When the final gun sounded, leaving his Bruins clear winners 14-13, UCLA Coach Red Sanders decided only Shakespeare could do justice to the occasion. "Thrice is he armed that hath his quarrel just," he rhapsodized. "What stronger breastplate than a heart untainted!"
The plain facts were, though, that what beat Stanford in the Los Angeles Coliseum last Saturday was not the pure in heart but a front-line rush as resolute and unstoppable as that at a dinner hour in a boarding house. The target was John Brodie, Stanford quarterback and the best passer in the country, who had already thrown for 10 touchdowns and 969 yards in six games when he took the field against the Bruins. He completed a bare nine out of 20 against UCLA and threw for one touchdown on a circus reception. And the statistics did not reflect the dozen times he was smeared trying to get a pass away, showing up merely as a minus-66 yards rushing in 10 tries.
Coach Sanders, who had gotten out of a sickbed to take personal and energetic charge of the Stanford game preparations, often until long after the practice field lights had to be turned on, listened politely as his scouts and advisors wrangled long and loud over whether Brodie or his receivers were more important to Stanford's pass offense. But Sanders' solution was simple: receivers cannot catch what isn't thrown. When Brodie danced back to look for receivers, the Bruin line—from end to end, shrieking "Omaha!" the code name for pass—swarmed on him. Grinned Brodie: "I couldn't find my receivers. I know they were probably there some place. But all I saw was blue. A nice, pale UCLA blue."
The game was decided midway in the first quarter by the nice pale blue of a crashing punt blocker. Brodie, smeared on two plays trying to get a pass off, dropped back to punt. Dazed, he was too close to scrimmage. UCLA Right End Hal Smith, who usually started his rush from the linebacker spot before the ball was snapped, crashed into the ball as it left Brodie's foot. The ball squirted up into the air. Brodie spun, looking up like a catcher for a foul tip. He waited with out-stretched arms, but while he was still looking up, Bruin End Pete O'Garro leaped like a basketballer, cradled the ball and took off for the end zone, his pipestem legs churning like a scared stork's. Brodie could only stand there, mouth open, and watch the decisive touchdown being scored on the 40-yard gallop. It made the score 14-0, and Stanford never caught up. Brodie was even lucky: in later series of downs as many as three panicky passes in a row hit UCLA interceptors only to have them drop the ball.
November 12, 1956
Before the game, Sanders, who deals in superlatives, had one for his 1956 team. "It's the slowest team in America," he drawled. It was true. The UCLA line time and again gouged holes in the Stanford line. But the backs just couldn't make it in time. Stanford, on the other hand, flapped like a pinned butterfly in its offense. Only for a brief sputter at the start of the second half did Brodie look like a bonus-choice quarterback when he took the kickoff and marched 70 yards in six plays, the last 30 a touchdown pass to Halfback Mickey Raftery, to come within one point of tying the score. UCLA's 230-pound quarterback Don Shinnick, easily the outstanding player on the field, shot through the line to block the try for point.
It was the first conference defeat for Brodie and a team which had dusted off its other PCC opponents with the deftness of a river-boat gambler playing with his own deck.
The upset did not unnerve Quarterback Brodie greatly. A young man who looks perpetually as though he had just heard something funny and would burst out laughing if it weren't impolite, John Riley Brodie, son of Aloysius and Maggie Brodie, is an anomaly in big-time football. He and Leland Stanford University were made for each other. Neither gets too excited about a football game. Brodie is probably the only star quarterback in big-time college football who pays to go to college. He had applied for a scholarship but, since he is the son of a well-paid Kaiser Industries Insurance official and the nephew by marriage of Herbert O. Kalmus, the head of Technicolor, Stanford takes the attitude that he doesn't need it. And, Stanford being Stanford, the money goes to a more needy athlete.
A born gambler who would rather play golf than football (he has reached the finals of the San Francisco city championship) and who has been known to loiter on the way to practice to pitch pennies in the Stanford Quad, Brodie puts football in its proper perspective at a school where a student protest was lodged last week because the library was closed while the Stanford-USC game was being played; i.e., a shade below draw poker as a diversion. Stanford applauds this attitude. On a squad where 200-pound linemen wear their glasses in practice and where the first-string center reads Plato while they change the reels in the scouting films, a mere defeat is as inconsequential as a cut in English lit. Brodie, a mediocre student in medieval history, shares this lighthearted view. Drying himself after his shower, Brodie grinned: "I don't think it's a catastrophe. I still think we'll go to the Rose Bowl."
To do so, Stanford must whip Oregon State College at Palo Alto next Saturday. UCLA's Sanders is one who does not think this will happen. Oregon State Coach Tommy Prothro was a Sanders assistant until last year. Only last week he upset his ex-employer 21-7, and may have the fastest team on the Pacific Coast.
Stanford Coach Chuck Taylor, the first to admit Sanders is the Pacific Coast's best coach, is not yet willing to concede. "Everything is not lost," he insisted. "This was a good one to get out of our system to get ready for Oregon State. It prepared us for Oregon State." What was his prediction? he was asked. "I have a feeling we will win," cheerfully noted Taylor. At Stanford, this is exactly the position one should take. After all, if he doesn't, so what?
For a long time Saturday afternoon Colorado was a great football team. For a little while—maybe 20 or 25 minutes—Oklahoma demonstrated how nearly perfect a college football team can be, and that was enough to beat Colorado 27-19. The game divided neatly into the two segments—a wonderful, unbelievably successful Colorado effort during the first half against nearly impossible odds; then the equally wonderful response of this Oklahoma team to the demands of a situation beyond the capabilities of an ordinarily good team.
This game was played in the climate of an upset. Oklahoma had just finished a game with Notre Dame for which they were keyed up to a maximum, full-game effort, and gave it. The following Tuesday afternoon the team was flat and ragged in workouts, and Captain Jerry Tubbs called a squad meeting on his own to bring them to life. But they still were not really ready by Saturday. Meanwhile, Colorado's coaches were trying to take this game in stride, but the players would not let them. The tension—the one imponderable, irreplaceable feeling that lifts a team to its best—built up and built up in the Colorado players, and by Saturday morning they were wound up tight and dangerous. And for the first half, they rammed the power of Coach Dallas Ward's single wing right down the throat of the Oklahoma defense. They blocked an Oklahoma quick kick for a touchdown, and they battered aside the Oklahoma defenses on two marches. When they were into close scoring territory, where the big Sooner line could bunch up tight and turn back their single-wing power, they fooled the defenses prettily for touchdowns, once on a quick pitchout from T formation; again on a daring, beautifully executed double reverse. The 47,000 people on hand roared and roared. It was 19-6 for Colorado at the half.
Colorado kicked off to open the third quarter, and Oklahoma, splitting its linemen a little wider to loosen the defense and using a delayed pitchout for the first time this season, moved 80 yards in 14 plays with adroit, cool precision. Almost at once everybody knew that the upset was not to be. When the Colorado defense pinched in to cut off the Oklahoma power up the middle, the delayed pitchout to Halfbacks Tommy McDonald or Clendon Thomas swept outside. Before the third quarter ended, Oklahoma led 20-19. Colorado was hurt by some unfortunate penalties, but Oklahoma was in command, clearly and for good. Colorado Center Jim Uhlir, in a happy Colorado dressing room, said, "I've never enjoyed playing a football game more than today. I'm only sorry we didn't win."
In Iowa, they call it the Michigan curse. For three straight years, Michigan had spotted Iowa the first two touchdowns, then sailed back to win: 14-13 in 1953; 14-13 in 1954; 33-21 in 1955. This year it was going to be different. Undefeated Iowa, a team of 11 steady players and no stars, had three Big Ten victories in its kick; now they were going to make it four. As one Hawkeye rooter's banner put it: "On to the Rose Bowl."
Following the formula of past years, Iowa jumped off to an early advantage with two first-half touchdowns and pranced off the field at half time leading 14-3. Yet once again Michigan rallied to pick up the marbles. As the oh-so-loyal (and long-suffering) Des Moines Sunday Register headline writer put it: MICHIGAN DOES IT AGAIN, 17-14. The key word was "again." Now, in verdant Iowa the phrase "black magic" is heard again in the land.
By half time, Iowa had looked like anything but a loser. Playing before a record homecoming crowd of 58,137 on a rain-soaked field, the Hawkeyes had capitalized on a Michigan fumble and an abortive Michigan quick kick for two first-half scores. They had throttled the best pair of ends in the business: Captain Tom Maentz and All-America Ron Kramer. Kramer had caught one pass for nine yards, flubbed another one. Maentz had caught none. Michigan looked tired and confused; Maentz, a 210-pound tower of heroics who had almost singlehandedly drubbed Iowa last year, provided the ultimate in ineffectiveness when, on successive plays, he missed an easy pass, toed a miserable 18-yard punt and drew a 15-yard penalty for piling on. Iowa Quarterback Kenny Ploen had made Kramer look sick by faking him out on a slick 33-yard rock-and-roll trip to the end zone.
Then came the half, ever the crucial time in an Iowa-Michigan game. Wolverine Coach Bennie Oosterbaan fixed Iowa with his special evil eye, and Michigan roared out on the field to begin a 13-play, 69-yard touchdown drive. But there was still time for Iowa to lay the ghost. Near the close of the third quarter, the Hawkeyes too, the ball on their own 17, reeled off a first down to the 29. Leading 14-10 (Kramer had kicked a 25-yard Michigan field goal to start the day's scoring), Iowa had only to hold on to the four-point spread. Quarterback Randy Duncan pitched out to Halfback Don Dobrine, who took off toward right end, suddenly found himself knee-deep in Wolverine tacklers. Like a panicked kid playing his first real live game of sure 'nough tackle, the usually reliable Iowa halfback threw the ball away, 10 yards from the nearest eligible receiver. Rightfully, Referee Ross Dean flipped his red handkerchief into the air, made the violent downward gesture signifying intentional grounding. Mistakenly, he stepped off 15 yards instead of five against Iowa (see page 28), and Iowa was third and 30 on its seven-yard line. That was the old ball game. Michigan took over in the fourth quarter, bulled its way 80 yards to score with only six minutes to play.
In the dressing room afterward Hawkeye Coach Forest Evashevski, once a great Michigan star in tandem with Tommy Harmon, shook his head from side to side and said: "I don't know what happens to Michigan at half time, but it always does." In the Michigan dressing room beefy Benny Oosterbaan gave his explanation with a modest grin: "At the half? I didn't tell 'em anything. They just had it in their hearts to win."
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