For Indians, it was a day to bite the dust

Oct. 31, 1966
Oct. 31, 1966

Table of Contents
Oct. 31, 1966

Packer Pursuit
Cops And Robbers
Way Up High
College Football
Pro Basketball
Anything Goes
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over

For Indians, it was a day to bite the dust

East and west, the games were spectacular as Harvard, the new Ivy League leader, and North Dakota State, the nation's No. 1 small-college team, barely saved their scalps against Dartmouth and North Dakota's Sioux

By Gwilym S. Brown

Daniel Webster, class of 1801, in his famous Dartmouth College Case, stated with great eloquence that Dartmouth was a small college but that there were those who loved it. Well, today Dartmouth is still a small college (enrollment 2,950); it has a big, fast football team that last year was judged best in the East, and now there are those—mostly Harvard men—who hate it. This was made abundantly clear last week at Harvard Stadium in a game that prior to the season was scheduled to be nothing more than a feeding station on Dartmouth's march to its second straight Ivy title. It was made clear with a savage eloquence that must have impressed a large New England television audience, obviously impressed a roaring hip-flask-to-hip-flask crowd of 40,000, and may even have impressed Senator Webster, wherever he is. Harvard, buoyed by the kind of resourceful vigor that it reserves only for Dartmouth, defeated the Big Green 19-14. The Crimson won the game with a rugged, exciting, time-consuming, 16-play, 80-yard march that produced the winning touchdown with less than two minutes to play. The score may prove to be the most significant one in the East this year. Surprising Harvard is suddenly five up with only four to go toward its first undefeated and untied season in 53 years.

This is an article from the Oct. 31, 1966 issue Original Layout

"How sweet it is," observed Harvard's sturdy, 230-pound defensive tackle, Skip Sviokla, when the game, if not The Game, was over. "How sweet it is to beat the boys from the woods."

It is generally assumed, with some accuracy, that the Yale game must be classed with birth, marriage and death as one of the most significant moments in a Harvard football player's stay here on earth. But, like a coronation or a presidential inauguration, the Yale game is usually more of an historic ritual than the kind of traditional bloodletting you can expect when, say, Alabama and Auburn get together. That sort of hostility is reserved for Dartmouth. Part of the friction between the schools is caused by their proximity. Both are in New England, 120 miles apart, and a thick helping of Green and Crimson graduates is scattered all around Greater Boston. Part is caused by the clash of two images: the virile outdoorsman versus the effete egghead.

"It kind of bugs us that Harvard gets so much publicity around Boston," says Dartmouth's very bright and exceptionally versatile quarterback, Mickey Beard. "It's the Yale game this and the Yale game that while Dartmouth is just that little school in the woods of New Hampshire. We're trying to make them darn well think that the Dartmouth game is The Game for them—not Yale."

Ric Zimmerman, the tall, intelligent, left-handed quarterback whose poise and passing have helped Harvard to serve up the kind of vitamin-rich, well-balanced offense that has been lacking in Cambridge for many years, would not go that far, but he has a few ideas of his own on why the Harvards love beating the Dartmouths at anything, even tiddlywinks.

"Those Dartmouth guys come down here in their green jackets," he says with a slight tone of distaste. "They come to our weekend parties and they lounge around on the floor with our dates and give you the idea it would be the easiest thing in the world to take our girls away from us. The Dartmouth game is always a good one to win."

It was especially so this year. The record does not show how many girls the Dartmouth boys have stolen from Harvard boys, but it does show how many points the Big Green got away with during the past two seasons. In 1964 the score was 48-0, on network television no less. Last year Dartmouth shut out Harvard again 14-0, then went on to finish the season undefeated and to win the Lambert Trophy as the East's best team. This year, with plenty of muscle reporting back, the Indians—they chose the name, not Harvard—were picked once again to dominate the Ivy League. On hand were Quarterback Beard, a daring, successful runner and passer; Halfback Gene Ryzewicz, a fast and slippery runner who averaged 7.6 yards a carry as a sophomore in 1965 and who can pass almost as well as Beard; All-Ivy Fullback Pete Walton, who at 226 pounds weighs only four pounds less than Sviokla, Harvard's heaviest man; two big offensive ends, Bill Calhoun and Bob MacCleod; and a speedy, six-man defensive secondary that, with one exception, was playing together for the second year. Dartmouth is not heavy but, like all Blackman teams, it is very fast and very tough.

With only 14 lettermen returning from last year's 5-2-2 team, Harvard looked pitiful by comparison. If the Crimson finished better than fifth in the league, people were saying, the team should celebrate with a wild old extra hour in the Widener Library stacks. The Harvards, who have not finished below third since 1958, resented this slur almost as much as they do the color green.

"When I watched the first practice session," says a member of the Harvard athletic department, "I could sense that something electric was happening." "It was about the best preseason practice session I've ever had," says Coach John Yovicsin, in the midst of his 10th year at Harvard.

"It looked for once as if we were going to have a balanced offensive," says Halfback Bobby Leo, "and take the pressure off the defense."

"Look," says Quarterback Zimmerman, quite possibly the key difference between this year and last, "we knew we were better than a fifth-place team and we were going to prove it."

They did so in spectacular fashion. Harvard routed Lafayette (30-7), Tufts (45-0), Columbia (34-7) and big, tough Cornell (21-0). On the eve of the Dartmouth game it stood at the top of the NCAA charts in rushing with 333 yards per game and in scoring defense with a stingy 3.5 points a game. For the first time in recent memory Harvard has a quarterback who can move the team on the ground as well as pass effectively. It has two fine halfbacks in Leo and a stubby, snarling 5-foot-6, 180-pound sophomore named Vic Gatto. The offensive line, led by Steve Diamond, a high school All-America from Miami who originally had signed a letter of intent with Georgia Tech, is very fast and provides plenty of oil for Harvard's flanker T offense. The entire defense, though not big, is as quick as the offensive unit.

Halfback Leo is perhaps the finest runner ever enrolled at Harvard. His Everett High School team, in suburban Boston, went undefeated in his last two years and won the Class A title. Leo scored 21 touchdowns in his senior season. A good student, he applied to Dartmouth, Harvard, Yale and Columbia (after visiting Michigan State, Syracuse and Notre Dame), hit four for four, but, says Leo, "I was always thinking of Harvard."

And a good thing, too. In each of the last two years he has scored the winning touchdown against Yale. He may never again, however, have the kind of afternoon he had last Saturday against Dartmouth, when he blocked and passed furiously, got away on a long 64-yard touchdown run and, in all, gained 173 yards in 20 carries.

More than 10,000 tickets were snapped up by Dartmouth grads and undergrads, who trooped into Harvard Square in green caps, green coats, green scarves and green ribbons bearing the words "Green Power." The Crimson backlash, in the person of Bobby Leo, was felt before the end of the first quarter. Two long Dartmouth drives ended in lost fumbles, and then, with a first and 10 on its own 36, Harvard ended a record of scoreless frustration against Dartmouth that had stretched to almost 146 minutes. As Harvard lined up over the ball Zimmerman observed that Dartmouth's roving linebacker, Steve Luxford, had taken his position on the left.

"I had called a sweep left with Gatto carrying," said Zimmerman, "but when I saw the rover I called a change at the line of scrimmage to a sweep right with Leo. The play needs a solid block by Gatto to work, and it got it. Their left end just disappeared."

Leo turned downfield, found his route along the sideline blocked by men wearing green-and-white uniforms and cut left as the Dartmouth secondary flowed right. He popped into the clear on the Dartmouth 40 and started a desperate match race with Dartmouth's fast, all-league defensive halfback, Wynn Mabry, to the left-hand corner of the end zone. Leo won, sprawling across the goal line as Mabry pinned his legs together with a lunging tackle. Dartmouth finally held onto the ball long enough to move 84 yards on seven plays and score when Beard-rolled out from his 10-yard line, bounced off two tacklers and swandived into the end zone over a third.

The two teams traded touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters. Then, with 9:30 left in the game and trailing 14-13, Harvard took over the ball on its own 20 after a Dartmouth punt and launched a scoring march that ate up more than half of the final quarter.

"We were amazed and surprised that Harvard could move the ball so well against us and control it so long," said Beard after the game. "They had the ball so long our defense just got worn down. That's what won the game."

In the past Harvard has shown a consistent failure to win important games and last week's victory was therefore doubly satisfying. "I've had teams that could get much higher for one game than this one," said Coach Yovicsin, warily eying this week's game with weak Penn, "and also much flatter for a game. This probably is the most emotionally stable team I have ever coached here. They're all business."

Each fall thousands of migrating geese zip over North Dakota with the same nonstop perseverance as the tight-grip-on-the-wheel motorist whose most fervent wish is to get over a border—any border—before he runs out of gas.

It is a pity that birds and people feel this way, but understandable. Although North Dakota is a magnificently untamed country, roughhewn, vast, chock full of oil and coal and boasting some of the richest, blackest, most fertile soil in the world, its winters come early and they stay late. The wind blows the bleak winter through, piling snow into mountainous drifts, and anyone who sticks his nose outside is in grave danger of losing it.

The wonder is that while North Dakota is disappearing before our very eyes—it is one of the few states that is decreasing in population—it has somehow managed to produce two of the finest small-college football teams in the country. Last week North Dakota State, winner of 22 straight games, the national small-college champions of 1965 and No. 1 in all the polls this year, traveled 75 miles up the Red River Valley to Grand Forks to play the University of North Dakota, ranked third in the country and winner of nine straight games, a streak that would have come to 22, too, except for one excruciating loss, 3-6, to North Dakota State.

On Saturday the dust billowed, the wind howled and 14,000 people (as many as can be stuffed into Memorial Stadium) popped up and down so many times that the stadium appeared to be filled with flamingos indulging in courtship ritual. Within a period of three minutes and 50 seconds there were no fewer than 10 plays—by hysterical count—that should have at least proved that the No. 1 and No. 3 teams were, in fact, dead even. But, on panic play No. 11, with 17 seconds left, North Dakota State took back, with a 29-yard field goal, a game that it tried to give away in the first quarter. It won 18-15 and thus clamped a headlock on the top small-college ranking. The hold should last for at least two more weeks, or until State's Bisons play San Diego State, now ranked second. Think nothing of it. With wins already over No. 6-ranked Montana State and now North Dakota, the Bisons will be going toe to toe against an heir apparent for the third time. It goes without saying that their young coach, Ron Erhardt, will stay out of a cardiac ward just long enough to shoot the man who made his team's schedule.

It is not surprising that the unblushing pride of North Dakotans is way over on the other side of euphoric. For years any stout lad found carting off a ton of potatoes without breathing hard was trundled out of state to the University of Minnesota, which considered North Dakota a sort of private game preserve. Today the good, tough ones stay at home, thanks mostly to red-blooded recruiting by both North Dakota and State. But as the president of North Dakota, Dr. George W. Starcher, says, "Darned if I know how we get enough boys for two good teams."

Luck, maybe, or coincidence, but it is a demonstrable fact that nobody beats a North Dakota school but another North Dakota school. For State the rise to the top has been meteoric. Just four years ago the most enthusiastic part of the Bisons' football program was a base drummer who whomped away in a preseason parade. That task finished, he, the band and the student body left the team to play in spectacular isolation.

Talk about an inferiority complex—not only was State regularly humiliated by its most bitter rival, North Dakota, but it was consistently ridiculed because of its agricultural leanings. "Swept out the barns yet, farmer?" North Dakota students would ask leeringly, following this sally with an inevitable "mooooo." What really hurt was that the State campus did look like a model farm, while North Dakota, trimly (smugly, if you were from downstate Fargo) basked in the Ivy glory of its Gothic halls. North Dakota, as its own students were pleased to point out, produced lawyers and doctors. And what, they asked, did agricultural State turn out? Milk.

Worse yet, State could not take out its frustration physically. No matter how bad a football team North Dakota had, it always knew that it could clobber ol' Silo Tech. Then Dr. H. R. Albrecht arrived from Penn State to assume his duties as president of State. He spent his first year watching the Bisons lose 10 straight games, giving up 300 points while they were about it. With almost no fuss, Dr. Albrecht saw to it the next year that the athletic budget was tripled—to 42 full athletic scholarships—and convinced Darrell Mundra to take over as head coach.

Mundra settled into the football office in the physical education building with a crash, shaking the exposed water pipes and jarring what stuffing remained out of the ancient leather chairs. After reviewing game films with his assistants, one of whom was Erhardt, two things immediately became apparent. State's players were not all that bad, but a more hangdog lot of athletes never existed.

"Our program was simple," said another assistant, Buck Nystrom, the old Michigan State guard who made Rose Bowl trips back to back 10 years ago and who bears a disconcerting resemblance to that thick-shouldered little fellow who carries the whip around in the Charles Addams cartoons. "You may not be the best team around," he told them, "but you are jolly well going to be the best conditioned. You are going to be the most agile. Your technique is going to become perfect. And your execution will be flawless. And, damn it, hold your heads up. Pride, men, pride."

With that a bewildered group of State players was herded out for six-hour practices, the kind that would bring a bull elephant to its knees: sprints and calisthenics and sprints and more sprints. Then came the seven-on-seven drills—Nystrom's own version of the pit, only he calls it the blood box. From goal line to goal line the chosen ones clawed, butted and punched, and those who so much as breathed hard were attacked verbally, Marine Corps fashion. After one late-afternoon go-around, Nystrom announced that no one was going in until he saw blood. Freshly showered, Mundra wandered out and said, "When are you going to quit, Buck?"

"No one's bleeding, coach," said Nystrom. "Dig, damn you, dig."

State won three games Mundra's first year, but it was a loss in the last game of the season against Southern Illinois that made the coaches and team dream of national championships. "Southern Illinois was ranked way up there," said Erhardt, "about fifth or sixth, and we had them beat until we goofed late in the game. We knew then we could play with anybody."

How right Erhardt was. State roared through its 1964 schedule, losing only once—to North Dakota 20-13. That was the 12th straight loss to North Dakota and the "mooooos" were louder than ever. But instead of hanging their heads, State's players mumbled low oaths all the way back to Fargo. "Next year, baby, you're gonna catch yours."

North Dakota did, too. Slightly scornful but undefeated, North Dakota met unbeaten and vengeful State to decide which end of North Dakota was up. State was, 6-3, and the rest was easy as the Bisons won the remainder of their scheduled games, averaging 36 points in each and boasting the third best defense in the country.

Then Darrell Mundra quit to coach professional Montreal in the Canadian League. Disaster, some thought. The players, however, feared only that the rest of the coaching staff would follow Mundra. In an impassioned confrontation with Erhardt and Company, they pointed out that they were national champions and meant to stay that way, "with you."

The coaches stayed on, and Erhardt took over as head man. He even threw in a few wrinkles: the forward pass, for instance. Last year the Bisons won with grind-it-out persistence, mostly on the running of Little All-America Halfback Ken Rota. Then, last spring, Erhardt discovered that Quarterback Terry Hanson could throw a snappy pass from the roll-out and—presto!—the Bisons became the complete team. Going into last week's game, State had run for 2,000 yards and passed for another 1,000.

To say that tension began to build last Monday before the game would be wrong. It began approximately five minutes after the game last year. Up in Grand Forks, Sioux Coach Marv Helling, in his 10th season at North Dakota, was quietly preparing to correct the slight error of his last loss. His game is passing, and he has Corey Colehour, a wide-hipped senior, to do it. Colehour fumbled on his first play as a varsity quarterback, but more to the point were the two touchdown passes he threw in the same game after coughing up the wad of Doublemint chewing gum that had lodged in his windpipe. Helling was so impressed that he immediately began to consider a whole new offense. By Colehour's junior year flankers and ends were split all over the field, and if 50 passes were not gotten off in a game, then Colehour was ignoring the game plan. "He was all kneecaps and elbows," said Helling, remembering the early days, "but what an arm. And you couldn't shake him. Third and eight—zip—right on the button."

Still, Helling worried. All week long the weather was unusually warm—about 55°—and the wind was gentle. "We have," he said, "a great kicker [Errol Mann had six held goals], a great punter [John Conrad was averaging 42 yards a try] and a great passer. Now guess what kind of day I want Saturday?"

Late Friday night North Dakota welcomed in winter with sleet, snow and a 40-knot gale. The north goalposts toppled. "Thanks a lot," said Helling.

Then it was Erhardt's turn to suffer. State won the toss and elected to kick off—into the wind. The call came close to wrecking State. Early in the game Conrad lofted a long punt with the wind that landed on the Bisons' one and bounced straight up. A State man fielded it and stepped into the end zone. Safety.

Down two points now and still in a hole, the Bisons went back to punt—into the wind. Up the middle came North Dakota's Roger Bone. Boink! Six plays later the Sioux had a field goal.

Nor was State through paying for its gaff. Still in the first period Colehour spotted his fullback, Pete Porinsh, 12 yards downfield and—zip—right on the button. Porinsh, who had managed to break the same leg three times two years ago, leading doctors to predict he would have trouble walking again, was running. He cut to the middle and went 59 yards for the touchdown.

Now the Bisons became untracked, parlaying a brutal frontal assault by Rota and his running mate, Mike Belmont, who comes from White Plains, N.Y., with roll-out passes by Hanson to the same two. State scored and the half was almost over, but the game was on.

North Dakota did not make the mistake of kicking into the wind to open the third quarter, but perhaps it should have. All the Sioux could get for their 40 knots was another field goal, and then the Bisons had their turn.

Rota and Belmont kept right on catching Hanson's passes, usually on third and long yardage plays, and the Bisons not only scored a touchdown, they got the two points as well. It was all even at 15-15 coming into those last four minutes. Then North Dakota bobbled a punt on its own 20 and died.

Right? Wrong. The field-goal try was wide. Conrad got off a remarkable 44-yard punt into the wind, and North Dakota was out of trouble.

Right? Wrong. State brought the ball right back to the Sioux 19, and the only thing that could stop the Bisons was—it happened. North Dakota's safety, Keith Boleen, intercepted Hanson's pass on the two and the Sioux were saved.

Right? Wrong. Three plays got nothing and Conrad stepped back to punt. Some punt. It sailed upfield 20 inglorious yards and out of bounds, stopping the clock. Disaster? Of course not. Boleen intercepted another Hanson pass in the end zone. The Sioux had done it.

Right? Wrong. The referee said Boleen was back of the end-zone line. No interception. Enter the Bisons' Dick Blazie, 6 feet 3, 205 pounds and a sophomore, to try a 29-yard field goal. It was the slowest, wobbliest, leakiest, most weather-beaten kick ever lofted in North Dakota. It was perfect, for at least half of the state.