On the Thursday night before the biggest upset of a thoroughly demented college football season Mike Phipps, Purdue's sophomore quarterback, comes down with a cold and a sore throat. By Friday afternoon, when the team moves into the Morris Bright Hotel to isolate itself from the tensions of facing Notre Dame, Phipps (see cover) has added a fever to his ailments. This does not seem to bother Phipps very much, but it is making Purdue Coach Jack Mollenkopf sick. All week Mollenkopf has been warning that Purdue must run up a large score in order to beat Notre Dame, somehow score repeatedly against the No. 1 defense of the No. 1 team in the country. "There is no way," says Mollenkopf, "that anybody is going to shut out Hanratty and Seymour." And how can we score, Mollenkopf is nervously thinking, if my quarterback, my 19-year-old sophomore quarterback, is catching pneumonia?
But only 61-year-old Jack Mollenkopf is worried. If there is one trait that Mike Phipps shares with his predecessor—All-America Bob Griese—it is composure. The week before, in his first college game, Phipps had passed Purdue to a 24-20 win over Texas A&M. "The night before that game he was as calm as could be," Mollenkopf says. "This week he has been just the same."
But Phipps, who is taking pills for his cold, does admit to some curiosity about the Irish.
"Personally," Phipps says, "I can't wait to see Notre Dame's uniforms—those gold helmets and all."
October 8, 1967
"We have gold helmets, too," says Bob DeMoss, Purdue's offensive coach.
"Yeah." Phipps says, "but not like theirs."
Phipps is the latest youngster in Mollenkopf's pattern of selecting a sophomore quarterback every third year and sticking with him. "There is a tradition about sophomore quarterbacks here, no doubt about that," says Phipps "There have been some great ones before me." Len Dawson, Dale Samuels and Griese are apt examples. The first two upset Notre Dame in their sophomore seasons.
During spring practice this year Mollenkopf said that after watching Griese for three seasons his current quarterbacks all looked as if they were pulling plows. But Phipps, who is 6'2", threw a 65-yard pass off balance for a touchdown in the spring game and showed remarkable poise against Texas A&M. If he is pulling a plow it is a very light one, and Mollenkopf dares hope that Phipps is ready for the Irish, who are ranked No. 1 everything everywhere.
One Boilermaker who is certainly ready is Leroy Keyes, a junior who is developing into something special. In 1966 Keyes played mostly on defense, but he completed all three passes he tried on offense (two for touchdowns), caught two passes and rushed for an 8.4-yard average on 12 carries. In last fall's Notre Dame game he grabbed a fumble out of the air and ran 95 yards to score. "It's never hard to get up for Notre Dame," says Keyes. "It doesn't matter if they're No. 1 or No. 100. It's Purdue vs. Notre Dame, and that's enough."
Mollenkopf has never quite been able to make up his mind whether Keyes is more valuable on offense or defense, but he decided this summer that the offense needed help the most and shifted Keyes over to the Purdue attack. Keyes has attended only two defensive meetings all fall. Unless a crisis develops, he will be a running back against Notre Dame. A crisis is going to develop.
Keyes, who almost went to Hampton Institute in his home state of Virginia, where he works summers in the shipyards, is nicknamed "Nursey." He says he doesn't know why. "I guess I was just lazy. Why walk when someone would carry me around?" Perhaps he was just saving his energy. He does not appear to be lazy to Mollenkopf. "He can run like a deer," says Mollenkopf. "He can do everything. He can kick off, kick field goals, do everything. I've never had anybody like him."
Notre Dame Coach Ara Parseghian has his own problems, no matter what the experts say. The defense is young. Only All-America End Kevin Hardy has returned from last year's front four. The running game is questionable. All-America Halfback Nick Eddy is gone, and so is Fullback Larry Conjar, a fine blocker. There are holes in the offensive line, including a considerable gap left by the graduation of Center George Goeddeke. Junior Quarterback Terry Hanratty has returned, as has End Jim Seymour, perhaps the best in Notre Dame history. But the Irish will need to get their running game going if they are to be consistent, and Parseghian is uneasy as they trot onto the field at Ross-Ade Stadium on Saturday afternoon before the largest crowd ever to see a Purdue home game, 62,316.
On the second play of the game Purdue Fullback Perry Williams tries right end and is smothered for no gain. Small wonder. Kevin Hardy, who weighs 280 pounds and is the best defensive lineman in the country, is there. Forget the right side. But wait—a Notre Dame man is limping off the field. It is No. 74. Kevin Hardy will not return in this game—or perhaps play in any other for a while. Later Hardy will be told his left ankle is badly sprained, not broken, and he will say he was clipped. Mollenkopf will say Hardy was hit on a crackback block by Keyes, Purdue's best blocker. Chuck Kuzneski, who would have had to face Hardy all afternoon, will say: "They missed him. No doubt about it. But I wasn't sorry to see him leave."
Now Phipps is back to pass. He throws 40 yards downfield and Jim Bierne makes a leaping catch between two Irish defenders. Four plays later Williams slants over left guard, and Purdue leads 6-0 with three minutes gone in the game. The extra-point try is wide.
But the Irish, behind Hanratty, come right back, overwhelmingly, almost arrogantly. In 12 plays Notre Dame drives to the Purdue 24, where it is third and nine. Hanratty is back to pass. He wants to throw to Rocky Bleier, who is covered by two men. Hanratty hesitates—then throws anyway. Purdue's Don Webster steps in front of Bleier to intercept.
The relief is temporary. Three minutes later Hanratty has Notre Dame back again. A perfect 24-yard pass to Seymour is the big play in a 49-yard drive to the Purdue 26. Hanratty rolls to his right and imperiously waves End Paul Snow deep into the end zone. Snow goes deep, taking Dennis Cirbes with him, and Hanratty runs 25 yards down the sideline to the Purdue one. He sneaks over on the next play and the extra point makes it 7-6, Notre Dame.
The Irish have seized control of the game and they keep it throughout the first half. They throw deep repeatedly on first down, run 54 plays to Purdue's 33 and Hanratty completes 16 of 34 passes for 172 yards. The Purdue pass defense is shaken, all but frantic, but the Irish have not scored. Midway through the second period, with no chance that the bombing attack will stop for truce talks, Keyes is readied to lend a hand on defense. The Irish—who have had to punt only once—start attacking again. They drive from their own 25 to the Purdue four. In comes Keyes. It is fourth down and Joe Azzaro cannot miss a field goal from there. But instead of Azzaro, Parseghian sends in a play. Seymour, now covered by Keyes, and Snow, covered by Webster, go wide to the right, which isolates Purdue's two best defenders on the right side of the field. Hanratty, drifting back, wants to hit Tight End George Kunz in the left corner of the end zone. He waits, and dodges, and waits, but Kunz is covered. Finally, when his protection at last breaks down, Hanratty throws across the middle to Seymour, who is surrounded by three men. The pass falls incomplete.
The half ends with the score 7-6, and the suspicion begins to arise that Notre Dame may have let Purdue live too long. The only running the Irish have shown was back and forth from the sidelines, and the presence of Keyes has settled Purdue's pass defense.
At half time Mollenkopf tells his players that Notre Dame can be beaten. Keyes can cover Seymour, which means Purdue won't have to double-team him. Notre Dame is covering Purdue's receivers man-for-man and Bob DeMoss says all Phipps needs is time to throw, because Purdue is going to get men clear. The second half begins, and Phipps gets the time he needs.
Notre Dame receives, Hanratty misses with two passes and a run loses ground. Purdue starts at its 49. Six plays later it is third and 15 on the Irish 46. Phipps hits Keyes in the flat for nine yards, but that only makes it fourth and six on the Notre Dame 37. No punt. No field goal. Phipps is back to pass again. He is rushed hard this time. He eludes Charles Lauck, Hardy's replacement, and almost falls down. One hand brushes the ground. The Irish pass defenders relax ever so slightly and Bob Hurst gets behind Notre Dame Linebacker Mike McGill. Phipps does not throw the ball hard, he lofts it, wobbly but accurately, over McGill's head and into the hands of Hurst on the 20-yard line. Hurst is not stopped until he reaches the Irish three and on the next play Williams scores. Purdue elects to try for two points and makes it, Phipps hitting Beirne across the middle.
It is 14-7, Purdue, and for the first time the Boilermakers have the momentum. Keyes rides the kickoff into the Notre Dame end zone. Hanratty, back to pass from his 20, is intercepted again at midfield and, when the Purdue offense stalls, Dick Berg punts out of bounds on the Notre Dame six. The Irish grind out a first down, and then Hanratty, rolling to his right, whips a beautiful pass downfield, where Kunz makes a diving catch on the Purdue 38. Bleier gets five, and although Hanratty fails to hit Seymour on second down he has seen Fullback Ron Dushney slip across the middle without being covered. Two plays later, on fourth and five, Hanratty calls for the same pattern, hitting Dushney over the middle for an Irish first down at the Purdue 22. On third and 10 he lays the ball right in Seymour's hands at the 10, but Keyes jolts Seymour and the pass is incomplete. On fourth down Hanratty finds Dushney across the middle again for a first down at the Purdue nine. Three plays later Bleier scores, and the extra point ties the game 14-14.
One thing, however, has become clear: Purdue has taken away the Irish running game. Notre Dame does not have a breakaway back, and it shows. Purdue has closed off the weak Irish sweeps and has sealed off the inside, too. "First, the outside; then the inside," says Mollenkopf later. Now Purdue is playing a four-man front line almost exclusively. It is actually daring Hanratty, perhaps college football's best passer, to throw the football.
Shortly before the end of the third quarter Phipps starts the Boilermakers moving from their 36-yard line. On third down he arches a spiral toward the left sideline, and Keyes, racing stride for stride with Mike Burgener, makes a fine catch good for 44 yards. On the first play of the fourth quarter Phipps scrambles for seven yards to the Notre Dame 16, where he is faced with a fourth-and-three situation. Again there is no thought of a field goal by a team in excellent position. Instead, wisely gambling that it needs a touchdown, Purdue calls on Keyes. Phipps pitches back to Keyes, who follows Williams' fine block around left end for the first down. The Irish call time, and Keyes tells Phipps that he can get free in the right flat. Phipps promptly steps back, waits for Keyes to get a stride on his defender, then throws to him as he races wide open at the goal line. Purdue leads, 21-14.
Once more the Irish fight back. Hanratty, his shirt stained and his socks sagging about his ankles, drives Notre Dame 76 yards in eight plays, finishing with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Snow. The kick ties the game again, 21-21.
Phipps now starts Purdue toward the winning score. From his 36 he runs for nine yards, and when Notre Dame is penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct Purdue is in excellent shape—first and 10 at the Irish 31. Two plays fail, however, and it is third and 10. The Boilermakers line up with Beirne split left and Keyes wide to the right. Phipps goes back to pass, and Beirne and Keyes break toward the sidelines. As the Notre Dame secondary spreads and the linebackers rush Phipps, Purdue's Bob Baltzell slips out of the backfield and curls across the center. All the Irish eyes are on Keyes. Phipps throws to Baltzell at the 10, and Baltzell cuts away from Tom Schoen and Mike Burgener for the touchdown. Purdue leads 28-21 with 10 minutes to go.
There is still ample time for Notre Dame, and Hanratty knows it. He passes to Kunz for nine, runs for five and then completes a pass to Seymour for 14. It is only the second pass Seymour has caught in the second half. Hanratty passes to Snow for 16 more, sweeping the Irish to a first down on Purdue's 19.
Notre Dame is sure to score. Will Ara go for the tie or the win? The very prospect of the situation arising is too ironic to bear. Tie another one for the Gipper?
On first down Hanratty is rushed, but he gets off a strong, high pass to Snow that just flicks off the end's hands as he leaps at the goal line. On second down Hanratty is hard pressed. Rolling to his left, he throws to Seymour, who is slanting into the end zone ahead of Keyes. By now Keyes is moving as if his legs are lead. The ball is there—but inches out of the reach of the sprawling Seymour. Third down and Hanratty is forced to run. He loses a yard. Fourth and 11 at the Purdue 20. Hanratty goes back to pass again, but everybody is covered except Kunz, who catches the ball at the 14—five yards short of the first down.
Purdue cannot move and punts to the Notre Dame 38. With 1:39 left, Hanratty fades back to throw his 63rd pass, 26 more than any Notre Dame quarterback has ever thrown in one game. In desperation he goes long to Seymour. The pass is weak. Seymour cannot get back to it, but the ubiquitous Leroy Keyes can. He intercepts, and a moment later the game is over. Pandemonium.
Parseghian takes a long, tired look at the scoreboard and starts across the field. Mollenkopf moves toward him, then stops and kicks at a divot. He does not know what he is going to say. And then they are walking off the field together. Good game. Excellent game.
Finally Mollenkopf gets through the crowd and back to the Purdue locker room. All those "Fat Jack Must Go" headlines of a year ago are a long way behind him. He will be the one to decide when Fat Jack retires now. It is a comforting thought. The locker room is bedlam.
"Wasn't everybody great!" Phipps is saying. "What about Leroy!"
All Keyes has done is play more than 40 superb minutes against Notre Dame. "I have never seen anybody adjust as fast as Keyes," says Purdue Defensive Coach Bernie Miller. "I knew Seymour was unhappy to see No. 23 come into the game to cover him. Seymour didn't catch a pass on Keyes in last year's game. Not a one. He catches six today before we put Keyes in, and after that he only gets one off Leroy."
Keyes, Offensive Coach DeMoss is pointing out, caught nine passes for 108 yards and ran the ball for vital first downs. And how about that interception! How about that!
Over in front of his locker Keyes is tenderly slipping his black Purdue jacket over a bruised left shoulder. He picks up his walking stick and leaves for a victory party. "I don't really know if I can make it," he says. "I've never been so tired in my life." Keyes hasn't missed anything all day. He won't miss the party.