On paper, St. Louis University had a harder chore in playing Navy, unbeaten for two years. The Middies had beaten Guelker's team in the semis last season 2-1; the Billikens remembered they had been pushed around somewhat in that game and came out battling this time. The game was scoreless until the last few seconds of the first quarter when Navy kicked a goal. It was disallowed. The timer had pulled the trigger before the score, but his gun had not fired until he had pulled it the third time. Judging by the ensuing furor, you would have thought somebody had called John Paul Jones a landlubber.
The silent shot sunk Navy's spirits. The only goal the Middies got the rest of the way was one a Billiken defenseman accidentally deflected into his own net. St. Louis won 3-1, led by the tricky mid-field ball-handling of Carl Gentile (pronounced Jen-tilly), a little guy who, if his ears were pointed, could serve as a model for the Billiken symbol. He and a speedy Irishman, Pat McBride, were superb at bringing the ball through opposition kickers. Gentile kicked one of the goals and assisted on the two others.
The slogan for St. Louis thus became "12 in a row and one to go." Coach Guelker had never had an undefeated and untied season despite the four national championships. He did not get very daring in his pregame analysis, dropping such original asides as "this is anybody's game," and "both teams are well-conditioned." Gene Kenney played it cool, too. "It's a pleasure to come to St. Louis," he told a luncheon audience. "It's a great soccer town. It's the best soccer town, I'm sure we all agree." Sweetness and light.
The best soccer town turned up an estimated 8,500 fans at Francis Field, complete with pretty girl cheerleaders dressed in white who did not have much chance to lead cheers because, darn it, the action is continuous in soccer. No nice girl-watching time-outs. Ed Macauley drank a soda pop in the press box and allowed as how he still thought it was a lot of foolishness. There was a bell to be rung, a timer's pistol guaranteed to fire at the first hint of a trigger tug, and soccer-loving priests who remembered their seminary days.
Coach Kenney, whose team had not been allowed on the premises the day before, brought his boys out early to poke around, getting acquainted with a bare spot here, a thick tuft there and a bump over yonder. Then he took them back into the dressing room for a while before bringing them out for good. He hoped they would think they were in familiar surroundings. Kenney has Turks, Ukrainians, New Englanders, Midwesterners and a Jamaican honor student in engineering on his squad. He has to be, and is, a good psychologist.
For this big game Kenney had George Janes from Cincinnati and Detroit playing goalie. Janes was a front liner as a soph and junior but took the goalie job this year to help the team.
The first quarter was scoreless. The Billikens seemed to dominate with their fine short-passing game, again featuring McBride and Gentile, who can do things with their sensitive feet that some basketball guards cannot do with their hands. Michigan State's Guy Busch had a good angle on a free kick but was too high. Twice there was almost a brawl and once the referees, imported from neutral Chicago, brought the ball back to the center of the field because of ungentlemanly conduct by both sides.
St. Louis scored in the second quarter when Gentile booted the ball across the field, and Jay Moore deflected it into the net with his cranium, a heady play especially favored by Moore. But Jay was off side and the score was disallowed. All this time St. Louis' Jack Gilsinn was doing a good job of guarding Guy Busch, who can kick like a mule with either foot.
The game-breaking and, for State, heartbreaking penalty occurred in the third quarter. A Spartan defenseman tripped Pat McBride in the never-never land, the rectangular territory marked outside the goal. This gave St. Louis a penalty kick from 12 yards out, with just the poor goalie, George Janes, facing the kicker. It was as if Jimmy Brown was given the football on the 12 and one poor soul was stationed between him and the goal line. Protecting the 24-foot-by-8-foot goal is next to impossible. Gentile was picked by St. Louis to try the kick and he made it, sneaking it into the left corner beyond the diving Janes's fingertips.
Surprisingly, a State defenseman was called for shoving in the penalty zone just minutes later, but this time Gentile was wide right on the penalty kick. There was no more scoring, although McBride tried a sideways right-footed kick in the last period and hit the right upright.