They wanted to know if Danny White remembered the hit.

They wanted to know if he could still see Dexter Manley tearing through the Dallas front line with 23 seconds remaining in the first half to knock him unconscious and out of the NFC championship game.

White, dressed in a bathrobe, his eyes glazed with tears and confusion, shook his head groggily.

"I don't remember anything that happened today," he said. "The play? Hell no." He knew Dallas had lost its third straight NFC title game, and that was about all.

The reporters persisted.

"I'm still blurry, dizzy, disoriented," White said.

Tex Schramm, the Cowboys' president and general manager, made his way through the crowd, whispered a few words into his quarterback's ear and patted his head. Schramm turned around, blocking off White's cubicle from the reporters and told them what they already should have known:

"Go find somebody else," said Schramm.

After Manley hit him, White lay on the turf for minutes. The Dallas trainers and doctors helped him to his feet and brought him to the locker room for an examination.

Gary Hogeboom, a third-year veteran from Central Michigan who had thrown eight passes for three completions this year and no passes at all before that, replaced White. With 19 seconds left, Hogeboom passed to Timmy Newsome for nine yards.

Time expired in the half with Washington leading, 14-3, but Hogeboom, to his surprise, would have 30 more minutes to prove himself.

Dr. J.R. Zamorano, the Cowboys' internist, determined that the impact of White's helmet slamming into the ground had caused a concussion.

"(White) remembered nothing," said Zamorano. "He kept asking about the time, the score, who was winning." Zamorano said White no longer felt pain or nausea by the end of the game, but would undergo a brain scan in Dallas if the injury caused further pain.

John Mackovic, the Cowboys' offensive coach, gave Hogeboom the word that he would start the second half. Before taking the field, Coach Tom Landry told his players, "Let's go out and play football. It doesn't matter who the quarterback is."

Hogeboom, who would throw 29 passes, completing 14 for 162 yards, looked much sharper on the Cowboys' first drive in the second half than White had been. Starting from the Redskins' 38, he completed passes to Tony Hill, Newsome, Butch Johnson and Drew Pearson, the last from six yards out for a touchdown.

The Redskins matched the touchdown on the following possession to make the score 21-10, but Hogeboom responded with a drive even better than the first. He threw to Johnson, Tony Dorsett and Hill on crucial third-down passes and found Johnson for a 23-yard touchdown pass that put the Cowboys within four at 21-17.

"I had the butterflies," Hogeboom said. "Fear's a big thing, and if you can't conquer it, you're going nowhere."

So far, Hogeboom was conquering fear and a tough defense. The Cowboys were going upfield and back into the game.

Along the sideline, White stood with his head down. Johnson walked over to him and asked him if he could remember anything.

"He said he could remember a couple of passes dropped by Drew and Tony early in the third quarter and that was it," said Johnson. "When you get knocked out like that it takes a day to square things away." The Cowboys' hopes rested with Hogeboom.

Last June, before Dallas went to training camp, management tore up Hogeboom's $50,000-per-year contract and gave him a three-year contract for $175,000 per year, with $25,000 yearly raises.

Some veterans, like tight end Billy Joe DuPree, who makes $115,000 and is in his 10th year with the team, voiced their displeasure. After all, Hogeboom had yet to throw a pass in a regular-season NFL game.

And last week against Green Bay, Pearson was asked if he might consider trying out for backup quarterback after throwing a 49-yard flea-flicker pass to Hill. "I'd just like to make the second-string quarterback's salary," said Pearson.

Still, there was no doubt that Hogeboom's teammates were rallying around him yesterday. "They kept encouraging me in the huddle," he said.

The Redskins deflected and intercepted Hogeboom's hopes for a victory in the final period, however.

Mel Kaufman intercepted one pass, and Darryl Grant intercepted another. Grant's interception, which he returned 10 yards for the decisive points with 6:55 left, came when Hogeboom tried to throw a delayed screen to Dorsett.

"I couldn't believe it happened," said Hogeboom. "It was a simple screen."

Although he wasn't advertising it, Hogeboom was the only Cowboy who could find something positive in yet another NFC championship loss.

"I don't want to sit around and get stagnant," he said. "Danny White is a hell of a football player and it's going to take a hell of an effort to unseat him . . . But I'm coming into camp every year trying to take the No. 1 job."