- 1950 -
Prospects for the 1950 season were good. Not only had McNally shown his coaching ability in the pro leagues and at St. John's, but he had an experienced assistant in Big George and additional help from John (Buster) Hiller, head basketball coach, and Vernon McGree. The strong 1949 team, like the 1975 team sixteen years later, had been heavily sprinkled with sophomores, and these players were now seasoned veterans. Only Chuck Miller, Pete Neumann, Jack Smith, and Chuck Kranz were lost through graduation, and Terry O'Hara through withdrawal from school. Most of the gaps were filled with sophs from the championship freshman team of 1949 or by the conversion of lettermen of the previous year to new positions.
Dick Kelly and Curly Gasperlin replaced Terry O'Hara at quarterback; Ted Joyce was converted from quarterback to fullback, and alternated with Dan Coborn, Judd Pribyl, converted guard, and Tom Reichert, converted end. Jerry Hovey, Augie Donovan, Don Chisholm,
Bob Brendan, Dick Juba (father of Michael, '78 and Gregory '80), and Joe Denzer added beef to the line, while all-conference end, Vern Fahrenkrug, was still on hand to continue his performance in snatching passes. The other 1949 all-conference selection, George Marsnik, was converted to end on offense and to safety on defense, where he could use his speed to good effect. Unfortunately, Marsnik was sidelined with injuries a good part of the season, although he had an able replacement in the person of Bill Christopherson, who had been standout on the freshman team the year before. Another promising prospect from the freshman team was Don Rubertus, who added speed to the backfield.
However, this remodeling of the 1949 machine didn't payoff. St. John's won three and lost three in the conference, all but the Gustavus game being by one or two points, for a fifth place standing. Overall, the record was four wins and three losses. Gustavus won the title with a 6-0 record. No members of the 1950 team made all-conference.
- 1951 -
The abolition of the freshman rule in 1951 resulted in a large turnout in September of this year. Only a few regulars had been lost by graduation or withdrawal from school to enter the service, and these holes were plugged by new men from among the promising crop of freshmen and sophomores. New prospects were Tom "Whizzer" White, halfback, John Vachuska, end, Clem Schoenbauer, fullback, Dick Coy and Jim Sexton, tackles, Bob Aufenthie, guard, Don Dvorak, center, Casey Vilandre (former Prep star) and Don West brock, halfbacks, and Bob Forster, linebacker. However, the new men were inexperienced and needed more seasoning, and several of the regulars were lost through injuries. Result: a 4-1 record and fourth place in the conference, 4-3 overall. Gustavus (6-0) won the title.
A heartening feature of the 1951 season was the potential revealed by the new recruits. Some of these names were to resound throughout the conference during the next two years. However, during this year of rebuilding, no member of the team made all-conference.
- 1952 -
Fifteen lettermen reported for practice in August, 1952, led by co-captains Bill Christopherson and Maurice Chevalier. The Jays took St. Cloud 19-7, but lost to Hamline 19-21, largely because of a spotty pass defense. Then they rolled over Duluth, St. Olaf, and Ausgburg by good margins, but, though losing to Concordia (6-32) and Gustavus (0-19), they instituted the tradition of beating St. Thomas which has persisted to this day. St. John's played heads-up ball in that game, as Mike O'Brien raced 57 yards with a pass interception and Tom "Whizzer" White broke away for another 78 yards for a touchdown. Result: St. John's 13, St. Thomas 7.
But despite the pass-snatching of Jeb Vachuska, the chugging ground-gaining of Casey ViIandre, and the consistent gains through the line by Clem Schoenbauer, St. John's again ended up with a monotonous 3-3 record in the conference and fourth place (5-3 overall). Most depressing was the 19-0 beating administered by Gustavus in the final game in which the Gusties rang up 500 yards to 100 for the Johnnies. This also entitled Gustavus to a tie with Concordia for the title with a 6-0 record.
Despite the disappointing season, three players, Bill Christopherson, Maurice Chevalier, center, and Dick Coy, tackle, made all-conference. However, the feeling around St. John's could best be expressed in the French expression: "Il faut que ca change." Something should be done to get out of that 3-3 and fourth place rut. And get out they did!
The 1953 football season witnessed a revolution in St. John's football fortunes comparable to that wrought by Joe Benda in the early 1930's. This change was executed by a smallish man, like Benda of Italian descent, from Trinidad, Colorado, and more recently from Carroll College, Montana. His name was John Gagliardi.
Coach John Gagliardi
John was born in Trinidad, Colorado, November 1, 1926, of first generation immigrant parents, whose accent betrays their origin. He attended the Catholic grade and high schools in Trinidad and was graduated in 1944. He played halfback during his high school years, but when his coach was drafted in his senior year, John, although only 16 years of age, was called upon to coach football and other sports that year. Holy Trinity High School won its first championship that year, and John was retained for three more years, making the runner-up spot once, and winning the championship in two other years. He ended his four years there with a 28-8 record.
During these years, John attended the junior college in Trinidad and played on the junior college basketball team. News of his success got around, and the priest-director of St. Mary's High School, Colorado Springs, arranged to have him attend Colorado College in Colorado Springs, while coaching all sports at St. Mary's. He lived up to his advance billing by pulling St. Mary's up to second place in his first year, and winning the championship of his league in his second.
By the time he graduated from college in 1949, his reputation as a winning coach was solidly established, and he received an offer to be head coach of all sports and athletic director at Carroll College, a diocesan college in Helena, Montana. He lived up to his reputation at Carroll, and was only half a game out of first place in his first year, and then went on to win three consecutive championships in 1950-52. During these years he never lost a conference game, and compiled a record of 25 wins in 31 games overall. His teams were noted for their tight defensive play and their alertness in capitalizing on the breaks. It was evident that bigger schools would soon be after Gagliardi. It is to Bill Osborne, '48, who starred in three sports at St. John's and later was head coach in basketball and baseball and assistant coach in football from 1953 to 1959, that St. John's owes the good fortune of snaring Gagliardi before some big-name school had snapped him up. As a high school coach in Montana, Osborne knew of the performance of the Gagliardi teams, and urged Fr. Arno Gustin, O.S.B., SJU president, to snap him up while he was still a free agent.
John was not eager to leave Carroll. He had excellent working relations with the priests and others on the college staff. His assistant coach was Fr. Raymond Hunthausen, who later became president of the college, then bishop of Helena, and who is now archbishop of Seattle, where he still watches for reports of St. John's as well as Carroll College games. The faculty representative in athletics during John's years at Carroll, Fr. Bernard Topel, became the bishop of Spokane, now retired, whose saintliness and simplicity of life was a legend in the Northwest. So it was evident that John was working with high caliber people. He also loved the climate and the people of the West.
One thing impressed him about St. John's, however, and that was Bill Osborne's high regard for his alma mater. John felt that there must be a genuine basis for such loyalty.
When he visited the school for interviews, he found that he would have a larger theatre of operations and personnel to work with who would be as cooperative as was the staff at Carroll College. One of these was Fr. Adelard Thuente, O.S.B., '37, now deceased, a halfback of the early 1930's and an enthusiastic supporter of intercollegiate sports. He was also professor of biology and prefect (faculty resident) of St. Mary's Hall, where John was to live during his unmarried years. Fr. Adelard was also faculty representative of St. John's to the MIAC in 1958-62 and served as friend, critic, marriage counselor, and entertainer of Gagliardi during those years of the middle 1950's.
John particularly valued his advice as marriage counselor. He was going with a lovely student nurse by the name of Peggy Doherty, but like all members of closely knit Italian families, John wanted the advice and approval of his family for such a major step as marriage. [This was particularly crucial since Italian families tend to consider a marriage to a non-Italian as a mixed marriage.] However, Fr. Adelard fulfilled the role of parental advisor. He had many evenings with John and Peggy and had associations with them on other occasions, and readily saw how ideally Peggy would complement John's personality. His advice was: "Sign her, before she jumps to another league!"
John signed her in 1956 and Fr. Adelard acted as ecclesiastical witness to the contract.
- 1953 -
And now to get back to football: after coming to St. John's in the fall of 1953, accompanied by a brilliant coaching record in Colorado and Montana, John was clearly on the spot. However, the Benedictine Fathers, who as he has often pointed out, always expect the impossible, didn't go so far as to expect him to beat Gustavus, the perennial champion at that time, and win the title in his first year-especially in view of the beating St. John's received from the Gusties in 1952. But that is just what he did. For some unexplained reason, the Johnnies lost the first game to St. Cloud State and the fifth game to Duluth, but won all the rest, including a stunning 26-13 victory over South Dakota State, a much larger school, and North Central Conference champion of that year. It was necessary to beat Gustavus because we had lost a conference game to Duluth, but St. John's took the Gusties by the respectable score of 21-7, which meant that they tied us for the championship. St. John's record for that year was 6-1-0 in the MIAC and 6-2-0overall. They won all other conference games by comfortable margins, with the exception of the 7-6 squeaker over Concordia.
Veterans of the strong 1952 team put on weight and gained experience in adapting to the Gagliardi style of football. Many standouts from the 1952 team were on deck in the fall of 1953-Casey Vilandre (former Prep star), Jeb Vachuska, Bill Braun, Bob Aufenthie, Chuck Froehle (a four-year Prep star and son of Chuck, Sr., '27, who died of a heart attack while watching his son Rich, '65, perform at Gustavus in 1962), Jim Sexton (father of Terry Sexton, '78, end on the championship teams of the 1970's), Dick Coy, iron man at tackle, John Schwob, et al. A new name that was to resound throughout the conference in the next few years was that of Jim Lehman, halfback, a wraith-like ball-carrier in the tradition of Jim Roche who alternated with Casey Vilandre in pounding the opposing line or scooting around it.
Four men made all-conference: Casey Vilandre, halfback, who gained a total of 604 net yards for the season in 136 tries; Dick Coy, tackle; Chuck Froehle, guard; and Bill Braun, end. John had lived up to his reputation.
- 1954 -
With most of the championship team back in 1954, there were expectations of back-to-back championships. But the revenge-seeking Gusties and traditional rival St. Thomas shattered that dream (28-6 and 7-6 respectively). The latter game was a heart-breaker. The Tommies got a first period touchdown and made it stick for a 7-6 lead, despite the total of 75 net yards to which the Johnnies restricted them. In the final game against Augustana, of Sioux Falls, Lehman put on one of the greatest scoring displays in SJU history, putting 33 points on the board. His total for the year was a record-setting 89 points from 13 touchdowns and 11 points after touchdowns. The final score of the Augustana game was 39-7. Other big ground-gainers were the following: Don Catton, halfback, and Dick Miller, fullback. Dick Coy, Jim Sexton, and Chuck Froehle-all stalwarts in the line-made all conference. The final standing was 5-2 in the MIAC, good enough for a third place tie with St. Thomas, and a 6-2 record overall.
- 1955 -
The year 1955 opened with three victories as Jim Lehman, Dick Miller, and Don Catton took turns at crossing the goal line through holes opened by the rugged line; but again St. Thomas and Gustavus stood in the way of an undefeated season. In compensation for this, St. John's romped over Eau Claire 33-6, and took Augustana by the more modest score of 6-0, to finish with a 4-2 record and a tie with Macalester and Concordia for second place in the conference. Overall the Johnnie record was 7-2.
During the season Lehman had a rushing average of 8.1 yards per carry, 117.6 yards per game, and a total of 16 touchdowns and 13 points after touchdowns, to lead all the Johnnies in scoring. Lehman ended his career with the St. John's record number of touchdowns (30 in three seasons, 1953-55), the most in one season (16 in 1955), and the most in one game (5 in 1954 against Augustana). He was accordingly named the MIAC's most valuable player for 1955.
The record number of touchdowns in a career has since been broken by Dave Arnold, end (32 from 1969 72), and the most in one season by Tim Schmitz (17 in 1976).
The 1956 team was beset with injuries, with all but two starters, Chuck Froehle and Ray Olson, sidelined at some time or other. The Jays ended up with a conference record of 2-4-1 (3-4-1 overall) to rank in sixth place, their lowest standing since the resumption of a full schedule in 1946. St. Thomas took the title and Concordia was second. New names appearing in the line-up along with Chuck Froehle, Don Dvorak, Dick Matchinsky, Dave Boyle, et al., were Len Kos, end; Roger Ludwig (later wrestling coach and assistant football coach), tackle; Sev Youso, fullback; Felix Mannella, guard; Joe Crotty, halfback; and Bernie Archbold, quarterback. A familiar name which had dropped out of the line-up after 1952 was that of Tom "Whizzer" White, while its owner put in a three-year stint in the armed services. The speedy halfback now returned to lead the Jays in scoring and to take third place behind Joe Crotty and Ron Deutz in rushing.
Chuck Froehle, guard, made all-conference for the fourth time and was chosen on the second Little All-American team. Don Dvorak, tackle, made the second MIAC all-conference team.
- 1957 -
Only two starters from 1956 reported with the 43 candidates in August, 1957. Twenty of the candidates were freshmen. Names which had appeared on the roster in 1956 and became regulars in 1957 were Len Kos, Chuck Twomey, and Tom O'Reilly, ends; Joe Louis and Roger Ludwig, tackles; Felix Mannella, Bill Anderson, and Sev Youso, guards; John Ficenec and Bill Chalmers, centers; Bernie Archbold, Jerry Kollodge, and Bob Ilg, quarterbacks; Joe Crotty, Mick Mullen, Duane Deutz, and Myron Wiest (son of Myron, Sr., '31, halfback, now deceased) halfbacks; and Tom Irving and Ron Deutz, fullbacks. The Jays were un scored upon on their home field and rolled up big scores against St. Cloud State and Hamline but lost three out of four games away from home. One source of consolation was the 13-0 victory over troublesome Gustavus, in a game in which Ron Deutz scored on a 75-yard punt return. He and Crotty repeated that feat in a 23-0 defeat of Augsburg the following Saturday, but the Johnnies lost to Concordia and Macalester, which on top of an earlier loss to St. Thomas resulted in a 4-3 finish and fourth place in the conference. The overall record was 5-3.
Len Kos, end, was chosen to the first all-conference team and Duane Deutz to the second team.
- 1958 -
The 1958 team displayed a strong, aggressive line and fast, hard-hitting backs. Behind the blocking of Sev Youso, Felix Mannella, Gene Kramer, Bob Henry, and Bob Stich, the fast backfield of Joe Crotty, Duane Deutz, Tom Irving, Bernie McInerny, and Bob Ilg crossed the goal line 22 times in racing to five quick victories. One of these was a 13-0 win over St. Thomas in a great defensive game in which SJU held St. Thomas to 12 net yards in rushing. The Jays scored on a 25-yard run by Tom Irving in that game and on a 35-yard pass play from Bob Ilg to Joe Crotty. Two bad breaks for the Johnnies- a clipping penalty which nullified a touchdown and a blocked punt-helped Gustavus to win the highly publicized Swiggum-Deutzcontest three weeks later by a score of 18-7. As a result, St. John's ended up with a 5-2 record (6-2 overall) and third place in the conference behind Gustavus and Concordia.
Duane Deutz, halfback, Felix Mannella, guard, Sev Youso and Roger Ludwig, tackles, Dave Boyle, end, and Tom Irving, fullback, made the all-MIAC team. Duane Deutz was also chosen Catholic Little All-American. Roger Ludwig was named the most valuable player in the MIAC, the first St. John's lineman to win that distinction. As was stated above, Bill Osborne, '48, who had served as head basketball and baseball coach and assistant football coach, left St. John's to go into the insurance business in Billings, Montana, and Ed Hasbrouck, '50, former Johnnie basketball and baseball star, took his place. John Gagliardi gives Hasbrouck a great deal of credit in building the championship teams of the 1960's, especially for his early recognition of talented players, so that they could be pushed into action and given experience as early as the middle of their freshman year.
- 1959 -
St. John's opened the 1959 season by losing to Concordia, the team which had humbled them (40-8) in the last game of the 1958 season. They then counted three straight victories, but lost by a close score to Duluth, and by 0-14 to Gustavus in a hard-fought contest which featured the running and passing of the Swiggum-Skoog combination. The Johnnie team suffered crucial injuries-Deutz, Irving, and O'Reilly- and could never snap back. The final standing was 4-3 (5-3 overall), and fourth place in the conference. Gustavus won the title with a 7-0 record.
Despite his injured knee, Duane Deutz accumulated a rushing record of 1,993 yards during his four years at SJU (1956-59). This has since been surpassed by Tim Schmitz, whose total for the four years (1974-77) was 3,933. Duane failed to make all-conference in 1959, however, and only Felix Mannella and Gene Kramer were so honored. Other names which stand out in the 1959 season are Dick Miller, fullback, and Bernie Kukar, halfback, who also starred in basketball.
- 1960 -
The Johnnies lost heavily through graduation in the spring of 1960 and it took five weeks and three losses (Augsburg, Concordia, and pesky Macalester by another 15-14 score) before the new material began to shape up in the 1960 season. They finally did this with a bang, turning on St. Thomas and blasting them 34-13. In a game which Duluth was doped to win easily and with the Bulldogs leading 7-0, Jim Glowack tossed a pass to Ken Roering, who romped for a touchdown. The Jays missed the point after touchdown, but with the score 6-7, they scorned settling for a tie. Glowack hit Bob Spinner in the end zone for a two point conversion. The Jays then went on to tie Gustavus 6-6 on a wet field at St. Peter and ended the conference season with a 3-3-1 record and fifth place (4-3-1 overall). However, with the pressure off, St. John's rolled over St. Cloud 50-0 in the final game. Duluth took the title with a 6-1 record.
Gene Kramer and Tom O'Reilly, ends, Bernie Kukar, halfback, Fred Philipson, tackle, and Bob Gavin, guard, made all-conference, and Gene Kramer was elected to the Little All-American team. Tom McIntyre set a high standard in punting with a total of 1,566 yards in 47 attempts, for an average of 35.4 yards per punt.
- 1961 -
The prospects for 1961 were promising. Only a few starters from the previous year had been lost through graduation, and some new talent was starting to show up: Craig Muyres, Bernie Beckman, and Bob Spinner, the latter two becoming the touchdown twins of the early 1960's, rivaling Boyd and Roche of the 1930's. Also on the squad were Rich Chalmers, Dave Sieben (son of Omer, '40, halfback of the late 1930's), Tom McKasy (former Prep and son of George, '28, catcher on the baseball team in the 1920's), Paul Labinski, Bill Wagner (son of Lee, '36, who played under Benda), Rich Froehle (son of Chuck, '27, and brother of Chuck, Jr., '57), and a number of others. Other regulars from 1960 were Bob Gavin, Bob Praus, Dave Honer, Fred Philipson, Tom McIntyre, Bob Stolz, and "Mack-Truck" John Mc- Dowell. The Johnnies surely appeared to be loaded this year!
The 1961 Johnnies bombarded their first four opponents-Bemidji 30-6, Gustavus 36-0, Concordia 48-6, and Augsburg 42-0, but suffered a let-down against Macalester in a homecoming game on their field,
14-15. They rebounded against St. Thomas 38-14 and used practically only the second and third teams to roll over Hamline 51-0. Finally, they lost a heart-breaker to Duluth on a muddy field in the last two minutes. The Johnnies' standing at the end of this exciting season was 5-2 in the conference (6-2 overall), and a tie with St. Thomas for second place behind Duluth.
The power of the team is indicated by the number who won allconference awards: Tom Wagner, fullback; Jim Glowack, quarterback; Bob Gavin, guard; Fred Philipson, Tom McIntyre, and Bob Stolz, tackles; and Ken Roering, end. Wagner, Philipson, and Stolz made the Catholic All-American team that year. Tom Wagner won the MIAC rushing title with a total of 696 yards. Jim Glowack was named most valuable player in the MIAC.
- 1962 -
When interviewed by sportswriters early in the 1962 season, Gagliardi said: "Anything can happen. We'll play each game one at a time, one quarter at a time." But in making this broad generalization, he grinned. And justifiably so. The 1962 team was a veritable horde of seasoned veterans who in workman-like fashion cut down everyone of their opponents, beginning with Bemidji (30-14) and ending with Hamline (36-0). They took Gustavus by the ample score of 28-8, Concordia by 31-14, but just squeaked by St. Thomas 28-23, with the help of a 75-yard runback of a pass interception by Craig Muyres, quarterback, to complete the first undefeated, untied season in the school's history. (Concordia tied St. John's 0-0 in the first championship season, 1932.) Despite this record (7-0 in the conference, and 9-0 overall), St. John's was too little known to receive a play-off bid. As Gagliardi expressed it: "The Johnnies were untied, undefeated, and uninvited." The team was, however, grooming itself for greater things.
The power of the 1962 team is revealed by the following statistics: they compiled a total of 2,416 net yards rushing and 960 yards passing for an average of 375.1 yards per game. They scored 39 touchdowns, 27 on the ground and 12 in the air. Total yardage by opponents was 1,196 and 913, respectively, and 13 touchdowns. With this record the Jays were ranked in the eighth place in the nation in the NAIA poll.
All-conference nominations were Tom McIntyre, tackle, Bill Wagner, center, Craig Muyres, quarterback, Ken Roering, end, John Mc- Dowell, tackle, and Bob Spinner, halfback. Tom McIntrye had looked good enough to be given a try-out by the Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League. Four players were nominated Little All- Americans-Tom McIntyre, Bill Wagner, Craig Muyres, and Ken Roering.
- 1963 -
With a good number of veterans from the undefeated squad of 1962, and strong replacements for the few who had graduated, St. John's in 1963 cut down its conference opponents by wide margins: Hamline 38-14, Duluth 60-6, St. Thomas 32-6, Gustavus 34-7, Augsburg 26-6, Concordia 28-0, Macalester 40-6, and one non-conference opponent, St. Cloud State, 40-0, to finish 7-0 in the conference and 8-0 overall. Such a performance could not be overlooked, and St. John's was invited to compete in the playoffs of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). They met their first post-season opponent, Emporia State of Kansas, in the Metropolitan Sports Stadium in the Twin Cities in a game organized and promoted by the area alumni in early November. They lost no time in demonstrating their right to be there. A blocked punt by Jim Dey resulted in a safety, and touchdown runs of five and four yards by Rich Froehle put the Johnnies out in front by 15-0 at the end of the first quarter. Bernie Beckman and Bob Spinner scored in the second quarter to bring the score to 28-0 by half-time. After scoring four more touchdowns in the third quarter, Gagliardi pulled his first team and the rest of the game was a scoreless battle between Emporia and the reserves. St. John's made 502 yards on the ground and 41 more through the air to establish an NAIA record of 540 yards in total offense. Final score: St. John's 54, Emporia 0.
The Camellia Bowl
This victory won for the Johnnies the opportunity to meet the allblack team of Prairie View College, Texas, in the Camellia Bowl, Sacramento, California. The Texas college had reached the title game by coming from behind to defeat Kearney State of Nebraska 20-7.
At the beginning of the Camellia Bowl game, it looked as if the game would be a walk-away for Prairie View. Speedy Jimmy Hall, substituting temporarily for Jim Kearney, star quarterback, ran 29 yards for a touchdown on the first Prairie View play from scrimmage, following a blocked Johnnie punt. John Harris kicked the point after touchdown, and the score was Prairie View 7, SJU 0, with only 3:40 minutes gone. St. John's soon snapped back, however, with a 41-yard punt return by halfback Bob Spinner, aided by a magnificent block by Jim Dey. Hartman's place-kick was blocked and the score was 6-7.
Minutes later Prairie View's Otis Taylor snared a Jim Kearney 61-yard pass for a touchdown, and Harris again added the extra point. The score: Prairie View 14, SJU 6.
But the Johnnies were by no means out of the game, and they staged another rally consisting primarily of the interception of a pass by John McCormick, defensive back, who ran it back 44 yards for a touchdown. Muyres passed to Beckman for the extra point and the score was Prairie View 14, St. John's 13. (At that time points after touchdowns counted only one point, even if made by a pass or a run.) After the intermission, St. John's needed only six minutes to take the lead for good. Muyres tossed a 23-yard pass to Hardy Reyerson, who leaped five feet in the air to grab it, to cap a 60-yard drive. Then. Muyres tossed another short pass to Ken Roering for the point after touchdown. Score: SJU 20, Prairie View 14.
When the Johnnies got the ball again, Beckman climaxed a double reverse with a pass to Roering in the end zone, and St. John's now led 26-14, as Muyres' pass for a point after touchdown fell incomplete. Prairie View, however, was not ready to give up and executed a 69-yard drive, ending with a 14-yard Kearney pass for a touchdown. Harris again kicked the extra point. It looked as if Prairie View was about to take off again, but they fumbled on their own 23-yard line and St. John's recovered. Muyres hit Reyerson with a perfect touchdown pass and then passed to Spinner for the conversion. Score: SJU 33, Prairie View 21.
It took Prairie View only nine plays to grind out 60 yards for their next touchdown, as Ezell Seals plunged for the final yard. The Texas school then tried an on-side kick which was caught by Ken Roering, after which St. John's ran out the clock. Final score: SJU 33, Prairie View 27.
Bernie Beckman was named the game's most valuable player, Ken Roering the top lineman, and Jim Kearney of Prairie View the top back. Kearney had completed 11 out of 21 pass attempts for 208 yards and ran for 55 more. Muyres hit 9 of 16 attempts for 136 yards. Seals was high in rushing with 64 yards, while Spinner and Beckman ended with 59 and 52 yards respectively.
The quality of the opposition in that game is indicated by the fact that both Jim Kearney and Otis Taylor became pro stars and are still playing professional football. Taylor was also chosen all-pro back for several years.
The stay-at-home Johnnies were beneficiaries of a special bonus on the occasion of the Camellia Bowl game by it being made available on television in the Upper Midwest through the efforts of an alumni group headed by Fred Hughes, '31.
The statistics of the Johnnies for this season are impressive. Craig Muyres completed 23 out of 50 pass attempts, for an average of .460, while Ken Roering, end, caught 12 Muyres' tosses for a total of 233 yards and two touchdowns. The Johnnies out-scored their opponents 298 to 45 in the regular season, and allowed only a meager 12.9 yards per game in the eight regular season games. They also broke the NAIA record for the least number of yards allowed during a season, a record formerly held by Florida A & M, giving up only a grudging 103 yards in conference play. The St. John's 1963 season record was 7-0-0 in the conference and 10-0-0 overall.
The performance of the 1963 team won special recognition in the Johnnies' home territory. The Jays were awarded 12 of the 22 positions on the MIAC all-conference offensive and defensive units. Only eight individual players were so honored because four of the Johnnies were named to both the offensive and defensive squads, namely, Craig Muyres, quarterback and safety man; Bernie Beckman, halfback; Ken Roering, end; John "Mack-Truck" McDowell, tackle. Others who made one or the other of the berths on either all-conference unit were Rich Froehle, fullback, Bob Spinner, halfback, Hardy Reyerson, end, and Dave Honer, guard. Spinner won the MIAC rushing title with 530 yards, and Beckman was awarded the St. Paul Pioneer Press- Dispatch trophy as the MIAC's most valuable player. John McDowell was drafted soon afterward by the Green Bay Packers and played professional football for several years.
An interesting footnote to the 1963 season is the fact that all conference end and top Camellia Bowl lineman, Ken Roering, went on to graduate school, earned a doctorate, and is now teaching at the University of Missouri.
- 1964 -
The 1964 squad lost heavily through graduation, but 17 of the men who helped to win the NAIA championship in 1963 were on hand when Gagliardi issued his call for fall practice. It should be noted that the MIAC rules no longer permit spring practice and also limit the pre-season practice-all of which makes competition with non-conference schools that have spring practice very difficult. This year John had to build around a core of returning regulars supported by an assortment of sophomores and freshmen: ends, Hardy Reyerson and Joe Mucha, backed by Jack Schoenecker (nephew of Norbert, '27, who starred as a basketball player in the 1920's); veteran tackles Mike Collins and Fred Cremer, backed by George Korbel and Bill Dircks; Gary Youso, guard, backed by Bill Smock, John Ford, and Sid Prom, a junior. Previously injured Ed Donatelle was ready to return to his old guard slot.
Center-guards Paul Labinski (250 pounds), Jack Hickey (313 pounds), and Joe Ruhland (205 pounds) provided beef in the center of the line, while senior Jim Dey was available as an alert linebacker. Backfield men who filled in the holes left by the graduation of St. John's all-time greats Craig Muyres, Bernie Beckman, Bob Spinner, and defensive back John McCormick, were veteran Rich Froehle, Pat Hare, Randy Halstrom, Joe Hartle, Stan Suchta, Terry Hartman (son of Lyle, '39), and freshmen Don Nett, Roger Trobec, and Jim Shiely. A major change occurred in the coaching staff this year. Ed Has- . brouck had resigned as head coach in basketball and baseball and assistant in football, and his place was taken by graduates Joe Hartle and Paul Labinski in 1965. Later other Johnnie grads served as assistant coaches.
Although St. John's took St. Thomas 24-0 and Duluth 21-12, Hamline and Gustavus managed to squeak by SJU 8-6 and 15-14, respectively, while Concordia rolled to a 20-0 victory. St. John's won all its other games, to end with a 4-3 record and a tie for third place with Gustavus. (St. John's played no non-conference games this year.) Concordia won the title and represented the MIAC in the ninth annual Small College Playoffs (NAIA) by defeating Linfield, Oregon, 28-6 in the semi-finals and tying Sam Houston of Texas 7-7 in the NAIA title game.
All-conference selections were Jack Hickey, Hardy Reyerson, and Rich Froehle. Rich was awarded the St. Paul Pioneer Press-Dispatch trophy as the MIAC's most valuable player for 1965. His 1,541 total yards rushing from 1961 to 1964 ranked him as eighth among the great ball carriers turned out by St. John's, although all of these high marks of the past have been eclipsed by Tim Schmitz's near-4,000 yards from 1974-77. Paul Labinski, center-guard, was invited to tryout for the Minnesota Vikings at their summer camp in 1964.
- 1965 -
The year 1965 witnessed a change of pace. After polishing off River Falls State 16-0 and Bemidji State 8-0, St. John's methodically decapitated all conference opponents for a perfect 1.000 standing for the season: St. John's 48, Macalester 0; St. John's 18, St. Thomas 0; St. John's 34, Hamline 6; St. John's 17, Duluth 8; St. John's 34, Gustavus 0; St. John's 28, Augsburg 6; St. John's 10, Concordia 0.
This performance produced a second invitation to compete in the NAIA play-offs. The contests this year lacked the drama and suspense of the Prairie View encounter of 1963. In the first play-off game, St. John's dispatched Fairmount State of West Virginia 28-7, and in the title match, played in Augusta, Georgia, smothered Linfield, Oregon which had been defeated in the semi-finals by Concordia in 1964, by a score of 33-0. This gave the Johnnies their second national championship within a space of three years, and a 11-0 record for the season. The NAIA showed its appreciation for the high quality of football and sportsmanship displayed by Gagliardi and his team by awarding him the NAIA title Coach of the Year. The MIAC extended a similar honor, this for the third time.
All-MIAC selections were the following-defensive unit: Fred Cremer, tackle, and John Ford linebacker; offensive unit: Dave Griffin, end, Mike Collins, tackle, and Jim Shiely, halfback. Other stand-outs for the season were Roger Trobec, fullback, and Don Nett, halfback. Terry Hartman kept the opposing teams off balance with his consistent punting; in addition, he made 21 out of 23 conversion attempts and 5 out of 7 field goals, which together with one touchdown made him high scorer for the season. Other high scorers were Jim Shiely, Don Nett, and Dave Griffin.
- 1966 -
One might begin to wonder how long this could continue. Well, in 1966 the Johnnies did let up somewhat. They won a close victory over Bemidji State 26-20, then won three and lost three in the conference, all but one of the losses by one touchdown or less. They tied Gustavus 7-7. This resulted in a fifth place finish. Overall the record was 4-3-1. Stand-outs in the line were Mike Collins, Mike Perry, and ends Terry Underwood, Ed Kranz, and Dave Griffin. The latter snared 20 passes by Gillham, Hartman, and Provinzino for a total of 333 yards and five touchdowns. Other ground-gainers were Roger Trobec and Don Nett; the latter won the conference rushing title with 513 yards. Fred Cremer was chosen all-conference as both offensive and defensive tackle.
- 1967 -
The coaching staff was strengthened the following year, 1967, by the addition of Terry Haws, who had been hired primarily to replace Bob Dumonceaux, now Dr. Dumonceaux, chairman of the SJU mathematics department, who relinquished his position as wrestling coach and took a leave of absence to continue his graduate studies. Haws had been highly successful as wrestling and football coach at St. James High School and at Cathedral High School, St. Cloud, where his wrestling teams took seven state championships in ten years. As football coach, he had a record in high school of 67 wins versus 39 losses in 12 years of coaching.
His addition to the staff was especially needed since 1967was clearlya re-building year. The Jays lost their first game to St. Cloud 0-10, and four more games by close scores. The bright spot in the season was the 12-7 final-game victory over Gustavus, conference champions for that year. The victory left a pleasant taste in the players' mouths for 1968. St. John's finished in fifth place with three wins and four losses (3-5 overall).
Names that stand out in 1967 were John Agee and Tom Klein, defensive backs, Joe Mullen, linebacker, Terry Underwood, end, and Tom Schutta, tackle. In the backfield Don Nett, his brother Joe, and Tom Gillham executed the ball-carrying and passing duties. Linebacker Joe Mullen and defensive back Tom Klein were awarded places on the defensive unit of the all-conference team, while Tom Schutta, Joe Cronin, fullback, and Terry Underwood and Dave Tripp, guard, received honorable mention.
- 1968 -
The year 1968 showed some improvement over the preceding two seasons. Although Gagliardi had trouble finding a dependable quarterback, spectacular rushing by John Balestri (787 yards in 179 tries, third best for SJU up to that time), and by scat back Bill Laliberte (501 yards in 116 attempts), supplemented by a strong rushing and pass defense led by Tom Schutta and Mike Starr in the line, Tom Klein and Mike Shea in the secondary (third in total defense in the conference), carried the Johnnies to a 4-3 finish and a tie for third place. Their overall rating was 6-4. Gustavus took the championship with a record of 6 wins and one loss.
All-conference selections were Dave Tripp, offensive guard, and Mike Shea, defensive back. This year the name Bob Nasby began to appear in the line-up followed by a "K". Bob became a dependable place-kicker for the next three years. Jim Winkels turned in a creditable performance in punting-47 punts for 1,776 yards, an average of 37.8 per kick. John Stencel also showed brilliance in returning punts and kickoffs.
- 1969 -
The year 1969 saw St. John's back in the groove. Scatback Bill Laliberte was still eluding the defense who came up with a handful of air much of the time when they tried to tackle him. He piled up a total of 892 yards for the season, or 5.0 per carry. Mike Halloran, fullback, was second with a total of 582 yards and 4.0 yards per carry. Haskins, end, snared 21 passes thrown by Tom Kafka and Joe Nett for 251 yards. Dave Arnold, end, although only a freshman, was beginning to show promise of his future unparalleled pass receiving by catching 18 passes for 448 yards and six touchdowns. Chuck Hanish, end, also aided the pass offense by grabbing a respectable 13 tosses for 169 yards.
In the MIAC St. John's rated fifth in total team offense, third in rushing, and fourth in total team defense. In the final standings, St. John's came up with five wins, one loss (to Concordia) and one tie (7-7 with Gustavus). Victories over University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and St. Cloud State brought the overall record to 7-1-1. This record was good enough to merit an invitation to the seventeenth annual Mineral Water Bowl in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. In this game St. John's methodically cut down Simpson College of Iowa by a score of 21-0, the fifth straight post-season victory. The sportswriter for the Kansas City Star for November 30, 1969, who covered the game, was loud in his praise of the Johnnies' defensive play, led by Tom Schutta (voted the most valuable lineman of the game), supported by Denny Merritt, Mike Starr, Jim Anderson, and Mike Donovan. Simpson made only 65 yards by rushing and 19 by passing, and never got beyond the Johnnie 25-yard line. But the offensive play of the Johnnies was equally brilliant. Simpson had thoroughly scouted Laliberte and had developed a strategy to contain him on sweeps, but, said the Kansas City Star, "He was deadly on traps and delays up the middle." He carried the ball 26 times and piled up 103 net yards, a record which caused him to be voted the most valuable backfield player of the game.
When Laliberte and Halloran were not riddling the line, Tom Kafka and Joe Nett were hitting Dave Haskins and Dave Arnold for a passing total of 132 yards.
Named to the all-conference team were Bill Laliberte, offensive halfback, defensive tackle Tom Schutta, linebacker John Lynch, and defensive back John Stencil. Honorable mention awards went to John Agee and Mike Donovan, defensive backs; Dave Haskins, end; Tom Kafka, quarterback; and Denny Merritt, linebacker.
- 1970 -
Only eleven regulars from the bowl-winning 1969 team reported for practice in August, 1970. Juniors and seniors were Tom Kafka, quarterback; Bill Dorgan, halfback; Bob Nasby, kicker; Mike Starr, tackle; Frank Hudoba, center; Jim Anderson, guard; and John Lynch, linebacker. Several sophomores had looked promising the previous year: Jim Kruzich, defensive end; Gary Eustice, brother of Brad Eustice who starred in 1976, fullback; Tom Schirber, fullback; Steve Best, linebacker; Dave Arnold and Charles Kessler, ends. Senior Tom Kafka continued his excellent passing attack of the previous year, averaging 104.2 yards per game, 12 going for touchdowns. Sophomore Dave Arnold continued his brilliant pass receiving, snaring 36 passes, thrown mostly by Kafka, to better his performance of 1969 with a total of 536 yards or 59.5 per game. This performance caused him to rate first in the number of touchdowns and second in total scoring in the MIAC that year. It also resulted in his selection to the all-conference offensive unit, along with Frank Hudoba, center. Jim Kruzich was chosen on the all-conference defensive unit.
However, St. John's lost to Concordia and Gustavus and had to settle for second place with a 5-2 record (6-3 overall because of an unusual loss to St. Cloud State, 22-84).
- 1971 -
The Big Red had started out strong in 1971 by methodically picking apart Wartburg's offense, and posting a 49-13 win. They had the usual tilt with St. Cloud State and repaired the loss of the previous year with a 32-7 win. They then took arch-rivals St. Thomas (10-0) and Gustavus (20-10), and won the rest of the games with one exception- a loss to Duluth. Leading 21-16, the Johnnies lost the ball on Duluth's three-yard line with three minutes showing on the clock. One of the Johnnie defensive backs let a receiver get open, and our linemen, although practically smothering the Duluth quarterback, let him wriggle loose long enough to unleash a wobbly pass to his receiver, who ran unattended for a touchdown. Final score: Duluth 22, SJU 21. Friends have been warned not to remind John of that game: the memory is too excruciating. However, the Card 'n Blue ended up with a respectable 6-1 standing in the conference and a tie with Gustavus for the championship (8-1 overall). They were also ranked seventh nationally in the NAIA.
Paul Schmit, quarterback, who replaced the injured Gary Marlow, starred in the game against Duluth with his brilliant passing, and continued to do so for two more seasons. Joe Nett, Gary Eustice, Bill Dorgan, and Tom Schirber piled up a total of 1,381 net yards by rushing versus 959 for the opponents, and a total of 1,235 in passing (1,088 for opponents) and 17 touchdowns. The backfield had a good deal of help from the line and linebackers. Names that will be remembered by fellow Johnnies and by former backfield men around the conference are Kurt Wachtler, Chuck Mahoney, Nick Lynch and Greg Soukup, tackles; Steve Setzler, former Prep, middle guard; Lyle Mathiasen and Dick Humphrey, guards; Dave Arnold and Chuck Kessler, offensive ends; Jim Kruzich, Jim Brown, and Tom Dailey, defensive ends; and Bruce Hentges, Bill Haen, and Bob Bertoni, defensive backs. Seven of this crew were recipients of all-conference awards. The offensive unit included Dave Arnold, Lyle Mathiasen, and Joe Nett; on the defensive unit were Jim Kruzich (for the second time), Steve Setzler, Bruce Hentges, and Bob Bertoni. Steve Setzler was drafted by the San Francisco Forty-Niners for a defensive end position.
- 1972 -
A good sprinkling of veterans showed up for practice in August, 1972: Dave Arnold, the uncontainable pass-snatcher; Jim Kruzich, rock-like defensive end; Lyle Mathiasen and Kurt Wachtler, tackles; Steve Best, linebacker; Chuck Mahoney, offensive guard; Mike Sanders, center; Tom Daily, end; and Bill McNamara and Jim FergIe, tackles. Paul Schmit continued to hit Dave Arnold with passes but had some able decoys in the persons of Chuck Kessler and Mike Messerschmidt, who served as targets when Arnold was being doubleteamed. Marty Cella showed great speed in the backfield, producing 937 yards, while Dick Humphrey and Tom Wachlarowicz, older brother of Frank, the star basketball player, made passing by the opposition a risky undertaking. Together they intercepted ten passes for run-backs of 128 yards.
Despite the evident power of the team and its considerable experience, it lost to Gustavus (6-23) and Hamline (14-20) to end up 5-2 in the conference and 7-2 overall. This added up to second place. Seven players made all-MIAC. On the offensive unit were Marty Cella, halfback; Dave Arnold, end; Chuck Mahoney, guard; and Lyle Mathiasen, guard. The defensive unit included Jim Kruzich, end; Kurt Wachtler, tackle; and Steve Best, halfback. Jim Kruzich was also chosen on the Academic All-American Team, in competition with players from colleges and universities throughout the country.
- 1973 -
St. John's started the 1973 season with the usual victory over St. Cloud State (42-7) and then clobbered Concordia and Macalester. St. Thomas, however, after losing 13 of the preceding games to St. John's, finally turned on its tormentor by a score of 17-10. St. John's snapped back to take Hamline 14-7, but then lost the last three games to Duluth, Gustavus, and Augsburg, to end up with a 3-4 record (4-4 overall) and fifth place in the conference. St. Thomas won the title with a 6-1 record.
Schmit again excelled in hitting Todd Watson, successor to Dave Arnold, and Mike Messerschmidt, end, and Larry Novakoske, halfback. Brad Eustice continued his steady pounding of the line, while the elusive running of John Laliberte (125-pounder, brother of scatback Bill, who used to exasperate would-be tacklers by not being there when they sought to wrap their arms around him), added variety to the Johnnie attack.
Stand-outs in the line were Nick Lynch, Greg Miller, Mike Sanders, Lyle Mathiasen, and Jim FergIe. Jerry Haugen, current baseball and assistant football coach at St. John's, together with Bill Manthey, put up a formidable pass defense, and intercepted a total of 11 passes during the season (as compared with three interceptions against St. John's). One player whose contribution counted in the clutches was Horace "Bubba" Small, whose name appeared in the line-up followed by a "K" for "Kicker." Small used his toe in all departments-kickoffs, points after touchdowns, and field goals, and had both good distance and accuracy.
Although St. John's opened the 1974 season with a 46-14 rout of the University of Minnesota-Morris, in which Marty Cella ran wild and Kozlak hit Watson with passes all afternoon, the Jays dropped two games-to Duluth and Concordia-to end up with a 5-2 record in the conference, and 7-2 overall. However, this was still good enough for a tie with Concordia for first place.
The season was marked by the continuation of the brilliant ballcarrying of Marty Cella, who in 1972 had established the record for the highest season yardage up to that time (937 yards), a mark which was soon erased by Jim Roeder (986) and Tim Schmitz (964) in 1975, and again by Schmitz (still a junior in college) with a whopping 1,475 in 1976.
Cella's rushing was backed up by the brilliant passing of Mike Kozlak and the equally brilliant pass receiving of Todd Watson and Mike Messerschmidt. Kozlak established a record this year with 81 completions and a total of 1,322 yards, marks which have not been equalled or surpassed since. This, however, did not represent the highest percentage of completions (53.1), which was achieved by Paul Schmit in 1973 and surpassed by Jeff Norman in 1976 (56.4). Next highest in total yards by passing was Tom Kafka in 1970 (938), followed by Jeff Norman in 1976 (913). In helping to establish some of the records, Todd Watson established a new high of 42 pass receptions and a total of 634 yards for the season. This surpassed Dave Arnold, his coach, in number, but not in yardage (664 for Arnold versus 634 for Watson). Arnold also surpassed his understudy in total number of pass receptions during his career, 1969-72, with 118 vs. 80, and in yardage, 2,038 vs. 1,311. These Arnold marks are still unequalled. Another bit of unexpected help came from Brad Eustice who revived a skill of his high school days, and did the punting for the Jays. In the UM-Morris game, his kicks averaged 39 yards.
In the closing minutes of the last game of the season against Augsburg (won by St. John's 21-7), it was announced over the public address system that St. Olaf, which had left the Midwest Conference to return to the MIAC after a 25-year absence, had defeated Duluth 7-0, thereby throwing St. John's into a tie with Concordia for first place. St. John's had welcomed St. Olaf into the conference earlier with a 51-21 thrashing, so the Northfield school's response was an example of turning the other cheek.
Stand-outs on defense were Jerry Haugen, Peter Cheeley, and Jim Spaniol, who made passing by opposing teams a hazardous practice by snaring 23 interceptions. Others who served as massive obstructions to opposing teams were Nick Lynch, linebacker; John Herkenhoff, defensive end; Kurt Wachtler and Greg Miller, the last the present head coach of wrestling and the assistant football coach at SJU. Starring also were end Terry Sexton (son of Jim, who was a tackle on Gagliardi's first championship team in 1954, also an end), and Joe Wentzell, tackle. The names of Jim Roeder and Tim Schmitz began to appear in game write-ups, even though the former was only a sophomore transfer and the latter only a freshman. By the end of the season they had amassed 278 and 250 yards, respectively.
Another new name began to appear in the write-ups-that of Jeff Norman, who began early in the season to add points to the score by his unerring kicks for points after touchdowns and sometimes from farther out. The words "Norman Kick" began to replace that of "Small Kick."
All conference selections were Todd Watson and Mike Messerschmidt, ends; John Herkenhoff, offensive guard; Greg Miller, defensive tackle; and Nick Lynch, linebacker.
- 1975 -
With a promising though still unproven backfield (John called 1975 a rebuilding year), and Todd Watson still on hand ready to continue his phenomenal pass snatching career with throws from the new quarterback, Jeff Norman, the Jays looked hopefully for a good season. The offensive line was strong, but with some untried replacements on the defense, all of which was balanced by a strong pass defense, the prospects for 1975 were promising. Championship expectations (if any) received a rude jolt when UM-Morris, whom the Jays had flattened 46-6 in 1974, squeaked by with a score of 8-6. It should be mentioned that this team was vastly improved over that of the preceding year, and went on again to win the title of the Northern Intercollegiate Conference (NIC) and repeated in 1976.
However, the Johnnies went to work the following Monday and won all the rest of their games except for a tie with St. Olaf, which occurred in the closing minutes of that game. Another cliff-hanger was the game with Duluth. St. John's was behind until the fourth quarter, when Norman unleashed a bomb to Todd Watson, who scampered for the winning touchdown. Score: St. John's 13, Duluth 10. That game gave the team the confidence that they needed to go all the way which they did. St. John's ended up 6-0-1 in the conference, and 8-1-1 overall. All the other teams in the conference had lost at least one game, so the Johnnies improved over their tie for the championship in 1974. It was Gagliardi's tenth MIAC title in 23 years.
After getting back into the groove, the 1975 team performed like veterans, amassing a total of 3,278 yards from scrimmage, or 327.8 per game, while the defense yielded a stingy 1,381 yards and intercepted 18 passes. Jeff Norman gave a preview of what was to come in the following year when he came close to matching Jim Lehman's 1955 record of 109 points by scoring a total of 98.
A bonus to the team this year was an invitation to substitute for an opponent which failed to show up at Whitworth College, Spokane, Washington. On a muddy field the Johnnies pulled out a 7-3 victory to remain undefeated for the season.
Again this season's victories were, as in 1962 and 1963, such all-out team efforts that it is impossible to single out any particular individuals for special mention. The quality of the manpower, and Gagliardi's genius in developing it, can be gathered from the number of those who were chosen all-conference: Todd Watson, offensive end for the third time; Tim Schmitz, fullback; Jim Roeder, halfback, and John Herkenhoff, guard, for the second time; Joe Wentzell, defensive tackle, for the second time; and Jerry Haugen, defensive back.
- 1976 -
Gagliardi's strategy is to take each game, one at a time. But in concentrating on each game as it came along, he not only piloted St. John's to four straight titles, but also led them to a level of performance that won national recognition. Not only was 1976 a season of matchless football, but it also culminated in a game for the national title of NCAA Division III (colleges which do not grant athletic scholarships). The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) invited St. John's to the Alonzo Stagg Bowl game in Phenix City, Alabama, on December 4, 1976. For thrills, suspense, and clutch plays the game rivaled the memorable Camellia Bowl game of 1963. The opponent was Towson State (Maryland).
Graduation had taken a heavy toll of the championship squad of 1975. Gone were defensive backs Hank Foehrenbacher and Jerry Haugen, who were sadly missed in the title game with Towson State. Gone, too, were middle guard Terry Hartman, tackle Paul Osberg, defensive end and guard John Herkenhoff, and veteran record-breaking pass receiver Todd Watson. But able replacements were waiting in the wings or, more properly, on the bench, and they soon demonstrated their right to be counted as members of the Big Red.
As in 1975, St. John's first opponent was NIC champion UM-Morris and, as in 1975, they proved to be the toughest-at least judging from the score. The Johnnies dominated the first half with a 37-yard scoring run by Jeff Norman, a 27-yard scoring pass from Norman to Scott Edstrom, halfback, and a 47-yard field goal by Norman. Both points after touchdown attempts were blocked. But the indomitable Morris rallied in the second half to tie the score 15-15-the only blemish on the Johnnie record that season. Incidentally, Morris was also undefeated in the NIC.
St. John's next rolled over Hamline 59-28, but was severely tested in squeaking by St. Thomas 14-11 on the Tommie field. The Johnnies built up to a 14-3 lead in the first half and held on to sink the Tommies for the third straight year. It was in this game that the line, both offensive and defensive, showed its power, with the defense turning back thrusts of the Tommies time after time. Names like Dave Grovum, center; Steve Glocke, Dan Dorgan, and John Kessler, guards; John Ringle and Bob Brigham, tackles;tight end Mike Grant; Joe Wentzell, defensive tackle; Tom Young, defensive back; one-man-gang Ernie England, middle guard; Mark Griffin, linebacker; Terry Sexton, defensive end; and Terry Geraghty, defensive back; were heard time and again over the public address system and were featured in game write-ups.
The steadily improving Johnnies took Augsburg 62-12 at homecoming, using 112 players in the onslaught, and Concordia 49-0. Against the usually tough Cobbers, with Norman connecting on 9 out of 13 passes for 123 yards, and Schmitz rushing for 79 yards and one touchdown, the Johnnies piled up 270 yards on the ground and 181 through the air, for a total of 428.
The story was pretty much the same with Macalester the following Saturday. The Macs put up stiff resistance for the first quarter, but wilted under the pounding of Tim Schmitz and Brad Eustice. Total yardage of running plays netted 562 yards and a final score of 70-13. The defensive line, led by nose guard Ernie England and linebacker Mark Griffin, held the Macs to 43 yards in 39 running plays.
St. John's was now rated Number One in the NCAA's Division III and sixth in the nation by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). The contest with Gustavus the following Saturday did nothing to disturb this ranking. Against the usually tough Gusties, St. John's piled up 480 yards on the ground and 50 yards through the air versus 137 to 176 by the Gusties for a score of 44-14. Things were so well in hand by the end of the first half that Gagliardi removed Norman from the game and reserves Bill DeWitt, John Welsh, Chris Deckas, and Jerry Thygeson led the nation's number one small college team.
This 44-point score was an all-time high in the series between the two schools, dating back to 1923. Gustavus holds a 24-15-3 edge for the entire period, but the Johnnies hold an 11-10-3 edge since Gagliardi took over in 1953 and won his first championship.
St. Olaf was the last MIAC opponent, but the Johnnies did not take the ales lightly. They had tied St. John's the year before and couldn't be expected to lie down and play dead in 1976. Coach Tom Porter bewailed the loss of regulars by graduation, but his team put up stiff resistance to the Johnnie juggernaut, holding them to 200 net yards rushing, as compared with their average of 370 for the season, and 90 yards passing. St. Olaf accomplished the unusual feat of making the Johnnies punt nine times in that game. Four fumbles prevented the Johnnies from getting up steam, but they kept coming back and back and finally pushed over four touchdowns, two of them in the last quarter. Final score: St. John's 29, St. Olaf 13.
A revived scoring power was unveiled in this and the preceding two games in the form of Brad Eustice, who had been a consistent ground-gainer in 1973 and 1974, but who had been obliged to stay out of school in 1975-76. He found his former slot filled to overflowing by Tim Schmitz, but he cheerfully accepted the supporting role, and did it with such power that if it had not been for the extraordinary talent of the man ahead of him, he would have rated all-conference.
Although playing only part of the St. Olaf game because of injured ribs, Tim Schmitz re-entered the game to rip off a 51-yard touchdown run, which iced the game for the Johnnies, and raised his total yardage for the season above the 1,000 mark. His 100-yard total for the 17 carries against St. Olaf earned for him the designation by the ABC commentators as the Chevrolet Offensive Player of the Game. This Honor won for St. John's a $1,500general-fundscholarshipfor the 1977- 78 school year. An additional $7,000 in scholarship funds was awarded by Chevrolet to be divided between the two schools.
The defensive play of the Big Red in the final game was nothing short of brilliant. Despite five fumbles (four of them lost), the defensive unit limited St. Olaf to 112 net yards, 64 by rushing and 28 by passing, and gave up only one first down in the second half with 42 seconds remaining in the game.
Wiyh the record just described, it was inevitable that St. John's would receive a play-off bid. In fact, the record was so good that the team received bids from both the NAIA and NCAA. There was a bit of a hassle as to which bid to accept, since St. John's had applied for participation in the play-offs of both organizations; but in the end, Gagliardi decided to go with NCAA, even at the risk of offending the rival organization.
St. John's first opponent in the NCAA Division III play-offs was Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois, which finished second to Carroll College (Wisconsin) in the College Conference of Illinois- Wisconsin (CCIW). Like SJU, Augustana had never tasted a postseason defeat, and on top of that sported a 24-0-1 record and a 1.000 average on their home field since 1971. The pre-game statistics of senior tailback Thompson's rushing (3,759during his three-year career) and the passing of quarterback Necastro, who was leading the CCIW with 86 completions out of 170 tosses, for a season total of 1,295 yards, together with a complete supporting cast of linemen and blockers, provided sufficient evidence that St. John's would be in a for busy afternoon.
However, it really didn't turn out that way. The game was just a 46-7 romp on a beautiful, sunny November day. Behind their fast charging line, the Johnnies established four new NCAA Division III play-off marks: Quarterback Norman scored five touchdowns, surpassing the single game record of Lloyd Ball of Wittenberg in 1972; Tim Schmitz led the team with 530 yards rushing, erasing the record of 446 set by Capitol College in 1970; and the clock-like performance of the line and backfield resulted in piling up 592 yards of total offense, bettering the Randolph-Macon mark of 514 set in 1960. The Johnnies also set a new record for first downs-31, compared with Bridgeport College in 1969.
The next Johnnie victim was Buena Vista College of Storm Lake, Iowa, which had got to Round Two by slipping by Carroll College, winner of the CCIW title, by a score of 20-14. The Buena Vista game was played at St. John's in six-degree (Fahrenheit) weather, but a few degrees either way wouldn't have made much difference. While piling up a 61-0 score, Jeff Norman scored one touchdown, passed for two more, and kicked seven points after touchdowns. Several NCAA records fell as a result of this onslaught. Jeff Norman scored 47 points in two games to break the three-game play-off record by 11 points. The 61 score set a single-game high; and a two-game total of 107 points surpassed the old mark of 100 points set by Wittenberg in 1975. St. John's out-gained Buena Vista 449 to 98 yards, and 365 to 35 in rushing. Middle guard Ernie England broke up play after play of the Iowans, and the fast-charging of his teammates and the alertness of the pass defense held the pass completions of Buena Vista star quarterback Rollie Wieber to only 6 of 23 for 62 yards. St. John's was ready for the title game.
The opponent for this game was Towson State of Maryland, which had won the right to meet the Johnnies in the Alonzo Stagg Bowl in Phoenix City, Alabama, by beating C. W. Post College of New York 14-10 and St. Lawrence College 38-36. It has already been mentioned that this classic ranks with the famous Camellia Bowl game of 1963 against Prairie View College. The main difference between them is that the suspense of the 1976 game, played in the warm Alabama sunshine on December 4, was all crowded into the last half of the fourth quarter.
The Johnnies, who were enjoying the 60-degree weather, were relaxed and confident and went about their business of playing football as usual, piling up a 28-0 lead by the end of the third quarter. It looked like another Augustana or Buena Vista walk away. For the first touchdown the Jays marched 66 yards with the opening kickoff, capping it with a 32-yard run by Norman on a keeper. Early in the second quarter, Norman tossed a pass to Schmitz, who rambled 46 yards to score. Then Norman threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jim Roeder for the third touchdown, and late in the same quarter Schmitz crashed for 52 yards off tackle for the fourth touchdown. Norman kicked all the conversions and the score was SJU 28, Towson O. Everyone thought this was a re-play of the first two play-off games, and some people were already beginning to leave the stands.
But Towson had other ideas. Although the alert Johnnie defense had intercepted three Towson passes and contained them on the ground until then, the Maryland school began showing the stuff that put them in the bowl game in the first place. Their star quarterback, Dan Dullea, began filling the air with passes, and during the final 15 minutes had completed 9 of 18. He tossed a 57-yarder to the elusive Towson end Ken Snoots, which took Towson to the five-yard line. Four plays later, Mike Maloney plunged over from the one. With so Little time left in the game, this did not seem too disastrous to St. John's. It merely meant that the Johnnies had been deprived of a shut-out. However, Towson was fired up, and Dullea continued hitting Snoots with needle-threading passes.
Less than three minutes later, after completing three straight passes for 53 yards, Towson had its second touchdown. The Johnnies were still not terribly disturbed. However, despite some brilliant interceptions by Mark Hall, Jim Geraghty, and Joe Luby, as well as Ernie England's sacking of Dullea for a 17-yard loss, Dullea, aided by a pass interference call which would have been Geraghty's third interception, hit end Snoots for a 22-yard touchdown pass, with 1:03 remaining. After an on-side kick recovered by Towson's Bill Doherty, Dullea found Mike Bennett with a 5-yard pass in the end zone, and Bielski made the conversion. The score with 34 seconds remaining was SJU 28, Towson 28.
But at this point the championship quality of the Johnnie team showed through. After a penalty for spiking the ball, Towson kicked off from their own 25 and St. John's got the ball on their own 41-yard line with 25 seconds remaining. On the second play Norman unleashed a long pass to injured Jim Roeder who was streaking down the right sideline. The ball fell into his arms and he cut in, picked up interference from an out-of-position official, and got to the one-yard line with seven seconds left on the clock. After a time-out to kill the clock, Norman called for a quarterback sneak, but the players were over-anxious and he never got his hands on the ball. Ever-alert Tim Schmitz fell on the ball a couple of yards from the goal, and St. John's called time-out again with only seconds remaining.
The rest is history. As the three seconds ticked away, Normancalmly kicked a 19-yard field goal, and the scoreboard showed SJU 31, Towson 28.
The game was televised and seen by hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, in the Southeast and Midwest. St. John's has a video tape of the game and it has provided fascinating entertainment for alumni at alumni meetings and wherever football lovers gather. Further evidence of the championship quality of this team is that they played this game with a number of regulars out with injuries (and others who would have been if there had been reserves for them). Norman had suffered a shoulder separation three weeks before the game. Roeder, who had not even started because of a knee injury, came into the game when Chris Boyd, who was substituting for the injured Scott Edstrom, had to leave because of a back injury. Defensive end Terry Sexton sat out the entire game with a knee injury and tackle Joe Wentzell and defensive end Tom Kost were so banged up that they practiced only once during the week before the title game.. Dan Dorgan missed the entire last quarter with an injured hip. It was fortunate that the season didn't last any longer!
The team spirit which characterized the 1976 Johnnie crew is illustrated by a news story told by Bob Schabert, the St. Cloud Daily Times sportswriter who was mingling with the players and crowd of well-wishers on the field after the game, looking for human interest stories. One of the sportswriters got to Norman after he had finished signing autographs for Phenix kids, and asked him whether he would like to be remembered as the quarterback who threw the long pass that put SJU on the one-yard line, or as the place-kicker who split the uprights with the winning field goal in the last three seconds. Those who know Norman could have guessed the answer: "Actually, I just want to be remembered as part of the team that won the national championship.”
Jeff Norman, who was voted the game's most valuable player, accounted for three touchdowns. He ran 32 yards for one, passed to fullback Tim Schmitz for the second, and to Jim Roeder for the third. Schmitz ran 52 yards for another touchdown and was the game's leading rusher, with 153 yards in 30 carries. Brad Eustice, back-up for Schmitz, came up with 103 yards in 12 carries. Norman made 137 yards through the air on four completions out of 12 attempts, but two of these four were for touchdowns.
The superb coaching and field performance brought nation-wide recognition to the coach and to the team. Gagliardi was named NCAA Division III Coach of the Year, and gave the principal address at an awards dinner in Miami in January. He was also invited to address the Gridiron Club in Washington, D.C., and to receive an award for the second time (1965 was the first). In addition to the Division III championship trophy presented to the team and the school, Norman was designated the Chevrolet Offensive Player of the Year and won a $1,500 scholarship for St. John's students.
The championship quality of the team was also given recognition at home. Eight players were named to the all-MIAC team: Joe Wentzell, defensive tackle; Terry Sexton, defensive end; Jim Roeder, halfback; Ernie England, though only a freshman, middle guard; Joe Luby, defensive halfback; Dave Grovum, center; Jeff Norman, quarterback; and Tim Schmitz, fullback. Jeff Norman was named the most valuable player in the MIAC at the St. Paul Pioneer Press-Dispatch annual college football awards dinner. Anything that could happen after a year like this would be anticlimactic.
- 1977 -
The 1977 season could be described as bitter-sweet. It was sweet to take a fourth MIAC championship in a row, and be chosen twice in succession to participate in the NCAA play-offs. That would normally be the fulfillment of a coach's wildest dreams. But with the powerhouse of 1976 returned pretty much intact, and memories of the methodical way in which the Johnnies dispatched all conference rivals, there was general expectation that they would go all the way to the top as they did in '76.
The 1977 team performed as expected. With the exception of a 16-3 setback at the hands of pesky UM-Morris in the opener, which the Johnnies think might have been a different story if the game were played after they had more than their ten or twelve days of practice behind them, they rolled over all conference opponents in convincing fashion.
Not only were the scores convincing, but the comparative yardage provided definite proof of superiority as well. Following is a summary of the season in scores and yardage:
56 Hamline 7
25 St. Thomas 20
49 Augsburg 9
31 Concordia 0
70 Macalester 0
28 Gustavus 18
21 St. Olaf 7
561 vs. 205
363 vs. 243
500 vs. 200
389 vs. 96
630 vs. 57* (over 100 Johnnies used in this game)
335 vs. 202
334 vs. 196
This record again merited an invitation to take part in the NCAA play-offs. St. John's was matched in its first game against Wabash, a small school in Indiana with about 800 male students, and an 8-1 season record. The winner of this game was to meet UM-Morris, the NIC champion, which was matched against Albion, Michigan. There was hope that both Minnesota teams would win and settle things by a late season game. But this was not to be.
St. John's met Wabash on the home field on a cold, snow stormy day. The game looked like the usual post-season contest for the Johnnies when Tim Schmitz seized the ball and ran for a touchdown on the first play of the game. However, Wabash came back with a terrific passing attack, and the game ended: SJU 9, Wabash 20. .The Johnnies had several bad breaks. Two touchdowns were called back, one on a very questionable clipping call. Their worst break was an off-side penalty on the one-yard line with four downs in which to score a touchdown.
Wabash went on to beat UM-Morris, but was itself defeated by its next opponent.
On December 8, 1977, Tim Schmitz, senior fullback on the 1977 team, was named to the Associated Press Little All-American football team and senior quarterback Jeff Norman received an honorable mention award to the third team. The honors showered on Little All- American and Most Valuable Player of the MIAC fittingly terminated the spectacular career of one of St. John's greatest football players. During his four years as a member of the St. John's team he rushed a total of almost 4,000 yards, averaging over 1,000 yards per season in his last three years. He averaged 315 yards per game in his senior year and helped St. John's be the top offensive team in the NCAA Division III in two consecutive years, 1976 and 1977. Honored with Schmitz with the all-conference award were Ernie England and Tom Kost, linemen, and Joe Luby, backfield on the defensive unit. On the offensive unit were Tim Schmitz, fullback, Jeff Norman, quarterback, Mike Grant, end, and linemen John Ringle and Steve Glocke. As we go to press everyone is wondering what Gagliardi, stripped of the stars he developed, will come up with in 1978.