College football has certainly changed since 195, which was the last year the Cincinnati Bearcats played their opponent this week, the Navy Midshipmen. Here’s what the landscape of the sport looked like at the time.
Paul Hornung won the Heisman Trophy
Notre Dame quarterback and first round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers Paul Hornung played in an entirely different era where passing was still not as useful as evidenced by Hornung’s three touchdown passes and 13 interceptions during the 1956 season. He also rushed for 420 yards and six scores, while throwing for 917. The Hall of Famer went on to play nine seasons in the NFL where he scored 50 touchdowns and helped Green Bay win Super Bowl I.
Tommy McDonald won the Maxwell Award
McDonald actually ran for more touchdowns in 1955, but the 12 he scored on the ground in 1956 were still plenty, especially considering he set career-highs in rushing yards (853) and receiving yards (282). He also averaged a personal best 7.2 yards per carry and finished with 1,135 yards from scrimmage for the Oklahoma Sooners. He also entered the Hall of Fame and accumulated more than 8,000 yards and 80 touchdowns in the NFL.
John Brodie threw for 1,633 yards to lead the nation
En route to an All-American campaign, Brodie ran up 1,633 yards, which is probably what Texas Tech gets in a quarter of a season. Brodie played for Stanford and completed 57.9 percent of his pass attempts while throwing 12 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Too bad the Cardinal went just 4-6 that year.
Oklahoma won the national title...
Powered by McDonald and quarterback Jim Harris, the Sooners went a perfect 10-0, including a 6-0 mark in the Big Seven. The Sooners were unbelievably good, winning six games by shutout while allowing a total of 51 points.
...but didn’t play in a bowl game
There weren’t a ton of bowl games at this point, meaning there weren’t even enough for the undefeated Sooners. There were a total of nine bowl games, including the Orange (Colorado over Clemson), Cotton (TCU over Syracuse), Sugar (Baylor over Tennessee), Rose (Iowa over Oregon State), Gator (Georgia Tech over Pitt) and Sun (George Washington! over Texas Western). Oklahoma was a unanimous champion all the same, ranking No. 1 in the AP and Coaches poll.
Cincinnati went 4-5 as an Independent
The Bearcats lost four of their first five games, including a 34-14 letdown against Xavier. (Gross). One of those losses came against Navy as well. However, they recovered some from there, winning three-straight before the season finale. During that win streak, they outscored opponents 87-20, but then lost the Battle for the Victory Bell to Miami (Ohio).
Cincinnati had less than 2,500 yards of total offense
Offenses didn’t pile up yards like they do today but this was still a less than stellar showing. The Bearcats averaged a total of 149.7 yards per game on the ground and 79.7 through the air, with QB Joe Morrison throwing for 384 on 37.2 percent passing while rushing for 124. Bob Del Rosa was the team’s leading rusher (242 yards).
We sure have come a long way.