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Wind Helps Daugherty Win A Big One

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By Bill Anderson

EAST LANSING—Although the wind is something that a person feels but cannot see, its affect on the outcome of a football game didn’t go unnoticed by the experienced eyes of Michigan State Coach Duffy Daugherty.

Sure, the sun shone brightly on the confines of Spartan Stadium during the Michigan-Michigan State football game making it a very pleasant day for a Big Ten game.

But there was a strong, steady wind of 15 to 25 mph, blowing out of the west-southwest. At times the wind gusted up to 30 mph.

For 16 years, Daugherty has been coaching the Spartans and he carefully planned to use the wind to best advantage in this traditional game between the old rivals.

When Michigan won the toss and elected to receive, the Spartans quickly chose to defend the south goal to have that wind, which was whipping and snapping the flags, at their backs.

In the third quarter, Michigan State chose to have wind at its back rather than to receive the kickoff. That’s just an indication of how important Daugherty felt the wind was to the outcome of the game.

It wound up as a 23-12 victory for Michigan State and who’s to argue with a winning coach?

“The wind was such a big factor,” Daugherty said. “We had to control Michigan against the wind in the third quarter. We knew that they couldn’t pass in a wind like that.

“When we went against the wind in the fourth quarter we lost some of our offensive momentum. Michigan knew we couldn’t pass and moved all of their men up on defense.”

For one of the few times during his coaching tenure, the Spartans only threw four passes and completed only one.

“It was hard to throw against that wind,” Daugherty said. “We took advantage of the wind in the third quarter and scored a touchdown. That pretty much sealed things up for us.”

There has been plenty of talk about Michigan State’s new triple-option offense, but the Spartans relied on an old fashioned Power-I attack throughout the game, including that third period drive.

The big advantage of the Power-I formation is that a team can use its running back to hit all of the holes in the offensive line with equal facility.

The Spartan that was assigned the role of filling this important position was Don Highsmith, a 6-0, 192-pound senior from New Brunswick, N.J.

The tailback carried the ball 30 times and gained 134 yards while scoring two touchdowns on runs of two and four yards. This performance broke a Spartan record for most rushing attempts in a Big Ten game. Back in 1965, Clinton Jones had 27 carries against Purdue.

Daugherty explained that he wasn’t trying to fool Michigan by using the Power-I offense. It was a change in style that was made necessary by injuries.

Michigan State just doesn’t have the running backs.

Earl Anderson was injured in spring practice and hasn’t returned. Tommy Love was injured in the early autumn practice and hasn’t returned. Plus, Eric Allen has been out with injuries.

“We’ve lost three good running backs,” the coach said. “What would you have done? If Highsmith would have been injured we would have been in dire straits.

“Highsmith ran real well in practice, so we gave him the ball a few times,” the coach added with a twinkle in his eye.

However, the winning coach explained that he made slight changes in the blocking. Especially on the roll-out plays for quarterback Bill Triplett.

“A coach doesn’t change his blocking around during the season,” he continued. “We had a little different blocking on the rollouts. We pulled our two guards, Don Baird and Ron Saul. It worked so well, we might pull three guards next week.”

Naturally, after a big win like that one, there were plenty of questions about Michigan State’s possible trip to the Rose Bowl. And Daugherty answered these questions in his usual humorous way.

“I know that I can make the trip to the Rose Bowl this year, but I don’t know about the team. This win puts us back in the running. The only thing I know is that we are 350 miles from Iowa City.”

The Spartans play at Iowa on Saturday and then face Indiana, Purdue, Minnesota and Northwestern to close out the season.