Go! Go! Go! Go!
This is an article from the Oct. 22, 1956 issue
THE OVERPOWERING charge of the big red-shirted Oklahoma line ahead of adroit Quarterback Jimmy Harris (15, right) is just one of the reasons why Oklahoma may be the greatest college football team of all time.
Coach Bud Wilkinson's proud, skillful veterans have never lost a game in their entire college careers. Last Saturday, playing against what was in the beginning an adequate, reasonably capable University of Texas football team, they showed why as they won 45-0.
They showed it in the sudden, lifting charge of a line which moved all of a piece, like a wave breaking evenly along a beach. They showed it in the meticulous, precise play patterns they traced against the faded green background of the Cotton Bowl turf. It was there, too, in the running of a back named Tommy McDonald, who moves with quick, almost dainty steps, picking his way through the shifting dangers of a broken field as if he carried a road map in his mind with the hazards clearly marked. And it was there in the way a linebacker named Jerry Tubbs played; adroitly, intelligently, moving behind the Oklahoma line with the graceful speed of a big hunting cat, so strong that the firm grip of one hand on a shoulder pad was enough for him to upend a Texas ball carrier. The defense—against running or passing—was impeccable.
Texas was not surprised by the Oklahoma strength. For the long week before the game, the coaches had told the Texas players that Oklahoma was, man for man, a better team. But the better team does not inevitably win.
"Figure that if everything goes right for us and the breaks go against them, we have a good chance to upset them," Coach Ed Price told his youngsters. "They have to lose sometime."
To counteract the Oklahoma edge in manpower, Price decided to run almost exclusively from a spread, designed to loosen the Oklahoma defense, provide some running room for Walter Fondren, a small but immensely capable halfback, and shoot four receivers into the Oklahoma secondary for the passes of Quarterbacks Joe Clements and Vince Matthews. On defense, Price used stunts—the line slanting first one way and then the other, hoping to out-guess the Oklahoma quarterback often enough to interrupt the momentum of the Sooner attack.
Oklahoma's preparations were typically methodical. Texas had so far shown nothing but a passing attack, a fine halfback in Fondren and a series of flanking arrangements designed to take advantage of these weapons. So pass defense got top priority. ("We hope to keep them from throwing the long gainer," said Wilkinson, "and hope that our interceptions will offset the yardage they are bound to gain.") Special defenses were designed for each flanker pattern, and the defense—to point up the Texas threat—was taught to yell "Fondren left" or "Fondren right" as the Texas offensive patterns took shape.
The Oklahoma offense, long monotonously addicted to the several variations on the split-T theme, has added some single-wing and spread formations this season, and they were polished for this game. The split-T attack is more than adequate, but Wilkinson has put in the fancy touches for two reasons: 1) it gives the opposition more to worry about in devising their defenses against the Sooner attack and 2) the veteran Oklahoma squad showed signs of boredom after three years of the same plays and needed something to sharpen the players' interest. They laughed and kidded as they learned the new, razzle-dazzle offense, but they learned it as thoroughly as they had the bread-and-butter attack off the split-T.
The last practice session at Norman was Thursday afternoon. The players hollered on the field and joked in the shower, but by Friday afternoon at Fort Worth, where they flew to spend the night, the tension had started to build. The team rode quietly in chartered buses to the hotel, quietly went to their assigned rooms for afternoon naps and finally showed up, deadly serious, for a squad meeting at 5:30. Wilkinson and the other coaches emerged grim following a half-hour session behind closed doors; after 20 more minutes of talk among themselves, the players walked out, pale, tense and silent and sat down to a funereal meal.
By Saturday afternoon, when the players were dressed and lying on the dressing-room floor waiting for the game to start, the silent tension was almost smothering. Wilkinson, watching quietly, said, "There's just no way you can play football without it, this tension. It's not a game you just go out and play, like a round of golf. You've got to be pretty well choked up to start."
The pent-up nervous energy exploded on the kickoff when McDonald, weaving in and out to get full use of the vicious blocking, brought the ball out from the Oklahoma two to the Texas 44. The Sooners never let up. The smoothly coordinated, strong surge of the line swept the stunting Texas defense aside, allowing McDonald and Thomas to probe deftly inside the tackles or sprint outside the ends. In three minutes Oklahoma had scored.
From then on everything worked just right. The pass defense, as expected, allowed no long gainers and came up with five interceptions. The Texas spreads were nullified, Fondren contained. Wilkinson used all of his razzle-dazzle in the first half, so that the adjustments made by Texas at half time were useless.
In the second half the Sooners returned to their old, reliable split-T. The first two Oklahoma units played 57 minutes against a team which was whipped in the first quarter. Why? Simply winning a football game is no longer enough for this Oklahoma team. These proud champions feel that the only way they can give meaning to their long string of victories over weak teams is to wallop the victims as impressively as possible. "Everybody is watching us," says Co-captain Jerry Tubbs. "All we need is one bad Saturday—not even lose, just look bad—and they'll jump all over us. We go out to win, first. But then, in the back of our mind, we know what they're all saying about OU, and we hit a little bit harder so that at least the team we're playing against will know we're the best."
Indeed, Oklahoma may be the greatest college football team of all time. But because of the relatively weak opposition they face this year no one will ever be sure.
UP IN THE STANDS a wide-eyed coed stared at the scoreboard that registered the startling news: Michigan 48, Army 0, with a quarter left to play. Petulantly she poked her escort in the ribs. "Did they score or something while I was looking at my program?" she demanded reproachfully.
They had. With brisk perfection, Michigan was turning four Army fumbles and a bad punt into touchdowns and adding two more on solid drives.
Ignoring its T-formation plays, Michigan stuck to the old-fangled single wing and gave a convincing demonstration of clean, crisp football. Crew-cut Terry Barr scampered for 60 yards in three carries on a weak-side reverse. Michigan's magnificent ends—Ron Kramer and Captain Tom Maentz—were brilliant. Kramer, a dark, silent giant, caught a 57-yard picture pass from Barr off the weak-side reverse to set up a touchdown. Maentz coolly removed the last Cadet defender with a scissor-sharp block on the thundering, 60-yard sprint up the middle by Fullback John Herrnstein for another score.
Despite its 9 to 0 loss last week to tough Michigan State, Michigan obviously is still a team to be reckoned with in the Big Ten race.
THE ELEVEN BEST TO DATE
ACTION GALLERY: OCTOBER AFTERNOON
PASS BLOCK by Stanford's Carl Isaacs (88) foils San Jose's Harvel Pollard, helps Stanford win 40-20.
LINE BUCK by UCLA Fullback Louis Elias is slopped at scrimmage by Washington State Guard John McPhee (66), but UCLA went on to win 28-0.
WISCONSIN CENTER Art Bloedern crumples Iowa's Bill Happel after four-yard gain, but Iowa squeaked through 13-7.
NORTHWESTERN END Clifford Peart (89) prepares to stop Minnesota Halfback Ken Bombardier (41) in scoreless tie.
FLYING OVER goal line and last-ditch tackle try by Notre Dame Captain Jim Morse, Purdue Substitute Back Bill Jennings descends with his team's third touchdown in 28-14 upset. Jenings' four-yard scoring run came in third quarter, broke 14-14 tie.
HARVARD'S Jim Joslin goes for a first down, later scored in upset of Cornell 32-7.
WEST VIRGINIA'S Joe Kopnisky muffs pass as Mountaineers lose to Syracuse 27-20.
BAYLOR HALFBACK Bobby Peters tries to block Arkansas' Olan Burns (85) in mid-air as Burns goes up to stop Quarterback Doyle Traylor's pass. Baylor won 14-7.
TULANE HALFBACK Willie Hof follows Wilbur Troxclair (63) through the line in upset of Navy 21-6.
MICHIGAN HALFBACK Jim Pace drives over Army line to score from one-yard line in first period. Wolverines were too much for Cadets by 48-14.