All Over the country last weekend Americans rejoiced in splendid weather. Clear, crisp, invigorating autumn weather, just right for a new football season—and Navy, among others, enjoyed it (opposite page).
So it was a splendid start. Down at Chapel Hill, N.C., the weather was perfect, too, and the game was the most exciting and provocative of this opening week. Every man, woman and child in the state knew that this was to be glory year at the University of North Carolina. It was the place to be. Here was the team that would make up for the decade of drought following the graduation of the brilliant Charlie Justice. Here was the team big Jim Tatum had come home to Carolina to mold—only to die of a virus attack with shocking suddenness before having a chance to reap the fruits of his labors. Here was the debut of Tatum's successor, Jim Hickey. And here, on the first Saturday of the season, was a game of extraordinary importance, bringing together the Tar Heels and the defending Atlantic Coast Conference champions, the Clemson Tigers.
A near-capacity crowd of 43,000 walked beneath Chapel Hill's magnificent pine and oak and hickory trees to seats in Kenan Memorial Stadium. Those who had picked up copies of the student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, may have remarked these lines in Editor Davis Young's column:
"...If Hickey is doomed to take the rap for a bad season, then common justice dictates that he get the credit for what is far more likely to happen, namely a good season.
" Tatum is gone. He is the townsman of a stiller town. Hickey is here. He is running the show, and brilliantly. It is
Hickey's team which will clobber Frank Howard [the Clemson coach] today, and we are going to be there when it happens."
Unfortunately for what must have been a sizable part of that expectant crowd—those who could virtually taste victory beforehand—the happenings of Saturday afternoon came as a very bad jolt.
Frank Howard's opportunistic Sugar Bowl veterans seized a Carolina fumble on the opening kickoff and proceeded 44 yards to a touchdown. They used "that old ugly-looking kind of football" which Howard admires and teaches—an unspectacular ground attack. They pinned Carolina in its own end through the rest of the first quarter and struck again early in the second quarter for a touchdown on a 43-yard drive. Having missed an extra-point kick after the first score Clemson now went for two points, the celebrated Tiger Quarterback Harvey White passing sharply to Halfback Bill Mathis. As it developed this was Clemson's margin of victory, for Carolina eventually matched the enemy touchdown for touchdown but failed to add a single extra point.
Clemson gambled away what seemed to be a certain touchdown in the second quarter after blocking a punt and running it all the way to the Carolina eight-yard line. White inexplicably began passing—trying that "damned exciting football" as Howard ruefully said later. He got nowhere, and then Carolina took advantage of a Clemson fumble to score before half time.
Sticking to old ugly-looking football, Clemson moved 67 yards to yet another touchdown as the second half began. Behind 6 to 20, the Tar Heels not only were not daunted, as they might well have been; they scored twice in the last quarter and could have tied Clemson with any kind of luck. The passing of Quarterback Jack Cummings was largely responsible for both touchdowns. The last was scored with just a minute and twenty seconds remaining. Now it was Carolina 18, Clemson 20, and the crowd prayed for two extra points and a tie. Cummings completed a flat pass, but the receiver was stopped cold, the two points were irretrievably lost and time ran out.
On the day before the game a large, moon-faced man tongued a cud of chewing tobacco into an ample cheek, spat carefully, then barged into the dressing quarters near the stadium.