ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Positioned in the middle of Chattanooga's defensive line that early November Saturday afternoon in 1958, Jerry Arnold gave the Tennessee offensive lineman crouched across from him a shoulder fake, then broke toward Volunteers place-kicker Gene Etter.

"I just got lucky," Arnold said. "I just walked right in there. Nobody touched me."

And because of that, Arnold harshly touched the ball, blocking Etter's extra-point attempt to deliver the final titanic touch to a 14-6 Mocs victory, one of only two the school has recorded in 41 games against the Vols. UC, which was known as U.S. Grant University in 1905, beat UT by a 5-0 score 109 years ago in Chattanooga.

"The highlight of my whole athletic life -- blocking that kick," Arnold said with a grin as he and seven teammates recalled that shocking afternoon at UT's Shields-Watkins Field during Monday's Chattanooga Quarterback Club meeting at Finley Stadium. "Maybe we can beat them again this weekend."

They are in their 70s now, in various degrees of health and wealth, hair color and hairlines. But when it comes to recalling arguably the biggest win in Mocs football history, quarterback John Green, wide receiver Harold Wilkes, running back Don Hill, fullback Joe Abercrombie, halfback Ed Taliaferro, end Ronnie McClurg, end Bob Yurjevic and Arnold remain forever young and full of fun.

"I remember coming back to the locker room after the game and we were all giving each other forearm shivers," said Wilkes, who later became the school's football coach and athletic director. "One of our guys decided to give one to the school president (David Lockmiller) and it knocked him over, kind of roughed him up. When [UC coach] Scrappy [Moore] got up to say something, he told us to stay away from President Lockmiller."

As Moore delivered his victory speech, a number of fights were breaking out on the field between angry Tennessee supporters and jubilant Chattanooga fans. When a newspaper reporter brought this to Moore's attention, noting that UC fans tearing down the goal posts had instigated the unrest, Wilkes said Moore replied, "Why do they care? They didn't use them the whole game."

A single example of the difference in football then and now: Etter, the former Chattanooga Central standout who became the legendary baseball coach of Baylor School, recalled how UT decided not to replace the goal posts so late in the year, opting for some roughly assembled wooden ones.

"But," Etter said, "that made it easier to tear them down when we beat Ole Miss at home the next week."

As for the riot on the field -- as the Knoxville newspaper referred to it -- the city's police brought in paddy wagons, tear gas and fire hoses. The tear gas left Etter unable to return to his dorm for several hours after the game. Chattanooga police chief Bookie Turner, who found himself in the middle of the disturbance, was said to have exclaimed, "Let's go free the prisoners!" as Mocs fans attempted to remove their compatriots from the paddy wagons.

"My wife's grandmother died that week," recalled former UC basketball player Herman Welch. "And the funeral was that Saturday. I told Donna she'd have to go to the funeral by herself, that there was no way I was missing that game, and that's what I did."

Yurjevic was a freshman from Steubenville, Ohio.

"I was a second-semester freshman," he said. "And that was the only time my mother ever saw me play for Chattanooga."

No one will see the kind of football those 1958 Mocs played when this year's Mocs travel to Neyland Stadium for the first game between the two since 1969. Most players played both ways back then. Chattanooga's travel squad in 1958 consisted of 43 players. At least 20 more than that are expected to make the trip this time around.

McClurg was a freshman end from Alcoa, Tenn., that season. He's best known today as the former Dalton High School athletic director and football coach. That school named its indoor athletics facility the McClurg Activities Center in his honor.

"I got to play in the game," he said, "and it was the biggest thrill of my life. Plus, because we won, I got to go back home to Alcoa. Everyone talks about luck, but we were very well-coached. We had very few penalties. We were also a very close team, and we've all remained great friends for the rest of our lives."

A second example of the difference in college athletics then and now: "I wore a 10-and-a-half shoe," McClurg said. "When I reported for fall practice that year, they gave me one shoe that was a size 12 and the other that was a 14. And I didn't say a word."

A third example? When Arnold blocked the extra point he just kind of stood there, "waiting for somebody to say something. Somebody blocks a kick now, they're running around like crazy, dancing all over the place. I just walked off the field."

So did Etter, who says today, "I knew a lot of Chattanooga's players. I knew what a thrill it was for them to win. And for us, it wasn't like losing a championship game. We did come back and beat Ole Miss the next week."

History will show that the Mocs finished 5-5 that season while the Vols were 4-6. History also shows that UC's 14 points were more than the Vols allowed to five SEC schools: Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt.

And should this Saturday somehow repeat 1958, Etter says he can live with it, although he wore a UT orange football jersey to Monday's QB Club meeting.

"It will be OK with me if the Mocs beat UT again this year," he said with a small smile, "if we can come back and beat Ole Miss next week the way we did that year."

Given the Rebels' current No. 3 national ranking, one suspects that a lot of Volniacs would grudgingly agree with him. At least the ones who don't live next to a Moc Maniac eager to tear down a Neyland Stadium goal post for the second time in 56 years.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT