August 20, 2013

1948: Cards Shut Out College All-Stars

The 15th annual College All-Star Game on August 20, 1948 featured the Chicago Cardinals, defending NFL Champions, against a highly-regarded group of All-Stars coached by Notre Dame’s Frank Leahy. The All-Stars had won the last two games by identical 16-0 scores and the Cardinals came into the contest as underdogs, which was certainly an oddity in the history of the series.

The Cardinals, playing in their home town, were coached by Jimmy Conzelman and known for their outstanding offensive backfield that featured QB Paul Christman, FB Pat Harder, and halfbacks Charlie Trippi (pictured above) and Elmer Angsman operating out of the T-formation.

The past two winning All-Star teams had utilized the T-formation but Coach Leahy made a controversial decision in deciding to split his squad into T-formation and single wing groups. There was plenty of depth for both, with four T-formation quarterbacks (most notably Bobby Layne of Texas and Notre Dame’s Johnny Lujack) and three single wing tailbacks on the roster.

There was a crowd of 101,220 in attendance at Soldier Field under a full moon for the Friday night contest. The All-Stars got the first break early in the contest when C Dick Scott of Navy recovered a fumble by Charlie Trippi in Chicago territory.  However, they were unable to move the ball as Johnny Lujack threw two incomplete passes and Charlie Conerly of Mississippi punted into the end zone for a touchback.

The Cards responded impressively by going 80 yards in 15 plays.  Only one was a pass as Chicago moved methodically down the field, with the longest gain 19 yards on a lateral from Paul Christman to Elmer Angsman. Angsman finished the series as he punched over for a touchdown from two yards out and Pat Harder added the extra point.

The All-Stars threatened in the second quarter but turned the ball over on downs at the Chicago 32 yard line. The collegians got a break shortly thereafter when HB Boris “Babe” Dimancheff fumbled and the All-Stars recovered at the Chicago 27. Shifting to the single-wing, they advanced ten yards and again came away empty.

The Cards responded with another impressive drive, going 83 yards in nine plays. Three were Christman (pictured at right) pass completions, to Angsman and ends Bill Dewell and Mal Kutner. They scored on a 14-yard run by HB Vic Schwall on a quick-opener and Harder again successfully converted.

The All-Stars recovered yet another fumble by the Cards and Michigan end Len Ford ran 55 yards for what would have been a touchdown under NFL rules. However, they were using college rules for the All-Star Game and the ball was returned to the point of recovery. The tally remained 14-0 in favor of the Cardinals at the half.

The All-Stars provided some excitement in the scoreless third quarter, putting together an 84-yard drive. Notre Dame HB Bill Gompers ran for 20 yards on a sweep and Conerly tossed a lateral to Lujack who proceeded to fire a long pass to end Dan Edwards for a 44-yard gain. Two big defensive plays by DB Marshall Goldberg kept the All-Stars out of the end zone, however, the big one a stop of FB Floyd Simmons, another Notre Dame participant, at the one foot line on fourth down.

The Cards made it a rout in the fourth quarter. First, LB Vince Banonis intercepted a pass by Illinois QB Perry Moss and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown. Then LB Bill Blackburn recovered a fumble by Bobby Layne that set up a 13-yard scoring pass from QB Ray Mallouf to Trippi four plays later. Harder kicked both extra points and that was more than enough as the Cardinals came away with a big 28-0 win.

It was the most decisive score thus far in the history of the series. Passing yardage was practically even (133 to 132 yards, in favor of Chicago) but the Cardinals had 200 rushing yards, almost twice the total amassed by the collegians. The Cards fumbled the ball away three times, all in the first half. However, they only punted three times and the defense did a fine job of keeping the All-Star attack in check.

The win for the defending NFL champs was the eighth thus far, with the All-Stars having won five and two ending in ties. Center Jay Rhodemyre of Kentucky was voted the most valuable player by his All-Star teammates.

Chicago went on to have another outstanding season, topping the Western Division with an 11-1 record. However, they lost the NFL Championship game to the Philadelphia Eagles in blizzard conditions.