The United StatesArmy is certainly not a reactionary organization, but it has its moments ofextreme conservatism. One of them occurred last Saturday in Philadelphia whenthe Army—or at least that part of it devoted to the education and training ofyoung officers at West Point—returned the game of football to the principles ofan earlier day. Army, in short, chose to play almost an entire game by justrunning with the ball, as if the forward pass had never been invented. TheNavy, which was the victim of this retrogressive piece of strategy, refused toadmit the fundamental soundness of the old truths. It hid the ball, it passedthe ball, it deployed its forces in weird patterns; it gambled and gamboled onthe green grass of the Philadelphia Municipal Stadium for nearly 26 minutes asif to prove that football is a game of wiles and deceit. The Army patientlywaited out this flamboyant exhibition by Quarterback George Welsh and hisfellow Midshipmen, conceding a mere six points while studying and, for the mostpart, containing the Naval display. Then, in an adult and self-containedmanner, the Army began to demonstrate that old-fashioned football is by nomeans out of date.
Army won the game14-6 because it did everything simply and well. It accepted its limitations—analmost complete inability to pass and scarcely enough speed to run around theends—and made the most of what it had: 11 dedicated men who would have takenout the Colossus of Rhodes if he had been playing right guard for Navy. As itwas, the Navy right guard and right tackle were considerably less formidable,and it was there that Army found the soft underbelly of the Navy defense.Settling for the slow, grinding, consistent advance of three, four and fiveyards, the Army runners chewed up the football field and the clock. There wasabout this primitive kind of football the inevitability of the day aftertomorrow.
Some of thebetter than 100,000 people who filled the Romanesque horseshoe thought theycould sense the trend of events even before the kickoff. On the west side ofthe stadium they saw the big gray patch of cadets, singing, cheering andchanting its taunts across the field at the blue-and-white mass of midshipmenwho sang and cheered and chanted back but with something less than the samefrisky gusto. Hannibal, the Army mule, escorted by Pancho, his donkeyunderstudy, galloped cheerfully down the gridiron while Billy XIV, the Navygoat, made a solemn and dignified entrance, confining himself to the sidelines.Finally, a great black van bearing the legend "Army's secret weapon"circled the field under the protection of three machine gunners perched on top.Stopping in front of the cadets it deposited two pert young ladies dressed inthe sweaters of Army cheerleaders. Never for the rest of the day was there sucha roar as greeted this violation of 55 years of undiluted masculinity. Wasthere an omen in all this? Did Hannibal and Pancho and Billy XIV and the 2,400noisy cadets in the stands foresee something?
If they did, itwasn't immediately apparent when the teams settled down to the serious businessof the afternoon. Navy, which had chosen to receive after Captain John Hopkinswon the toss, wasted no time confirming its role as favorite. George Welsh tookcharge of his team on his own 24-yard line and at once performed like theundisputed virtuoso of the split-T. On the first play he demonstrated theoption at which he has no master; running to his left he showed the ball to theArmy right end, who lunged just as Welsh pitched-out to Halfback Ed Oldham, whocircled the end for five yards. Next Welsh sent a perfect pass to Ron Beagle,his favorite receiver, and Navy had a first down on their 38. After one optionplay, three forward passes, seven runs through the line and one modified Statueof Liberty—less one incomplete pass and one 15-yard penalty—the ball sat onArmy's one-yard line. From there Welsh dove over a tangle of players for sixpoints. The game was seven minutes old, and Army hadn't yet touched theball.
December 5, 1955
The rest of thefirst quarter and most of the second were repetitious. Only once did Army moveto a first down, but Don Holleder, who had sacrificed a season of glory as anend to attempt the mysteries of T quarter-backing, threw a pass which Welshintercepted. Again Navy set sail for the Army goal. In fact, the task forcefrom Annapolis made three such voyages down the field after that firsttouchdown, but never quite arrived. Twice there were fumbles deep inside Armylines. Once the journey just ran out of fuel on the Army 20. Navy was adoptinga look of frustration.
With slightlymore than four minutes of the first half left, Holleder collected his troops onhis own 13-yard line. By this time he had had the benefit of a sideline chatwith his coach, Colonel Red Blaik, while substitute Russ Mericle operated theteam. Blaik showed him what Navy was doing to the Army attack—putting six menon the line with the guards and tackles widely separated and a linebacker setbetween them just a yard or so from scrimmage. The "blackboard six"they call this defense because coaches generally use it to diagram plays, butfor this day the Army blocking was diagrammed against other arrangements.Having posted his teammates on this Navy treachery, Holleder was ready to startthe Army charge.
FINDING THE SOFTSIDE
It was plain,fundamental football that he directed: Captain Pat Uebel, a fullback who runswith the power of a Percheron, bulling through holes on the Navy's right side;Halfbacks Dick Murtland and Bob Kyasky squirting through quick openings;Holleder himself occasionally keeping the ball and rolling around the ends forvariety's sake. Yet time was short, and running plays devour it. With onlyseconds remaining, Blaik sent in word to use "R 14 pass," the playwhere Holleder rolls to the left and throws. The crowd was screaming andHolleder didn't hear the key word "pass." He rolled to the outside allright but kept the ball. One play later the gun went off with the ball still onNavy's three-yard line.
Army was anythingbut discouraged. They had found the Navy's soft side—first located by NotreDame earlier in the season—and the Cadets came out to punish it in the secondhalf after Red Blaik's locker-room briefing on new blocking assignments. Now itwas a totally different game—Navy erratic and fumbling despite the undiminishedbrilliance of Welsh, Army confident and unhurried as it slogged through Navy'sguards and tackles. Holleder tried just one more pass which fell incomplete andthen dropped the whole idea. As he said afterward: "I knew we could runagainst them; I felt we had the better backs. And then when we started to moveon the ground just before the half, I remembered what the Colonel always toldme: 'If it works, stick with it.' So I did."
The second timehe got the ball in the third quarter, Holleder marched the team to a touchdown,and Ralph Chesnauskas, another football chameleon who had been moved from guardto tackle to end during his three years on the varsity, kicked the extra point.Army 7, Navy 6. In the fourth quarter Army again struck Navy amidships, pushingsteadily to the Middies' 23-yard line. From there Halfback Pete Lash fooled JimOwen for the first and only time that afternoon, circling his end for thegame's longest run and Army's second touchdown. Chesnauskas' conversion sealedthe Navy casket for 1955. The football season was only a few plays away fromthe final gun.
Afterward, underthe stands in the dark, damp concrete caverns of the dressing rooms, twocontrasting dramas were in progress. On the Army side songs and yelps andhandshakes and backslapping and wide grins through swollen lips. On the Navyside gloom and silence so deep you could almost hear a tear drop. Out on thefield a swaying blend of Army gray and Navy blue as the noncombatants and theirfamilies and their girls intermingled as at some elephantine garden party. Andthen outside the stadium, only a few dozen yards away, the long black row ofrailroad locomotives neatly aligned at the heads of 37 special trains from NewYork and Baltimore and Washington and Wilmington and Newark, ready to carryaway for another year the witnesses to football's finest spectacle.
FOR A REPORT ON USC'S AMAZING UPSET OF NOTRE DAME ATLOS ANGELES, SEE PAGE 60