SI Vault
September 15, 1969
As college football begins a new century, it may well have said goodby forever to the fullback constantly running up the backs of his guards and tackles. It may have also bid farewell to the quick kick, field position, clawing defense—to every conservative element that once helped distinguish the game by regions and made it different from the pitch-and-catch style of the professionals. It started happening early in the 1960s, it happened in 1968 as never before and this year it should be even more so. For better or worse the collegiate game is now played the same way over the entire country. No more can one look at the Big Ten and say, there are the brutes who control the ball, or glance at the Deep South and say, there is what defense is all about, or probe the Southwest to see if the forward pass is alive and well at, for example, Baylor. Everybody throws the ball, everybody catches it and everybody runs with such alarming success that scoreboards have taken on the appearance of a light show for hippies.
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
September 15, 1969

Wave Goodby To Defense

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29


In the 11 years since Frank Rush started taking his Arizona State football teams high into the cool, pine-tree country north of Phoenix each September, the tales that have filtered back down have become almost as well-known as any written by Zane Grey. ASU players who have lived through Rush's Parris Island routine can talk for hours about "Dachau West" and "the days of football, sleep and pain," and their coach isn't about to restrain them. "We don't go up there for a picnic," he says. "We just want to find out who wants to play football and who doesn't."

Kush coaches tough because he comes from a tough background. The son of a Pennsylvania coal miner who died when Frank was 14, he had to work in a garage before and after school to help support the family of 15. Later, at Michigan State, he weighed only 170 pounds but still made All-America at middle guard. When Rush went to New York to be honored on national TV, an usher refused to let him through the door, on the assumption he was just another gate-crasher.

If Frank Rush were any less successful than he has been, he probably would have only a handful of players when he opens camp each fall. But, because there are only four active coaches—Nebraska's Devaney, Mississippi's Vaught, Alabama's Bryant and Missouri's Devine—who have better records than Kush's 81-28-1, the talent comes to ASU in waves. "You respect him because he's winning," says Ron Pritchard, last year's All-America linebacker, now with the Houston Oilers. "If he was losing, you probably wouldn't."

Kush punishes himself and his staff almost as fiercely as he does his players. He runs two miles a day, works hard on the paddle court—and he makes sure he's not alone. The assistant coaches run before practice, where the players can see them. (Kush also encourages a free exchange of ideas, and the meetings and film sessions are filled with angry ranting and eloquent cursing.)

"We've played a lot of teams that were just as good as we were," Kush says, "but we've beaten them because they weren't as tough as we were." The University of Texas at El Paso is one of those teams. UTEP has never beaten Kush, and twice in the past four years it has blown two-touchdown leads to the Sun Devils. Last year ASU scored 21 points in the first nine minutes against UTEP to win going away 31-19.

"We could have had them 35-0 in the first period if we'd wanted to," Kush says. The Sun Devils went on to win eight of 10, missing the Western Athletic Conference title only because they lost to Wyoming, a team that happens to be just as tough as ASU. A running team that still operates out of the old-fashioned Winged T, ASU simply buried some of its opponents, running up scores like 47-12, 59-21, 66-0 and 63-28. "We are," says Offensive Coach Chuck McBride, "the kind of team that will dink around, dink around—and then on one play we'll put it all together. Pffffft! Sixty yards. Six points."

Kush, of course, has sent a few runners into the pros—Travis Williams, Charley Taylor, Tony Lorick and Max Anderson. But, because he has one this year who may be the finest he's ever had, nobody—even Wyoming—should beat the Sun Devils for the WAC title. Art Malone, ASU's sleek, 190-pound fullback, had the kind of season last year runners dream of. Malone was held only once to less than 96 yards in a game. Twice he made more than 200; six times he went more than 100. When the season was over, Malone had gained 1,431 yards and scored 16 TDs. His average for each of 235 carries: 6.2 yards. "We probably feared Art Malone as much as any back we faced all last season," said Oregon State Coach Dee Andros—and Oregon State faced O. J. Simpson.

Malone isn't alone, either. Quarterback Joe Spagnola, a 9.7 man, is back and he's being pushed by Grady Hurst, who's just as fast and who completed 15 of 27 for 259 yards against the varsity in the spring game. With these two, ASU will be a roll-out threat all year long. There is still more speed at halfback, where 9.5 sprinter Dave Buchanan returns, and at wingback, where Mike Brunson (9.8) can fly with the ball after he has caught it.

Kush's problems lie in patching up the interior of his offensive line. Center George Hummer, twice All WAC, will be replaced by Tom Delnoce, a senior, and Ken Coyle, a junior from the defensive unit, will take over for Left Guard Jim Kane. Tackles Roger Davis and Rick Leek are big, but green. Pritchard, the principal loss on defense, will be replaced by junior letterman Mike Mess (who really can).

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29