SI Vault
Mervin Hyman
September 24, 1962
Washington's Huskies are back on the trail to the Rose Bowl, but some of the region's best football will be played high in the Rocky Mountain states
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September 24, 1962

New Strength In Old Quarters

Washington's Huskies are back on the trail to the Rose Bowl, but some of the region's best football will be played high in the Rocky Mountain states

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Air Force
1961 record: Won 3, lost 7

Sept. 22

Colorado State U.


Sept. 29

at Penn State

(no game)

Oct. 6

at SMU


Oct. 13

at Arizona, N

(no game)

Oct. 20


(no game)

Oct. 27


(no game)

Nov. 3


(no game)

Nov. 10



Nov. 17



Nov. 24

at Colorado


And why, sir," a reporter asked UCLA Coach Bill Barnes (above) one day last spring, "are you changing this year from the proven single wing to the T formation?"

"There are a number of reasons," Coach Barnes, a transplanted Southerner with a soft sense of humor and a soft-sell approach to football, replied. "First the alumni demand it. Then...."

"Say no more," broke in the reporter. "That covers it."

Actually it did not. A subtle change has taken place in Pacific Coast recruiting during the past several years. It stems partly from higher entrance requirements, principally in the Big Six schools, and partly from a new NCAA rule which requires that a football player who enrolls in a junior college must spend two full years there before transferring to a four-year school. "These days we only consider about the top 10% of high school graduating classes," says Barnes. "We used to get boys in the next 15% by way of junior colleges, but so many of them don't want to spend two years in junior college. I look for out-of-state schools with lower requirements and our rising state college system to get these kids. In a decade or so these new state colleges—Los Angeles, Valley State and the like—are going to be heard from. They could be the UCLAs of the '70s."

It was this gradually diminishing supply of recruits, says Barnes, more than irate alumni, that forced the switch from the single wing. "In the single wing," he says, "it was all specialists. You had to have a center who could snap the ball unerringly while upside down. You needed a quarterback who was a vicious blocker, yet fast enough to stay ahead of your backs. You needed a fullback who could spin and pivot like a ballet dancer but had power to rip a line apart. Of course, the tailback was the core of the team. He had to run, pass, kick and even block and he had to be durable enough to stand up under game-to-game pounding. But probably the hardest man to come by was the wingback. He needed a sprinter's speed, the niftiness of a scatback and the strength to block an end or halfback who might go 200 or 220.

"We just couldn't come up with all these men year after year," Barnes adds ruefully. He concedes that UCLA will be a question mark, but he is hopeful. "If we don't get clobbered too hard too early," he says, "we will be a good football team." UCLA plays Ohio State in its first game. It will get clobbered.

Far north of Los Angeles, James Donald Owens, head coach of the University of Washington, has similar problems but he has learned to live with them—so successfully, in fact, that he is building something of an era. In his sixth year at Washington, and still only 35, Owens has won 31 games, lost 19 and tied 2. Twice in the last three years his Huskies have gone to the Rose Bowl, and very likely that is where they will be again this New Year's. The inexorable rise in academic standards has become a challenge to him. "It's like having to pay income tax," he says. "We coaches have a tendency to moan, but tougher academic standards mean you have got to become more selective—and I don't mean you have to be mediocre. If the Big Six has proved anything, it has proved you can have good football right along with good engineering schools."

Owens teaches a system of football that is unique on the Pacific Coast. Its closest counterpart will be found at Alabama, where Bear Bryant holds forth. For six years, Owens was Bryant's assistant at Kentucky and Texas A&M. But where Bryant talks incessantly of defensive football, Owens talks more of a well-balanced game. Granted, Washington teams are noted for tenacious defense and a superbly effective kicking game, but the Huskies don't short-change their offense. "We have more versatility than the Southeast, even more than the Southwest," Owens says, not only of Washington but of all the Big Six teams. "We play a more wide-open game than the Midwest and, with the possible exception of USC, we seem to run to lighter, faster teams." Washington, he might have added, plays a running game—the best in the West.

It has been a long time since the University of Southern California came up with a winner. Nothing less than the Rose Bowl will still the discontent, and even then Coach Johnny McKay will have to keep on winning before he erases remembrance of things past. His job is not promising. "We'll be strong in the departments that attract fans—running, throwing and catching," McKay says with a nervous chuckle, "but weak where football games are won: tackle to tackle." McKay had better get in all the laughs he can now. His Trojans are keyed around the big fullback, Ben Wilson. When he's healthy, Wilson is awfully good, but Wilson has had knee trouble. With Wilson, USC will be a good team, maybe the second best in the conference. Without him, McKay will need a sense of humor.

Across the border, Oregon and Oregon State, at present unwanted in the AAWU, will go their independent way until such time as the conference relents and invites them back. With or without the blessings of the AAWU, Oregon will field one of the strongest teams in its history. The Webfoots are deep and fast, but their schedule is awesome. If the breaks don't go their way, Oregon will have to scramble to get even. Oregon State, which does not have an overabundance of outstanding players, does have a far easier schedule than Oregon's—and it has Terry Baker, the most capable back in the West. The Beavers could surprise everybody.

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