Coach Tom Cahill was sitting on a table in the drab Army dressing room in Philadelphia's John F. Kennedy Stadium one afternoon early last December. His team had just lost to Navy and somber Army officers were filing by to pay their respects. Cahill, puffing leisurely on a cigarette and with a half smile on his rugged face, hardly looked like a coach whose team had been beaten in what Army and Navy brass rank as the only game. His response to one well-meaning consoler must have shaken the granite of West Point. "It's not the end of the world," said Cahill matter-of-factly. "It's just another football game."
Navy just another football game? It may be heresy but that's the attitude that prevails at West Point these days, and it has won Army a lot of football games in the past two years. The man responsible is, of course, Cahill, the obscure former plebe coach who in 1966 was hauled forth from a backroom and brought, blinking, into the bright lights to take over as head coach because nobody else was handy at the time. A few months later he was Coach of the Year and in a position to say that beating Navy could no longer be the sole goal of an Army football season.
Not that beating Navy doesn't mean a lot to Cahill and his team. Failure to defeat the underdog Middies last year gave Army an 8-2 season instead of 9-1, and the loss was a nuisance because people are beginning to take Army seriously. Once again they are expecting the Cadets to do well—against everybody. After several years of dull, stodgy football, the Army team is stimulating. Its offense, which operates from a wing T, is designed for springing players loose for long gains. Nor do the Cadets hesitate to throw the ball. In fact, Army passed 229 times in 1967, 50% more than it did in the last pre-Cahill year, 1965. On defense, Army players swarm the ballcarrier and keep coming at him until their quarry is pinned down.
Cahill's style and his calm approach have paid off. The Cadets have had two 8-2 seasons—and an even split with Navy—since Cahill took over, and last year they were set to go to the Sugar Bowl when the Pentagon inexplicably ruled that while other service academies might send teams to bowl games, Army could not because "it would tend to emphasize football to an extent not consistent with the mission of the academy, which is to produce Army officers."
This season Cahill should low-pressure his Cadets to a high rating again. Despite important losses in both the offensive and defensive lines, this ought to be another 8-2 season. Army might even crowd Penn State in the fight for best in the East, a status that probably will go to the winner of the Army-Penn State game. State fans are nervously aware of Army's annoying habit of upsetting the Nittany Lions.
One reason for Penn Staters to be wary is that Army has its best set of backs since Pete Dawkins and Bob Anderson. The strength starts with three quarterbacks. Steve Lindell, the No. 1 man, does not look like much when he passes. He sort of glides the ball off his palm. It flutters and wobbles in the air but somehow falls toward earth Lindell knows where. Last year Lindell, after recovering from an ulcer attack, completed 73 out of 144 passes for 843 yards. His favorite target, Split End Terry Young, is gone, but John Bolger, who replaces Young, and Gary Steele, the 6'5" tight end, are good receivers. Lindell can scramble, too, and he does a lot of it.
Behind Lindell is Jim O'Toole, who almost pulled out the Navy game in the fourth quarter. O'Toole, who has recovered from a knee operation, is a better passer than Lindell, but he does not run as well. Finally, there is Roger LeDoux, who quarterbacked the team early last season when both Lin-dell and O'Toole were ailing.
Fullback Charlie Jarvis is Army's best back. He is the tough-yardage man and goes anywhere to find it—inside, outside, around the end. Opposing defenses always key on him, but that rarely helps. Jarvis has led the team in rushing for two years and in 1967 scored eight touchdowns. But opponents may have more difficulty in concentrating on Jarvis now, because Army has some help for him. In Lynn Moore and Hank Andrzejczak (pronounced Andruhjack), the Cadets have two halfbacks who can break a game open with a single thrust. Pressing them is Billy Hunter, a compact, 195-pound sophomore who could turn out to be better than either. A broken-field runner, Hunter scored 108 points for Army's unbeaten plebe team and ran the ball for 121 yards in 18 carries in the spring game.
Unfortunately, Army will have to shake these backs loose through an offensive line that is not of top quality. Aside from Steele and 215-pound Tackle Bob Ivany, the starters are all players who were reserves a year ago and are small. Guard Bill Jackson got his letter at tackle, but Bolger, the new split end, Carl Oborski, the other tackle, Guard Gary Bogema and Center Ted Shadid saw only limited duty.
Nor is the defensive line of Maginot proportions, though Army hopes it will be less easily breached. Steve Yarnell, barely 195 pounds, is back at tackle, while two other regulars have been switched to new positions. Tom Wheelock, who played end, has taken over for graduated Bud Neswiacheny as the general, which means he sets up his command post wherever he thinks the enemy is likely to attack. Dick Luecke, a former defensive back, is now in Wheelock's old end spot. The other starters are Joe Neuman at middle guard, Bob Allardice at tackle and Bill Price at end. Allardice is the heaviest at 215 pounds, and the front five, which averages a mere 200, may be the smallest in major-college football this year. But that doesn't bother Cahill. "You don't have to be big to play the game," he insists. "Just quick and tough."
The secondary is more experienced, and that is what will save the Cadets some unhappy moments. The linebacking is first-class, headed by Kenny Johnson, a fiery 200-pounder, and Jodie Glore, who backed up Jim Bevans a year ago. The deep men, Dennis Hutchinson, Pete Dencker and Tom Haller, all know their way around and are especially tenacious pass defenders.
Army will be an underdog against Penn State and may have trouble with Missouri, but an 8-2 record for the third straight year is completely possible. So is a victory over Navy—not that anybody really cares.