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The Day Kaz Roared
Gwilym S. Brown
November 13, 1961
Ten years ago Dick Kazmaier put on one of football's most spectacular one-man shows
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November 13, 1961

The Day Kaz Roared

Ten years ago Dick Kazmaier put on one of football's most spectacular one-man shows

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"Before that game," Kazmaier recalled, "if I broke loose on a long run I'd be surprised to find nobody around me. I was relying almost entirely on speed. But now I found myself running with confidence, knowing how to use my blockers, knowing where to expect the openings downfield, how to spin away when I got hit, how to apply pressure at the most valuable moment. It was sort of a culmination of all the games I'd played and all the things I'd learned."

Both Cornell and Princeton went into the 1950 game undefeated, but it turned out to be a long and gloomy afternoon for the team from Ithaca. Princeton won 27-0. Kazmaier scored two touchdowns (one a 70-yard sprint on a fake reverse off his right tackle), completed seven of nine passes and booted a punt dead on Cornell's one-yard line at a crucial point in the third quarter. That victory over highly rated Cornell was the game that made Princeton's fine season possible, and it contained some strong indications of what would occur exactly a year later.

It was not the same Princeton team, however, that faced Cornell on Oct. 27, 1951. Kazmaier was the only returnee from the starting offensive platoon that had helped earn Caldwell his Coach of the Year honors in 1950. Cornell once again was undefeated coming into the game, and so, surprisingly, this year, was Princeton. In fact, the Tigers were riding a 17-game winning streak. Caldwell, by no means sure of the outcome, hoped Princeton could score at least three times and win by a point. He vowed that if Princeton won, the team could chuck him bodily into Lake Carnegie.

Shortly after the opening kickoff, Princeton took possession of the ball on its own 28. The Tigers scored 12 plays later. Kazmaier threw three passes during the march, completing all of them for gains of 10, 27, and seven yards. But the key play was a typical Kazmaier run. Scooting to the right on a pass play from the Cornell 35, the Princeton tailback failed to spot a receiver in the clear. What he did spot were three Cornell linemen charging in from his right, intent on smashing him to the ground. Kazmaier did a full pivot away from the onrushing group, streaked back across the field, swung down the left side and went 22 yards before he was stopped on the 13. Three plays later, at 7:32 of the first quarter, Fullback Russ McNeil bucked across for the score.

Cornell came back quickly to score on a 34-yard pass by Calvo, but early in the second quarter Kazmaier threw a 33-yard scoring pass to Wingback Dick Pivirotto and Princeton led 13-6. Then, with only 90 seconds left in the first half, Kazmaier made what he still considers the best running play of his college career. It was a whirling, zigzagging touchdown play of seven yards that clinched the game for Princeton.

"It was a delayed buck," says Kazmaier. "I took the pass from center, made a half spin on a fake hand-off to the wingback and then charged straight back up the middle. There wasn't much of a hole, but I bounced off a couple of guys and wound up in the end zone still running. I felt terrific after that. Man, I knew I'd done something real fine."

Pressure passes and runs

Kazmaier kept up the pressure all during the second half, flitting through and around Cornell tacklers, tossing passes with unerring accuracy. He passed 45 yards to Pivirotto for a touchdown, four yards to End Len Lyons for another and ran 50 yards on a reverse to set up Princeton's final touchdown (which he scored himself on a fake reverse from the three). When the game was over, Kazmaier had led Princeton to an astonishing 53-15 victory over what had been considered one of the strongest teams in the country.

"The greatest one-man performance I've ever seen since I started coaching," said Cornell's Lefty James, a coach since 1930. Kazmaier's statistics tell the same story: 15 of 17 passes completed for 236 yards and three touchdowns, 18 rushes for 124 yards and two touchdowns—an offensive total of 360 yards. Coach Caldwell received his promised dip in Lake Carnegie an hour after the game, and four weeks later Princeton ended its season with its winning streak still intact at 22 straight.

Kazmaier made the major All-America teams for the second straight year and led the nation in total offense with 1,827 yards—861 yards gained rushing and 966 yards passing. Honors were heaped on him all winter long: the Heisman Trophy by a record plurality of votes, the A.P.'s Male Athlete of the Year award over such sporting heroes as Ben Hogan, Stan Musial, Bob Mathias, Joe Walcott, Otto Graham, Allie Reynolds and Sugar Ray Robinson, the Maxwell Trophy and touchdown-club awards from such cities as Washington, Los Angeles, Cleveland and Detroit.

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