Xavier Football: The Silver Years
By Mike Barras
If Ed Kluska’s 1949 to 1951 teams represented the “golden age” of Xavier football, Ed Biles’ teams of 1962 to 1968 represent its “silver age.”
Biles had a solid 6-4 first season highlighted by two of the greatest season-ending, back-to-back victories in XU history. On Nov. 17, 1962, Xavier took on the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Ky. UK had won the previous six games between the team by a combined score of 179-6, and it looked like another onslaught was pending when the Wildcats took the ball 66 yards in nine plays on its opening possession for an easy score. But Biles made defensive adjustments and that would be UK’s last offensive score. Xavier, meanwhile, opened the second half by marching 50 yards on 15 plays capped by a two-yard sweep by Jim Korb for a touchdown. A failed 2-point conversion made it 7-6 UK, but with 5:12 left in the fourth quarter, Korb scored his second touchdown. Adding a two-point conversion, XU took a 14-7 lead. The clever Biles took a game ending safety to make the final score 14-9.
A thrilling 7-6 victory over UC climaxed the year and set Biles up for even better things in the years to come.
In 1965, Xavier had a fantastic 8-2 record, its best since 1951. XU was led by quarterback Carroll Williams and legendary receiver Dan Abramowitz of Steubenville, Ohio, who at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds and 5.0 speed in the 40-yard dash did not strike fear on the hearts of defensive backs in pregame warm ups. But he ran brilliant patterns, had great hands and an innate ability to get open. The two combined to lead the Muskies had thrilling wins over Dayton and UC, but the most memorable game was against Miami and Bo Schembechler. In his first two years at Miami, Bo was 0-1-1 against XU and he wanted the game badly. It looked like he had the victory in hand when Miami took a 28-7 into the fourth quarter. But Williams began to weave his run and pass magic and Xavier scored two unanswered touchdowns, pulling the score to 28-21. Then with just seconds left in the game, Williams scampered in for a TD from the Miami 17 to make the game 27-26 Miami. The gutsy Biles went for a two-point conversion. Williams hit Walt Myers with a pass to propel XU to a 28-27 victory.
(Four years later, Schembechler was being interviewed on TV just after his new team, the University of Michigan Wolverines, upset heavily favored No. 1-ranked Ohio State 21-12. The sideline reporter asked him if this was the most exciting game he ever coached, and without pause Schembechler replied, “NO. It was the 28-27 loss to Xavier, while I was at Miami in 1965.”)
In 1967, Biles was after his third consecutive win over the Bearcats and UC alumni were looking for blood. Biles, though, knew how to motivate his team. Ken Blackwell, then a sophomore on the team, described Biles’ plan. “We were having a light Friday practice when Cincinnati Police cruisers with flashers and sirens screaming came tearing out on the practice field. They grabbed Biles, spread eagled him against the cruiser, cuffed him and roughly threw him in the back of the car. We watched in amazement as the cars pulled away, to what we assumed to be jail. On Saturday, as we were dressing for the game at UC, there was still no Biles. All of a sudden he burst into the locker room and yelled, “THOSE DIRTY UC ALMUNI HAD THE COPS KIDNAP ME, BUT I ESCAPED. Now go out and beat those dirty UC bleeps.
“We knocked down the locker door and beat UC 15-10 for the third series win in a row. Years later when I was mayor of Cincinnati, I checked with the police chief about this 1967 kidnapping. Being older and more experienced, I found what I kind of expected. Ed Biles was a very good coach and motivator but he was a peerless showman.”
In 1968 XU had one of its most exciting seasons. Offensive guard John Shinners would become XU’s first consensus All-American. Shinners was also selected in the first round of the NFL draft by the New Orleans Saints, joining Dan Abramowitz, who was building a record breaking All-Pro NFL career. Thrilling wins and crushing losses had XU fans taking their heart medicine the entire 1968 season, which ended at 6-4. Biles accepted an offer to join Shinners and Abramowicz with the Saints as an assistant coach in 1969.