- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Next year, or the year after, football people were saying, the Big Ten would again be king of the conferences. It would take that long to repair the damage done by a strict aid program forced on the coaches by the schools' faculties in 1956. It would probably take longer to live down the embarrassing trampling Washington handed Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl last New Year's Day.
But football is not always a game of logic, and by late Saturday it was apparent that there had been an untagged but seismic change: the Big Ten already had regained its power, and it was going to take the best in the country to beat its teams. In eight games with nonconference schools, the Big Ten won six and tied the other two.
The most interesting test was the Northwestern-Oklahoma game. To be sure, Northwestern had won easily last year, 45-13, but the Oklahoma squad had come down with food poisoning just before the game, and there were many who thought that the outcome might otherwise have been reversed. All last week Northwestern Coach Ara Parseghian, the adept Armenian amateur psychologist, needled his players about the questionable victory. He posted derogatory clippings on the locker-room "clobber board" and sneeringly reminded all hands, "No one really believes you licked them."
On Saturday at Norman, Northwestern licked Oklahoma 19-3. The loss was only Oklahoma's fourth at home in 13 years. The crowd of 62,000 had barely cheered Oklahoma Guard Karl Milstead's 35-yard field goal after the kickoff when North-western's superb backfield took control. Quarterback Dick Thornton and Halfback Albert Kimbrough, both out almost all last season with injuries, teamed up with Fullback Mike Stock to put Northwestern in front to stay. With Thornton helping clear the way, Stock took a pitchout around right end and went 27 yards to the Oklahoma nine. A few seconds later Thornton threw a three-yard touchdown pass to End Elbert Kimbrough, Albert's twin. In the second and third periods Stock kicked two field goals, and in the final period Thornton, waiting until the Oklahoma line was almost upon him, threw a lovely soft floater 25 yards into the arms of Halfback Al Faunce.
What especially pleased Parseghian was the strength of his line. From tackle to tackle Northwestern had only one player who had ever started. "I knew that if our interior line held up, we would have a good team," Parseghian said afterward. "Well, they're some group." After checking his first-stringers, Parseghian played everyone he could. He had to. Northwestern, the sole private school in the Big Ten and one requiring College Board exams, has the smallest squad in the conference. Toward the end of the season it often has the weakest. This year Parseghian wants experienced reserves who can help "overcome the late-season letdown."
The Texas-Maryland game was not so much a question of lines but of a straight line. Texas's James Saxton, who used to amuse himself by chasing jack rabbits, can be an exasperating runner. Instead of using his speed to score, he has been in the habit of dancing a jig while deciding which way to go. He would sometimes run 60 or 70 yards to the left and right, alas, but seldom more than two or three yards forward.
After Texas lost a one-point opener to Nebraska a week ago, Coach Darrell Royal gave Saxton the word: the shortest distance to the goal is a straight line. Royal apparently made an impression. Saxton stopped Maryland's opening drive with an interception in the end zone. Not long after Maryland stalled and quick-kicked. Saxton caught the ball on the Texas 31 and began running—straight ahead. He kept running until he crossed the Maryland goal. Texas went on to win 34-0, in a game that had been rated even. Toward the end, Saxton sat grinning on the Texas bench as he recalled Royal's advice. "It works good," he said. "The coaches really know what they're talking about."
In another game involving a Southwest Conference team, it was Bears against Buffaloes but a Bull was the deciding factor. The Bull is Halfback Ronnie Bull of the Baylor Bears. The Buffaloes are Colorado. Last year Bull ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns against Colorado to give Baylor a 15-7 win. For Saturday night's game Colorado Coach Sonny Grandelius planned his defense accordingly, and that called for no Bull.
It didn't work. Bull recovered the fumble that set up Baylor's first touchdown, returned a punt 60 yards for the second, gained 40 yards on two pass receptions and 30 more in rushing as Baylor won 26-0. Bull's play gave the Bears hope that this year poor Baylor might very well go on to win its first conference championship in 35 years. Said Colorado Guard Joe Roming: "Neither Baylor nor Bull was this good a year ago."
Back East, deep in the John O'Hara country of northeastern Pennsylvania where the action often is hot and heavy, Lehigh made it hot for heavy Delaware. In a game likely to determine the championship of the Middle Atlantic Conference, Lehigh won easily, 27-14. Pitted against the likes of Ronald Rubino, Delaware's 298-pound center, the Lehigh line showed speed and mobility. No one was happier than Coach Bill Leckonby. He now stands at five and six with Dave Nelson, Delaware's acclaimed coach. "It's always satisfying to upset the experts," Leckonby said, "and they universally picked us to lose."