FOOTBALL & MY LIFE'S MOST MEMORABLE FALL

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When my alma mater Northwestern beat Michigan the other Saturday it was the first time on the Wolverines' home field since 1959. That was a good year for the Wildcats-and for me. Northwestern, hard to believe, was a defensive powerhouse in those days. Coach Ara Parseghian declared after the Michigan game, "Defense is our salvation." The Wildcats stopped Michigan four times inside the NU 20 yard line.

I was sports editor of the Daily Northwestern during Northwestern's incredible run. After the Michigan game Northwestern was ranked No. 2 in the nation.

One of my biggest thrills was spotting for the legendary radio broadcaster Harry Wismer during the Notre Dame game. The spotter's job was to point to the name of the guy who made a tackle or threw a block. I remember telling Harry that such-and-such guy who had broken away for a touchdown had "never run that far in his life" and he used the comment on the air, giving me credit for my audacious remark.

It was great fun writing sports. Since the football games were played on Saturday we had plenty of time to write our stories for Monday's edition. But basketball games, especially away games, presented more of a problem.

We would listen to the games on radio at the Daily office and then write an account of the game with minutes to spare before deadline. Then we'd take our copy directly to the printer, watch him set it on his Linotype machine and watch the makeup man drop the hot metal into the hole in the page saved for the story. We'd proof it, and then we'd go home..

Those late hours were once very conducive to clear thinking when I took an early-morning test. I remember filling one of those blue books with arcane prose for an economics exam, and when I got it back I hadn't the slightest idea of what I'd written. The amazing thing was that I got a B on the exam! The doors to economic enlightenment had opened for one brief, glorious moment, then snapped shut, alas, never to open again.

As the crisp fall air took on a colder edge in 1959, Northwestern's football fortunes began to unravel. We beat Notre Dame the next week and one more team, but then we ran out of gas and lost the last three games. I can still replay the final play of our 15-10 loss to Wisconsin-our first and most ignoble defeat of the season.

Our football team played its heart out, but we finally got worn down. In the final game against Illinois, we got blown away.

Our guys, though, will always be heroes to me. In the Michigan game, three quarterbacks-Bob Eickhoff, Chip Holcomb (son of NU's athletic director, if I recall correctly) and John Talley combined for three touchdowns, and 410 yards on offense. Dutch Purdin ran for a fourth TD on an 85-yard scamper, as I used to write. Then there were ironmen Ron Burton, Mike Stock, Jim Andreotti, Gene Gossage, Dick Thornton, Larry Wood and others who made the season so memorable.

If I haven't said so in the last 35 years, thanks to you all for the most memorable fall of my life.

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