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James Murray
October 03, 1955
High up in a rain-spattered stadium in Maryland, a West Coast football father gets a demonstration (7-0) that a big, rough line is a greater asset on a muddy field than all the talent and tutoring built into UCLA's impressive young back
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October 03, 1955

The Tough Terrapins Stop The Knoxes

High up in a rain-spattered stadium in Maryland, a West Coast football father gets a demonstration (7-0) that a big, rough line is a greater asset on a muddy field than all the talent and tutoring built into UCLA's impressive young back

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After the game, Maryland Coach Jim Tatum and UCLA Coach Red Sanders blew each other long, admiring kisses. "That team is majestic, simply majestic!" said Red Sanders, whose team had been beaten 7-0. Said Maryland's Jim Tatum, whose club had just shut them out: " UCLA will become the highest scoring team in the nation."

Actually, the game had been neither majestic nor high scoring. It had been a taut, brittle struggle in the mud and rain between two teams which were more than a little afraid of each other and a little overawed by the stakes. And it had been decided by a single, simple mistake.

It was in the third quarter and Maryland had the ball on the UCLA 17, fourth down and one foot to go. The UCLA Bruins lined up defensively in a virtual nine-man line. It was the moment Maryland Quarterback Frank Tamburello had been waiting for and he quickly changed the play he had called in the huddle in favor of an around-end option.

The play was classic split-T. Tamburello slid along the line of scrimmage to his right. He showed the ball tantalizingly to Bruin End Johnny Hermann, like a guide giving a tourist a flash of a French postcard. Hermann hesitated, then lunged. In that instant, Tamburello pitched the ball quickly out to the trailing halfback, Ed Vereb—and the UCLA Bruins had lost their first ball game since the 1954 Rose Bowl.

But that was simply the outcome of the game. The drama of the game did not star Tamburello and Vereb at all but that old, familiar father-and-son act of Knox and Knox—Harvey, father, and Ronnie, son.

Ronnie's part in the game consisted of throwing 15 passes, completing 10 and seeing two intercepted. Harvey's part was a little more complicated. To begin with, there was the matter of the Harvey Knox quotes, the ones Coach Tatum pasted up in the Maryland dressing room. Not the usual run of "We-will-do-our-best" sentiments; these were fine, reckless throwback quotes, the kind worthy of a John L. Sullivan at a brewery picnic. In substance, they served notice on the football world that Harvey Knox, father, expected Ronnie Knox, son, to be able to lick any football team in the house by five or six touchdowns—in this case, Maryland.

Since this is not the kind of rugged honesty football coaches ordinarily afflict each other with, Coach Sanders was understandably distressed. Although he is no believer in the emotional plea or hair-shredding school of coaching, it occurred to him that Harvey's quotes by now had become an integral part of the Maryland attack and somehow had to be dealt with along with the quarterback-keep and the fullback-counter.

Accordingly, in the pre-game confidential scouting report—a document normally given over to a dispassionate discussion of how to meet the flesh-and-blood hazards of the game without confusing the boys with those they cannot throw out of bounds—Red saw fit to caution his team: "Do not be misled by the various artificial methods used by an opponent seeking the psychological advantage. They [ Maryland] can't try much harder [to beat you] than they did last year."

Of course, Red did not want his players to think Harvey was the only one who had any confidence in them. "We think," he told them in the scouting report, "we have an excellent chance." He also warned them: "In no way are you to consider Maryland as the 'make-or-break' game on our schedule or that you haven't been tested yet. You had a pretty fair test last week by a team [ Texas A&M] that tried real hard to defeat you."

That, of course, was Sanders' pre-game outlook. Harvey Knox, who had issued a somewhat more extravagant and unconfidential memo of his own, had reason to regard the game as a make-or-break game, at least for him. But when he arrived at Seat 5 in Row V, Section 24 of Byrd Stadium in College Park, Md., wearing a black hat with what he called a "college crush" and a jaunty angle, Harvey was ready for a little escapology. "This rain has got to hurt us," he announced as he sat down and began to look with cheerful interest for No. 18 among the gold-and-light-blue uniforms of the UCLA team. He spotted No. 18 just as it was completing the first practice pass to a teammate. "That's a good omen," shot in Harvey quickly. "Have no fear. We're all right."

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