This is the East. Fallen on evil years, perhaps, but here football was born, nurtured, and first reached maturity. Here legendary figures strode the gridiron, even before the turn of the century. Those of us who love football have a debt of gratitude to pay to the pioneers who paved the way for our great American game. Even this year, plagued by the no-spring-practice rule and rigid academic restrictions, the cradle of college football is not completely anemic.
Although I am a transplanted, and at times chauvinistic, Tennesseean, there is nothing quite like an October Saturday afternoon in the still-glorious Yale Bowl. Critically, the teams may not have been the best but there were four touchdowns apiece and young Alva Kelley of Brown lost—because he had not been able to get the foot in football—by the margin of two extra points, 24-26. The Mahans, the Billy Booes, the Booths, and the Garbischs may have looked with disdain at this defection in the kicking department, but the foot is not the integral part of the game that it once was (except when you lose by that margin). In fact Yale only punted once in the second half Saturday and Brown forgot to punt at all...Shades of Walter Camp, Percy Haughton and Tad Jones.
So much for history, past and recent. The Giants won the World Series and King Football starts his reign. Long live the King! And first by right of succession is the Ivy group.
Yale. The Bulldogs have a hard core of veterans supplemented by the finest sophomores in Yale's proud football history. Sophomore Dennis McGiil is the finest outside runner since Al Hessberg of the middle thirties. Dean Loucks, another neophyte, reared in the tradition of a father football coach, is a brilliant adjunct at quarterback. Jim Armstrong is a dependable senior halfback while Captain Thorne Shugart heads a line that has size and quality. Defensive prowess will improve immeasurably. Not until the Cornell game on October 16th will real contention be established.
Cornell. Although upset by a fine Colgate team in their opener and beaten by Rice, one of the nation's outstanding teams, last week 41 to 20, Cornell still has the wherewithal to cop the Ivy title. The Big Red has a dangerous returning backfield in Dick Meade, Dick Jackson, Bill DeGraaf and Guy Bedrossian. Len Oniskey has been one of the East's best defensive tackles for the past two years and practically stands alone in the front line. A strong big team with outside strength that should progress with the season.
Princeton. The fall of Princeton last season from national greatness is still inexplicable. Charley Caldwell's single-wing offensive maneuvers rank with the best. Few tailbacks surpass Royce Flippin, who ran for three touchdowns against Columbia last Saturday and passed for another. The Tigers' defense is still a question mark, although Captain John Henn at center is outstanding. Princeton could win the title.
Brown. Playing without the services of injured backfield stars Don Thompson, Dave Zucconi, Vit Piscuskas, and Captain Everett Pearson, the Bruins impressed me against Yale. Pete Kohut's passing and generalship were magnificent. Archie Williams at halfback has speed to spare. Jim McGuinness has few superiors at tackle in the East. Brown now stands one win (Columbia) and one loss (Yale). They have failed to make a single conversion. Nonetheless this should be their best year since 1949.
Dartmouth. The Big Green opened with a last-second 27-26 win over Holy Cross and last Saturday after battling Navy even for three quarters succumbed to a fourth period five touchdown assault by the Middies. Bill Beagle is a competent quarterback and Captain Lou Turner is a halfback of note. But the line from end to end is a doubtful quantity despite the influx of promising sophomores.
Columbia. The 1954 edition of the Lions is pretty much like all of Coach Lou Little's teams of the past decade: short on material but dangerous at any time. You can bet on one thing—they'll beat somebody that they aren't supposed to before the season is over. An injury to Bobby Mercier, their only really dangerous outside runner, has handicapped Columbia's attack thus far. Claude Benham, a sophomore quarterback, looks good enough to spell Dick Carr, the Lions' individual leader in ground gaining last season. Captain Neil Opdyke is an excellent guard.
Harvard. The Cantabs lost their opener to Massachusetts 7-13 and cannot hope to duplicate a fine 1953 record of six wins and two losses after graduating such outstanding backs as Dick Clasby and John Culver. The team is built around Guards Bill Meigs and Captain Tim Anderson, and three backs, Bob Cowles, Dexter Lewis and Frank White. Fair Harvard faces a disappointing season.
Pennsylvania. I have not attempted to rank the Quakers in the Ivy group hierarchy because they play only two teams, Princeton and Cornell, in league competition. The schedule, as last year, is awesome. The opening game was lost to Duke 0-52 and last Saturday they were the victims of William and Mary 7-27. More to follow. Holdover regulars include Ends Jim Castle and John Lavin; Guard John Gurskie and Center George Trautman. Halfbacks Gary Scott and Walt Hynoski, a really fine little runner, also are returned. Steve Sebo in his first year of coaching at Penn has his problems.
THE LITTLE THREE
Amherst. The swashbuckling favorite of the East's ancient Little Three group. Experienced personnel abounds in 22 seasoned lettermen who are holdovers from an unbeaten campaign last fall. Coach John McLaughry, son of Dartmouth's tutor, has an enviable end in Bill Duffy, go-go-go backs such as Bob Kisiel and Al McLean, plus linemen two deep at every station. In the past four years Wesleyan has played tie games with Amherst, but indications are that this unique trend will not become permanent.
Williams. Sophomores will press experienced hands for starting assignments in the split-T operations of Coach Len Watters, but up front there are problems. Chief early season concern is finding adequate tackles. Jeff Smythe is a rabbit-gaited runner. Other names to remember are Mike Feltes, center; Ames and Ladd, guards. Victimized by Trinity's Charlie Sticka in the opener, and Rochester last week, the Ephmen are still tied to the starting gate.
Wesleyan. The youthful Cardinal squad which split even in 1953 should benefit from a year of experience. Holdover backfield includes Rick Francis, a distance chucker, and Dennis Denault, a junior menace who is the best bet as a ground gainer. Inner line strength is in question, but if Coach Norm Daniels can develop the novices this could be a surprise club in the latter part of the season.
THE YANKEE CONFERENCE
Off of Saturday's 33 to 7 thumping of Rhode Island, New Hampshire's all veteran team is the one to be over-hauled by the rest of the pack in the race for Yankee Conference honors. All six of the teams in the circuit utilize T-formation variations and the best of the quarterback engineers is New Hampshire's poised Bill Pappas who flipped for all but 19 of his team's 427 aerial yards a year ago. Rhode Island, already a victor over Maine, played New Hampshire without the services of the injured Pat Abbruzzi, who in three previous seasons has amassed better than 1,000 yards rushing each year. Connecticut, playing such non-conference giants as Yale (0-27), Boston U. (13-41) and Holy Cross, is a possible, but doubtful breakthrough for the Bean Pot symbolic of the Yankee loop title. Maine, while not a conference threat, could be the league's spoiler, especially if End Kenny Wood-sum can catch passes like his brother Ed, who, while a Yale senior two years ago, broke the Eli receiving records established by the fabulous Larry Kelley. Maine is predominantly a sophomore team, and a year away from championship contention.
Penn State. The cream of football in the East is the major independents, and in early October Penn State will have to be placed at the top of the bottle. The Nittany Lions stunned heralded Illinois in their opener and proceeded to defeat a good Syracuse team 13-0 last Saturday. Halfbacks Lenny Moore and Ron Younker have shown brilliantly. Rosey Grier, tackle, and Jim Garrity, end, are outstanding on a forward wall that is big and strong. Next big test is West Virginia on October 16. If they clear this hurdle, Penn State could go clean.
Army. Most experts bracketed the Cadets too high in preseason ranking and then underrated them after the 34-20 trouncing by South Carolina. The well-earned 26-7 victory over sub-par Michigan was not significant. Permanent ranking will be established against Duke in Durham, N.C. on October 16th. Mike Ziegler, Pat Uebel, and Tommy Bell, a 6-foot 190-pound sprinter, combine to make one of the finest backfields in the East. The line, supposedly weak, will be rugged.
Navy. Coach Eddie Erdelatz's Middies got off to a flying start by shutting out strong William and Mary 27-0 and with a mighty fourth-period surge defeated Dartmouth 42-7. Erdelatz has his 1953 starting backfield intact but the line has only two regular holdovers in Ron Beagle, end, and Guard Hugh Webster. Speedy Bob Craig at halfback has shown remarkable improvement. The Midshipmen meet surprising Stanford at Palo Alto this Saturday in a stern intersectional test.
Colgate. The Red Raiders from the Chenango Valley looked like a mediocre football team when their captain and all-East quarterback, Dick Lalla, came up with a leg ailment. Then what happened? A sophomore by the name of Guy Martin came on and pitched them to a 19-14 upset win over Cornell. Last Saturday, with Lalla back in the fold, they dumped Holy Cross 18-0. Frank Nardulli is a fine back. The line is powered by Milt Graham, end, Tackle Tom Powell and Guard Don Tomanek. Colgate could go a long way.
Syracuse. After throttling Villanova in the opener, the Orange lost 0-13 to Penn State last Saturday. Syracuse will not be as strong as last year's team which Coach Ben Schwartzwalder dubbed "the best team I've ever coached." Outstanding men are Ray Perkins, speedy and elusive 190-pound halfback; Bill Wetzel, returning fullback after two years in Korea; Paul Slick at center and End Pete Schwert.
Boston University. The Terriers should have their best team in several years. They are off to a running start with victories over Brandeis (33-0) and Connecticut (41-13). Coach Buff Donelli said his line would be thin, but Oh! Those Backs! Joe Terrasi, halfback; Sam Pino, fullback; and Tom Gastall, quarterback, are good.
Holy Cross. Dr. Eddie Anderson doesn't often have losing seasons but this could be it for the Crusaders. Beaten by Dartmouth in the last seconds and conquered by Colgate last week the Crusaders have more tough ones coming. Quarterback Jack Stephans and Captain Lou Hettinger at halfback have shown early season class.
Boston College. B.C. opened by beating Detroit 12-7 and last week took Temple 12-9. Their record should be improved with an easier schedule. The backs are working behind a strong line. Temple has its strongest backfield in years with Halfbacks Tex Robinson and Ken Stout outstanding. Fordham beat Rutgers last Saturday 13-7 with Halfbacks Joe Palmieri and Andy Romeo showing the way. For Rutgers Halfback Steve Johnson carried the ball 16 times for 128 yards in the losing cause. The week before Rutgers was edged by Princeton 8-10. Villanova is undermanned, overscheduled and has a complete new coaching staff. Their trail is a rough one. Little Trinity in Hartford, Conn, may not be classed as a major independent but should be. Implemented by 200-pound Fullback Charlie Sticka, who may be the best in the East, Trinity opened by crushing Williams 38-0 and last Saturday took Bowdoin 28-14. One game away from a perfect season last year, the Delaware Blue Hens could go unbeaten. They're off and running with strong wins over West Chester (40-6) and Lehigh (21-0). Little All-America Quarterback Don Miller is outstanding on a team which has ten of its starters returning. Steve Hokuf at Lafayette has cut down on his schedule and may improve on the 5-4 record of last year. A good line is led by Russ Hedden at center. Bill Leckonby at Lehigh is in a rebuilding year. Only eight lettermen returned and the squad includes 26 sophomores. John Muhlfeld at tackle played on Lehigh's unbeaten 1950 team and is a welcome returnee from the Marines. There is improvement at Bucknell under Coach Harry Lawrence after last year's unexpectedly poor 1-8 record. John Chironna at guard heads a group of 10 lettermen on the line.
The honored name of Vanderbilt somehow was dropped from Herman Hickman's estimate of the Solid South (SI, Oct. 4). This is what Hickman wrote:
"Vanderbilt and Tulane, the only two private institutions in the S.E.C., just can't compete against the big state universities. However, Vanderbilt should be better than last year. Guard Pete Williams leads a competent corps of internal linemen."