Particularly the running of a quarterback. "The hammer that has broken things down is the option play," says Frank Broyles of Arkansas. "If we just spread people out and let the quarterback drop back and throw like the pros, you could play a consistent defense. But now you've got teams with two split receivers, with runners, and with quarterbacks who can run the option as well as throw. This simply generates more offense than any defense can handle.
"If the pros had the collegiate option play, they'd go up and down the field all day," Broyles says. "Against their standard four-man fronts, a Roman Gabriel ought to be able to roll out without any sort of fake and get a first down whenever he wanted to expose himself to that sort of thing."
Kansas' Pepper Rodgers concurs: "In the pro game, because the quarterback almost never runs, you have what might be described as 10 men on offense against 11 men on defense. The colleges have 11 against 11, and the best ones are playing offense." Rodgers himself has the man who best typifies the new trend. Quarterback Bob Douglass, a strong passer and excellent runner. "I think of him, at 6'3" and 212 pounds," says Rodgers, "compared to me at quarterback for Georgia Tech in 1953. I was 5'9" and weighed 175. And Douglass would have outrun me by 20 yards in a 100-yard dash." So dangerous are these running quarterbacks that three of them are among the top 12 ground-gainers in the Big Eight Conference.
What has happened to those fabled All-America defensive linemen with the evolution of "option" football as opposed to the "power" football of the 1950s is best explained by Texas' Darrell Royal. "The big tackle who used to stand his ground and keep anyone from running over him has been isolated into an option position. If he tackles the running back on a dive but the quarterback has faked the hand-off, that's just as effective as blocking the tackle."
The tackle is in trouble because of the biggest vogue in college football—"Homer's Triple," as some call it, or the " Houston Veer," as others refer to it. It is a quarterback option play first devised by Cincinnati Coach Homer Rice, then expanded upon by Houston Coach Bill Yeoman. If you run it Homer's way, the tackle gets optioned instead of blocked. You make that hulking soul worry about three things: a give to the runner, a keep by the quarterback or a pitchout. If you run it Houston's way, both the tackle and the end are optioned instead of blocked. Perhaps it should be called Somebody's Quadruple, because the quarterback can also pass as he goes veering down the line.
What it all comes down to is that the defense has been terribly disarmed. The deep backs have to stay back or get bombed. The cornerbacks have to watch the run and the pass. The ends have to beware of the pass first. The linebackers have to drop off and double cover, or move more quickly than most of them can with a play flowing away from them.
One thing that would solve the dilemma immediately would be a rules change. Eliminate free substitution and it would be back to power football quicker than you could say Bear-Darrell-Frank. But most college coaches like two platoons, even if their athletic directors are beginning to worry about budgets. The only other solution will take a little longer. This would be for coaches to start putting their best athletes on defense. Woody Hayes, for example, is in the enviable position of being able to use John Tatum, a 6-foot, 202-pound 9.7 man at cornerback even though Hayes is sure Tatum could be his starting tailback. It was Tatum who shadowed Purdue's Leroy Keyes so well that Leroy fell back a few strides in the Heisman derby, and Ohio State beat the Boilermakers 13-0, a musty, old-fashioned football score.
"When the colleges start developing fast, talented cornerbacks, you'll begin to see a difference," says Florida State's Bill Peterson, himself one of the prime movers toward offense. "We're already seeing a lot of different defensive 'looks.' They're starting to make it difficult to call the right play. It'll tighten up, and then we'll all be trying to go to something else."
As Darrell Royal likes to say about trends and how the game goes in cycles: "There ain't a horse can't be rode or a man can't be throwed."
Meanwhile, the only thing being throwed is defense.