Everybody knows about the Longhorns of Texas: big team, big school. This is to introduce the Red Raiders of Colgate, a tiny but major college that runs the rusty old wing T. Forget the difference in size—Colgate is going stride-for-stride with Texas as the only unbeaten team left in the country. Last Saturday the Raiders piled up 540 yards while whipping Boston University 43-22 for their eighth straight. It now seems eminently likely that Colgate will roll to an 11-0 season, outstatisticking every other team in the nation. It also seems eminently likely that the Raiders will finish unranked and uninvited.
With reason. Colgate is chewing its way through a less-than-demanding schedule that includes five Division II teams. A few weeks ago Colgate publicist Bob Cornell mailed flyers to representatives of the Peach, Tangerine, Independence, Sun and Hall of Fame Bowls. So far the Peach, Tangerine, Independence, Sun and Hall of Fame folks have failed to get terribly enthusiastic. In fact, they haven't responded.
To go unbeaten and then unrewarded would normally be considered tragic, but Colgate has been down this road before. In 1932 Coach Andy Kerr led the Raiders to a 9-0 record, a memorable season in which they outscored their opponents 264-0. But the Rose Bowl selected Pittsburgh, which had been tied twice, to play Southern Cal. The Trojans won 35-0.
To the people in Hamilton, N.Y., being spurned was a cruel blow—Colgate was a legitimate power in those days. It had All-Americas such as Leonard (Iron Legs) Macaluso and Eddie Tryon. It had Kerr, who was an assistant to Pop Warner at Stanford before bringing the double wing east to put Colgate on the map. Colgate also had a renowned cheering section and the infamous Hoodoo Hex, a jinx imposed on archrival Syracuse that was supposedly responsible for the Orange's inability to beat Colgate from 1925 to 1938. In one six-year period Colgate won 47 of 53 games, upset national powers NYU, Indiana, Michigan State and Tulane, and came to be known—Hamilton lies in the Chenango Valley—as the Little Giant of the Chenango.
November 7, 1977
Since the Kerr years, however, Colgate has received less fanfare, and Hamilton, a sleepy village of old faces and no industry, has had to be content with memories. The school turned out a few notable individuals—Marv Hubbard, Mark van Eeghen and Mark Murphy, currently one of two rookies playing for the Washington Redskins—but its records were mediocre. It was only last year, after Fred Dunlap was hired as Colgate's 27th head coach, that things began to change for the better.
A fullback at Colgate in the '40s, Dunlap was hired away from Lehigh, where he turned a 1-8 team into a 9-2 success that ranked in the nation's top five in offense and scoring in 1975. Dunlap also grew to understand the workings of limited-budget football: if you lack top-flight athletes, you stress a more subtle system of offense. Dunlap favored the wing T, a now-archaic attack once used with great success by a number of major teams. He had discovered its beauties at Lehigh practically every time he came up against Delaware, a Division II power that beat him eight of the 10 times they met. "Those game films used to disturb me," he says. "They didn't outhit us, or out-man us. Eventually I realized they simply outfinessed us."
Thus inspired, Dunlap installed the wing T at Colgate, and the Red Raiders won their first eight games—for the first time since 1932. This year Colgate opened with a 23-0 mauling of Rutgers as Bob Relph threw two touchdown passes and Jerry Andrewlavage boomed an 83-yard punt. Relph passed for nine more TDs in victories over Lafayette, Cornell and Harvard. The Raiders then beat Holy Cross 31-14 as Fullback Pat Healy scored on runs of nine and 12 yards. In a 31-13 win over Princeton and a 48-36 defeat of Columbia, the offensive line of Tackles Rick Doell and Ed Argast, Guards John Gibney and Dave Bachmand and Center Mike Foley was opening holes roughly the size of badminton courts. Halfback Henry White gained a career-high 204 yards in only 11 carries against Columbia. But if the offense had been sizzling all season, last Saturday at BU it burst into flame.
Relph completed 16 of 29 passes for 293 yards, breaking the Colgate record of 270 set by Tom Parr in 1972. He also threw for two TDs, giving him a career total of 26, another school record. Healy rushed for 94 yards, boosting his career total to 2,604, which put him ahead of van Eeghen as the college's alltime rusher. Oddly enough, however, it is White who is leading the nation in all-purpose running and ranks among national leaders in rushing, averaging 109 yards a game and 8.72 yards a carry. Colgate leads the nation in total offense with 486 yards a game, ranks seventh in passing (225.7 yards) and is seventh in scoring (35 points a game).
In the wing T, plays develop slowly. The backs hesitate long enough for the linemen to maneuver into position to make their blocks. The guards and tackles aim more to confuse or delay a defender than to blow him out. The quarterback can call a myriad of shifts, slants, dives, pitches, look-ins, Z-outs and hooks, and he spreads them around in a way that makes it seem as if he draws his plays in the dirt back in the huddle. The Colgate attack has an average gain of 5.4 yards per play rushing, 8.6 yards passing. "The whole system is based on causing the defense conflicts," Dunlap says. "You block everybody with a different man all the time. You show a play run with one blocking scheme, and the defense thinks it knows it. Then you run the same play—or at least it starts out looking just like the same play—and block another way, and suddenly you have something going."
With all this success comes the question: How good is Colgate? There may not be an answer. Among its opponents, only Rutgers has met a top-20 team, and in that game Penn State manhandled the Scarlet Knights 45-7. On the other hand, Colgate beat Rutgers nearly as easily. "I don't know how good we are," Dunlap says, "but we play real well."
In seasons to come Colgate also will be playing Penn State. Dunlap has scheduled series with Army and Syracuse and is looking to add a Wake Forest, an Air Force, a North Carolina. He figures Colgate can play a tougher schedule without spending more money to build up its program. But for now, the only way to find out how good Colgate is would be to throw the Raiders up against a strong team in a postseason bowl. The ACC runner-up in the Peach, say, or Brigham Young in the Sun Bowl, would suit Dunlap fine. He says he would not consider playing a team with a less glamorous reputation. Are you listening Peach, Tangerine, Independence? Hello, Sun Bowl? Are you there, Hall of Fame?