- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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When you gun for Oklahoma," muttered Colorado Coach Dal Ward, "you end up losing three games instead of just one. You lose the week before, then Oklahoma murders you and you lose the week after. This year Colorado is not going to do or die against Oklahoma."
It sounded like sacrilegious abandonment of football's good old college try. Yet it was a sensible, realistic acceptance that a loss to Oklahoma by 40 points is no longer humiliating; so why commit suicide trying to keep the score down? Dal Ward's Colorado Buffaloes, after flattening Nebraska last Saturday 16-0 and taking a long step toward the Orange Bowl, bump into mighty Oklahoma this weekend. Throughout the past six years they have ambitiously cranked up for the Sooners and thrown several scares into them, but they always limped home afterward. This year Colorado will play hard but at the same time keep one eye cocked on Nov. 10, when their game with Missouri will probably decide who represents the big Seven in the Orange Bowl.
With five straight wins (after a demoralizing 35-0 loss to Oregon in the opener) Coach Ward has whipped the single-wing Buffs into a dangerous running team. They have a wobbly passing game and a weak pass defense, but their scampering, pounding ground attack can move the ball in any direction. Against Nebraska they showed great speed on their wide plays with Bob Stransky, Eddie Dove and Howard Cook, plus bullish power up the middle with John (The Beast) Bayuk, as bruising a fullback as there is in the country. Bayuk slammed his way through the Cornhuskers for both Colorado touchdowns, gained 112 yards in 13 tries to push him even further ahead of all Big Seven rushers. The Colorado ends, as usual, played a dogged game, choked Nebraska on the flanks and persistently swamped the passer. "Our great ends are our best pass defense," the coach has candidly confessed.
The ends will have to be charging fast against Missouri. The Tigers have an excellent quarterback in Jim Hunter, whom some coaches rate the best passer in the Big Seven Conference, not excluding Oklahoma's Jim Harris. Besides worrying about pass defense, Colorado will have another mental hazard: they have never won a game at Columbia. But after the Nebraska game—which was played before 45,500 persons, largest crowd ever to watch an athletic event in the state of Colorado—jubilant Dal Ward reasoned this way: "I've got 11 sophomores on the first two teams and they have more poise than my seniors. I'm not worried about them."
In the Skyline Conference, Wyoming's unfailing meal ticket—Tailback Jim Crawford—once again carried the Cowboys on his back, lugging the ball for 175 yards to bring his team from behind for a 27-15 victory over Kansas State. Wyoming trailed 9-6 at the half and appeared to be headed for their first loss until Crawford slashed through for a touchdown in the final period and then set up another. He now leads the country in rushing with 780 yards.
It was the seventh straight for Wyoming. Now their chief remaining threat to a Skyline championship comes this weekend from pesky Utah State and its bobbing halfback, Jack Hill, who Saturday scored three touchdowns against Brigham Young to lead the country's scoring with 90 points. To tie Wyoming for the title, once-beaten Utah State will have to trip the Cowboys this weekend, no small job in itself, and follow with a win over Utah—not much easier.
In the Rocky Mountain Conference, beefy Montana State (they have three tackles who weigh 235 pounds) clinched the championship Saturday by trouncing Western State 28-13. Western State's flashy Bill Rhodes, touted by the pros as the best back in this part of the country, was hurt and sidelined most of the game. Montana State now has a 7-0 record, is rated one of the best teams in conference history and is squirming to get at archrival Montana University in what is always a gridiron bonanza.