Purdue University is the Big Ten's contribution to ethnic jokes. It is a pile of engineering textbooks, asphalt, and dull-red buildings on the plain of West Lafayette, Ind., and through the years its football players have been referred to as Rail Splitters, Pumpkin Shuckers, Cedar Choppers, Blacksmiths, Hayseeds, Cornfield Sailors and—curtain, please—Boilermakers. For a moment, consider the term Boilermakers, a derisive name Purdue liked and adopted officially. Does a Boilermaker sound like the kind of a guy you would want your sister to date? Does he sound like fun? He's got to drive a beat-up '57 Buick, come from a family of 14 in Gary and spend most of his time breathing rivet dust. Yeah, yeah, he'll study for you and maybe he'll become an astronaut—big deal—but he couldn't do the jerk if he loaded up on Dexies, he couldn't find Chez Paul in Chicago with a compass and he'd stumble on a carpet. Naw, man. To have any class you've got to come from a cooled-out school like Michigan or Wisconsin or Northwestern. Purdue? Man, Purdue is like Iowa. After all, how many Boilermakers do you know who can chew gum and walk at the same time?
Well, as of last Saturday, there was at least one. His name is Bob Griese and he may be a farm-type boy from Evansville, and he might have made the terrible social mistake of going to Purdue, but in playing No. 1-ranked Notre Dame he was outlined against the pale-blue September sky so dramatically that 61,921 people suffered hysterical seizures, and there was one in a group of frantic, shocked sportswriters who became so deadline-destitute that he labeled Griese the Lone Horseman "riding into the Valley of Death." Griese had that kind of day. He brought out the Apocalypse in you.
Passing, running, kicking and thinking, Griese whooshed out the candlelight that Grantland Rice promised (in the second and unremembered paragraph of his famous Four Horseman story) would "always gleam through the Indiana sycamores" in South Bend. And it would have taken all of the literary fame of the Four Horsemen, Knute Rockne's intensity, Frank Leahy's shrewdness, The Gipper's devotion, Johnny Lujack's cunning and a whole Golden Dome full of Nick Eddys and Bill Wolskis to have kept Bob Griese (pronounced greasy) from upsetting the Irish 25-21. It is awfully difficult even now, after digesting all of the statistical goodies and recovering from the monotonous heroism of the afternoon, to remember a more brilliant performance by a quarterback against such superb collegiate opposition.
Unless you were present in Purdue's Ross-Ade Stadium, you cannot really know what Griese did, for surely the radio broadcast was an excusable exercise in outrageous babble. It takes a summing-up to capture the true potency of the performance. For example, Griese did complete a noteworthy 19 of 22 passes for 283 yards and three touchdowns and set up the fourth (and winning) score with his passes. But he also ran nine times for an average of five yards per carry, exclusive of a couple of losses on passing tries. These were clutch-keepers—sharp, darting runs necessary to sustain drives. Griese punted three times—high, accurately and deliberately short—to the Notre Dame six-, seven- and 26-yard lines. He kicked off three times, always deep enough, and on one of the returns, in an unexpected moment of agonizing excitement, he made a touchdown-saving tackle on Wolski.
October 3, 1965
The Notre Dame halfback, who had sprinted 54 untouched yards for one touchdown, blazed through a cluster of black-shirted Purdue tacklers, burst clear after 40 yards and appeared gone. But Griese, scrambling up from a block, lunged and caught Wolski's ankle, spilling him from a desperate angle.
Griese did all of these things in a game so full of thrills it would have wrecked an IBM computer. It was a game that produced 726 yards of combined total offense between old, old, disrespectful rivals that were rated after last week's opening games first and sixth in the national polls. It was a game that saw a total of 37 different running, passing and returning plays gain more than 10 yards each, often more. And this figure does not include two touchdown runs of short yardage that were more important than the 37 plays and a late, apparent game-winning Notre Dame field goal that bounced—bounced, mind you—over the crossbar, causing Coach Ara Parseghian to jump around like a man with a scorpion in his pants. It was a game in which the lead changed hands five times, with Notre Dame taking it first 3-0, Purdue going ahead 6-3, Notre Dame coming back 10-6, Purdue rallying 12-10 then building to 18-10, Notre Dame tying it up 18-18 then assuming the lead again 21-18 and with Purdue, just four minutes short of the end, coming back once more with a stunning drive to win.
Purdue plays this kind of game a lot, although it is not always as flamboyant in winning. Back in 1945, when Assistant Coach Bob DeMoss, who put in Griese's pass patterns, was the quarterback, he shot down an Ohio State team that was ranked No. 1. In 1950 it was a Purdue passer named Dale Samuels who broke Notre Dame's 39-game winning streak on a day South Bend Publicist Charlie Callahan likes to call "the day Notre Dame lost." And then in 1953 the Boilermakers snapped No. 1 Michigan State's 28-game streak. And if no one else does, Terry Brennan will remember that Len Dawson and Purdue cost him a perfect season in 1954, his first year as Notre Dame coach.
But there are two big differences between those Purdue teams and this one. This one has Griese, and Griese has a splendid team with him. If Purdue can just avoid the upset itself (which it never has) the Boilermakers will finally get to see for themselves whether the Rose Bowl looks like it does on the postcards. Purdue, in fact, probably is stronger than even Coach Jack Mollenkopf knows.
"It's true that we have more variety than we've ever had because Griese can do so many things well, and he's smart enough to call 95% of the plays," said Mollenkopf after the game. "And we began this season thinking about winning the Big Ten championship instead of beating Notre Dame. But we've got a lot of tough ones ahead [Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State] and we're sure not going to surprise anybody now."
Mollenkopf is being his usual cautious self. Purdue will go to the Rose Bowl if it plays up to its capabilities. The team is so talented that every break had to go against it to keep the Notre Dame game even. Were it not for the luxuries of a couple of defensive naps, the score against the Irish would have been something preposterous—say, 32-7. At least four times, perhaps more, Purdue Halfback Gordon Teter, who twisted over for the winning touchdown, came within a half step of breaking for a big gain, and few teams have anyone capable of catching the 183-pound senior. He is a tough, smart runner with quick moves and the bounce-up spirit of a sophomore.
Two other times Griese's favorite passing target, Split End Bob Hadrick (8 for 113 yards), slipped down, after subtle, dazzling moves that thrust him into the open. Hadrick is 6 feet 2, weighs 195, catches anything near him and reminds you of a Raymond Berry who has speed. Three nights a week, all summer long, Griese and Hadrick played catch, while Purdue's engineers grew beards and read books. Consequently, the two know one another pretty well. But while Hadrick's moves confused Notre Dame's experienced secondary, led by a usually competent Nick Rassas at safety, a Purdue sophomore named Jim Beirne popped up from tight end to make Parseghian's defense, talk of the college community last year, look downright foolish.
On Purdue's first touchdown, a 28-yard pass from Griese to Beirne, all three Notre Dame defenders had their backs turned—and Beirne was 12 yards behind them. "I had Rassas beat so good I thought he was gonna grab my arm, but he didn't. Then I saw that empty grass, and the ball came, and I thought, 'don't drop it in front of all these people.' "
Later Beirne beat Rassas by a good step at the goal line to catch a 14-yard pass from Griese that put Purdue ahead again. This was one of only two passes that a Purdue player had to struggle to grab. Beirne stretched forward as he was cutting across to his right and fell with the ball. Griese, who is extremely accurate with a fast delivery—and says playing guard on the varsity basketball team helped him get that way—threw only one ball that was more than a stride off target. It was intercepted, but just before Griese got rid of the ball a Notre Dame lineman slapped his arm.
Griese threw his third scoring pass to Halfback Randy Minnear. Again the secondary was beaten by 10 yards, as Griese sent two men wide and put a halfback in motion. The Irish were scurrying around in some strange 4-4 alignment (Teter had blasted them out of their customary Split Six), and no one saw the halfback until it was too late.
"We knew we could do anything we wanted to do," explained Griese after the game. "Rassas likes to play you tight, so we took advantage of it. Everything was open. Even after they went ahead at the last, we weren't worried."
Truly, Griese was not. He simply hit Halfback Jim Finley for 32 yards, Beirne for 13 and then 19, and Teter scored from the 3:67 yards in four plays and in one minute and nine seconds. Parseghian didn't have time to think, pray, face the dome or quote Rockne.
The final irony of it all was that Griese would have preferred to have gone to Notre Dame when he finished Rex Mundi High School in Evansville. "I was eager," he said, "but just when I was getting ready to visit the campus, one of their alumni [who had best remain anonymous forever] said they didn't want me because I was too small. So I picked Purdue. You ought to stay in your own state, because that's where you'll wind up earning your living."
Griese has reddish-blond hair in a short cut that sweeps down over his forehead as Brutus' did, high cheek bones and a quick, easy smile. He has a typically flat Midwest accent, and the swingingest Kappa Kappa Gamma at Northwestern would have to confess that he is outdoorsy nice-looking and personable, especially for a Boilermaker.
"It was just a question of mechanics," Griese said, as confidently as he had performed. "We've got a tough defense that'll make you know we're there [particularly against inside running, as Eddy and Wolski learned, good as they were], and the protection and the receivers are great. Hadrick is always going to be half open. And that's comforting to know."
Since there is not another Griese on Notre Dame's schedule, it seems likely that its defense can be repaired and blended with the powerful rushing game to carry Ara Parseghian through to perhaps a 9-1 season and no worse than 7-3. But the upset underlined the fact that this is not Ara's kind of team. As he said, "Purdue has Huarte and Snow this time," meaning Griese and Hadrick.
Parseghian's life has changed since a year ago, even if he does not seem to sense it. He writes a syndicated column, has a TV show and is bombarded with triple the number of banquet and clinic invitations he had a year ago. He was truly worried before the Purdue game, because he knew he did not have the quick strike. He was so concerned about Purdue, in fact, that he did not appear at a Friday night smoker in the Van Orman-Fowler Hotel. Easygoing Jack Mollenkopf took advantage of his absence to plant a gentle needle. "Oh, well," said Mollenkopf, "we didn't really expect the Pope either."
Purdue also knew that it did not have its usual Golden Girl to wear that brief costume and run up in the stands with her baton and make all the newspapers in a wire-service photograph. No coed qualified for the first time in 11 years under the restrictions that she must be pretty, a good twirler and, perish the thought, academic.
Last week, however, it did not matter much. The Boilermakers had a Golden Arm instead.