Griffing recalls Rebs’ last Cotton trip

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 31, 2003

[12/31/03]Many years have passed since Ole Miss has been in the Cotton Bowl 44 to be exact.

It’s also been a long time since the Rebels have been to a New Year’s Day bowl. This year’s Cotton Bowl marks just the second time in the last 30 years that Ole Miss will play in January.

Glynn Griffing, 63, was a member of two undefeated national championship teams while playing for Ole Miss from 1960-62. Sandwiched between the national titles in 1960 and 1962 was the last time Ole Miss attended the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, which it lost 12-7 to Texas.

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Griffing, who attended Culkin Academy, remembers the game well. He was the backup quarterback during the 1961 season, but saw a lot of playing time thanks to the rotations used by the team.

Coming off back-to-back national championships, the Rebels finished the regular season 9-1 after a 10-7 loss to LSU.

Griffing, who had grown up in Vicksburg, still remembers seeing Dallas for the first time.

“I had never been there before. It was such a huge place with great, big buildings,” Griffing said. “Vicksburg was my home, and the Episcopal Church was probably the tallest thing in town.”

Ole Miss appeared to have the clear edge against Texas the Rebels’ average margin of victory in 1961 was 32 points but disaster struck the week before the bowl game.

All-American fullback Billy Ray Adams was badly injured in an automobile accident, ultimately ending his playing career. Losing Adams, who led the SEC with 6.3 yards per carry, was a big blow to the team.

“I think we had the better ballclub than Texas,” Griffing said. “(Adams’ injury) was probably the reason we lost the game.”

After the week’s festivities and banquets ended, the Rebels and Longhorns finally settled in to play. One thing about the game stood out above all in Griffing’s mind.

“It was a cold day that day,” he said with a laugh. “The worst was the ground, it was like razorblades. All the high school championships had been played on that field, and it was frozen. Every time you were hit, our arms were bleeding and cut up.”

Starting quarterback Doug Elmore ran into trouble early, throwing interceptions on each of his first two passes. Coach John Vaught called for Griffing to enter and take the snaps.

Griffing led the offense down the field but was intercepted in the endzone on a tipped pass.

“We had some really tough breaks,” he said. “We started bad, but we came back.”

Griffing led a scoring drive to cut the Texas lead to 12-7. He later moved the offense into position for another score near the end of the game.

On a fourth-and-1 between the Texas 30- and 25-yard line, Vaught called in a play for Griffing.

“Normally we called our own plays back then, but I was glad Coach sent one in for us,” Griffing said. “He called for me to roll out, and all I remember is the tackle hit me and knocked me down.”

The defensive tackle also knocked himself unconscious on the hit and lay on top of Griffing.

“I couldn’t get him off of me, and all I could see was the scoreboard,” he said.

The lights on the board showed that the Rebels lost 12-7, but Griffing returned with a vengeance for his senior season in 1962. As a starter, he earned All-America honors and led Ole Miss to its third national title in four years.

Griffing went on to the NFL. After his pro career he moved to Jackson, where he lives today.

He attends all the home games and has been around to see both the highs and lows of the Ole Miss football program. Griffing watched his beloved team fall from the elite class to an also-ran.

But the Vicksburg native thinks this year’s return to the Cotton Bowl could spark a return to glory.

“Ole Miss used to be that way,” he said. “This is getting a little of it back, and it’s nice to see. It’s been a long time.

“Teams go up and down a lot, so I’m glad to see Ole Miss on the way up.”