How much yardage can be gained by a backfield built around a clever passer and a driving fullback?
Those who attend this afternoon's Stadium opener will probably be experts on this question before the first half is over, because Harvard's ability to score today depends largely upon the cross-bow arm of quarterback Cal Lowenstein and the power of chunky fullback John West.
The breakaway runners and triple-threat halfbacks who round out most college backfields will be on Soldiers Field today--but they won't he playing crimson jersics.
The importance of open field runners and triple-threat backs should obvious to recent followers of Harvard football. When Art Valpey's Michigan-style offense went on scoring sprces (1948 pre-Stanford era), the key men in the backfield were a triple-threat (Chuck Roche) and a break-away wingback (Hal Moffie).
A triple-threat is vital to any strong offense because his presence in the backfield prevents the ends and backer ups from coming up fast before the play fully develops. The breakaway runner, aside from being a ground gainer, acts us a threat to the weak side defense, thereby spreading the defense.
Both Jordan and his backfield coach, Josh Williams, learned their football at University of Pittsburgh, citadel of the single-wing. Aware of the deficiencies in single-wing personnel, however, Jordan has modified his offensive patterns to get the maximum from his material.
The straight T-formation was scrapped because passer Lowenstein is simply too short (5 feet 8 inches) to throw from directly behind the center. The T was also nullified by the lack of three fast backs who could bit the quick-opening holes.
Jordan's solution was to combine both basic systems into the so-called single wing T attack. Using both direct and indirect passes from the center, this attack employs three offensive formations: the T, with an unbalanced line; the winged T; and the single-wing.
By installing this mixed system, Jordan was able to find a potent spot for Lowenstein; something which Art Valpey was never able to accomplish with the single wing. This afternoon Loswenstein will start as offensive quarterback.
Lowenstien, though he weighs only 152 pounds, probably gets more football out of his frame than any other college player. Operating from the various T formations, he will be able to use to best advantage his skills as passer, punter, and ball handler. Whether Lowenstein can call plays with the same accuracy with which he throws the football will be better answered late this afternoon.
In addition to Lowenstein, the first string offensive backfield appears now to have West at fullback, with Captain Phil Isenberg and Dave Warden as left and right halfbacks. The reserve offensive halfbacks are Warren Wylie and Dusty Burke. Running behind West are Tom Ossuman and Jerry Blitz, Sophomores Gil O'Neil and Hardy Cox back up Lowenstein.
Perhaps the most familiar jersey on the field today will be number 31, belonging to West. This 203-pound, six-feet fullback alternated with Paul Shafer last season and was the chief contributor to the Crimson's lone victory (over Holy Cross) with his powerful plunges up the middle.
The equal of any Ivy League fullback, West invariably spots his opening and rumbles through the hole for four to eight yards a clip. Even when there is no hole, West often creates his own by bowling over a few linemen.
Warden is a rugged 184-pounder who has won tow varsity letters as a reserve halfback. He is a competent blocker, and thus far has proven to be the best broken field runner.
If Warden doesn't start today at right half, the nod will go to Wylie. A junior who played some varsity ball last year, Wylie is a capable runner and blocker, but, like Isenberg and Warden, he will need to pick up good downfield blocking to break away.
Burke to as short as Lowenstein and nearly as light. But if he is able to shake loose at all, he may eventually take over Isenberg's tailback spot, leaving the latter available for longer periods as backer-up.
The fallback position is relatively well-manned. Both Ossman and Blitz have plenty of speed and power. Blitz, a sophomore, appears to have greater potentialities than Ossman or even West, but he has been hampered to date mainly by in-experience, and partly by a bad leg.
O'Neil at Quarter
O'Neil is bigger (5 feet, 11 inches; 190 pounds) than Lowenstein, but he lacks Lowenstein's passing finesse. The sophomore left-hander is, however, a very potent blocker and a good ball handler. Jordan has managed to fit O'Neil into his plans by running him as single wing quarterback.
The third quarterback, Hardy Cox, operates out of the T. A capable passer, he will undoubtedly see active duty as he gains varsity experience.
Bob Ray, Phil Campbell, and Dick Duback have also been running lately with the varsity. Ray was a varsity and last season, so like the others his abilities will be better revealed in game play. The remaining offensive back, Bill Healy, is still out with an injury.
The defensive team will line up with either Isenberg or Ossman as left side backer up with center Paul O'Brien on the right side. Burke and Warden or Ray will handle the halfback chores, and Wylie or Duback will man the safety spot.
All of these men are well drilled in tackling--as was clearly shown in the Boston University scrimmage. The pass defense showed occasional spurts of brilliance in the B. U. fray, but has petered out in practice lately. Another weakness in the defensive backfield, lack of speed, may also prove fatal this afternoon and every seven days hereafter.