Purdue Coach Jack Mollenkopf has this recurring dream. In it the game has just ended. The 320-piece Purdue All-America Marching Band is blowing up a storm in Ross-Ade Stadium, the school's famed Golden Girl is bouncing this way and that, and coming across the field to shake Mollenkopf's hand is a glum Duffy Daugherty. The Boilermakers, you see, have just beaten Michigan State to win their first Big Ten championship in a quarter century. It's a lovely dream.
But it is not quite the fantasy it has been in the past. Last season Purdue, with its 8-2 record, got to the Rose Bowl for the first time, even if it did have to sneak in because Michigan State won the conference championship two straight years and two consecutive trips to Pasadena are forbidden. Once there, it beat USC 14-13—which is nice if you remember to forget that this was the same USC team which lost to Notre Dame 51-0. When Purdue returned to its normally subdued campus it found the Victory Bell clanging amid unprecedented enthusiasm for its achievement.
If the attitude of students and alumni had changed, so had that of The Purdue Exponent, the school paper which not so long before had headlined an editorial, FAT JACK MUST GO. Now Fat Jack didn't have to go after all, even though he is 61, the oldest Big Ten coach, and had been rumored to be headed—launched would be more like it—for retirement. "I don't plan to retire," he says. "I'd like to win a conference championship, and I'd like to go back to the Rose Bowl. Going there and winning was just about the nicest thing that could have happened. It solidified our alumni. They had been frustrated. It helped our recruiting, too. This year we've got the best incoming freshman group we've ever had."
Mollenkopf has something of more immediate value, too: 14 of the 22 Rose Bowl starters, including all the defensive linemen, are back. Bob Griese, the All-America quarterback who pulled the Boilermakers through so many times in the past three years is gone, however, and Mollenkopf says that watching Griese's possible successors in spring practice was "like watching guys pulling plows." But only by comparison with Griese. Junior Mike Engelbrecht, who passes and runs competently enough, will probably get Griese's old job, but he is being pushed by a sophomore, Mike Phipps, who has a stronger arm but does not run quite as well. Neither one has Griese's quickness or coolness.
Consequently, even though it has Jim Beirne, the fine split end who caught 64 passes last season, and Tight End Marion Griffin, Purdue will be geared more toward a running game now.
Mollenkopf has made a bold move to stir up the ground attack. At the risk of further weakening a secondary defense that was not much better than Egypt's, he switched Leroy Keyes, a lanky defensive back who runs the 100 in 9.9, to flanker to team up with Fullback Perry Williams, last year's rushing leader, and Tailback Bob Baltzell. "Nursey" Keyes has all the moves and the good, grasping hands of a flanker, but he also looked so adept carrying the ball in Purdue's spring game that he might even wind up at tailback. Keyes can throw a reasonably good pass, which could keep defenses loose. A Keyes switch to tailback would also let Dennis Wirgowski, a promising 6'4" sophomore flanker, into the lineup.
Getting Nursey and his playmates some running room may be a problem, though. With the exception of Bob Seback, a steady 228-pound guard, the interior offensive line is new. A pair of 235-pounders, Jim Bonk and Dave Stydahar, son of Joe, oldtime Chicago Bears star and former pro coach, have emerged as the starting tackles, and Walter Whitehead, a sophomore, or Mike Frame will be the center. To help out, 240-pound Linebacker Clanton King, Purdue's best, will sometimes come in at offensive guard as well.
The Purdue defense is an enigma. Last year it allowed 154 points, more than Notre Dame would give up in a decade. So the news that the same defense is back again might provoke the question: Who needs it? The other theory—and this is the one which earns Purdue its high ranking—is that the defense has learned its trade at last. Two of the more impressive linemen are Lance Olssen. a 257-pound tackle who moves well, and Chuck Kyle, an aggressive middle guard who had his best game against USC in the Rose Bowl. Fred Rafa, the other tackle, and George Olion and Bob Holmes, the ends, are combative and tenacious. The linebacking appears strong with King and Frank Burke, and behind them Dick Marvel and Bob Yunaska. "A lot of people say our defense has to be better after being as bad as it was last year," says Mollenkopf. "It will be. These boys hit harder now."
But the Boilermakers will be tender where it can hurt the most—in the secondary. With Keyes shifting to offense, the only experienced player left is Dennis Cirbes, who is small at 5'10" and 176 pounds. With him will be Bob Corby, a senior, and two sophomores, Don Webster and Tim Foley. It is discomfiting to think what a pair of the country's best passers—Texas A&M's Hargett and Notre Dame's Hanratty—might do to this secondary in Purdue's first two games.
But those aren't conference games, and Mollenkopf has the Big Ten primarily on his mind. He thinks the team to beat for the title is Michigan State, yet right now he is more worried about Ohio State. "Woody Hayes always picks a team and really goes for them," says Jack. "This year it will probably be us because we're the first Big Ten opponent he faces. We'd better be ready." Right. A loss to the Buckeyes and out will come the Fat Jack headlines again.