- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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Halfback Mike Garrett is a stunning outside threat. Halfback Mike Garrett (same guy) is as great a threat running inside. But then, Mike Garrett is also a fearsome threat as a pass receiver. And sometimes as a passer. And as a kick-return specialist. And as a blocker and defensive back, because he hits hard enough to maim. And, what is more, he is a threat to the outer limits of the unrestrained demeanor of his head coach at the University of Southern California, Johnny McKay. McKay feels he is being conservative when he says that Mike Garrett is not only the greatest player he ever coached, but "the best college player I have ever seen." McKay is afraid that one of these days Garrett will do something so marvelous that he, McKay, will really have to open up.
But for the time being, routine is good enough. Garrett's routine is striking in its simplicity: Quarterback Troy Winslow gives him the football to run 25 or 30 times a game, and Garrett gains about 150 yards. Winslow also passes to him a few times and, together with the finely balanced, deft-blocking USC attack, the result is routine victory piled on routine victory. The Trojans have now won four straight since a season-opening tie with Minnesota, the fourth a 14-0 shutout last Saturday of a Stanford team considered by many in Palo Alto as the school's best since World War II. Predictably, this kind of routine will carry USC into the Rose Bowl.
Stanford Coach John Ralston had a plan for 12-point-favorite Southern Cal. "Give Garrett his 130 yards," Ralston said, "because he will get them anyway. Give him 150 even, or 175; but cut him off at the goal, don't let him go for the long touchdown run and make sure the other three guys don't kill you." For 52 minutes 45 seconds Ralston's plan of containment worked just fine. It was a 0-0 game. Garrett, his 5-foot-9, 189-pound body moving forward, always forward, carried 27 times for 103 yards, but never for more than 12 yards at a time. And whenever the Trojans got close—once as close as the Stanford one-yard line—they were steadfastly shut off.
Now it was the fourth quarter, third down and seven for the Trojans on their own 23. Winslow brought his team out of the huddle into the I formation, with Garrett set to the left on the strong side. With the snap, Winslow pivoted and faked to his fullback, then rammed the ball into the belly of Halfback Rod Sherman, flying in behind the fake. Garrett took two quick jab steps toward the Stanford end, then wheeled and headed back toward the weak side. Both USC guards pulled on the delay, and Winslow yanked the ball back out of Sherman's belly and slipped it into Garrett's hands. Right Tackle Chuck Arrobio wiped out the Indian tackle on the weak side. Jerry Conroy and Frank Lopez, the guard escort, headed into the hole at weak-side tackle ahead of Garrett. Conroy took out the linebacker, Lopez the tackle. Garrett, his 9EE shoes scratching for traction, seemed to hesitate briefly, stutter-stepping, then darted to his left, parallel with the line. Winslow caught the move out of the corner of his eye and took off downfield ahead of the play. Now Winslow was joined by the fullback, Gary Fite; Sherman went for the Stanford safetyman, Fite for Corner Back Craig Ritchey. But Ritchey slipped him and appeared to have the angle on Garrett. Then along came Winslow again, a frail-appearing figure but a giant of a blocking quarterback, to send Ritchey flying. Garrett was free on a 77-yard touchdown run.
"That was it. When Garrett broke that one off, it was too much, just too much," said a dejected Ralston, speaking softly in the bombed-out quiet of the Stanford dressing room. "We had them on the ropes; we had the tempo, we were in complete command of everybody except Mike Garrett."
Garrett wound up with 205 yards on 31 carries. He has yet to be held under 146 yards—in the previous four games he rushed for 146, 154, 172 and 175 yards. A point to be made, however, is that when the opposition tries to lean on him McKay has another fine runner in Sherman—he got the insurance touchdown against Stanford on a 25-yard run—and a thinking quarterback, who knows how to get the most out of McKay's imaginative attack. And perhaps most important, as McKay will admit, "We have the best blocking since I've been at USC."
When Ohio State Quarterback Don Unverferth was driven into the turf of his own end zone last Saturday, providing MICHIGAN STATE with a 12-0 lead and evoking George Webster's ecstatic leap (left), it became suddenly clear that the Spartans were quite capable of winning the Big Ten title. Even Coach Duffy Daugherty, ordinarily not an unrestrained optimist, bubbled over following the 32-7 rout of the Buckeyes. "You know," he said, "these fellows have yet to realize their full potential."
Their potential, which will be tested by Purdue on Saturday, was good enough to hound Ohio State's treasured ground game into a minus 22 yards. Meanwhile, with Steve Juday throwing a touchdown pass and quarterbacking masterfully, the Spartans struck for 538 yards in total offense, Halfback Clint Jones scored twice (once on an 80-yard run), Fullback Bob Apisa got his fifth touchdown this year and barefooted Dick Kenney kicked his ninth field goal.