- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
The game started out very much like the type of contest Poll Bowl fans expect. Purdue drove to a 3-0 lead, and Notre Dame, with its runners getting their best openings of the day, came back to go ahead 7-3. But Purdue immediately went 74 yards for the touchdown that made it 10-7, with Keyes doing the scoring from 16 yards away on a pitch to the left, a cut, a head fake and in—untouched.
About now you had time to remember something Phipps had said the day before the game. "The last team to get the ball may win," he had noted, reflecting on the 28-21 victory he engineered in 1967. But this was the moment Purdue's groaning defense decided to wake up. The front four guys, who have such names as Billy McKoy, Bill Yanchar, Dennis Wirgowski and Alex Davis, who range in weight from 210 to 272 and who have an average height of 6'4", started playing volleyball with the Notre Dame backs. Bop. Interception at the Irish 30. Three plays later: Keyes starting off on that same play to the left, and this time Notre Dame isn't going to let him run for a touchdown, no, by Ara, not again, so Keyes is lobbing a 17-yard scoring pass to Dillingham. Bop. Fumble at the Irish 41. Two plays later: Phipps to Dillingham. Another touchdown.
One more contribution from the defense later—another interception—gave Purdue the ball at Notre Dame's 31, and this time it took the Boilermakers just two plays to get in. Perry Williams did it from 18 yards out, using the same play Keyes scored on.
Purdue's offense is basic. Phipps stands in a pocket that wouldn't crumble if the National Guard went at it. His receivers just do a little hook or cross the middle and they are open and he hits them. Keyes runs a pitch either way. A bull of a fullback, Williams, is in there to butt people down straight ahead. And Jim Kirkpatrick, the other halfback, will come off tackle now and then. That's all. About four or five plays, but brilliantly executed with the power, speed and confidence of, well, pros.
The whole Purdue offense is built around Keyes and what he will do when he sets up as the deep back in a slot I or in an I formation with flankers and split ends. It is built around the threat of Keyes running a sweep to either side, a sweep on which he might go wide, cut inside or throw a pass. Keyes, who is 6'3" and 205, generally takes a quick pitch from Mike Phipps and lopes slowly out to the side, with some definite idea in mind of what he will do. But everything can change with the blocking, or the reaction of the cornerback. The play that he scored his first touchdown on sounds like a fouled-up computer trying to respond to the capital of Rhode Island. It is called X-Strong Left 21 Toss. Which means: Keyes runs left and either keeps or passes, but hopefully keeps. When Leroy started to his left, End Bob Dillingham took out the Notre Dame safety, and Keyes saw that Mike Phipps was going to handle the cornerback, so he cut inside, kind of wiggled, cut outside and went for the touchdown.
On Keyes's scoring pass to Dillingham only two minutes and 19 seconds later, Phipps spoke almost the same words in the huddle. X-Strong Left 21 Toss Pass. Leroy went ambling out to his left in the same fashion. But this time he hesitated a moment and then sent a high, rainbow pass over the dark blue Notre Dame jerseys that came down as if directed by a control tower into Bob Dillingham's outstretched hands.
It is all a beautiful combination for Purdue. Notre Dame found, as others might, that when it doubled up on Keyes, Dillingham caught the passes. When it concentrated on forcing Keyes to run, he would throw. And when it kept him from throwing, he would run. It found that Phipps can throw the ball exactly where orders from the bench tell him to, and that other Purdue backs can run, particularly when Keyes is split far out on the flank as a combination passing target and nerve shredder.
Purdue Coach Jack Mollenkopf, a 62-year-old throwback to earlier days in the business, says that the explanation for this imposing combination of system and athletes—indeed for Purdue's emergence as a consistent power these last few seasons—is as simple as X-Strong Left 21 Toss. Organization, says Jack. He loves his staff, which can coach and recruit equally well, and he lets it do most of the work. Bob DeMoss, for example, is totally in charge of the offense, plotting it in workouts and then calling the plays for Phipps from the bench. And Purdue has learned something about recruiting. First: cover the whole country. Get a Leroy Keyes from down in Newport News, Va., a Mike Phipps from Ohio, a Jim Kirkpatrick from North Carolina and a Chuck Kyle from Kentucky.
Nor does it hurt anything that Purdue happens to have a university president, Frederick Hovde, who would gleefully relish running interference for Leroy Keyes. Hovde is a frequenter of Purdue practices, watching intensely and chatting with Jack Mollenkopf when the coach happens to be on the sidelines instead of up in the tower where he spends most of his time silently surveying all. Hovde has gone around saying such things as, "The coaching staff does the best job of teaching of anyone on the faculty," and, "If Jack Mollenkopf goes, I'll go with him."
Since Mollenkopf has never really been regarded, until lately, as one of the Big Ten's coaching pillars, this attitude of Hovde's has not harmed his confidence, sense of security or relationship with his staff. "You have to have that kind of man behind you," Mollenkopf says. "He trusts me, and I trust my assistants. Trust 'em and depend on 'em. They are the best in the country."