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Today's Tidbit... 100 Years of Football: 1927-1930
This is the tenth in a series looking back at “100 Years of Football,” syndicated cartoons published by Jerry Brondfield and Charles Beck in 1969. Today's version covers the period from 1927-1930.
Yale’s Pudge Heffelfinger was football’s first legendary player who combined size and athleticism; Bronko Nagurski was the second. Standing 6 feet 2 inches and weighing 220 pounds, he was massive compared to others of his day. (The average WWII GI was 5’ 8” and 144 lbs.) At Minnesota and later in the NFL, he played fullback and tackle, dominating both positions.
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The Twenties were the Golden Age of Sports, and a series of running backs followed Red Grange’s lead to capture the nation’s attention, but there was an underside to college athletics that was out-of-step with the amateur ideal times. The 1929 Carnegie reports chronicled a lengthy investigation, leaving many pointing fingers. ”Subsidies” at Iowa led to the Hawkeyes being booted from the conference for he 1929 season.
Rules changes of the 1920s included eliminating the puntout, changing to a free kick, and then to a contested kick, run, or pass. Clipping became illegal, passing was restricted by penalizing the second incompletion in a series of downs, and team over individual play was emphasized by moving the goal posts to the end line to reduce the number of field goals.
Knute Rockne’s boy won one for the Gipper during a tough season in 1928, but the Irish rebounded to go undefeated and win national championships in 1929 and 1930. Looking to encourage rugby-style passing, the rule-makers eliminated the ability of defenses to advance recovered fumbles in 1929. This lateral passing approach would become football’s first option offense in 1941.
The 1929 Rose Bowl witnessed a great turnaround when Cal’s Roy Riegel’s grabbed a fumble and ran the wrong way, ultimately resulting in a safety that proved the difference in the game. (They enacted the rule banning the defense from advancing the ball the following season.) Despite Riegel’s error, he was voted captain the next year.
The Notre Dame teams of 1929 and 1930 were littered with stars in the backfield and line. Frank Carideo was another in the long line of top backs who were valued for their kicking as much as their running ability. Finally, a series of rule changes culminated in a rule requiring players to stop for a full second before the snap, largely putting an end to offenses emphasizing the late shift.
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