THE offense are seen advancing from left to right. The line has through a superior charge obtained a distinct advantage over their opponents and formed a pocket into which the runner is darting. One of the defense (1) threatens to spoil the play but as the runner is moving fast it is doubtful if he is stopped by this player, especially as he is tackling high.
Certain of the line and backfield may be seen as interferers on the second line of defense, and the offensive player on the extreme right is going ahead on the third line, the shadow of which is here represented.
Had the spectator been watching the runner only, he would have failed to see the complete development of this play.
Harvard vs. Centre College 1920.
Note: In all pictures the team having possession of the ball will be mentioned first.
When once in your seat note the position of the score board so that when the game begins you can readily ascertain what down it is and how much distance must be gained; then, when the teams come on the field for preliminary practice, pick out the noted players by comparing the numbers they wear with your program. Watch the style and performance of the various punters and, when the elevens line up for signal practice note the offensive arrangement of the two elevens.
While the teams are warming up, it is interesting to consider that those players out there, although they look like gladiators in their football togs, are mere boys from eighteen to twenty-two years old. They have been through weeks of steady practice under the direction of expert coaches, sometimes hard taskmasters, gruelling drills in fair and foul weather, and long scrimmages which have tested the temper and calibre of each man. They have kept strict training. They have been told what to eat and what not to eat, smoking has been forbidden and regular hours insisted upon. In short, they are in as perfect physical and mental condition as careful supervision ami common sense can insure.
The mental attitude is of extreme importance. Many hours have been spent by the coaches on the psychology of the game and in getting the boys into the frame of mind that knows no fear, in instilling the spirit of fight, clean, manly fight, without which no big game is ever won, and in giving them confidence in their own ability, yet stopping short of the point of overconfidence, always a very difficult thing to do.
It also should be remembered that those boys know something more than how to kick a ball and run with it. They have been chosen for their brains as well as for their brawn. It is obvious that they know their own plays and can execute them like clockwork; but it is not always appreciated that for many weeks before the big game, those men, besides perfecting their own play, have to learn and absorb the style of play of their opponents. That knowledge, of course, is brought to the coaching staff by those who have seen the opponents in action, and it is imparted to the players by means of blackboard talks with elaborate diagrams, and, frequently, in the larger colleges, for a week or two before the big games, the second team is schooled in the style of play to be used by the opponents and is sent against the varsity in practice games every afternoon.
When the brief preliminary practice is fin-ished both teams usually withdraw from the field until within a few minutes of the scheduled time of play, while the cheering sections have their turn, followed by a general settling down in anticipation of the game. Look about you in this interim. Behold the serried tiers of humanity, every seat occupied by an intensely partisan spectator. Observe the color effect of flags, ladies' hats and the flowers worn by both men and women slightly dimmed by a film of smoke from thousands of cigars and cigarettes. It is a most impressive spectacle.
As the time aproaches "zero" hour, there are a few minutes of awesome hush which spreads rapidly over the amphitheatre and one can feel one's nerves beginning to tingle in anticipation of the appearance of the teams. Of a sudden there is a slight stir about the portal where the players are to make their entry. Those nearby crane forward. The police push aside the crowd and, like lions loosed, one team - forty strong - bounds into the arena. On the instant pandemonium breaks loose. In the midst of and above the tumult an organized cheer - the best of the whole afternoon, one that rakes the spine and vibrates in every nerve-center - is given for the heroes.
Few spectators realize what a tremendous inspiration this is to the players. Many people think that cheers are only stage-play. They are not; in fact, well-conducted cheers at the proper time are indispensable to the morale of the players.
A moment after the entrance of the first team a like scene is enacted on the opposite side of the field, and after the respective captains have shaken hands in midfield and the referee tossed a coin for choice of goal, the two teams rush onto the field and take position for the opening play.
Before the game actually begins, however, it may be helpful to describe briefly some of the principles upon which football is based and some of the fine points - sometimes termed "inside stuff" - not readily understood by the average spectator. Note that I say "average" and the term is used advisedly, for it includes men who have not made a study of the game and an ever-increasing number of women who witness football contests in blissful ignorance not only of the higher technique, but even of the simplest rudiments. To them I trust these points will not only be enlightening but will add zest to their interest. I should mention that this section contains only a brief description. The full subject with reference to its history and present status, the offense and defense, and the mental, moral, physical and medical aspects of the sport, will be discussed later.
I warn you that parts of this chapter may appear to be frightfully serious and complex, but we are dealing with a game properly described by these adjectives and if you really want to enjoy the game you had best make up your mind that certain principles must be clearly understood and a great many A B C's digested before you really "know what the game is all about" and before you can recognize good play from bad.
So let us start our lesson with the following explanation. The team in possession of the ball is termed the "Offense" and the side not in possession of it the "Defense." These expressions will be used throughout to designate the team referred to.
The tactics employed by the offense to advance the ball are known as the attack, which is made by means of (1) Rushing, (2) Forward Passing, (3) Kicking and (4) by Deception, or by a combination of any two of the above. These salient arms of attack are subdivided as follows:
1. The Rush, into: a. Plunges, which comprise all plays of a straight-ahead nature, the great majority of which are directed at or between the two guards on the defense and usually executed by the heaviest player in the offensive backfield. Plays of this class should gain a short distance consistently.
6. Slants, those plays which are directed on either side of the defensive tackles, the majority of which should gain a greater distance, but not so consistently as plunges. Small losses occur at times.