While Gonso is the most cocky on the field, it is Butcher—Psychedelic Jade—who is the zaniest off. A good pro prospect, he wants, naturally, to play in New York and, even more naturally, with the Jets and Joe Namath. He is already modeled in their image. As a lifeguard in Bloomington last summer, he let his hair grow down his neck—and then, for want of better things to do, he bleached it blond. He is also big on striped bells, flowered shirts, imported shoes.
Isenbarger, who gained nearly 700 yards in 1968, though missing four games because of a tender knee, should be back as strong as ever. The trouble, as always, will be getting him interested when the game promises little challenge. "John needs to be inspired," says a teammate. "He tends to get lazy if he doesn't feel threatened."
The rest of the offense, if not as heart-stopping, is at least sound. Hank Pogue, the fullback, is in Pont's words "the most underrated player on the team." Split End Eric Stolberg, though not as flashy as Butcher, proved himself good enough last year to keep defenses from concentrating on one side. The interior of the line, strong last year, should be even better. Center Steve Applegate starts his third year; the guards, Don DeSalle and E. G. White, are both veterans, with DeSalle one of the best in the country. Chris Morris, a starter at guard last year, will move to tackle, replacing John Andrews, who has switched to tight end.
Offense, though, has never been a worry; it is defense where Indiana should—and must—show the biggest improvement. While running up a 6-4 record last year, it gave up 262 points, winning some 40-36 and 38-34 games, yet losing 38-35 and 38-20. Such generosity was too much even for Gonso & Co. to overcome. "When I first came to Indiana," Pont explains, "things were so low that I kept putting my best players on offense, figuring even if we lost, at least we'd score. Now that the offense is set, I can put some of the top boys on defense. I think we've finally evened up the two."
The defense, like the offense, will gamble. "If we say, 'Come at us,' " Pont says, "we'll be blown out. We'll gamble."
So even defense will be exciting at Indiana, where the Hoosiers, if nothing else, promise fun football. Certainly they are going to be the most individualistic—Pont, as the saying goes, gives everyone his own head. "I don't believe in the automation of man," he says. None of his players are robots, and the fun they have should only increase as they mow down opponents. And the people of Bloomington should get a chance to spend all that money they saved at John Pont's behest—on another trip to the Rose Bowl.
Gone are Leroy Keyes, Mr. Everything, and Perry Williams, the fullback, and Chuck Kyle, the All-America middle guard, and three other all-conference players, yet up pop all these optimists at Purdue saying how the 1969 team may end up being better than last year's. Oh, Jack Mollenkopf, the coach, will hem and haw and scrape his feet, kicking around some imaginary stones, but finally he'll admit, "We just might prove to be a little more explosive this year." And then he adds, "I'd like to go to California again before I quit coaching." Since he will be 64 in November, there will not be many more chances.
If indeed the Boilermakers end up better than last year's team (8-2), it will most certainly have more to do with intangibles—more specifically, attitude—than unsuspected strength. Even Mollenkopf will concede that "there was something you could feel that wasn't right last year."
Tim Foley, the team's best defensive halfback, is more specific. "I think we may have depended on Leroy too much," he says. "I mean if we ever were in trouble we'd always figure he could get us out. Now we'll be more rounded, and the other teams won't know where we're going to hit them. And maybe everyone on the team will try a little harder because, well, they feel a little bit more important to the whole."