HOWIE FACES HORSE SATURDAY NIGHT IN PRO FOOTBALL 'NATURAL' AT STADIUM
OCTOBER 5 (Milwaukee Journal) - Howie vs. the Horse? In a natural like the NFL game between the Green Bay Packers and the Baltimore Colts at County Stadium Saturday night, this duel of fullbacks stands out above all else. Alan Ameche, the Wisconsin Horse turned Colt, vs. Howie Ferguson, the Bayou bronco, the most surprising of the most surprising Packers. In many way, the careers of these two fine, young fullbacks are in direct contrast; in others, they parallel each other's closely. Each had his detractors as the season began. Despite his record at Wisconsin - 3,345 yards (NCAA record) in 701 carries and 25 touchdowns in four years with the Badgers, Ameche was not for pro ball, many persons said, among them coaches, scouts and some qualified observers. "Not fast enough," they'd say, and Ivy Williamson, his coach at Wisconsin, would laugh, because he knew the Horse could gallop with the thoroughbreds. Or "Won't block" or "Runs too straight up" or "Wait till those big pro tackles get done with him. They'll tear him limb from limb". Williamson laughed, because he knew Ameche was a fullback. The Horse himself said little. He didn't play in the college all-star game. Weeb Ewbank, Baltimore coach, remained unconcerned. Ameche reported to the Colt camp and went to work. In the early exhibitions, he was used mostly as a decoy and a blocker. "Can't block?" Ewbank said, with a laugh. "Why, he really socks 'em. Wait till he knows our system. He'll show 'em." Meanwhile, back at the Packer camp, Lisle Blackbourn was busy preparing his Green Bay lads for the topsy-turvy season. "What the club needs most of all," he said, "is a real fullback, a guy who can go and get those two or three yards, a guy who can tear up that other line." Blackbourn smiled and said, "I've got a fullback." The exhibition season bore him out and two victories so far appear to have clinched the argument. To continue with the parallels, as the Colts and the Packers, both underdogs both times won their first two games, Ameche and Ferguson have fared very well indeed. Right now they rank one-two in ground gaining in the league, with the following records:
Game Att Yds Avg
Bears 21 194 9.2
Lions 21 153 7.3
Totals 42 347 8.3
Game Att Yds Avg
Lions 18 70 3.9
Bears 15 153 10.2
Totals 33 223 7.1
George Paskvan, former Wisconsin and
Packer fullback, was asked for a fullback's
opinion on the two the other day at the
Packer Alumni club get together in Green
Bay. "They're both great," Paskvan said,
"among the very best in pro football.
Ameche is no surprise, to me at least, but
Ferguson is. I always thought Ameche
would make it. He's much faster than he
looks. I'll tell you something else. He never
gives you much to hit. What I mean is, he keeps moving - arms, legs, knees, shoulders, hips - so the tackler has no target. Another thing. 'Ameech' is an athlete. He talks care of himself, trains, wants to play football." The conversation swung to Ferguson. "Now he really fooled me," Paskvan said. "Off 1953, or even last year when he better as a pass catcher than runner, I was far from sold on him. He is a pleasant surprise and a really good football player. No one fights for yardage harder. Apparently all he needed was experience." Ferguson, at 6 feet 2 1/2 inches, shades Ameche (6-1) in height but the Horse weighs more at 217 (program weight) to 210. Ferguson is 25 years old, Ameche only 21. Off scouting reports and conversation with courts, Ameche's blocking had drawn more raves than Ferguson's. As a pass catcher, however, Ferguson is rated by Blackbourn as "the best fullback receiver in the league." He caught 41 for 398 yards last season. Because of small hands, Ameche never amounted to anything as a pass catcher at Wisconsin and the Colts also use him in pass protection or as a decoy. Not even on little screen passes had The Horse shown any proficiency at grabbing the ball. About Ameche's speed, Jack Vainisi, Packer scout who observed the Colts' upsets of the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions, had an interesting comment. "They sprang Ameche through the line against Detroit," Vainisi said. "The secondary took out after him, Jimmy Davis, Bill Stits, Doak Walker - they're among the fastest men in the league. Ameche just pulled away from them and breezed 58 yards to score." Just about every football fan has heard of Ameche, from the time he was a widely sought after high school star at Kenosha, WI, through his career at Wisconsin, where he was perhaps the most publicized football player in the country, college or pro. In contract, hardly anyone outside of New Iberia, LA, had heard of Ferguson until he joined the Packers. He never went to college. When his all-around athletic career at New Iberia High School was over, he joined the Navy. He played four years of service football and it was while he was at San Diego Navy that a bird dog from the Los Angeles Rams spotted him. The Rams gave him a tryout in 1952. He played against the collegians in the All-Star game and did all right, but when the Rams cut their roster as the league season opened. Ferguson was released. The Rams, after all, had two fine fullbacks - Deacon Dan Towler and Tank Younger. Joe Stydahar, then Los Angeles coach, told the Packer coaching staff what a fine prospect the Louisianan was and when training camp opened the next summer, Ferguson was signed on by Green Bay as a free agent after a year away from football, as an oil field worker in the Louisiana bayou country. He hung on as second string fullback in 1953 but gained only 134 yards in 52 carries. He became first string midway in the 1954 campaign. His season total was 276 yards in 83 rushes. This fall he really arrived as a ball carrier. In Green Bay's six exhibition games, he gained 301 yards - almost as many as the rest of the Packer backs put together. When they started playing for keeps, Ferguson showed he wasn't fooling. He got even better. In Saturday night's struggle, Ameche will be wearing No. 35, same as when he plowed for the Badgers. Ferguson wears No. 37. Those will numbers to watch.
JENNINGS HITS PRO 'INVASION'
OCTOBER 5 (Milwaukee Journal) - Con Jennings, Marquette university athletic director, charged the NFL with an unwarranted "invasion" for permitting the Green Bay Packers to play the Baltimore Colts here Saturday night in direct opposition to Marquette's game with Kansas State. The Packer game in County Stadium will start at 7:30 o'clock, the Marquette game at Marquette's stadium a mile away at 8. "Our game with Kansas State was arranged three years ago," Jennings said. "Our season tickets were sold on the basis of a Saturday night game. Yet when the Colts a couple of months ago sought to have a Saturday night video broadcast back to Baltimore, Bert Bell (commissioner of the National league) approved the switch from the original Sunday date." The game was first scheduled for Sunday afternoon, October 9. "Bell certainly hasn't been fair to Marquette or Kansas State," Jennings said. "We're in a helpless position to do anything, either. Were we to reschedule our game for Saturday afternoon, we would run into the regional telecast of Wisconsin's game with Purdue. Were we to reschedule it Friday night, even if Kansas State's consent could be obtained, we would be doing the same thing to the Milwaukee high schools that the National league has done to us. Why should we be forced to dance the way Ball wants us to anyway? Our complete schedule was set long before the National league even thought of its 1955 games." The Packer game, with Alan Ameche leading the Colt charge, will probably draw about 35,000, the Marquette game about 10,000. Green Bay's game will be broadcast locally by WTMJ, Marquette's game by WEMP. Russ Bogda, president of the Packers, sent an apology to Marquette Wednesday noon.
PACKERS' ROCK, SOCK DEFENSE BEST
OCTOBER 6 (Milwaukee Sentinel) - The Titan of a defense booming in Green Bay these football days isn't the success of a wheel of fortune. A close check at this devastating platoon show most of the same faces which wore the Green and Gold last season. But what a rock-ribbed unit has matured under the Blackbourn system! It held the Lions to 17 points. It held the Bears without a touchdown, something unheard of in Packerland for 17 years. This defensive platoon made monkeys out of two though-of powers. And at the moment these rock 'em, sock 'em boys are the toughest in the league, giving up 20 points in two games. The Packer coaching staff can take a nod for its outstanding job at this stage of the game. Coach Liz Blackbourn is the coordinator, sifting and winnowing talent to the present top-notch state. Assistant Tom Hearden calls defensive plays from the press box after doing a masterful job on scouting reports. Line coach Lou Rymkus, an All-Pro tackle with the invincible Browns for four years, takes it from there. The result has produced nine veterans and three rookies who are doing the best defensive job in the league. Take a look for yourself:
ENDS - John Martinkovic and Nate Borden. The Redskins had given up on John, trading him to the Packers in 1951. And how Martinkovic has found himself with Green Bay. He's now recognized as one of the toughest customers in the business - the Bears and Lions will vouch for that. Borden was a lowly pick in the college draft - 25th. He wasn't considered big enough for a defensive end job, being 6-1, 202 pounds, despite the fact he never missed a game at Indiana. But what a whale of a defensive giant he's mushroomed into.
TACKLES - Jerry Helluin and Dave Hanner. Hanner was the fifth draft choice in 1952, became a natural in the business and emerged as a Pro Bowl choice last year. For a big brute (6-2, 250), Hanner can really maul opponents, being credited with 10 tackles against the Colts last season as the Packers held Baltimore without a touchdown. Helluin was a Cleveland castoff. But what a change becoming a Packer. Jerry's another huge one, 6-2, 265. He's the size Green Bay needs and is one hunk who will never be showed around.
MIDDLE GUARD - Bill Forester. After being tried as a defensive tackle, Forester has found himself as a middle guard. It allows him to employ his jarring tackles and he has been good for timely interceptions at the most opportune moments. Here is a third draft choice who is really panning out.
LINEBACKERS - Deral Teteak and Roger Zatkoff. Despite his small stature, 5-10, the "Little Bull" is a terror on defense. His tackling for keeps speaks his brute strength. Zatkoff is the Packers' flying young tackler. Perhaps the most vicious performer in pro ball Roger loves to lower the boom on a runner. He was named All-Pro last season in recognition for his tremendous ability.
CORNERBACKERS - Doyle Nix and Billy Bookout. Here are two rookies really coming through. Nix was an 18th choice from SMU and Bookout was signed as a free agent from Austin. Both showed their worth against the Lions and Bears, possessing speed and deception, and are demons against passes.
SAFETY - Val Joe Walker and Bobby Dillon. Walker, obtained from the Giants in 1953, and Dillon, the Packers' third choice in 1952, have performed second to none, patrolling the outer spaces. Dillon was All-Pro last season and Walker was given honorable mention.
This is the backbone of a defense which has been instrumental in the Packers' sensational start. Saturday night at the Stadium it will have to be to corral The Horse and maul Shaw. The Baltimore Colts boast quite a defensive unit of their own. The time has come for the showdown.