to the TD were considered especially devastating from the Razorbacks’ side of the field. First, there was a seven-yard pass from Altman to Bob Spada after Altman had appeared to be trapped for a long loss. Then, Duke had third-and-three on the Arkansas 30-yard line and the Hogs suspected a pass in the flat to Moorman. They guessed right with Alworth getting his hands on the ball only to have Moorman struggle it away but for a three-yard loss.
That set up fourth down and Altman calmly found Dean Wright in the clear and hit him with a pass good for 11 yards.
Four plays later came the tying touchdown pass, and it involved just a little tomfoolery. The play went down in the scoring summary as a nine-yard pass from Altman to Moorman, but there were two spur-of-the-moment wrinkles on this play. The play, 31-rollback, had been used before with Altman pitching it to the halfback who then pitches it back before entering the line and Altman peels left to find his receiver.
Altman called the play and got the ball back but curled to his right where he found a wide open Moorman who had faked Alworth with a look in and a cut out — the opposite of the usual play.
Captain Art Browning then came in to kick the extra point — perfect.