In honor of last night’s NFL opener between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, I thought it would be a good time to dig up a scrap of their historic rivalry that has been buried through the years. It’s the little known fact that the only NFL game ever played in the state of New Mexico was an exhibition between the Cowboys and Giants in 1961.
The game itself wasn’t very entertaining as a Giants victory was never in doubt. For the locals though that didn’t matter. The main draw was the return of two local collegiate stars – Bob Gaiters and Don Perkins.
Gaiters, who was a rookie with the Giants, was coming off a stellar senior season with the New Mexico State Aggies. In 1960, he led the nation in scoring with 23 touchdowns (still a NMSU single-season record) and seven extra points (145 points in total). He also led the nation in rushing with 1,338 yards – averaging 6.8 yards per carry. That season the Aggies finished the year with an 11-0 record and won the Sun Bowl. It’s the only time the school has ever recorded 10 or more wins, and it’s the last time the school has participated in a bowl game.
Perkins, who was with the Cowboys, was a star back for the New Mexico Lobos. In 1959, Perkins led the nation in kickoff return yards and at the time was only the second Lobo to ever be named an All-American. His jersey number (No. 43) is retired by the Lobos.
In a state that hasn’t seen a lot of success on the college gridiron, Gaiters and Perkins are legends.
In the Giants-Cowboys exhibition game neither starred. However, Gaiters had a decent performance with the winning Giants. Only playing in the second half, Gaiters had 30 yards on seven carries, and caught three screen passes for 41 yards.
In a little over three quarters of play, Perkins gained only 28 yards on 12 carries for the Cowboys.
The star of the night was the Giants’ 40-year old QB Charlie Conerly. He only played in the first half, but completed 12 passes on 21 attempts for 192 yards, and his 37-yard touchdown pass to Joe Morrison in the first quarter set the stage for a Giants victory.
The Giants scored one touchdown in each quarter. The aforementioned Conerly’s touchdown pass in the first quarter, Alex Webster’s 2-yard touchdown run in the second, Jim Podoley had a 19-yard touchdown run in the third, and Phil King capped the Giants’ scoring with a 3-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Feeling confident in the thin air, Pat Summerall attempted a 55-yard field goal at the end of the first half but his kick fell short.
The Cowboys only touchdown came late in the fourth quarter. QB Eddie LeBaron led the Cowboys on a 93-yard drive, and with 1:59 left in the game Don McElhenny ran it in from the five-yard line. The Cowboys only other score was a 26-yard field goal by Allen Green in the second quarter.
|New York Giants||7||7||7||7||28|
|Team Stats||New York||Dallas|
NY, Joe Morrison 37-yard touchdown pass from Charlie Conerly (Pat Summerall kick)
NY, Alex Webster 2-yard touchdown run (Summerall kick)
D, Allen Green 26-yard field goal
NY, Jim Podoley 19-yard touchdown run (Summerall kick)
NY, Phil King 3-yard touchdown run (Summerall kick)
D, Don McElhenny 5-yard touchdown run (Green kick)
- A crowd of 21,520 was on hand. The game was sponsored by the Heights Business Men’s Association, with the profits going to local civil projects. Their target attendance figure was 20,000, with that they figured they would generate a profit of at least $15,000 dollars. Tickets prices were $2.50 for general admission and $3.50/$4.50 for reserved seats.
- In 1961, the Giants had a 10-3-1 regular season record, and split their season series with the Cowboys (W 31-10, L 17-16). The Giants made it to the NFL Championship Game, but lost to the Green Bay Packers 37-0. The ’61 Cowboys finished the year with a 4-9-1 record. The Cowboys’ 17-16 victory over the Giants at the mid-point of the season was their last, as they went 0-6-1 in their final seven games of the season.
- At the time, the ’61 exhibition they played in Albuquerque, was the highest elevation (5100 feet) that either the Cowboys or Giants played a game at.
- Don Perkins graduated from the University of New Mexico before University Stadium was completed (196o), so the ’61 Giants-Cowboys exhibition there, was the only time the Lobos star ever played in the current home of the Lobos.
- In 2005, it was rumored that the New Orleans Saints were interested in a move to Albuquerque.
- The state of New Mexico’s other brush with major professional football came in 1960. The Dallas Texans (now the Kansas City Chiefs) held their franchise’s inaugural training camp at the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, NM.
Non-Linked Newspaper Sources
Russel, Dan. (1961, July 6). Cowboys Seek Help From Don Perkins. Albuquerque Journal, pp. 13. Retrieved 9/5/2012 from NewspaperARCHIVE.
Undefined. (1961, August 24). Giants to Unveil Gaiters, Tittle in Pro Game Here. Albuquerque Journal, pp. 17. Retrieved 9/5/2012 from NewspaperARCHIVE.
Associated Press. (1961, August 27). Football Giants Trip Dallas, 28 to 10. New York Times, pp. S3. Retrieved 9/5/2012 from ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
Undefined. (1961, August 27). NY Giants Turn Back Cowboys, 28 to 10. Albuquerque Journal, pp. 29. Retrieved 9/5/2012 from NewspaperARCHIVE.
UPI. (1961, August 27). Giants Rip Dallas, 28-10. Farmington (NM) Daily Times, pp. 9. Retrieved 9/5/2012 from NewspaperARCHIVE.