When a man wants the world to know that he is partial to the football team of the Alabama Polytechnic Institute—Auburn to you and me—he rears back and yells "WaRRR EEEgle" at the top of his lungs. When in Atlanta for a football weekend he tends to do this on or in the vicinity of Peachtree Street, the main stem, where he is most likely to raise the hackles of the greatest number of Auburn-hating Atlantans. Neither Atlantan nor Auburnite knows exactly why the cry is War Eagle; an Auburn scholar who recently decided to investigate the old mystery says he was persuaded to stop the quest by influential Auburn people who did not want to know. They just naturally wanted to yell "War Eagle" when the spirit moved them, and hang the egghead explanations.
Raised hackles were a penny a gross and scalpers' tickets $75 a pair last weekend in the city of Margaret Mitchell and Bob Jones. A big, roughhouse Auburn team, led by the eel-slippery sophomore Quarterback Bobby Hunt (left), came to town and just did defeat the previously unbeaten Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech 7-6. Followers of Auburn naturally War Eagled it far into the night, for this was a very special Tech team—a team very much like baseball's White Sox—which was accustomed to working tiny miracles and frustrating opponents with a magnificent defense.
Tech, although possessed of perhaps the proudest football heritage in Dixie, was widely ignored by preseason diviners of eminent teams. Consequently there was no little surprise when the Yellow Jackets buzzed off to consecutive victories over Kentucky (14-12), Southern Methodist (16-12), Clemson (16-6) and Tennessee (14-7), which had thumped mighty Auburn 3-0 to end the latter's streak of 24 games without a defeat. Such success was all the more surprising in view of Tech's great dependence on sophomores and its rather staggering sick list.
A visitor to the realm of the Rambling Wreck last week soon discovered that Tech was doing it not with mirrors but with 1) the scorched-earth policy of Coach Robert Lee Dodd, a man who is fast on the conversational drawl but far from impetuous in battle and is a mint-new member of the Football Hall of Fame for his quarterbacking at Tennessee in the late '20s; 2) a depth of useful raw material not uncommon in the tough Southeastern Conference; and 3) a flaming team spirit which, if Navy had not already patented the term in 1954, would make this squad known as Tech's Team of Desire.
This season all Dodd's chillun are infused with a quality of dedication and oneness that is something fierce.
"This is a team," declared George C. Griffin, dean of the 5,509 men and 47 coeds of Georgia Tech, "which says, 'We don't care how big you are or how small you are; just come on out here and we'll give you more than you can say grace over.' "
The phenomenal thing about Tech as it moved bumptiously into the season was the timeliness with which some of the unlikeliest players became heroes.
The team often made mistakes, as young teams will, and just as often made amends with spine-tingling heroics. And always at the calm center of the storm blowing out of The Flats, where history-rich Grant Field stands, downslope from the mixed bag of Romanesque, collegiate Gothic and contemporary campus buildings on The Hill, was a whale of a football center with the improbable name of Maxie Calloway Baughan Jr.
A slim-hipped, broad-backed, red-faced, hard-nosed young man who hails from the steel town of Bessemer, Ala., Maxie Baughan is the physical and spiritual leader of the Yellow Jackets. He'll never be a matinee idol, for beneath his crew-cut thatch of reddish hair is the face of a journeyman prizefighter; but handsome is as handsome does. Baughan put his steel-sinewed 218 pounds behind 94 tackles last year, 50 more than his closest Tech competitor.
Baughan enrolled on The Hill partly because of Tech's splendid football tradition and partly because he and his mother and daddy greatly enjoyed the baked chicken served to them at a training table meal during an exploratory visit. (Dietitian Helen Twiggs is definitely not the least important persuader in Dodd's recruiting program.)
When practice began this fall, Captain Baughan assembled the Tech squad and laid it down that "we are going to play as a team, not just 11 or 22 men." In the opener with Kentucky he anchored a gorgeous goal-line stand that preserved the Tech victory, stopping the Wildcats a yard away from a first down and four yards from the goal, a stonewall effort that "made" the Tech team, in Dodd's estimate.
"Maxie does the best job of anyone on the field," said the No. 1 offensive quarterback Freddy Braselton the other day. "He inspires everyone to play like he does." (Braselton, by the way, has publicly expressed his shame over "playing more for myself than the team" in 1958 and his rededication to one-for-all football. A Texan himself, he was the hero of Tech's victory over SMU's Don Meredith & Co.)
Bobby Dodd made it perfectly clear that he did not intend to change his famous punt, pounce and proceed style one iota for the men of Auburn.
"I doubt if either team will score more than one touchdown, whether it rains or not, but I hope it doesn't rain. I hate to see rainy football games."
On Saturday morning, as the enemy entrained from Auburn (named by a bookish farmer's daughter who was smitten by the poet Oliver Goldsmith's line, "Auburn, loveliest village of the plain"), a light rain fell from the mists enshrouding Atlanta. Apart from Dodd's well-known distaste for rain, this was considered a favorable omen for Auburn. The Tigers had just whacked Kentucky 33-0 on a soggy day; their brawny linemen were well suited to slogging it out on a muddy field; and anyway, as the Atlanta sportswriter Furman Bisher put it, "Auburn leads the conference in aerial ineffectiveness."
Auburn also led the conference in hurt pride, serving, as it was, the next-to-last season of probation under some of the most drastic penalties for illegal recruiting ever ordered by the NCAA. Its fires of determination were additionally fueled by the fact that Tech had won 11 of the 14 previous games during Bobby Dodd's head-coaching career.
When the tarpaulin on Grant Field had to come up for pregame calisthenics the field became somewhat slick, but the rain stopped before the kick-off and playing conditions were tolerable until the middle of the third quarter.
To say that neither team gambled would be to understate the case violently. J. P. Morgan never selected a stock as carefully as Tech and Auburn played football Saturday. It was a classic exercise in old-fashioned defensive football, with much grunting and shoving between the 30-yard lines and an immoderate number of third-down punts.
Along toward the end of the second quarter, Tech's Billy Shaw pounced on a fumble at the Auburn 18-yard line, and—whammo—the Engineers proceeded to score in four plays. Soph Halfback Chick Graning, who tragically lost his bride in an automobile accident in August and has been gimpy ever since from the injury he suffered, popped up as the newest Tech hero. His 12-yard thrust to the one-yard line paved the way for Braselton's touchdown plunge. Until then it looked like Tech's day, but Tommy Wells thereupon missed his first conversion of the season, and as the second half began Auburn biffed and butted 71 yards for the tying score. This was in defiance of Dodd's Law, which says drives from deep in one's own territory rarely succeed. No law student, young Bobby Hunt guided his team slickly and ran the last six yards himself. A straight-A pre-med student, Ed Dyas, kicked the winning point, and the War Eagle cry rang out.
Soon afterward it began to rain, and now Maxie Baughan and his mates summoned up all their desire. Before a capacity throng of 44,174, huddled under umbrellas in mushroomlike tiers in the stadium and reminiscent of the cemetery scene in the play Our Town, Tech earned two chances for victory. It capitalized on neither, as the vastly unlucky Wells twice failed to kick field goals.
"A good Auburn team and the law of averages caught up with us today," said Bobby Dodd.
"Warrr Eeegle," screamed the delighted partisans of Auburn. "WaRRR EEEgle."
In this photograph from Saturday's rain-soaked thriller at Atlanta, the blossoming sophomore quarterback of Auburn, Bobby Hunt, sprints away for seven yards against Georgia Tech in the second quarter after deciding not to pass. Hunt later engineered the Tigers' 71-yard, third-quarter scoring march in their impressive 7-6 defeat of Tech and triumphantly scored the touchdown himself.
THE BIG QUESTION ABOUT GEORGE IZO
Ggeorge Izo moved back to throw his first pass of the 1959 season, disposed of a big California end, fended off a guard, then threw. Bob Scarpitto made the catch to complete a 26-yard touchdown and it appeared as though both Izo and Notre Dame were realizing their mutual dream—that he would be a quarterback to match the great ones in the university's history. Izo is the type of quarterback every coach longs for: a powerfully built passer who packs 210 pounds over a 6-foot-2 frame. Although in his senior year of high school his team won only four of nine games, the college scouts were trailing him. Purdue's Coach Jack Mollenkopf thought he had captured George, but Izo's father, once a promising lineman under Knute Rockne, filled his son with legends of the Fighting Irish. Thus it was that George matriculated at South Bend and began passing in earnest.
After earning his letter as a sophomore, Izo badly sprained an ankle during initiation for the Monogram Club. George missed spring practice, and it was not until midseason last year that he saw much action. When he did it was against Mollenkopf and Purdue, with the Boilermakers leading 23-3. Izo connected on pass after pass, though Purdue wobbled off with a 29-22 win.
As he readied for the 1959 season George seemed perfect for Coach Joe Kuharich's plans for installing the pro-type T. Still, Notre Dame fans fretted about a tough schedule and a poor team. There was more to fret about when Izo injured a knee in a preseason practice. He sat out two games, then made his debut against California. Last week against Michigan State and before a nationwide television audience, George was plagued in the first half by in-rushing linemen. But in the second half he was sharper, leading the Irish on a long march that was stopped on the one-yard line and connecting for six out of 12 passes. So now the big question about George Izo no longer concerns his ability as a college quarterback but rather the durability of his leg.