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"You could tell by the holes we had that somebody was confused," says Kmetovic, now the Stanford rugby coach. "We were running right by people who didn't know we had the ball."
Defenses of that time were accustomed to seeing the ball centered some four or five yards to a tailback or a fullback. The essential problem then was to break down the massed blocking in front of the runner. Considering the inexperience of Stanford's line, that did not seem to be a problem. But somehow those linemen were almost as elusive as the backs; instead of standing there as if screwed into the ground, they seemed to come at the opposition from every direction but straight ahead.
Stanford's new offensive plays developed so quickly that being small in the line was not such a disadvantage. Defenders did not have to be held off for three or four seconds, as was the case in the single wing. The T formation required only "brush blocking," a technique wherein the defender was merely neutralized for a moment or two. Even more confusing, however, was what was going on behind the line of scrimmage. Deception, in those days, was most often represented by a fullback spinning and handing off to another back or by the tailback reversing the ball to a wingback on a fake sweep. Then again, the fullback might hand the ball to the blocking back—the quarterback in the single wing—on a fake line plunge; the blocking back, in turn, might lateral the ball to the tailback or wingback—the buck-lateral series. Defenses were accustomed to such tactics and it was not often they were caught completely off guard.
But with the Stanford T, the defense never got a look at the ball to begin with. Albert, his hands cupped between the center's legs, received the ball, wheeled so that his back was to the line and faked the ball to one or two runners before either giving it off or keeping it himself. On the quick openers, he simply turned to hand the ball to a back running at almost full speed into the line. The man-in-motion was a further dilemma to the defense. From the straight-T alignment, one of the backs would leave his position before the center snap and move laterally along the line, hurrying downfield with the snap as either a pass receiver or a decoy. Secondary defenses had never dealt with such a caper before.
All of Stanford's plays required timing that seemed beyond the capabilities of college players. Even the Chicago Bears, for all of their experience with the system, had had only sporadic success up to that time and, significantly, none of the other pro teams had seen fit to emulate them. But Shaughnessy had the right people. And Lord knows, they had worked at the task. The timing, even in the T's debut, was exquisite.
"They kept changing guards on me." Taylor says. "They couldn't handle the quick openers, didn't even seem to recognize them. Obviously, their linemen had instructions to get lower and lower. Eventually, they got so low, all I had to do was fall on my man."
Stanford won 27-0, outgaining USF 247 net yards to eight. The score would have been higher had Shaughnessy not used 42 players in the game, and this in the years before free substitution. Still, the importance of the game did not immediately sink in. Harmon's spectacular performance against Cal—he scored four touchdowns, three on runs of more than 50 yards—upstaged the show at Kezar. Harmon alone would have been enough to command the headlines, but he had unexpected help from a spectator, one H. J. (Bud) Brennan, who, in his frustration, leaped from his seat during one Harmon jaunt and attempted to tackle him near the Cal goal line. Photographs of the balding and paunchy fan groping for the great halfback occupied full pages in all of the principal Bay Area newspapers the next day.
The introduction of the T had been overshadowed by events both sublime and ridiculous, but the full significance was not entirely lost. "This type of football is different," wrote Leiser. "Why, some of those Stanford kids running away from the play actually had defenders chasing them harder than other defenders were chasing the ballcarrier." George Malley, the USF coach—described in the Chronicle as looking like "a man who had just seen a ghost"—could only shake his head in disbelief after the game. "We were baffled, naturally, by all that running around in the backfield."
Spectators experienced as much difficulty locating the ball as did the bewildered USF defenders. As with most occasions of this sort, the number of people who claim to have been there must now exceed a million, but one who really was on hand was Lou Spadia, former president of the San Francisco 49ers. "No one was prepared for what we saw," he says. "I couldn't tell where the ball was. No one around me could."
The game made an instant star of Albert, and for deeds never before celebrated. His passing and kicking were properly applauded, but it was his mystifying ball handling that enchanted the public. He had added a new dimension to the game, created, in fact, a new vocabulary. "Ball handling?" What had that to do with football? "Hand-offs?" What were they? "Quick openers?" Faking with the ball is an essential of T quarterbacking, but when the formation was new it was a unique gift, and Albert was not merely good at it, he was a genius.