Camp Randall 100: Hard Rocks Defense

The Camp Randall 100 honors a prestigious group of 100 people who shaped the first century of Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin Athletics will reveal a new honoree every day from May 24 until the Badgers’ 2017 opening game on Sept. 1 against Utah State.


Hard Rocks they call this bristling crew of heavy-handed boys;
They play with joyous savagery and wreck opponent’s poise.
They crack down halfbacks swinging wide, no fullbacks can smash through;
And passers often find themselves well-marked in black and blue.
They have won high praise on merit, they’ve earned a solid fame
By digging in and playing a savage, rugged game.

– Excerpt of the poem Ode to the Hard Rocks by Wisconsin State Journal sportswriter Monte McCormick


BY MIKE LUCAS | UWBadgers.com Senior Writer

Deral Teteak
Deral Teteak

Wisconsin State Journal sportswriter Monte McCormick was credited with coming up with the nickname “Hard Rocks” for the 1951 defensive unit that led college football in total defense (154.8 yards per game). On the average, the Badgers gave up only 66.8 yards on the ground, the second-best mark in the nation. Moreover, they allowed a scant 5.9 points.

Only one opponent scored more than seven points against the Hard Rocks and it resulted in Wisconsin’s only loss of the season, 14-10 at Illinois in the Big Ten opener. The Badgers had more first downs (20-8), more plays (77-46) and more total yardage (274-142). But while clinging to a 10-7 lead in the third quarter, they failed to convert on a first-and-goal from the 1, whereas the Illini converted on a first-and-goal from the 7 in the fourth quarter, spelling the difference.

The following week, the Badgers returned home to face an Ohio State team led by consensus All-American halfback Vic Janowicz, the 1950 Heisman Trophy winner. The Hard Rocks snuffed out Janowicz, who was held to 11 net yards on 11 carries in a 6-6 draw at Camp Randall Stadium.

The Badgers finished with a 7-1-1 record due in large part to its defense.

McCormick even went so far as to write a poem, an Ode to the Hard Rocks.

Here’s a sample:

Hard Rocks they call this bristling crew of heavy-handed boys;
They play with joyous savagery and wreck opponent’s poise.
They crack down halfbacks swinging wide, no fullbacks can smash through;
And passers often find themselves well-marked in black and blue.
They have won high praise on merit, they’ve earned a solid fame
By digging in and playing a savage, rugged game.


“I don’t think there was one truly outstanding player … on the defense. They were all damn good.”

– UW All-American Pat O’Donahue


Pat O'Donahue
Pat O’Donahue

Who was the best player on the Hard Rocks? Pat O’Donahue refused to take the bait.

The fact that he was so reluctant to single out anyone — not even Ed Withers (the first African-American athlete to earn All-America recognition at Wisconsin) or Hal Faverty (also an All-American) — accented the one-for-all, all-for-one spirit.

O’Donahue, himself, was a first team All-American in 1951.

“We were the sum of our parts,” O’Donahue emphasized. “And I can stay this in all sincerity, I don’t think there was one truly outstanding player — like an Alan Ameche (then a freshman fullback) — on the defense. They were all damn good.”

George Lanphear recruited many of the Hard Rocks for head coach Ivy Williamson.

“He (Lanphear) had a great eye for horse flesh,” said O’Donahue. “You might say Ivan designed the defense. It was physical. But there was a lot of slanting and looping, a lot of game-playing, which was unheard of in those days. And it made a big difference.”

In sum, the Hard Rocks were O’Donahue (6-foot, 190), Gene Felker (6-0, 189) or Don Voss (6-3, 185) at defensive end; Jerome Smith (5-11, 208) and Bob Leu (6-2, 220) at tackle; Bob Kennedy (5-10, 195) at nose; Faverty (6-2, 198), Deral Teteak (5-9, 185) and Roger Dornburg (5-10, 190) at linebacker; Withers (5-11, 185) and Jim Hammond (6-0, 188) at corner; and Billy Lane (5-11, 176) at safety.

Felker and Faverty, who would be selected as the team MVP, played on offense and defense. As freshmen, they had lived in Camp Randall — the stadium dormitories were closed in ’51 — with O’Donahue, Teteak and Smith. Later, they shared a State Street apartment.


“When we came here, Wisconsin was nothing and we were told that we were dummies for going there.”

– Pat O’Donahue


There was a unique esprit de corps, especially among the cheeseheads. O’Donahue was from Eau Claire, Teteak (“The Little Bull”) from Oshkosh, Withers from Madison, Hammond from Appleton, Lane from Edgerton, Leu from Ripon, Kennedy from Rhinelander and Felker and Voss from Milwaukee.

“You might say we were interwoven,” O’Donahue said of the chemistry. “We had a great nucleus. We all lived together for four years. When we came here, Wisconsin was nothing and we were told that we were dummies for going there.

“Most of us had played in a north-south high school all-star game and that’s where the crew first met. We got a little smart-alecky and sassy — we were a cocky bunch — and we all decided that we’d go to Wisconsin and bail them out.”

 

Ed Withers autographs a football for young fans at Camp Randall Stadium
Ed Withers autographs a football for young fans at Camp Randall Stadium

 

The Hard Rocks played with an attitude. That was never more evident than during a 1951 rematch with the Penn Quakers at Camp Randall Stadium. A year earlier, Penn showed little respect for the defense in crushing the Badgers, 20-0, in Philadelphia.

As the players walked sullenly out of Franklin Field, O’Donahue remembered everyone setting their sights on a payback, especially since 27 of the 38 players who saw action in Philly were returning. “We had vowed that we would get even with them,” O’Donahue said.

Embarrassing a Hard Rock can be a risky proposition. As Penn found out.

“When they came to Madison, they were not aware of what was going to happen,” O’Donahue said, “because we didn’t say much during the week. We just practiced with revenge in mind. Once the ballgame started, it was like, ‘Okay, let’s get ’em.”

So what happened? “We absolutely annihilated them,” O’Donahue said.

The Hard Rocks nearly accounted for all the points in a 16-7 victory.

In the first quarter, Penn center John Evans’ snap flew over the head of Chester Cornog and Teteak caught up with the rolling ball in the end zone for a touchdown. Quarterback John Coatta, who doubled as the placekicker, booted the extra point, making it 7-0.

O’Donahue and Smith were also in position to fall on the loose ball, but Teteak flew past them. And with good reason. It seems that Ivy Williamson had his own scoring system, whereby he would award points and other “perks” for big plays.

“Ivan would score off the film and me and Deral were running one-two in points,” O’Donahue related. “I was in front of Deral when all of a sudden I was on my stomach rolling on the ground. In the film, you could see Deral tripped me on purpose because he wanted the points.”

Williamson made a competitive bunch even more competitive.

 

Pat O'Donahue and Deral Teteak
Pat O’Donahue and Deral Teteak

 

After Teteak’s fumble recovery for a score, the Badgers later expanded their lead over Penn when Voss, subbing for the injured Felker, deflected a pass and Leu picked it out of the air and lumbered 39 yards for a touchdown. With another Coatta extra point, it was 14-0.

In the second half, O’Donahue got into the act by tackling Quakers quarterback Jerry Robinson in the end zone for a safety. Thus, the Hard Rocks had produced 14 of Wisconsin’s 16 points. And they almost had another score when Withers intercepted a pass and returned 60 yards before being tackled.

(Eight of the nine seniors on defense scored at least once during their career.)

The best defensive team in the country beat Pennsylvania all by itself, Oliver Kuechle wrote in the Milwaukee Journal. And the best defensive team, of course, is Wisconsin.

The Quakers crossed midfield just twice and rushed 44 times for a net-13 yards.

This was a savagely played game, McCormick wrote in the State Journal, that developed into a bitter feud at the finish with the officials stepping off four penalties on Wisconsin for unnecessary roughness in the last few minutes.

Unnecessary roughness? “It wasn’t a dirty ballgame, really,” O’Donahue pleaded. “But when they (the Quakers) left the field, they hadn’t even got to the locker room yet and Penn broke off relations with Wisconsin.” The schools never played again.

Penn obviously brought out the best in the Hard Rocks, who avenged their defeat from the year before. But the boys had to share the spotlight with the girls: Margie Terrill (Mineral Point), Ly Anne Fleming (Milwaukee), Sharyn Chessen (Duluth, Minnesota) and Virginia Lee Kehl (Madison).

As a group, they were the first women cheerleaders at a Wisconsin football game.

There was a lot more to cheer about, too. The Badgers ended the 1951 season with a flourish, whipping Iowa (34-7) and Minnesota (30-6). Ameche was unstoppable against the Gophers, rushing for 200 yards. More than 1,000 fans showed up at the railroad station to greet the team when it returned home.

Illinois, not Wisconsin, represented the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl on the strength of that earlier win over UW and a 5-0-1 league record. The Illini were also declared the national champion by a vote of the pollsters. But the Hard Rocks made a name for themselves and propped up the Badgers.

“It’s by far the best team I’ve ever coached,” Williamson said.

Especially on defense.

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