The Bold Brave Men of Archbold 1954: Villanova |

The Bold Brave Men of Archbold 1954: Villanova


Bored Historian
Aug 26, 2011
(I think we need to return to a simpler time for a bit)

The Build-up

Ben Schwartzwalder, asked to assess Syracuse’s chances against Villanova, said “If we can get the ball 50% of the time, I like our chances.” All teams get the ball 50% of the time, of course but Ben elaborated: “However our defense has me worried and it’s going to be a job getting possession for half the game. I feel confident that our attack can move the ball but Bucknell gained entirely too much against us Saturday and we’re going to have to stop them to get the ball.” Ben liked his backfield- Ray Perkins and Bill Wetzel lead a good group of runners and Mickey (Rich) and Eddie (Albright) won’t do too badly passing. “ Ben also liked his second team: Albright’s backfield moves the ball pretty well. Big Brown (Jimmy), Art (Trolio) and Don Laaksonen) are all determined runners and if we can get some blocking for them, they could be dangerous.” The paper noted that Brown was the only sophomore in the first eight backs. Jim and Ray Perkins would be the extra point kickers for the first and second teams. SU had lost to Villanova 13-14 at the end of the 1953 season on an extra point missed because our #1 place-kicker, Jim George, wasn’t in the game at the time and couldn’t be sent in under the substitution rule. He had graduated now so finding a good kicker was important. Ben felt having two of them would decrease the chances of another substitution blunder. Villanova was a team that liked to pass the ball and Ben was emphasizing pass defense even while his main concern about his own team was the run defense.

New Villanova coach Frank Reagan was dealing with the loss of seven regulars from the 1953 team and an eighth, end Don McComb was awaiting medical clearance to play after an injury. Sophomores John Ferruolo, (QB), Ron Woods, (G), John Bauer, (HB) and Van Injaian (end) were expected to start. Their leading returning back was halfback John Giordano, “big and fast”. Their line was much bigger than Syracuse’s with tackle Joe Leichtweis, (225 pounds) anchoring it. They also had a big fullback in 205 pound Jack Helm.

Schwartzwalder expressed concern that because Reagan, who had played in the NFL, had never been a coach before, he didn’t know what offense or defense to prepare for. ”He played single-wing football under George Munger at Penn, the ’A’ formation with Steve Owens when he was with the New York Giants and the straight T with the Philadelphia Eagles.” In fact, Nova was switching to the Split T formation and had paid a visit to Maryland coach Jim Tatum so he could teach it’s intricacies to the staff. Reagan said that every player in the backfield other then the quarterback “must be versatile enough to play any of the three backfield positions Only the quarterback will be exempt from rotating duties behind the line. Reagan feels that his system will mean that each backfield man must know the other man’s assignment on each day and he expects that it will do away with traffic jams in the backfield, thus cutting down on costly fumbles.”

A couple of days before the game, it was revealed that Sam Alexander had “come up with a charley horse after the Bucknell scrimmage” and a headline announced that “speedy soph” Jim Brown would start in his place. It “made old timers try to recall how long it’s been since Syracuse has started three backs who were 190 pounds of better.” Jim was “a 208 pounder who stands two inches over six feet“ and was “the speediest member of the squad“. (If the backs were 190 pounds and the line averaged 194, basically all eleven players on the field would be approximately the same size.) Jim had finished 10th in a national decathlon championship in Atlantic City over the summer. And was “an all-around athlete who appears as though he needs only seasoning in order to be a big help to Schwartzwalder.”

A picture in Thursday’s paper had the entire SU squad posed in the form of a question mark, symbolizing the uncertainties of a season with almost an entirely new starting line-up. The picture is pretty fuzzy and I couldn’t read the numbers except in front so I don’t know which one was Jim Brown but I didn’t get the impression there were a lot of black faces. You have to be willing to stand on your own to be a pioneer.

There were numerous advertisements and editorials surrounding the game urging fans to buy a ticket and showing what the Cerebral Palsy Clinic in does. The University announced that there would be no complimentary tickets for the game and all the reporters and photographers covering the game bought tickets to add to the contributions for the Clinic. The promotion was at best partially successful as a crowd of 25,000 was expected in a stadium that had a listed capacity, per the 1954 NCAA Guide, of 40,000. But Bill Reddy reported that the Clinic expected to make more money from this game than the pro games they had previously sponsored, none of which had been sell-outs. There would be 350 spectators who didn‘t have to pay to get in. The Clinic issued tickets to their current and former patients to represent the program and root on the team.
The Game

They say when you pass three things can happen and two of them are bad. Actually- there’s a third bad thing- you could get sacked, and a fourth- you could fumble. Both teams came out passing and both experienced all four of those things.
Villanova got the opening kick-off but was forced to punt. Bill Wetzel, the SU fullback, fumbled on a third down play and Nova recovered on the SU 39. Ray Perkins intercepted a pass in the end zone for a touchback.

Sam Alexander, who did start, despite his charley horse, got SU’s initial first down on a 7 yard run to the 33. Then Mickey Rich attempted to throw a deep one to Tom Richardson but the ball was batted away. On the next play Rich was sacked and fumbled, with Nova recovering on the SU 27. Then Wildcat quarterback John Ferrulo dropped back to pass and dropped back and dropped back. The result was a 27 yard sack. They were forced to punt.

On their next possession they went to the air again but Pete Schwert of Syracuse intercepted on the on SU’s 35. The Post Standard said “Braun” fumbled on the next play but we had no player by that name so I assume that’s Jim Brown. After a holding penalty on the orange, Nova had the ball on the SU 20. Wildcat Al Ciarrochi ran like a wildcat, bursting through the right side and outrunning the secondary to the end zone for the first score of the game. But the extra point snap was bobbled and the play smothered to hold the score to 0-6.

Ray Perkins ran 16 yards to get SU into Villanova territory for the first time. Two runs by Don Laaksonen and one by Sam Alexander carried the ball to the Nova 23. But Rich was sacked again for a 15 yard loss. Rich then hit Richardson at the Wildcat 23 but the Orange couldn’t move it from there and with an uncertain kicking game, they tried for it on fourth down but couldn’t convert and Villanova took over. Satisfied with the six point advantage ran, the Wildcats ran out the first half clock.
At halftime the Orange Band, “100 Men and Girl”, entertained. The new Orange Girl was Alta Berg, a national champion baton twirler who was “a full-fledged daughter of the legendary Saltine Warrior, Bill Orange. She appeared at halftime in a sweeping Indian headdress of orange feathers. For this number she wore a new brief what satin two-piece costume decorated with orange fringe. The former world champion twirler entertained her watchers with an Indian dance.“

Meanwhile Ben Schwartzwalder had decided that the running game was the way to go. SU would attempt just one pass in the second half. It worked. After a good kick-off return, Syracuse marched 58 yards on a grinding 12 plays to take the lead. “Perkins ripped for 6, Alexander picked up two, and Wetzel rammed for five and the first down. Alexander knifed for seven, Wetzel cracked center of one, Alexander raced wide for 10 and a first down on the Villanova 17. Wetzel cracked over left guard and Rich went over center for first down on the five from where Wetzel bulled over to tie the score.” (I felt bruises after reading that.) Perkins kicked it through to give SU the 7-6 lead.

SU forced a Villanova punt to the SU 12. Jim Brown ran for a first down on the 25 and then Art Trolio bolted for 30 yards to the Nova 45. On a third down play Jim ran for 9 yards to the 26. “Trolio made a pretty run, starting to his left, then cutting to the right but slipping down at the 17 as he sidestepped a would-be tackler. ”On the first play of the fourth quarter, Bill Wetzel burst through to the 8. Ray Perkins went for 6 off tackle and then did the same to score from the 2 and then kicked the extra point.
Villanova was again forced to punt and a poor effort gave SU the ball on the Wildcat 39. “On second down Rich flipped a pass to Schwert for 8 yards and Wetzel catapulted for five and a first down on the 27.” (Five yards seems a long way to ’catapult’.) Rich got four on a cutback and then pitched out to Brown who ran it to the 13. Perkins went off tackle for three. Bill Wetzel hurt his leg on the play. Laaksonen replaced him and ran for 2 yards. In the lone second half pass for SU, Rich faked a handoff, dropped back and tossed the ball to a wide-open Schwert in the end zone. Perkins converted and it was Syracuse 21 Villanova 6.

The Wildcats couldn’t move the ball an inch in three plays and Art Trolio returned their punt to the Nova 32. “Alexander collected eight yards off tackle and it became a first down when the tiring visitors were called for offside.” (I assume it was a first down when they were offsides on the next play, unless offsides was a tack-on back then, which I doubt.) “then the Wildcats and their fans were dazzled when as Trolio cut through Villanova’s right side and was beyond the secondary without a hand touching him. This time Laaksonen converted. That closed out the scoring with Syracuse winning easily, 28-6.

The Orange out-rushed the Wildcats, 212-55. And out-gained them over all 286-87. Art Trolio led the rushers with 63 yards Sam Alexander had 47 and Bill Wetzel got 46. The paper didn’t say how many Jim Brown scored in his debut for the Orange. Mickey Rich completed 5 of 9 passes for 74 yards when he wasn’t being sacked.

Because it was a night game there were only two pictures in the Sunday paper and both were of the early action, showing Pete Schwert leaping to pick off the Villanova pass but Al Ciarrochi breaking Rich’s tackle before cruising into the end zone shortly after Schwert’s play. SU was wearing it’s white jerseys at home, with orange helmets and pants and blue lettering and trim. Villanova’s uniforms are harder to make out but they are in dark pants and jerseys with white pants. Their colors are blue and white.
It didn’t seem like it at the time but it would be SU’s last win for a month. But Villanova went on to a really disastrous season, losing their first nine games by a combined 54-297, including a 0-52 embarrassment at the hands of rising power Mississippi before salvaging a win against Fordham in the Ram’s last game before they gave up football. There were a lot of empty fountain pens in Philadelphia that year.

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