I was always afraid it would come to this. Yes, it’s official now and it’s something I’ll have to confront, contemplate, and deal with (another shot of Wild Turkey, perhaps). The brain cells are fried. Kaput. Years ago, in those sporadic moments of sobriety, there was this little gremlin that kept whispering "Furnace, this abuse really isn’t going to be good for you - in the long run- you know that, don’t you?" And indeed I did. But fun is fun and who the hell cares about the long run anyway? Well Gale Sayers did (and we will get to that presently). And then, late last Saturday evening as I was contemplating the Wildcats’ perplexing performance and loss against OkieState, and that sick, sick performance by Cowboy punter Quinn Sharp, who pinned K-State inside its ten yard line on four (count em - FOUR) separate occasions, a couple of tangled and frayed synapses in the prefrontal cortex connected with each other, and I realized, it IS all about the SPECIAL TEAMS! Perhaps this isn’t a case of clinical pathological damage to the old brain cells; rather, it’s a classic case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of witnessing that frickin 3-3 tie against the damn Jayhawks in the 1966 game played at KSU’s old Memorial Stadium, and the memory confusion and conflation (between the 1964 and 1966 contests) that such traumatic events would impose on an impressionable twelve year old kid. So, follow the jump to find out what the Kansas Comet really did in that 1964 K-State v. KU game, and of course, there’s more.
Well, about Gale Sayers in the 1964 game. Because of copyright issues, I can’t post a shot of the actual new article, so I will credit the November 1, 1964 edition of the Kansas City Star, and an article written by Bill Sims. The headline was:
SAYERS FLASHES FOR KU
WITH ONE QUICK BURST, GALLOPING GALE WHEELS 77 YARDS FOR ONLY T.D. AS JAYHAWKS EDGE K-STATE 7-0, IN DEFENSIVE GEM
Now, I quote from the article:
"Gale Sayers, the Kansas Comet, streaked 77 yards for the game’s only touchdown in the third quarter yesterday as the Jayhawks edged Kansas State, 7-0, for the ninth straight time."
The TD came with 1:54 left in the third quarter. The article noted how K-State had played an inspired defensive game and that prior to Sayer’s TD run, KU had been unable to penetrate beyond the Wildcat 48.
"But, as has happened so many times in his brilliant career, Sayers was just too much to handle for a complete game. He had been held to a minus one yard on his two carries in the first half and had gained only 10 on two more assignments early in the third quarter."
"As he took the handoff from quarterback Bob Skahan and started off left tackle, Sayers came to an abrupt stop to let a defender slide past, bolted into high gear and escaped the clutches of Bill Matan and he was off down the sideline."
So, how could Furnace76 have been so wrong? After all, it was a 77 yard run (not 67, although I had one of the digits right) and rather than a punt return, it was an off tackle run, which broke wide and Sayers was off and down the sideline. And what do these facts have to do with Furnace’s present hallucinations about SPECIAL TEAMS and rationalizations and denials attached to PTSD?
Well, that same front page of the November 1, 1964, KC Star’s sport page has this little block of info:
How Top 10 Teams Fared
1. Ohio State, 6-0, beat Iowa, 21-19
2. Notre Dame, 6-0, beat Navy, 40-0
3. Alabama, 7-0, beat Mississippi State, 23-6
4. Arkansas, 7-0, beat Texas A&M 17-0
5. Nebraska, 7-0, beat Missouri, 9-0
6. Texas, 6-1, beat Southern Methodist, 7-0
7. Oregon, 6-1, lost to Stanford, 10-8
8. Georgia Tech, 7-0, beat Duke, 21-8
9. Louisiana State, 5-0-1, beat Mississippi, 11-10
10. Florida, 5-1, beat Auburn, 14-0
Notice the similarity between the usual suspects of 1964's Top Ten to today’s lineup of Top Ten teams. But more important to the issues being explored here, take a look at those scores! 10-8; 9-0; 14-0. Only one team scored more than 23 points (Notre Dame in a 40-0 beat down of Navy - those indeed were the days for the Irish). Compare those scores to the numbers Oregon, Boise St., and Auburn have been putting up in today’s version of waterbug-on-a-pond football. The point being, back then many games were won or lost because of the kicking game, and by golly, your team better have a damn good punter!
Which brings us to Doug Dusenbury, K-State’s senior punter and half back in 1964. What a name for a football player! DUSENBURY. I can still here (in some far off place in the old memory banks) the voice of Dev Nelson, K-State’s play-by-play radio announcer from 1954-1979, as he would make the call ... "and Dusenbury gets off another doooozzzzey, down to the Tiger four yard line, a 67 yard punt." Check out this link for a little background on Dev Nelson, the voice of K-State sports for 25 years:
http://www.jpnordin.com/ksu/season74/media09.htm (Parenthetical, I know, but note from that link that, even in the 1970s, an AM station in Colby, KS., could broadcast a Wildcat contest by paying $55 to the K-State network. Compare that to the broadcast fees involved in today’s sports landscape. Amazing).
Back to Dusenbury. His 1964 average of 43.38 yards still ranks 5th in the K-State record book for season average for a punter. In that 1964 game against the Jayhawks, with about nine minutes left in the 4th quarter, he got off a 3rd down quick kick which pinned the Jayhawks on their own 3 yard line, whereupon the Jayhawks ran off a time consuming 16 play drive which ended on the Wildcat seven yard line with little time on the clock, depriving K-State of any shot at tying the score. As a kid, Dusenbury was my hero. I was too light to be any good at blocking and tackling, so I concentrated on the KICKING GAME, and in 1963, as a 4th grader, I placed second in the local Pass, Punt & Kick contest sponsored nationwide by the NFL and the Ford Motor Company. I won an OFFICIAL St. Louis Cardinal football helmet - still got it in the attic somewhere! So, I think that my memory that Sayers run in 1964 was a punt return is probably some deep seated construct that he had defeated my hero, the punter Dusenbury. Yea, that’s the ticket!
Oh, the kicking game, and the connection between those 1964 and 1966 Wildcat v. Jayhawk contests. In doing research for this article, I came across the most famous (infamous?) article ever written about K-State sports. The article was entitled "FUTILITY U", and was published by Sports Illustrated on September 4, 1989 (ironically, or is it sadistically(?), the date of my 35th birthday). For those of you who have not read it, it’s a must read, and for those who have, it should be reviewed again. From that article is the following:
"The worst moment in K-State's woeful football history came on Oct. 29, 1966. The Wildcats were ahead of heavily favored Kansas 3-0 and had the ball on first down on their own 32-yard line with only 1:38 remaining in the game. A lock. Two plays gained six yards, and a delay of game penalty left the Cats with third and nine, at which point quarterback Bill Nossek fumbled. Kansas recovered on the State 30. With four seconds left, Jayhawk Thermus Butler——who had never kicked a college field goal——booted a 38-yarder to tie the game. After the season, both State coach Doug Weaver and Kansas coach Jack Mitchell were fired. Butler lives in K-State infamy."
Yes, I was at the 1966 game, too. Now, my home was on Todd Road, across the street from the Gamma Phi Beta and Pi Phi sorority houses, a mere ten blocks from old Memorial Stadium. I’m twelve years old. I think I remember shuffling home in a daze. I KNOW I remember cussing then, as I do now, the name of Bill Nossek, our QB! I mean, he fumbles on 3rd down with four seconds left! KU brings in THERMOS frickin BUTLER, who had never kicked a field goal before, and they tee it up and kick a field goal to tie the game, stretching K-State’s non-victory streak against the Jayhawks to eleven games.
So, the memory lapse regarding a 67 yard jaunt by Gale Sayers as opposed to the actual 77 yards is not that frightening to me. And my memory of that game is not so traumatic, because, after all, it was the great Kansas Comet who beat us on the play which put him in the record book as the Big 8's all time leading rusher (to that time). But the fact that I remembered his run as a punt return, rather than the off tackle play that it was, sent me searching for actual FACTS which might explain this discombobulating memory lapse. And of course, I ran across that jarring description of the 1966 game from the "Futility U" article.
Frankly, I’m lost. If I had a better health insurance plan, I’d seek a full work up by neurologists and psychologists to explore whether this is a physiological brain disorder or simply a case of PTSD. But I don’t have a good health plan. So I will have to deal with this in another way. Another drink, perhaps!