There was no mistaking the look of those tough new faces around the Southern Methodist University campus in 1947. These were men who had faced the guns of Tiger tanks, had fought Zeros and had survived K-rations, and they were not likely to be awed by earnest young fellows grunting at them from across the line of scrimmage. It was, however, that kind of year for campuses all over the country and, in fact, SMU had fewer World War II veterans than most of the big universities. A dismal season the year before had even left the impression that SMU might be just as ordinary this time around.
Coach Matty Bell knew better. "We're going to surprise somebody," was the way he put it, and while coaches are just full of such euphemisms, those few veterans he did have were special. Very special. Linemen Earl Cook, John Hamberger and Sid Halliday, for instance, were big and mean. There was also a fine passer in Gil Johnson and one of the quickest runners around in Paul Page. But, most of all, there was Doak Walker (above) who was small, slightly faster than slow and who could bring more people leaping off their seats than a swarm of agitated army ants.
There was a hint of things to come two years before when SMU won five games with Walker. The following year Walker spent the football season in the Army at the Brooke Medical Center in San Antonio, but he was back now, older, steadier—and ready. His old followers were hopeful, of course, and Bell was confident, but absolutely no one was quite prepared for—could be prepared for—a whole season of runs, passes, receptions, kicks, punts and tackles that were ordinarily spectacular and almost unbelievable on occasions.
September 18, 1966
Kezar Stadium in San Francisco has 59,700 seats, most of which were left uncovered for SMU's opener with Santa Clara. Pity. SMU quickly demonstrated what the 1947 season was going to be like. Late in the game, Walker took a kickoff on the two-yard line and very deliberately, almost lethargically, started upfield, peering intently at the forming defense. Then it came—first a burst of speed, then a complete stop, followed by a skip to the left, one to the right, and Walker was clear, picking up blocks when he had them, changing speed and direction when he did not. He crossed into the end zone untouched. There was another one of those ghostly runs earlier, a 44-yarder for a touchdown, and a jolt at the line that upended three linemen—and that meant a touchdown, too.
That first win was important. Cook, Hamberger and Halliday learned then that they had something unusual in back of them, and they immediately started blocking with precision and, when Walker was on the loose, at any time, any place.
After the Mustangs' second win—against Missouri, in which Walker returned a punt 75 yards for one touchdown, bucked for another, passed for a third and chipped in with an extra 57-yard run—it became evident that SMU, with its crazy-quilt offense that spread players from sideline to sideline and had Walker lining up almost anywhere, was fully prepared to turn a perfectly ordinary game of football into a wild afternoon of fun and games.
Suddenly rickety old Ownby Stadium was utterly inadequate. But when SMU moved into the Cotton Bowl to play Texas, there still were not enough seats, and 5,000 married veterans at SMU staged a brawl when they could not get tickets for their wives. Texas was No. 3 in the country. SMU was eighth. Texas was unbeaten. So was SMU. Texas had Bobby Layne, the best passer in football. SMU had Walker, and this was the game to find out just who was Mr. It in the state of Texas.
It was Walker. With the score tied, Walker—at tailback—passed to Halliday for a first down on the 38. He then moved over to wingback and took a pass from Johnson. Walker caught the ball in the air and landed with his legs already in motion. Texas finally tackled him on the one, but that was the game.
The thrills did not end there. Against Arkansas, with SMU behind, Walker ran a kickoff back 46 yards, returned a punt 30 yards, picked up 56 yards rushing, completed a pass, caught four of Johnson's passes and scored the winning touchdown with three minutes to go. That performance, however, was off-Broadway compared with what Walker did in the final game. It was against TCU, and the Southwest title was at stake, although SMU could win it with a tie.
Before anyone got settled in his seat for that one, TCU jumped in front by two touchdowns. Grim? "It might have been," said an SMU player, "except we had Walker." For a while it looked as if TCU had Walker too, all bottled up as he was trying to pass. It was precisely at moments like this, however, that Walker was most to be feared. "It gets the defense all scattered out," he said. "Then when you decide to run, you can take up the problem of tacklers one at a time." Twice TCU had Walker trapped. Trap Walker? Fat chance. Putting on his best display of start-and-stop of the season, Walker feinted and sprinted. When TCU finally did find Walker standing still, it was 61 yards downfield—across the goal line.
Very exciting, but with 90 seconds to play SMU was still behind by a touchdown. TCU kicked off—to exactly the wrong man, Walker. Not only did he return the ball 56 yards, but in the process he raced past his own bench yelling: "Send in Johnson." Bell did, and Johnson hit Walker on the nine-yard line.
There were still 20 seconds to go and a touchdown to be had if SMU was to win the title. On the next play Walker sprinted for the goal followed by almost the entire team. Walker never made it, but then he didn't have to. With all that empty space on the other side of the field, Johnson had no trouble spotting Halliday alone in the end zone. Touchdown and the game and the title.
There are no Doak Walkers at SMU this year. There is one at Texas, though, and plenty to cheer about at Arkansas, the Conference favorite. Mustang followers might as well relax and enjoy the excitement.
Every night it was the same, and not all the warm milk in ARKANSAS could change things. Jon Brittenum looks desperately downfield in the hazy world of unwanted dreams for Bobby Crockett—the All-America who always makes the plays that win the game that gives the national championship (and 14 brand-new folk songs) to Arkansas—and what does the scrambling quarterback see? Four huge LSU defenders surrounding Crockett, leering and winking and daring him to throw the pass. Brittenum does, and in an instant Arkansas has lost the game that ruins the perfect season that gives the championship to Alabama.
Hoo boy! What a way to get a night's sleep. Not only Brittenum, but Coach Frank Broyles, the team and the state of Arkansas are stuck with it, and the only known cure for such nocturnal unrest is another 22-game winning streak. It's possible, of course. Any team that has Brittenum and Harry Jones (certainly one of the best of the breakaway types) in the same backfield is going to win games. But all of them? Not likely. One good reason Arkansas led the country in scoring last season (32.4 points a game) was an offensive line that simply demolished anyone audacious enough to line up in front of it. Another was Bobby Burnett, a quick, powerful tailback who used to slam off tackle up to 40 times a game, taking the pressure off Jones's outside razzle-dazzle. A third was Crockett.
Well, say goodby to all that. And say hello to some of the best teams the Southwest Conference has had in years. Yes, Texas fans, Arkansas can be beaten—occasionally. Before organizing any wild celebrations, however, take a long, grim look at what Broyles has left besides Brittenum and Jones. There stands Loyd Phillips at left tackle, a moody ruffian who left the dorm in a huff last spring when some of the freshmen (of all people) began teasing him about a minor injury. Phillips eventually came back and Broyles is again breathing regularly. The entire defensive line, in fact, is as strong and fast as ever, and when the Razorbacks do get into deep defensive trouble. Tommy Trantham will race back to his old position in the secondary. Trantham, a big-play man on defense last season, won Crockett's job at split end with a series of spectacular catches during the spring game.
On the face of it, this looks much like the same old Arkansas except for that loss in the Cotton Bowl, not to mention the loss of a kicker, a punter, a tailback, the end and part of the offensive line. As Broyles himself pointed out: "These things just have a way of ending."
Absolutely no one knows that better than TEXAS Coach Darrell Royal, the former resident enfant terrible of the SEC, director of national champions and, at present, the coach most likely to cut his throat if he loses four games again this season. The question is: How did this losing sort of nonsense happen in the first place?
Some are brash enough to insist Royal was simply too stubborn to embrace the current rage (the I formation), not to mention the rules committee's gift to the rich: platoon football. "They can't convince me that all our misfortunes were caused by not platooning," says Royal. "We fumbled five punts last year. What has that got to do with platooning?" As for the I, Royal snaps his fingers at such nonsense. "Trends are bunk. You know who wins football games? Angry people."
Without a doubt, Royal is an angry person. He also is about to platoon all-out for the first time in his life and has abandoned the faithful old wing T for, egad, the trend. Never one to go at anything haphazardly. Royal hired Broyles's old pupil, Freddy Akers, and handed him the offense. Akers wasted no lime in shifting Quarterback Greg Lott to wingback (shades of Harry Jones), partly because Lott is very fast and partly because sophomore Bill Bradley (see box page 82) has come to play quarterback. Not that Bradley will be lonely for classmates. No fewer than eight sophomores have won starting positions this fall.
Quicker than you can say "wham, ooph, blooy" everyone will know whether that "feeling" TEXAS CHRISTIAN Coach Abe Martin has this season means a championship or a quick 0-3 record—wham, ooph and blooy meaning Nebraska, Ohio State and Arkansas. People have gotten out of the habit of really noticing TCU of late, but as an assistant coach noted laconically: "We win those first three and I guess they'll know about us." Coaches never never talk that way unless they know something. In this case, they know that sophomores Ross Montgomery and Norman Bulaich have arrived. Montgomery is a 6-foot-3, 210-pound fullback who has reeled off a 9.6 hundred. Bulaich, a tailback, is two pounds lighter, three inches shorter, a tenth of a second slower—and he hits harder. And what does Abe Martin think? "Talent isn't so much till it does something," is what he thinks.
If you have a notion to run against the Frogs, well, why not? The defensive line is light and will give a yard here and there, but if it's a pass you are thinking of, forget it. The secondary of Frank Horak, John Richards, Cubby Hudler and Paul Smith has experience, speed and is the best in the SWC. It may be good enough to carry TCU right into the Cotton Bowl.
For the last seven games in 1965 Terry Southall watched BAYLOR play from high in the stands, tending his broken foot. It was one very good reason why the Bears lost five of those games and, until this spring, made Coach John Bridges squirm at the thought of 1966. Then, the very first time the best passing quarterback in the SWC got his hands on the ball during the spring game, he threw himself and his fragile right ankle at right tackle. Bridgers nearly fainted, but when Southall popped up after the play the sighs of relief swept Waco like a zephyr. Southall is fit.
Baylor's offensive line is only adequate, and the runners scare nobody—which bothers Bridgers not at all. What will be asked of them this fall is to hold off pass rushers long enough for Southall to loft one of his beautiful tosses to End Tommy Smith, a quick, sure senior, or John Westbrook, who is one of the two Negroes playing varsity in the SWC this season. Westbrook is a 9.6 type and will bear plenty of watching.
Baylor's volleyball-style of play, however, will be only half the show this season. Guard Greg Pipes, a 230-pounder being boomed for All-America, and Dwight Hood, a 240-pound tackle, make a try up the middle a very discouraging business indeed. And also right in the center of things is a 240-pound sophomore named Earl Maxfield. Opponents will find it much more productive to pass than run on Baylor. The secondary is young, untried and irresistible for any team with an adequate quarterback. The best one, alas, belongs to Baylor.
It will doubtless come as a shock to some four million fans who saw HOUSTON'S Warren McVea drop the ball six times on national television last season, but the young speedster is very nearly as super as everyone said he was before that opening-game disaster. The Cougars came to life with four games to go, and all but three of the people who did it are back. Quarterback Bo Burris will pass often and with the advantage of a lesson learned last year: "There is no way," he says, "you can overthrow McVea."
There does not seem to be any way to throw against Houston, either. It was tried last year, and Gus Hollomon, Dick Spratt, Bill Hollon and Jim Berger intercepted nine passes. So try running and see what happens. Paul Otis, Carl Cunningham and Dick George are back, and nobody did very well against that bunch, either. Coming or going, the Cougars can beat you.
For a gent who has lost 29 games in four years, Hayden Fry has made quite a thing of adversity since coming to SOUTHERN METHODIST—SWC coach of the year in 1962 after losing eight games and a trip to the Sun Bowl in 1964 with a 4-6 record—which makes you wonder what a winning season would do for him. This is the year to find out. Linebacker Billy Bob Stewart fixed his TV set last spring with a short right jolt to the image. It shattered the screen, but the set worked. Fry calls that "direct action," and he'll take it from Stewart on or off the field. "You don't have to worry about Billy Bob being up for a game," said Fry. "He's up for practice." The man who plays next to him is Jerry Griffin, who may be the second-best linebacker in the SWC.
Everybody but the fullback, the wingback and both ends return to the offensive unit, and Jerry Levias, the other Negro to get a shot at SWC football and a 9.8 sprinter, fills the end position. "We'll do anything to get Levias in the open," said Fry.
The Mustangs could get by with senior Mac White at quarterback. If not, they will go with Mike Livingston, a 6-foot-3, 200-pounder who also has 9.8 speed, is hair-raising on roll-outs and can pass. Occasionally, of course, White will hand off to Tailback Jim Hagle. "You think we won't surprise some people?" asks an assistant. Count on it.
Whenever nine of 11 starters return to an offensive team, that's good news, but when one of the starters is TEXAS WESTERN Quarterback Billy Stevens, duck. Stevens amassed over 3,000 wildly exciting yards passing last year and over 200 more in the Sun Bowl against TCU. And because Bobby Dobbs is a coach who would rather stick his head in a bowl of piranhas than watch a man run with the ball, he has seen to it that there are some sure-handed people around to catch Stevens' throws. Flanker Chuck Hughes is only 5 feet 11, but he caught 80 passes last year, and if Stevens prefers the tall, willowy type he has one of those, too, in Bob Wallace, a 6-foot-2 junior who sprints. Linebacker Fred Carr will have to work hard to keep opponents from running at will, but defense is not what Dobbs has in mind. In the spring game, the Orange beat the White 43-41. Duck again.
Rice beat Texas last year, which is fine, but the Owls lost eight other games and could again. There are problems at quarterback, and the linebacking is weak. In short, Rice will have trouble moving the ball and stopping anyone else from moving. Three wins would be a gift for Coach Jess Neely, who is retiring this season after 40 years.
It was close, so very very close, but TEXAS TECH couldn't stop Arkansas in 1965's big one—not even with Donny Anderson and Quarterback Tom Wilson. Without them, the Red Raiders will have to chug along with Tackle Phil Tucker, a standout blocker, opening holes for Guy Griffis, a quarterback who cannot pass as well as Wilson did but who runs with distinction.
Texas A&M won three games for Coach Gene Stallings in his first year, and "we could get better," insists one assistant. Possibly, but the Aggies will have to be much better to do as well in a tougher conference. There is quality at spots, especially if Mo Moorman, a 6-foot-5, 250-pounder, is playing at one of them. He is capable of manhandling people any old place. There just are not any more like him, though.
At WEST TEXAS STATE there are no less than 15 returning regulars, including Quarterback Hank Washington, and since he was the 12th most effective quarterback in the country the Buffaloes could improve on their six wins last year.
Now It's Super Bill
Discipline, to Texas Coach Darrell Royal, has special meaning. When he says the word, it reminds some people of a cathedral organ—there is no mistaking the tone of reverence in his voice. Royal himself is strongly self-disciplined. His teams almost never go left when the battle plan says right, his assistants are obedient, his children mind their manners and, when he says "sit," every dog in the neighborhood sits. So when a flock of Texas boosters, wide-eyed and trembling with excitement, ask breathlessly: "Tell us about him, Coach," Royal will quite calmly answer: "Tell you about who?"
Who, ha! At present there is exactly one who in the entire state of Texas. His name is Bill Bradley, quarterback is his position, and you can bet your last dollar that when Royal says a nonchalant "who?" he is using all the self-discipline he can muster.
Not since Doak Walker applied at Southern Methodist has a player awed Texas the way Bradley has. Says one ex-official: "He could be the greatest I've seen in 40 years." Says one coach who will have to oppose Bradley: "He's incredible, unbelievable." Says, finally, his former coach at Palestine High School, Luke Thornton: "Why, he's, he's, he's—electric!" As for Royal, he will mumble things like "untested," and "hasn't had a chance yet," and then, in a wild display of emotion, admit that "Texas will be fun to watch this year."
Once you have seen him perform, it is hard to remain passive about Super Bill, as he is called. He teased Texas fans nearly to distraction last year as a freshman by reeling off seven yards every time he carried the ball, scoring five touchdowns in five games, completing 21 passes in 42 attempts, intercepting one pass, which he ran back 99 yards for a touchdown, and getting off some of the longest punts ever seen in the Southwest. Super Bill is, of course, ambidextrous. Asked who his best punter was, a coach of a high school all-star team answered, "Bradley." The next best? "Bradley—right-footed."
Such praise tends to make Bradley squirm, but he is his own worst enemy. Normally right-handed, in one high school game he threw the winning touchdown pass with his left. "Shucks," he explained. "That ball just happened to be there."
It is remarkable that one player can obsess the Southwest so, because this is a vintage year. Texas Christian, for instance, has not one but two outstanding runners, Ross Montgomery and Norman Bulaich. Both weigh in over 200, both are sub 10-second sprinters, and what both like to do best is to run into people. As of now TCU Coach Abe Martin has dutifully listed the sophomores on the second string, a situation that inevitably brings winks and nods from those who have seen them play.
SMU and Baylor have decided that Negroes do indeed have a place in SWC football. As a result, End Jerry Levias and Halfback John Westbrook will help make a five-way race out of the SWC scramble for the title.