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Just across from the Naval Academy's field house there is an A3D-1 Skywarrior on display. A carrier-based aircraft, the Skywarrior is designed "to penetrate deeply into enemy territory." The plane wasn't placed there as a symbol, but it might have been, for going overhead and deep is exactly what Navy Coach Wayne Hardin (above), an intense young redhead, has in mind for the football field this fall. Hardin's battle plan, like that of most coaches, is coolly calculated. This year all five major independents—Navy, Penn State, Army, Pitt and Syracuse—play each other for the first time. Hardin, reasonably enough, assumes that the most daring team will have the best chance of winning the nonexistent but much-prized eastern championship.
The emphasis on passing hardly represents a new departure for Navy, at least not since Hardin became head coach in 1959. Hardin is a coach who firmly believes that outscoring opponents rather than waiting them out with a patient defense is the only way to play football. After three winning seasons and, more important to the Navy brass, three victories in a row over Army, he has a point.
A perfectionist, Hardin revels in the academy discipline and tradition, and indeed, he gives much credit for Navy's success to the tremendous built-in spirit, which he fosters to a loud fare-thee-well. Where some teams might straggle onto the field for practice sessions, Navy comes on with a tremoring roar. It is more like the beginning of the Army game than an ordinary practice.
"Navy likes wide-open football," says Hardin. "We think the kids and the public like it, too, and that you can give them what they like and still win. We keep thinking, trying to come up with something interesting to us and confusing to others."
This year Hardin has the players who can create both interest and confusion. Ron Klemick, a lanky, whip-armed quarterback who threw the ball with amazing effectiveness last season, completing 84 of his 183 passes, is back with a handsome complement of experienced assistants.
Navy's problems, outside of Boston College and the other eastern independents, are three: Notre Dame, Southern California and Minnesota. "We could play better this year," says Hardin, "and lose more." He is dead right. If these teams aren't rugged enough, there is the "Beat Navy" movement brewing at West Point, where Coach Paul Dietzel, lured away from LSU to restore Army's flagging football prestige, has the Cadets hopping. Unlike Navy, Dietzel's system is predicated on tough defense and a somber, almost Spartan running game that uses the pass merely as an adjunct. Like Navy, however, Dietzel also has a battle plan, and it includes a replica of his three-platooning Chinese Bandits who proved so effective in Baton Rouge.
While Navy and Army plot each other's downfall. Penn State's Rip Engle, a master at melding a sleek offense with a stout defense, is quietly building another giant in the foothills of Mount Nittany. With some uncertainty at quarterback, Engle has added the open end and man in motion to his multiple T offense to take full advantage of the best efforts of Dave Robinson, a tierce blocker and tackier who is the best end in the East, and Roger Kochman, a fast All-America halfback candidate.
Pitt, too, is stronger than it has been in several years. Coach John Michelosen has juggled his backfield to get some dash into his usually stodgy offense. With some truly bright sophomores, a phenomenon being enjoyed by many teams around the country, Syracuse is likely to be harder to beat as the season progresses. Holy Cross, with two of the finest backs anywhere in Quarterback Pat McCarthy and Halfback Tom Hennessy; Villanova, a pleasant surprise last year; and Boston College, under new Coach Jim Miller, will win much more often than they lose.
Not all the good football in the East will be played by the independents. In the Ivy League, where Columbia and Harvard, the defending co-champions, have suffered heavy losses, the competition to succeed them will be as lively as ever. Yale, unhappily, has lost too many fine backs, but Cornell and Penn both have enough returning players to rank as serious challengers. However, Princeton, with an impressive array of backfield talent, and Dartmouth, led by a superb quarterback in Bill King, will most likely decide the championship when they meet November 24 at Princeton.
Tactics in the East are turning a corner. Syracuse's Ben Schwartzwalder says, "We've reached the end of the wide stuff and now the thinking is that we have to move some folks out of the way in the line in order to move the ball. The success of the Green Bay Packers has clearly demonstrated that this is still the way to play the game. And we're going to see more action passes these next few years. The drop-back pass writes the defense too long a letter too soon."