In days gone by, the first week of football was the occasion for the haves to sharpen their skills against the have-nots, who submitted docilely in exchange for the chance to appear in the large, unfamiliar stadiums of the famous. But times have changed and the "breather" is now an almost forgotten relic of the game. Now the opener is the rough one—the big intersectional contest where reputations frequently crumble before the season is scarcely underway, and new giants occasionally spring up overnight—to everyone's surprise except their own.
Opening week 1956 was chock full of such games: Notre Dame-SMU; Syracuse-Maryland and Duke-South Carolina. Notre Dame and Duke, preseason nominees for the highest national honors, were among those to crumble. Syracuse dumped Maryland, breaking a 15-game Terrapin winning streak, and thus became a new giant. It was unexpected, but, like so many early-season upsets, it was more an indication of the strength of the winner than the weakness of the loser. Teams like Maryland and Notre Dame—always prime targets for anyone on their schedule—can hardly expect to win them all every year.
For the most part, however, opening week ran fairly true to form.
September 30, 1956
Syracuse began courting the Lambert Trophy—symbolic of eastern football supremacy—with its spectacular 26-12 win over Maryland. The hefty Orange line shoved the Terps about as if they were chess men—an impressive insult since the men from Maryland were supposed to be the class of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Syracuse Halfback Jimmy Brown showed All-America talent as he scored two Orange touchdowns, set up a third with a 78-yard run, and accounted for 154 of the 258 yards his team rolled up on the ground.
Pittsburgh, frequently billed the best in the East, found the recovered fumble to be its most effective weapon in edging West Virginia 14-13. The Panthers were bottled up in their own territory for most of the game, and they might have been blanked if Mountaineer Fullback Larry Krutko had not fumbled after a jarring tackle inside his five-yard line. Pitt recovered and Halfback Ray DiPasquale went over for the touchdown. On the ensuing kickoff, West Virginia fumbled again, this time on the 20, and again Pitt recovered. The Panthers used four plays before Halfback Nick Passodelis scored from the five. But for these two breaks, the day was West Virginia's.
Other action in the East was thin. Lehigh and Lafayette opened strong with victories over Gettysburg (26-7) and Muhlenberg (26-0) respectively. Rutgers beat Ohio Wesleyan 33-13, and Bucknell blanked Albright 13-0.
Rhode Island 13, Northwestern 12
Springfield 41, Connecticut 12
American Int'l 6, Massachusetts 6
West Chester S.T. 10, Delaware 7
Duke, preseason choice to share the Atlantic Coast Conference title with Maryland, saw the Orange Bowl go up in 7-0 smoke as South Carolina handed the Blue Devils their first conference loss in the four-year history of the ACC. The Gamecocks made the only score of the game in the second period on a run by sophomore Halfback King Dixon, but they were by no means outclassed otherwise. Duke gained only 156 yards rushing to South Carolina's 193 and completed only two of nine passes compared with five out of five for South Carolina.
Down at Chapel Hill, Jim Tatum's homecoming as the new coach of his alma mater, North Carolina, was sadly spoiled by North Carolina State. The Wolfpack completely outclassed the Tar Heels 26-6 and replaced them as the ACC dark horse.
Wake Forest, too, showed more power than expected. The Demon Deacons ran all over William and Mary 39-0, but it was Co-captain Bill Barnes, a Deacon halfback, who threw the knockout punches with runs of 67, 57 and 78 yards. Coach Paul Amen was told he would have to perform miracles to win at Wake Forest this year, and he started off by doing just that.
In the Southeastern Conference, results ran closer to form. Georgia Tech, though ragged at the edges, was never in danger while plodding to an unspectacular 14-6 victory over punchless Kentucky. The experienced, confident Yellow Jackets were only as good as they had to be, but they will have to be better next week in Dallas against SMU if they are to justify the lofty national ranking predicted for them.
Another SEC battle brought Vanderbilt an impressive 14-0 win over Georgia, which turned out to be asleep instead of a sleeper. Vandy's Don Orr quarterbacked magnificently and Halfback Phil King was a consistently long gainer.
The nation's best ball-hawking job was turned in by fleet Florida Fullback Joe Brodsky, a 211-pound senior from Miami. Brodsky was a one-man gang as the Gators whipped Mississippi State 26-0. He intercepted three State passes, ran two of them back 99 and 35 yards for scores and took the other 27 yards to set up a third TD.
Mississippi walloped the first of several cream puffs on its schedule—in this case North Texas State by a score of 45-0. The game gave little indication of the Rebs' true strength, but Kentucky should settle the issue this Saturday.
Tulane Quarterback Gene Newton threw three touchdown passes and was a wizard with the option play as the Green Wave edged past Virginia Tech of the Southern Conference 21-14. The rest of the SEC gets under way this week.
Elsewhere in the South, Virginia flattened VMI 18-0. Cavalier Fullback Jim Bakhtiar set a new conference rushing record of 210 yards in 27 carries.
Citadel 20, Newberry 20 (tie)
Clemson 27, Presbyterian 7
Florida State 47, Ohio U. 7
Richmond 38, Randolph-Macon 0
Midwest football was virtually nonexistent last week, since the Big Ten Conference traditionally opens a week later than the rest of the nation. Detroit highlighted action in the center of the country with a 20-7 win over Marquette, the same winning score turned in by the Titans in their game with Marquette last year. George Washington, of the Southern Conference, surprised Miami of Ohio 7-6. Cincinnati, supposedly on the climb, showed that it needed a lot more seasoning while losing to Dayton 19-13.
Bowling Green 17, Kent State 0
Evansville 21, DePauw 13
Knox 13, Carleton 0
Valparaiso 7, Kalamazoo 6
Wooster 13, Ashland 8
Xavier 30, Marshall 6
Southwest Conference teams won six of seven games in a display of strength unequaled by any other area of the country. Southern Methodist led the Texas parade with its magnificent 19-13 upset over Notre Dame, consummated in the final 100 seconds of play when Mustang Quarterback Charlie Arnold called for the old Statue of Liberty play, faded back for a pass and then fed the ball to Halfback Lon Slaughter, who scampered 14 yards for the winning touchdown.
Southern California's C. R. Roberts scored on runs of 73, 51 and 74 yards to sink Texas 44-20, for the SWC's only loss.
Halfback Ken Wineberg scored three times for Texas Christian, once on an exciting 80-yard journey, as the Horned Frogs drubbed Kansas 32-0. Texas A&M brushed Villanova aside 19-0; Rice scored on three passes to beat Alabama 20-13, and Arkansas steamrollered Hardin-Simmons 21-6, despite a 24-for-34 passing record turned in by the Cowboys.
In the Big Seven Conference Nebraska manhandled South Dakota 34-6, and managed to break Halfback Bill Hawkins loose for a 76-yard run as part of the stampede. West Coast opposition proved too much for Colorado and Missouri, however, as Oregon crushed the former 35-0 and Oregon State took the latter 19-13. Sam Wesley featured in the Oregon State attack, breaking loose for a 62-yard touchdown and receiving a pair of passes good for 72 yards.
Arizona State (Tempe), a Border Conference power, cashed in on 50- and 58-yard runs by Leon Burton to smash Wichita 37-9 and remain a strong favorite to repeat as the conference champion.
Oklahoma A&M 27, Kansas State 7
Texas Western 17, Texas Tech 14
West Texas St. 33, McMurray 7
THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS
Utah State College scored a mild 18-13 upset over Denver in the only Skyline Conference game scheduled.
Utah, moving into the big time, gave UCLA a bad scare before losing 13-7. Fumbles kept the Utes from scoring a huge upset, although the Redskins were clearly outplayed by Red Sanders' Bruins.
Wyoming and New Mexico scored the only Skyline Conference victories over outside foes. Wyoming upset Arizona 20-16, as sophomore Tailback Bob Mireski and veteran Halfback Jim Crawford starred in the game at Tucson. New Mexico beat a weak neighbor, New Mexico A&M, 14-6 in a traditional nonconference game.
Montana State 33, North Dakota 13
Western State 21, Youngstown 7
Westminster 14, E. Montana 6
Stanford, Pacific Coast Conference favorite to host the 1957 Rose Bowl, beat a surprisingly strong Washington State team 40-26 in one of the biggest air shows since May Day over Moscow. The Indian aerial barrage caught the offense-minded Cougars flatfooted and it was obvious that Jim Sutherland, Ronnie Knox's high school coach who is starting his first year as head man at Washington State, had not spent enough time building a better pass trap. The Stanford attack was a tipoff that Michigan State, for all its vaunted ground power, had better come to Palo Alto next week equipped with nets.
Baylor looked quick but uncertain while beating California 7-6 in a fumbling contest at Berkeley. The Texans were handed their winning score in the second period when Gus Gianulias, California quarterback, fumbled on his own 10, and Baylor recovered. Quarterback Doyle Traylor, on the split-T option, lateraled low to Left Halfback Del Shofner. The ball bounced twice before landing in Shofner's hands, and then he scooted 10 yards around end for the score. Cal looked strong but slow and indicated it could be rough on anybody through the air. The Golden Bears threw 25 passes, completed 17, one for the touchdown. Best Cal pass play of the day, good for 19 yards and a touchdown, went from young Quarterback Joe Contestabile to Norm Becker in the end zone, but the play was called back for holding.
Dick Bass, the sophomore who was a California high school phenomenon before enrolling at College of Pacific, lived up to lavish pre-season predictions as the Tigers trounced Colorado A&M 39-14. Bass carried the ball 13 times for 122 yards, caught two passes, for 19 and 26 yards (both set up TDs) and scored twice on runs of 26 and six yards.
San Jose State beat Drake 26-7, completing 18 passes in 30 attempts, while the Washington Huskies, under new coach Darrell Royal, slapped a distressed Idaho team 53-21. Washington employed two sets of equally effective backs and, for the most part, substituted by platoons throughout the game.
Montana State 33, North Dakota 13
Idaho State 20, Nevada 6
Oregon 35, Colorado 0
Whitworth 21, Willamette 0
UNIFORMED DOUBLE REVERSE
Ken Harris of Miami (Ohio) seemed to be a one-man two-platoon system against George Washington until baffled fans and equally baffled Harris discovered numbers on jersey had been sewn on backwards. His real number is 68.
Best tackle at the Maryland-Syracuse game—from the point of view of Maryland's home town fans—was made by a fellow who failed to dress for football. The hero, a university policeman, nailed a runaway fan on the 30-yard line as he was making off with an unused jersey he had grabbed from the Syracuse bench.
THE ELEVEN BEST TO DATE
The earth-bound power tactics of split-T football (see Herman Hickman) find no favor in the West this year. Most notable example was at the Stanford-Washington State game where 74 passes were thrown—38 by WSC, 36 by Stanford. Indian Quarterback John Brodie was most effective, completing 17 of 24 for 174 yards, two touchdowns.
Of the 21 undefeated teams of 1955, 16 have already been in action, and five have lost. They were Maryland (12-26 to Syracuse); Miami, Ohio (6-7 to George Washington); Shepherd, W. Va. (0-2 to Fairmont); Parsons (0-6 to Iowa Wesleyan); and Stevens Point, Wis., which was beaten by both Hamline (15-6) and Platteville (0-19).
Indiana University sat out the weekend worrying over the health of its team after Guard Mert Hoagland was hospitalized with polio. The team faced several days of anxious observation and the possibility that several early games might have to be canceled.
Jim Bakhtiar, the University of Virginia fullback, set a new Atlantic Coast Conference record by chalking up 210 yards rushing against VMI. Bakhtiar, an Iranian, who never played football before coming to Virginia, is top Cavalier candidate for All-America.
Arizona's Art Luppino, starting the season just 168 yards short of the alltime rushing record, failed in efforts to break it in the team's first two games. Luppino gained only 31 yards against Montana last week and sat out Wyoming game with injuries.—P.A.