Undefeated Colgate Fields Defensively Strong Eleven, But Split-'T' Offense is Still Unproved
Quarterback Lalla Chief Threat in Attack; Simmons Tops in Scoring
To date, Colgate Coach Hal Lahar has had a pretty successful first year. He brings his undefeated Red Raiders into the Stadium, opening up a new rivalry, with a record of three consecutive victories.
A press release from Colgate--which, incidentally, admits Harvard will be Lahar's "toughest opponent since upending Cornell"--refers to the Hamilton eleven as the "rampaging" Red Raiders.
Although the team has an unblemished record, "rampaging" is hardly the word to describe it. The Raiders have so far defeated Cornell, Buffalo, and Rutgers. But Cornell has since been thoroughly pasted on two outings, Buffalo was swamped by Cortland State Teachers, 41 to 0, and Rutgers lost to Princeton by 61 to 19.
With this sort of a comparison, scores of 14 to 7, 13 to 0, and 13 to 7 against these opponents are not all impressive.
Lahar explains that his team experienced a "mental lapse after the Cornell game. It's the first time in eight years they've beaten Cornell." Lahar referred to the "emotional curve which often determines the outcome of the game."
Some partisans hasten to point out that, although Colgate by no means won its ball games with impressive scores, the team did get just enough touchdowns each time to carry it through.
"The defense," according to Lahar, "is trying hard. . . It's a fairly alert defense." In three games the defensive squad, bolstered by a 200-pound forward bastion, has yielded only two touchdowns--one to Cornell, the other to Rutgers.
But amazingly enough, the defensive line-up has also been the powerhouse on offense. Colgate has scored six touchdowns, and the defense can account for four of them. Two came in the Cornell game on a fumble recovered in the end zone, and a 100-yard runback of a pass interception by third-string quarterback John Owens. The defense tallied once each in the Rutgers and Buffalo contests, with halfback Al Simmons sprinting 65 and 30 yards, respectively, on pass interceptions.
One explanation that has been offered for the Raiders' offensive ineptitude is that first-string quarterback Dick Lalla has seen only limited action so far. But last week Lalla was working from Colgate's split-T formation against Rutgers, and connected for five out of 12 aerials and a total of 69 yards.
Lahar's main problem since he took the position of Colgate head coach, has been the line. The former Oklahoma and Chicago Bear player found 35 returning lettermen reporting for the abbreviated 19-day spring practice session. But, in the line alone, 12 lettermen were lost through graduation.
Four veteran ends--included among them Karl Kluckhohn--have graduated. Only Gary Chandler, a junior who was second to Kluckhohn in the pass-receiving category last year, remains. In 1951, Chandler caught 33 passes for 481 yards and four touchdowns. But Lahar also has sophomore John Williams, a sophomore who was catching Lalla's aerials on his Cortland, N.Y., high school eleven.
Captain Don Main, a senior, holds up the center of the line. Although there is another capable senior, Al Vedder, who can fill in for Main at center, Lahar indicated that the Raiders' Captain might be pressed into 60-minute service. Flanking Main are a pair of veteran guards--Bill Morrow and Bill Rowe, both of them seniors. At the tackles, Lahar has quite a bit of depth. Seniors Lee Murdock, Dick Day, and Don Miller, and sophomore Don Tomanek are all defensively able.
Lahar and Lalla
Lahar's greatest range of talent is in the backfield, which operates from the split-T. With Lalla clicking fairly effectively from the quarterback post, Colgate runners are set up with openings by a wide-spread defense. Lalla, a 165-pound sophomore, took over the role of starting quarterback late last season and displayed ability to run and punt, in addition to his pitching talent. In 1951, 43 completions out of 95 attempts netted 641 yards and a 45 percent average. As a runner, he averaged 3.7 yards per try and carried for one touchdown, while his passing collected eight scores.
There are also several capable full backs around. This is indicated by the fact that Jack Spalik, a junior who was listed as a reserve fullback, leads the club in rushing yardage. Spalik has a rushing average of almost 5 yards, having gained 157 yards in 32 attempts. Last year Walt Liggett, now a senior, led Colgate in total yardage gained by rushing.
Five returning lettermen give Lahar few worries concerning the set-up at half-back. Al Simmons, Ted Totten, Brownie Palka, Chuck Cooley, and Bob Schirmer have all returned. At this time, Simmons leads the halfbacks and is second high man on the squad in rushing. His 33 attempts have gained 138 yards for an average of slightly over four yards per try. Simmons, a senior, is also high man on the Colgate team for points scored: he has three of the Raiders' six touchdowns.
In its three contests, the Colgate attack has by no means been a driving one. It relies chiefly on Lalla's aerial effectiveness. If he fails to click, then the split-T might fail to split the defense open.
Lahar is not an exponent of the two-platoon system. Captain Main often goes both ways. Simmons, leading offensive halfback, is described in a Colgate press dispatch as one of "the top defensive backs in the East." Although some of his lighter linemen would give way to replacements, Lahar would very likely use a tackle like Tomanek, 220-pound sophomore, for the better part of a game.
But so far, with all its veteran power and reserve strugth, it must be admitted that Colgate's victories were not won easily. A combination of some breaks, plus a pretty strong defense has netted Colgate three victories. However, the Red Raiders, far from rampaging, have not yet actually been tested. Perhaps their defense will be able to stop Clasby and Culver, who rank two-three in Ivy League rushing yardage. And perhaps, the Raiders will have little trouble against the single-wing, an offense which they have not faced for 15 games. And further, Lahar may still retain his unblemished first-year record after he leaves the Stadium.
It's a possibility, at any rate.