Celebrating 100 Seasons Of Purdue Football At Ross-Ade Stadium Part 4
By: Kenny Thompson
The 1950s were a decade filled with amazing highs (snapping Notre Dame’s 39-game unbeaten streak in 1950, winning a share of the 1952 Big Ten title) and lows (a pair of 2-7 seasons in 1950 and 1953).
The Boilermakers transitioned from head coach Stu Holcomb to Jack Mollenkopf in 1956, beginning one of the greatest eras of football in West Lafayette. Purdue retained the Old Oaken Bucket throughout the decade, posting a 9-0-1 mark against Indiana. Holcomb and Mollenkopf’s teams combined to go 5-5 against Notre Dame.
Best Ross-Ade games of the 1950s
Nov. 22, 1952: Purdue 21, Indiana 16 – The Boilermakers squandered a 14-0 lead but rallied for a share of their fourth Big Ten title.
Quarterback Dale Samuels led a 66-yard drive in muddy conditions. Sophomore Rex Brock scored on a 24-yard run with 4:22 remaining for the game-winning touchdown.
Indiana drove to the Purdue 2 but was penalized 5 yards for calling a timeout it didn’t have with 15 seconds to play. The Boilermakers stuffed a last-second running attempt.
Purdue, though, was denied a berth in the Rose Bowl when the Big Ten athletic directors voted to send Wisconsin. The Badgers became the first Big Ten team to lose in the Rose Bowl, 7-0 to USC.
Oct. 24, 1953: Purdue 6, No. 2 Michigan State 0 – The Boilermakers snapped the Spartans’ 28-game winning streak thanks to a running back who once wore the green and white.
Dan Pobojewski began his college football career in East Lansing but was told he wasn’t good enough. On the third play of the fourth quarter, Pobojewski scored on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
“When I finally scored and rolled into the end zone, I just wanted to lie there and cry,” Pobojewski said afterward.
For the first time since 1947, a span of 59 games, Michigan State was shut out.
Sept. 25, 1954: Purdue 31, Missouri 0 – Len Dawson’s first game in a Purdue uniform was nothing short of spectacular, throwing four touchdown passes.
A holding penalty negated a fifth TD pass by the Alliance, Ohio native. Touchdown passes to Bob Springer (11 yards), Rex Brock (41 yards) and Bob Khoenle (26 yards) gave the Boilermakers a 19-0 halftime lead. Khoenle added a second TD catch in the fourth quarter.
Dawson finished 11 of 17 passing for 185 yards, five more than the total offensive output from Missouri.
“I believed everything I’d heard about Dawson, but the kid is a great passer,” Missouri coach Don Faurot said afterward.
Oct. 18, 1958: Purdue 14, No. 5 Michigan State 6 – Despite committing six turnovers, the Boilermakers prevailed behind a defense that allowed 38 net rushing yards.
A bad punt snap in the second quarter led to Michigan State’s only points. Len Wilson’s 6-yard run tied the game before halftime. Purdue went 53 yards on its first drive of the second half, culminating in Bob Jarus’ 1-yard run.
Oct. 3, 1959: Purdue 28, No. 7 Notre Dame 7 – The Boilermakers scored 21 points in the game’s first 20 minutes to earn their first victory against the Fighting Irish in Ross-Ade Stadium.
Bob Jarus capped a 10-play opening drive with a 5-yard run. The Boilermakers went 78 yards on their next drive, scoring on Ross Fichtner’s 6-yard pass to Richard Brooks early in the second quarter.
Notre Dame fumbled the ensuing kickoff at the Irish 32. Six plays later, Jarus had his second touchdown to make it 21-0. Jim Tiller tacked on a 74-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
The victory was the first of three consecutive against ranked opponents in Ross-Ade Stadium that season. Ninth-ranked Wisconsin fell 21-0 and No. 15 Iowa lost 14-7.
Top players of 1950s Ross-Ade
Dale Samuels – The Chicago native gained notoriety for his role in the 1950 upset of No. 1 Notre Dame in South Bend.
“In the middle to late ‘40s if you were a betting person you didn’t bet against Notre Dame, Joe Louis or the New York Yankees,” Samuels said in 2018 on the occasion of being inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame. “Playing in South Bend, we were decidedly the underdogs. The way the coaches told it to us, we’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose. Let’s go get ‘em.”
Samuels also quarterbacked Purdue to a share of the 1952 Big Ten Conference championship. He was the first Boilermaker to pass for 1,000 yards in a season and throw 10 touchdown passes.
Bernie Flowers – Consensus All-American end in 1952 after setting school records with 43 receptions for 603 yards and seven touchdowns.
His All-American status was likely aided by his performance in Purdue’s first nationally televised football game on Oct. 25, 1952. Flowers caught six passes for 87 yards and three touchdowns in a 40-12 victory at Illinois.
Flowers also had a sandwich created in his honor at West Lafayette’s Triple XXX restaurant. “The Bernie Flowers All-American” is a hamburger topped with Spanish lettuce, tomato, onion and mayonnaise.
Len Dawson – No Purdue quarterback has ever debuted more impressively than “the Golden Boy,” whose nickname inspired the creation of Purdue Marching Band’s “Golden Girl.”
In addition to the four touchdown passes against Missouri, Dawson followed up with four more TD passes the following week in an upset of Notre Dame in South Bend. For his career, Dawson’s teams went 7-1-1 in trophy games against Indiana, Notre Dame and Illinois.
He left Purdue holding the records for passing yards (3,325) and touchdown passes (29). Dawson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.
Lamar Lundy – The first African-American to receive a football scholarship at Purdue, Lundy was named MVP of both the Boilermaker football and basketball teams as a senior during the 1956-57 school year.
At 6-7, Lundy was an imposing figure as a pass catcher and a defensive end. He twice was named All-Big Ten. With the Los Angeles Rams, Lundy began his career as a receiver, catching six touchdown passes. But it was on defense, as a member of the “Fearsome Foursome” with Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen and Rosey Grier, that Lundy left his mark on the NFL.
Lundy even delved into acting, portraying the boulder-hunting cyclops in an episode of “Lost in Space.”
Tom Bettis – A member of Purdue’s all-time team, Bettis earned All-America honors as a guard in 1954.
He played nine seasons in the NFL and then was an assistant coach in the league for 30 years.
Leo Sugar – The eldest member of Purdue’s Den of Defensive Ends, Sugar was a consensus All-American and first-team All-Big Ten selection in 1951. He went on to play nine seasons in the NFL.
Erich Barnes – One of the most versatile athletes in Boilermaker football history, Barnes was used as a running back, end, kickoff/punt return specialist and cornerback.
His five career interceptions foreshadowed his lengthy NFL career with Chicago, New York Giants and Cleveland. Barnes was a six-time Pro Bowl selection and set the Giants team record with a 102-yard touchdown return in 1961.
Barnes also appeared as an imposter on a 1963 episode of “To Tell The Truth.”
Not since the 1987-88 season, when the Purdue Hall of Fame trio of Troy Lewis, Todd Mitchell and Everette Stephens were seniors, have the Boilermakers been ranked higher in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Purdue was ranked third on Monday, one slot below the 1987-88 Boilermakers who went on to win a second consecutive Big Ten Conference championship under Gene Keady.
Kansas was voted No. 1, while Duke had 30 more points than Purdue to be rated No. 1. Michigan State, Marquette, Connecticut, Houston, Creighton, Tennessee and Florida Atlantic rounded out the top 10.
Illinois is the only other Big Ten team in the preseason Top 25, coming in 25th.
Purdue’s loaded schedule includes guaranteed games with No. 11 Gonzaga, No. 12 Arizona and No. 24 Alabama. It’s also possible the Boilermakers could face No. 9 Tennessee, Kansas and Marquette in Maui. Purdue also travels to No. 14 Arkansas for a charity scrimmage on Oct. 28.
Purdue’s 17 straight weeks ranked in the top five is the longest streak in America and it has been ranked in at least one AP poll in nine straight years, the longest streak in school history.
– Kenny Thompson is the former sports editor for the Lafayette Journal & Cou¬rier and an award-winning journalist. He has covered Purdue athletics for many years.