Crimson Recovers to Topple Surprising Davidson, 35-26
They expected an explosion Saturday, and they got one. But it came from the wrong direction.
Davidson's presumptuous Wildcats took the field in brilliant crimson-and-white uniforms and promptly shook the complacency out of the 6,500 spectators at the Stadium. Rated five-touchdown underdogs, the Southern eleven flashed a wide-open offensive game that left the startled Crimson six points behind at half-time and conjured memories of the Praying Colonels of Centre College, who upset a powerful 1921 Harvard eleven, 6 to 0.
Davidson scored four touchdowns--twice as many as in any of its five previous encounters--but it yielded more points, 35, than it had in a single game all season.
The Crimson played sloppy ball; no other word can describe it. Seven fumbles, combined with repeated ineffectiveness on plays like the wingback reverse marred its offensive game. On the defense, two persistent weaknesses were evident: ineptitude both on passes and on punt and kickoff returns.
Two touchdowns followed as a direct result of the latter weakness. Davidson's first tally came two plays after halfback Johnny Gray carried a punt 78 yards down the right sideline to the Crimson one-yard stripe. Its last touchdown was scored by halfback Roy White, who took a kickoff on his own four, raced up the middle through most of the Crimson defenders, and cut off to the left sideline, outmaneuvering the only remaining tackler, safety-man Sammy Fyock.
Tailback Dick Clasby once again fired the Crimson attack, scoring twice and gaining a total of 251 yards, more than two-thirds of the Crimson total, and 37 more than the entire Davidson offense. A 6.3-yard average for 22 attempts on the ground, six pass completions in 17 tries, and a 43-yard punting average, offset the defensive slack.
Coach Lloyd Jordan never did get to test his sophomores and substitutes. Paul Murphy was in for one play, and Jerry Blitz saw some action, but otherwise the first-string backfield played most of the game. After the game, however, Jordan said. "It was nothing more than we expected . . . nobody would believe it . . . I wouldn't say they were overconfident at all."
But "overconfident" seems precisely the word for the Crimson eleven of the first half. This cockiness was highlighted by its try for a first down on Davidson's 44 with two yards to go--a rare thing for a team to do in the first quarter.
Consider these statistics: in the second half, the Crimson picked up 13 of its 19 first downs (Davidson had but ten); it gained 250 of its 370-yard rushing and passing net; it completed six of its eight successful aerials; and finally, it tallied 28 of its 35-point total.
When the Crimson returned for the third quarter, it surged into the lead in just two minutes and six plays. Brian Reynolds took the kickoff and fought 30 yards to midfield. Clasby and John Ederer ripped off the next 50 yards and a touchdown in a half-dozen plays. This score was more an eruption than a sustained drive.
But Davidson was by no means stunned, nor were the Wildcats out of the game until Ederer scored the Crimson's fourth touchdown at three minutes of the final quarter. Working alternately from a T-formation and a single wing, quarterback Jack Ruth and halfbacks Gray, Henry Brown, and Jimmy Thacker took advantage of some breaks and kept the offense moving.
Wildcats Scored First
The Wildcats' first score came several minutes after a 41-yard touchdown run by Clasby was nullified. The second was tallied four plays after Ederer's fumble on his own ten was recovered by Davidson. Complete credit for the third touchdown, however, must go to Ruth for his passing and the Crimson for its aerial defense. In a 72-yard drive, 64 were picked up on passes.
But almost the entire first-string Davidson backfield was inactive for some time with injuries. Halfbacks Brown and Gray were carried to the field house on stretchers after the game, having sustained injuries late in the second half. Fullback Leroy Fargason was hurt in the first period, and Thacker left the game in the third.
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The Crimson, with a five-and-one record, is now assured of its first winning season since 1946. Its four-game winning string is also the longest since 1946.
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With Hardy Cox holding, Bill Monteith kicked five out of five conversions. He now has booted 20 extra points in 23 attempts.
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Clasby's total offensive gain of 251 yards brings him over the thousand mark. He now has a net gain of 1,017 yards.