In the fall at West Point, when the ivy which clambers over the old fort's gray stone walls begins to wither and the leaves drop from the stately elms, the ghosts of Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis have a way of coming back to push aside those of MacArthur and Eisenhower and the many other great men who have marched and studied and lived inside the hallowed walls. This fall, however, Davis and Blanchard are having a hard time getting in. Standing full in their way are a pair of healthy young men who do not resemble ghosts at all. Their names are Pete Dawkins and Bob Anderson and they are the two best halfbacks any football team has had in a dozen years.
Dawkins is a slashing, determined runner with tremendous speed, a sensational pass receiver and a leader, on the field and off. In fact, West Point has never seen his like as a cadet. He is first captain of the corps, captain of the football team, president of his class. In the most rigorous competitive scholastic system yet devised by man, he ranks seventh in a group of 503. He is an artist, sings in the Cadet Choir, plays half a dozen musical instruments and is the highest-scoring defenseman in eastern collegiate hockey. A big (6 feet 1, 195 pounds), angular young man with blond hair and blue eyes and an impish grin, he has somehow been vested with that rare and innate quality of leadership which shines like a beacon, and the tremendous energy to exploit it to a maximum. If Douglas MacArthur were a cadet at West Point these days, Pete Dawkins would have a good adjutant.
Anderson, a handsome young man with brown hair and green eyes, lacks his teammate's electric personality; he is quiet and retiring and simply a nice guy. And the last thing he would consider himself is a brain. Yet he is an even better football player than Dawkins. He is bigger (6 feet 2, and 198 pounds), runs with vastly more power and is almost as fast. He is also perhaps a better passer than even the Army quarterbacks and he can block and play defense. Last year, as a sophomore, Anderson broke Glenn Davis' record by rushing 983 yards, scored 14 touchdowns and was named All-America.
This season, as Army opened its season by smashing aside first South Carolina and then Penn State, Dawkins and Anderson ran wild. Dawkins scored six touchdowns, Anderson one. Anderson also threw two touchdown passes, intercepted a handful thrown by the opposition and made tackles all over the field.
October 12, 1958
Yet neither is the man of the hour at West Point. This honor is reserved for Lonesome George Carpenter, the exiled end.
The first time you see Carpenter—his real name is Bill and he is a big, good-looking blond kid from Springfield, Pa. who wears No. 87—it is hard to be certain that he actually is a member of the football team. It is more as if he had a working agreement with the squad, and his correct position might better be described as right field (see right). Yet he is the key man in Red Blaik's exciting new offense and before the season is over they may erect a statue in his honor and place it with those of Washington and Thayer and Kosciuszko and Patton, which encircle The Plain. College football hasn't seen anything quite like Lonesome George since the invention of the forward pass.
Banished from the huddle, this Diogenes among flankers spends his Saturday afternoons far out on the horizon while Anderson and Dawkins and the rest of the Army team march gaily up and down opponents' backs and Colonel Blaik clutches his usually dignified sides in spasms of glee. Usually stationed on the starboard beam (Navy will like the expression, although it may not know what to do with him, either), Carpenter races happily around, throwing blocks at anyone who approaches or speeding downfield to draw defenders away from the true course of a play or occasionally hooking back toward the main body of troops to catch a pass. If the interest of the foe in his antics should flag, Carpenter will gallop off by himself and gather in a long throw for a touchdown. To say that his maneuvers have been successful is to understate the case. In two games, the Cadets have scored 71 points. Most of them came at moments when the visitors were goggle-eyed trying to decide whether they should watch the game or Carpenter.
How he knows what to do or when to do it is a better-kept military secret than what made the Explorer go. Nowhere in Carpenter's record is there any hint of extrasensory perception, nor do long wires trail out of his ears as he trots down the field. But he gets the signals from somewhere, although remaining aloof from his teammates, and they must be coming in loud and clear.
Actually, says Blaik, the signal system is very simple—only he won't tell what it is.
"All athletic teams have signals of some kind or another," the colonel says. "Baseball teams have signs for every pitch and play. Look, there are six other linemen and four backs and Bill can pick up the play from any or all of them. Naturally we will switch it around. Certainly the opponents will try to steal signs. But if they have the audacity to think they have it figured out, and miss just once, there we go for a touchdown.
"I will say this," adds Blaik. "Whether Carpenter is going to block or receive a pass, he has certain basic routes to follow."
The lot of football's first excommunicated end is not entirely a happy one, however. Teammates recoil when he approaches, shouting, "Go away, you have b.o." Or else they ignore him entirely, turning their heads to whisper, "Psst, who's he?" This routine might have been hilarious at first but to Carpenter it has long since ceased to be one which is in any danger of stopping the show. Still, it is much better to be famous than hobbling around on crutches with a badly cut foot, which is what happened to him at the first of the 1957 season. And if other solace is needed, Bill Carpenter is one aspiring general who will long be remembered as the man who modernized Army, even if he never makes Pfc. Without him, Colonel Blaik and the Black Knights of the Hudson would still be bumping along in a model T.
FLORIDA FLORA AND FAUNA
Last winter Blaik took a vacation, something he had overlooked for 10 years, and after losing the Navy game for the fourth time in seven seasons, he undoubtedly needed it. But as others about him observed the wondrous flora and fauna of the Florida beaches, the good colonel's concentration was disrupted by thoughts of football. Instead of visions of bikini-clad cupcakes passing in review, Blaik could see only the bumps and bruises of his poor little warriors back at the Point. Something, he decided, must be done.
"We just didn't have the personnel," he says, "to match most of our opponents, including Navy. For four games last year we were all right. Then the pounding began to show. It wasn't entirely that the defenses were catching up to our T. That was part of it, all right, but if you will check the statistics you will see that we still managed to do rather well. The trouble was that in order to overcome the defenses, we were paying a terrific price. Six or seven men were playing 55 and 60 minutes of every game, and you simply can't play football that way any more. We expended a year's supply of football energy in the first four games.
"We had to get away, at least partially, from impact football, and the solution was to dislocate the defense to a degree. We had to open up the attack to get rid of those eight-and 11-man lines. We had to do something about those corner men; it was virtually impossible to get around them any more. We needed better blocking angles. So I began to think...."
The idea which finally emerged was basically what Blaik unveiled against startled South Carolina two Saturdays ago. At the risk of banishment from the Football Writers' Association, it might be explained simply as a wing T with an unbalanced line. This much, of course, was hardly new, except to Army, which has dutifully slugged its way overland for years in the old tight T. But Blaik also introduced halfbacks who threw the football around like dislocated quarterbacks—and he came up with Lonesome George.
"Football," he says, explaining the reasoning behind 1958's most delightful innovation, "is an awful lot like warfare. You put some troops out there and the enemy has to cover them. You outflank him and you've got him licked. So Carpenter was the real key. He's a big boy, 6 feet 2, I think, and about 205 pounds. He was a back in high school and a basketball player and a track man. Runs the dashes and hurdles. Anyway, he can move and he has good hands. An excellent receiver. All of this makes it rather difficult for one defensive man to cover him. I won't say that it can't be done, but the young man who tries is going to have a very busy afternoon. I think most teams will have to detail two men to the job—which is what we were after. This spreads the defense."
When Blaik first presented the idea to his staff, the reaction was hardly sensational. "I'm afraid," the colonel says, "that they lacked my enthusiasm."
Today, everyone is enthusiastic about Lonesome George. Not only the coaching staff but the cadet brigade and the faculty and fans and fellow coaches are cramming tight little Michie Stadium to see more. And Blaik, who is in his 25th year as a head football coach and has earned just about every honor the profession can bring, has to admit that he hasn't had so much fun in years.
"It does seem to be attracting attention," the colonel says. "Warren Giese at South Carolina told me that after our game, he received over 100 calls from coaches—the report is probably exaggerated—who wanted to see films and diagrams to find out how it works. They tell me a team someplace is already using it."
Last Saturday Duke did use it, or at least Bill Murray's own personal variation, and Duke won its first game of the season, beating Illinois 15-13. In another week or two the whole country is liable to climb on the boat.
"Mind you," Blaik says, "I'm still just as apprehensive about it as I was the week before our first game. Nothing ever started off so perfectly. Yet I know that it isn't perfect. Someone with equal or better manpower will come along, and then...."
Next Saturday, Army plays Notre Dame.
There is more to this Army team than Carpenter and Dawkins and Anderson, of course. A junior quarterback from Miami, Joe Caldwell, has developed into a really fine passer who also runs the old Army drive series with a great deal of skill. And the stunting, looping defensive line, led by Carpenter and an ornery 210-pound guard named Bob Novogratz, absolutely chilled the South Carolina and Penn State running games.
It is not a smooth, machinelike Army team. It makes mistakes, it draws penalties in wholesale lots, it fumbles. But when it clicks, it is one of the most lethally exciting teams college football has seen. Running and passing, the Cadets have made 1,030 yards in two games. Whether Notre Dame will be able to stop them or not, Saturday's affair at South Bend is going to be a lot of fun. And so will all the others the Cadets play this year. Especially now that they have Lonesome George.
Out in the Middle West last Saturday, our correspondent Nick Thimmesch was watching a game that tried to steal the headlines from Matsu and Quemoy. Afterward, he sent us this report:
The University of Michigan is not a rich boy's school nor is Michigan State a poor boy's school, but there is a difference. Michigan is a giant among colleges, with an enrollment of 21,450 and academic standards which are the highest in the Big Ten. At Michigan there are 141 years of tradition, including 18 conference championships in football, 453 victories and 44 All-America players. Michigan State, on the other hand, claims to do nothing more than fulfill its function as a state university, to serve the educational needs of a broad cross-section of people.
At Michigan, Coach Bennie Oosterbaan refuses to enter the madcap recruiting hassle which rages these days for football players. Tradition and the evident advantages one finds at Ann Arbor, he patiently explains, will have to do. "We have had good teams and we'll have more."
At East Lansing, Duffy Daugherty, the smiling Irishman with the charm-school approach, is one of football's best and busiest recruiters, and if Michigan State has no tradition to speak of, he couldn't care less; in six of the last eight seasons, he has had better football teams than Michigan. "We're the world's best and oldest cow college," he says, "and I don't want to see us stop."
There is room in this country, of course, for both the Michigans and the Michigan States. Perhaps it is an unconscious awareness of this fact that causes the citizenry to get all fired up for the annual Michigan-Michigan State game. Like the battles between Republicans and Democrats, Yankees and Braves, Silky Sullivans and Tim Tams, it attracts attention, and last week's big game had been a 76,000-seat sellout since July. Michigan State was favored by two touchdowns. Still, the big crowd came out to see what would happen.
What happened was that Michigan tied State 12-12. The Wolverines, bursting with tradition, piled up a two-touchdown lead in the first half on a 41-yard run with an intercepted lateral by End Gary Prahst, and a succession of deadeye passes by substitute Quarterback Bob Ptacek sandwiched around the impressive running of Brad Myers. Throughout the first half, Michigan State usually found itself in the same relative position of Quarterback Greg Montgomery as the gun went off: flat on the seat of its pants.
But back came State in the second half, battering away until five starters had to be dragged off the field. Then Dean Look broke loose on a sizzling 90-yard punt return, after which the entire Michigan State team drove 97 yards to tie up the game.
Bennie Oosterbaan smiled, and his players shook each other's hands. It was really very quiet. Tradition is like that, you know.
As for Daugherty, he grinned. "We came back, but we didn't come back far enough. Maybe this will make us a good football team." That will be more evident after Saturday afternoon, when Michigan State will be vigorously tested by some tough and undefeated visitors from the University of Pittsburgh.