ROSE FOES BOAST GAME-BREAKING PASS ATTACKS
By Wayne DeNeff
PASADENA, Calif.—Suppose on New Year’s day, Michigan’s strong running attack grinds to a halt against Southern California’s “Wild Bunch.”
And supposed Southern Cal’s superb runner, Clarence Davis, finds he can’t advance with much success against the Michigan forwards.
What happens then? What happens when the Rose Bowl foes go to the air?
The Big Ten Champs appear to have an advantage although Troy has proven dangerous and has won many times on late-in-the-game passing rallies.
At the start of the season, Southern Cal coach John McKay figured he had the makings of an outstanding passing attack, possibly one of the best in the nation, built around the much-heralded sophomore quarterback, Jimmy Jones, and veteran splitmen Bob Chandler, Sam Dickerson and Terry DeKraai.
“Frankly,” says McKay today, “our passing game has not been all that we thought it would be.”
Michigan very likely has its best corps of receivers in the school’s history in Jim Mandich, Billy Harris, Mike Hankwitz, Paul Staroba, John Gabler, Jerry Imsland and Mike Oldham.
With Don Moorhead on the throwing end, every opponent has to respect Michigan’s passing attack and this has been a key to what coach Bo Schembechler considers of first importance—establishing a ground attack. Opponents cannot gang up to stop Michigan’s running.
“We go into every game with the idea we are going to have to advance the ball on the ground,” says Schembechler.
Moorhead’s statistics are impressive—89 completions in 178 attempts for 1,134 yards, five touchdowns and only six interceptions.
Mandich’s receiving totals are equally impressive—42 for 583 yards and four TDs. Harris has caught 14 for 290 yards, Hankwitz 14 for 148 yards and Staroba 12 for 141 yards.
This is significant:
Michigan has seldom scored via “the bomb” but that does not mean the weapon is missing from the arsenal. Michigan just hasn’t been in desperate straights very often. It has the passers—Moorhead and Jim Betts—to deliver “the bomb” and the receivers—particularly Harris, Staroba and Oldham—to carry it home.
If there are any such things resembling “secret weapons” in this game, it is Michigan’s ability to deliver “the bomb” and Southern Cal’s ability to sustain an offense on passing alone.
Michigan cannot count on the inconsistency of Jones (about a .400 average passer) who nonetheless is responsible for Troy’s incredibly string of last-minute victories.
In six of their last seven games, the Trojans were behind or tied in the fourth quarter, yet managed five victories and a tie, thanks largely to Jones who, while having difficulty finding the range early in a game, can’t seem to miss when the chips are down.
Jones’ work produced late-in-the-game victories over Stanford, Georgia Tech, California, Washington and UCLA and a tie with Notre Dame.
But consider his success until the situation grew critical against UCLA in the game to decide the Pacific-8 title—only one pass for one yard in his first 13 attempts.
Then came the Jones’ style—four complete passes, including a 32-yard strike to Dickerson for the touchdown which wiped out a 12-7 UCLA lead and produced a 14-12 triumph in the last 1 ½ minutes of play.
Troy actually started out with all the passing success McKay could have hoped for.
Jones, whose prep record at John Harris High in Harrisburg, Pa., was 4,700 yards total offense and 60 touchdowns, hooked up with Chandler on bombs both in the 31-21 victory over Nebraska in the opener and the 48-6 shellacking of Northwestern.
But Chandler, a 6-1, 185-pound flanker who in the spring game caught 15 passes for 315 yards, injured his back in the Northwestern game and later suffered a broken hand.
The consistency of the USC passing attack seemed to decline with Chandler’s injuries although in later games Jones was able to hook up with Dickerson with huge success. Dickerson caught a key 17-yard pass in the final drive against Stanford.
Dickerson’s catch of a 14-yard pass put the Trojans ahead of Notre Dame, 14-7, before the Irish came back to tie.
Dickerson, a 6-2, 195-pound speedster from Stockton who has a :09.7 to his credit in the 100-yard dash, had his greatest game against Georgia Tech when he grabbed one of Jones’ passes for a 55-yard TD and a 22-18 lead in the last three minutes.
Dickerson’s totals are 24 catches for 473 yards and six touchdowns—the best of the Trojans.
Chandler’s totals are 14 receptions for 201 yards and six touchdowns but now he is in good shape again, and could improve those totals against Michigan.
“I’m getting my confidence back,” says Chandler, “and as far as I’m concerned, that’s important. With confidence you just think about catching the ball, but with an injury you don’t perform as well.
DeKraai has caught 16 for 188 yards and three TDs.
It takes a lot of qualities to make a championship team. Titles aren’t won on defense alone nor running alone.
While Schembechler and McKay are coaches who stress defense first, running second and passing third, the passing has been top quality when it had to be.
It’s most likely to be ground warfare between these two teams on New Year’s Day but if the Wolverines and Trojans take to the air the players are available who can throw and catch the ball with skill to spare.
If there is a man here who stands as a symbol of Michigan’s determination to win in New Year’s Day, it is Mandich, the captain.
From the day of his arrival here, Michigan has been a cool character—a slightly hostile character, if you will. If Mandich’s approach to this game represents that of the team it could be a good day for the Wolverines.
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