September 21, 2012
A look back: 'A different time'
Fifty years seems like 50 light years to Ron Meyer.
"The game is so different today," said Meyer who served as a Boilermaker assistant, before coaching at the NFL level with the Colts and Patriots. "Remembering that tie game in Washington back in '62 brings that to light. It was a different time."
Yes, tomorrow marks the 50-year anniversary of a pretty non-descript football game in Seattle. After all, the Boilermakers and Huskies played to a seven-all tie, with the final 41 minutes going scoreless. But a look back at the game does give you a peak into how much the game has changed from the travel to the contest itself.
In those days, the teams gave themselves plenty of time to get to the destination arriving two days before kickoff. Maybe there was good reason, as cross-country airline travel (DC-6 style) was still getting its wings.
After a bumpy airplane ride that included a botched takeoff, and subsequent redo, the Boilermakers made it Seattle. The team even had time for a sight-seeing tour on Friday where the road a ferry into Husky Stadium. Purdue coach Jack Mollenkopf and Washington coach Jim Owens even participated in a pregame banquet the day before the contest. All of these things have gone by the wayside in this ESPN-era of college football.
"I know in those days we would travel to Washington in consecutive years because of the payday," Meyer said from his home in Texas. "I know in those days we played on the road at places like Michigan and Ohio State just because we made more money and they had bigger stadiums. There were now home-and-homes in those days, you went where you could make the most money."
When it came to the game, things were far different as well. Two platoon football had yet to become legal as substitution rules were far different. You could only substitute so many times per quarter, which forced players to go both ways. Mollenkopf played three different units on the field against Washington during the course of the game. The first string, after giving up the initial score to the Huskies at the start of the game, didn't get its turn to play again until late in the second quarter.
"They had the wildcard rule then for the quarterback," Meyer said. "That was the only position that didn't have to play defense. I was the full-time defensive back while (Ron) DiGravio and (Gary) Hogan played quarterback but didn't play defense.
"But I remember on one of the trips out there being an injury to our fullback Robert Plaskon and being stuck on offense at fullback because another player he had to go out. I recall the play '151 spread sweep' where at 5-foot-10, 172 pounds, I was the key blocker. It worked and we scored, so that was one of the things I remember most about my college playing days. I was a helluva blocker, I guess."
Meyer, a senior in '62, will join his teammates for Homecoming for the Oct. 13 Wisconsin game, said it was frustrating that the teams he played on could never quite get over the hump. After all, Purdue started the '62 season ranked No. 7. Despite being outplayed in the '62 contest, tying Washington was no disgrace. The Huskies entered the game ranked 10th nationally, Purdue seventh.
"We were a very good football team, especially my junior year in 1961 when we finished 6-3." Meyer said. "But my senior year we lost a lot of close games. Teams just didn't score like they do now, so one mistake could really cost you."
In '62 the Boilermakers four losses were by a combined 13 points. Purdue outscored its opponents 141-68. No Purdue team has allowed fewer points in a season since.
"I was glad to finally be part of the program when we made it to the Rose Bowl," said Meyer who was a top recruiter and receivers' coach on the '66 team that beat USC in Pasadena. "There were a lot of players before '66 that came close. Real close."
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