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A TEAM EVEN A COACH CAN LOVE
Walter Bingham
October 01, 1962
To hear Penn State Coach Rip Engle tell it, his Nittany Lions couldn't beat Vassar. But when State crushed Navy last week, it was clear that it was the best in the East
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October 01, 1962

A Team Even A Coach Can Love

To hear Penn State Coach Rip Engle tell it, his Nittany Lions couldn't beat Vassar. But when State crushed Navy last week, it was clear that it was the best in the East

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Despite Engle's gloomy predictions before Navy, a large portion of the Penn State student body returned to the campus to watch the game, even though classes would not begin until the following Monday. Two current magazines had ranked Penn State 12th and sixth. "These polls are based on hearsay," said Engle. "They asked me to rank Ohio State. I don't know what Woody Hayes's got, but I put them first because I'd read they were good. No one knows what we'll be like. Expect the worst and hope for the best, I always say."

Navy's coach, Wayne Hardin, was expecting the best. " Penn State is rated No. 1, and that's the way we like it," he said. ("How can we be number one before we play?" asked Engle.) "I can assure you that we won't be scared," Hardin continued. ("We wouldn't want them to be scared," Engle said.) Hardin announced that John Sai, Navy's leading runner last year, was hurt. ("He'll play," said Engle.) "Defense," concluded Hardin, "will be the issue. I don't think we can stop them cold, but we can cut down their scoring." ("We'll have to cut down their scoring," said Engle, and later: "I feel like I'm sitting on a bomb.")

The bomb exploded on Saturday afternoon, but Hardin, not Engle, was sitting on it. Penn State received the kickoff and moved swiftly on the ground, Kochman, Powell and Al Gursky, a strong halfback, one of many, running well. Navy held near its goal, but minutes later State was back and this time it scored, Quarterback Pete Liske sending Gursky through the line without the ball and then flipping him a soft five-yard pass for a touchdown. The rest of the game was a sleighride. The final score of 41-7 might just as easily have been 55-7.

Engle was, of course, pleased, especially with his three quarterbacks—Liske in particular—who had passed accurately and had run the team with poise. True to form, however, he said that the whole team still needed a lot of work. Hardin could only shake his head: "I wish I had Engle's quarterback problems," he said.

By winning so convincingly, Penn State must now be considered not only as the class of the East but as a legitimate national power. Its next opponent is Air Force, and of course Air Force will win. Just ask Rip Engle.

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