August 25, 2015

1943: College All-Stars Thrash Redskins in Game at Northwestern

The tenth College All-Star Game was held on August 25, 1943 and was the first to be played at a venue other than Soldier Field in Chicago. The Wednesday night contest was held instead in nearby Evanston at Dyche Stadium of Northwestern University with 48,471 fans in attendance.

The NFL Champions, the Washington Redskins, were heavy favorites coming into the game. They had a new head coach in Dutch Bergman but capable returning veterans in tailback Sammy Baugh, HB Wilbur Moore, FB Bob Seymour, end Bob Masterson, and tackle Willie Wilkin.

Harry Stuhldreher, former member of Notre Dame’s “Four Horsemen” backfield and now head coach at Wisconsin, coached the All-Stars and prepared them well, running a simple but effective offense. The team was chosen by coaches rather than a nationwide newspaper poll, as in past years, and included future pro stars in Indiana end Pete Pihos, tackle Al Wistert of Michigan, Stanford center Vic Lindskog, Northwestern tailback Otto Graham, HB Charley Trippi of Georgia, and FB Pat Harder from Wisconsin (pictured above).

There was a heavy rain as the game started and it was hot and muggy for the remainder of the contest, which seemed to wear the Redskins down more than the collegians. The Redskins had first possession and drove from their 35 to the All-Star 38 in seven plays before being stopped and coming up empty.

The next Washington series ended with a punt by Sammy Baugh from his own 21 and HB Bob Steuber from Missouri picked up the bouncing ball and returned it 50 yards behind outstanding blocking for the first touchdown of the game. Pat Harder added the extra point.

The All-Stars got another break when Bob Seymour fumbled and Al Wistert recovered at the Washington 48. But after advancing 20 yards in four plays, highlighted by an Otto Graham pass to Pete Pihos for 12 yards, Harder fumbled and end Bob Masterson recovered for the Redskins to end the threat.

Washington then put together a 70-yard drive that stretched into the second quarter. Baugh completed two passes for first downs along the way and ended the series with a touchdown pass to end Joe Aguirre that covered six yards. Masterson kicked the extra point to tie the score. It would prove to be the high point for the pro champs.

Late in the second quarter, the All-Stars scored again. A penalty on a Washington punt gave the collegians good starting field position at their 42 and, with Tulsa’s passing tailback Glenn Dobbs now in the game, they went to the air. Dobbs was sacked on first down but completed five passes, including one to Washington State back Bob Kennedy for 19 yards and another to Harder for 14. The last was also to Harder, a short toss that ended up covering 36 yards for a TD. Harder again added the point after and the All-Stars took a 14-7 lead into halftime.

In the third quarter, the Redskins advanced to the All-Star 17, but a second down pass intended for Bob Seymour in the end zone was instead intercepted by Otto Graham (pictured at left), who made a spectacular play with a 97-yard interception return for another touchdown. Harder failed to add the PAT, but the rejuvenated All-Stars were ahead by 20-7.

Washington would never seriously threaten again.  In the fourth quarter, Harder scored a second TD on a 30-yard run to put the game away. Graham kicked the extra point and the All-Stars won in convincing fashion by a final score of 27-7.

Washington had the edge in total yards (325 to 212), with 273 of that total coming through the air, and first downs (16 to 9). However, the Redskins turned the ball over five times, three of them by interception, to two suffered by the collegians.

Pat Harder led the All-Stars in rushing with 53 yards on 12 carries and scored two touchdowns, and also played well at linebacker on defense. Sammy Baugh completed 21 of 41 passes for Washington.

It was the first win for the All-Stars since 1938, also over the Redskins, and the third since the series began in 1934 (there had been two ties). Washington went on to top the Eastern Division for the third time in four years but lost the NFL Championship game to the Bears.

Pat Harder and Otto Graham both appeared in the 1946 College All-Star Game (during World War II restrictions on participation were lifted, which allowed underclassmen to appear, and several players played in multiple games). They moved on to successful pro careers, and both would return to the College All-Star Game as members of NFL Championship clubs (Harder with the Cardinals and Lions, Graham with the Browns). Graham would later coach the All-Stars for ten games of the series that lasted until 1976, two of which they won.