At midseason 1961, college football is an assured success. There have been upsets, such as Northwestern's 12-10 victory over Notre Dame (above) and Iowa's 9-0 loss to Purdue. There have also been an abnormal number of last-minute victories and exciting plays. But what has really made the season a success is the attendance, which is up as much as 40% in some parts of the country.
Responsibility for the renewed enthusiasm for college ball rests in large measure on the more volatile nature of the game this year. Almost every good team ( Ohio State is an exception) has abandoned the trite, conservative tactics of the split-T and taken a cue from the pros with split ends and slot and wing-backs and other diffusive deceits. As a result, the ball is moving as it hasn't moved in years.
The "wild card" substitute, who can be injected into the game between every play, has also played an important role. Not only does this make it possible for coaches to preserve their quarterbacks from the hazards of defensive play but they can also send in specialists at almost anything from place-kicking to putting the evil eye on a 250-pound tackle. Mostly, however, the coaches use the wild card to send in new plays. As one put it, "If the play works it's mine, if it doesn't it's the quarterback's."
Place-kicking is especially emphasized this year. With the wider goal posts introduced in 1959 to aim at, kickers have made good on 80% of their attempts (compared with 74.6% last year), and 31 major college teams have yet to miss a conversion kick. Once again, games are being won by field goals, such as Georgia's 52-yarder that beat Kentucky last week 16-15.
Pitt Coach John Michelosen, hanged in effigy two weeks earlier, came very much alive as his sleeping Panthers suddenly awakened to trounce Navy 28-14. Led by Quarterback Jim Traficant, who broke away for two short touchdown runs, they slashed Navy's three alternating lines to bits with rollouts, halfback reverse fake passes and fullback traps. The Pitt defense was just as determined. It held the Navy runners to 73 yards while crashing Ends Steve Jastrzembski and John Kuprok made life miserable for passer Ron Klemick.
Navy had company in its misery. Army, ambushed by a hard-charging West Virginia line, was never able to gather enough momentum to move the ball and lost to the husky Mountaineers 7-3. Fullback Glenn Holton poured through the leaky Cadet line for 121 yards in 18 carries and scored the only touchdown of the game on a nine-yard burst in the third quarter.
Beginning at last to look like the best team in the East, Penn State gathered forces behind Quarterback Galen Hall, who rolled out smoothly and passed for two touchdowns, and injured Halfback Don Jonas, who kicked 34- and 28-yard field goals even though his right arm was wired, as the Nittany Lions stepped past California 33 16. Syracuse had Quarterback Dave Sarette back for Holy Cross, and the brave but outclassed Crusaders never had a chance. Sarette picked them apart with his precise passes and Halfback Ernie Davis pranced through and around them for two touchdowns as the Orangemen won 34-6. Villanova beat the Quantico Marines 34-0. Boston U. used a pair of touchdowns by sophomore Halfback Joe DiPietro to whip George Washington 20-6.
The Ivy League continued to suffer at the hands of unimpressed outsiders. While Harvard upset Dartmouth 21-15 and first-place Princeton barely made it past seventh-place Cornell 30-25, Penn, coached by John Stiegman, late of Rutgers, collapsed before the Scarlet Knights, 20-6, Columbia fell to Lehigh 14-7, Brown to Rhode Island 12-9 and Yale to Colgate 14-8, giving the Red Raiders a complete sweep over the Big Three. The top three:
1. PENN STATE (4-2)
2. SYRACUSE (4-2)
3. NAVY (4-2)