By Jim O’Leary
Foghorn Sports Writer
Note from the Sports Editor: This story originally ran in our Sept. 27, 1968 issue, 50 years ago. To complement our piece about revenue games, we have decided to remind our readership of a time when the Dons had a football program, which lasted until 1982. We have retained the original formatting to maintain the story’s original voice.
The University of San Francisco’s undefeated and unscored upon Dons return to the wars Saturday afternoon still looking for their first victory of the 1968 campaign. USF hosts the surprisingly powerful Rebels of Nevada Southern University in tomorrow’s 1:30 encounter on Ulrich Field.
In last week’s season opener, an inconsistent offense, wasting a gutty, aggressive effort by the defensive unit, forced the Dons to settle for a 0-0 draw with Oregon Tech. Having acquired some experience, the Don offense should now be far more formidable. The defense, coming off a great performance, showed signs of being one of the strongest units on the Hilltop in years.
Nevada Southern, USF’s second of three straight out-of-state foes, should be another test of the quality of the ’68 Hilltoppers. The Rebels, in their first-ever football campaign, come into the contest with a perfect two win record. In their opener two weeks ago, they nipped St. Mary’s 27-20, although at one point they led 27-0. Their latest victory was a 29-8 pasting of Azusa-Pacific last week. In both games NSU combined a powerful running attack with an effective passing game to roll up almost 1000 yards in total offense.
Freshman running back, Larry Hodges, a hard-running 160-pounder, has carried the ball for 259 yards on 44 attempts for a neat 5.9 average — not bad for his first two college games. Bull-like fullback George Saphire has also played like a gem in the two games. He has carried for over a 6-yard average. The stocky Saphire at 5-10, 215, is the heaviest man on the relatively light Rebel offensive unit.
Through the air, Bill Casey to end Nathanial Hawkins or flanker George Hedrick have been the most effective combinations. Overall, Casey has hit his receivers on fifty-nine percent of his passing attempts for 431 yards and four TD’s. Hawkins and Hendrick have each outmaneuvered the defense for eight receptions; Hawkins, for 109 yards, Hedrick, for 90. On the scoring end of two of Casey’s passes has been back, Steve Buzick.
Buzick also handles the NSU place-kicking and has accumulated a total of 20 of South- ern’s 56 points. The punting is done by quarterback Casey. Thus far, he has averaged over 38-yards on six kicks.
The Dons will once again face a tough defensive unit. Coach Bill Ireland recruited heavily to mold a very fine, talented squad. Although lighter (200 pound average) than massive (223 pound average) Oregon Tech, Nevada Southern is quicker and more experienced. The front line of Mack Gilchrist (206), Bernie Carter (191), Layton Duer (205), Tommy Rowland (205) and Frank Provensal (190) have thrown the opposing quarterbacks for almost 100 yards in losses while attempting to pass. Last week they combined with their swift set of linebackers to hold Azusa-Pacific to minus yardage on the ground.
USF’s offense that moved for 332 yards against Oregon Tech, but still failed to tally, will again face an uphill battle. Facing a smaller defensive unit, the Don line should provide the backs with more running room that last week. However, Brad Pappalardo, who gained over 50 yards rushing last week (despite having a 30 yard run called back) and whose 75 yard touchdown reception was nullified by a penalty, will sit out this week’s game. The junior halfback re-aggravated a muscle pull and will not suit up for at least two games.
Another sparkling effort by the Defense will be required to hold down this potent Rebel offensive unit. For the game the Hilltoppers will be without the services of veteran cornerback Al Lopez. Lopez, who played almost the whole game with a dislocated shoulder, will be ready for next week’s game. However, Jim Klaczak, who was forced to leave the game Saturday with a knee injury, will return to middle guard for tomorrow’s game.
Against Nevada Southern tomorrow, the Dons hope to do only two things different than in their opener. One is to score, the second is to win. Despite a few key mistakes, the Hilltoppers played so well and showed so much potential that neither goal should be denied again.
The 68’ Dons went on to lose this game 23-7. Four months later, the Regents of Nevada Southern voted to change their name to the UNLV Rebels. The Football Dons’ program is 136-196-20 all time.
Jim O’Leary, the writer of this story, went on to graduate with a B.S. in Business Administration from USF and earned an M.B.A. from St. Mary’s. He accrued over 30 years of experience in the municipal financial sector. He was an adjunct professor at USF and worked for Regional Government Services, which works with municipalities in California to provide administrative staffing services.