Season of The Giant Killers – The Prelude
Coach Dee Andros - one of the most beloved figures in Oregon State history.
Before the almost biblical stretch of 28 straight losing seasons, a period that tested the faith of even the most hardy and resolute Beaver fans, there was an era of pride and triumph for Oregon State Football. Before the subsequent deliverance brought about by Mike Riley and Dennis Erickson, culminating in the glorious demolition of Notre Dame at the 2000 Fiesta Bowl, there were legendary seasons of glory and renown for the orange-clad ‘Men of Iron’ at Oregon State University.
During these golden years, some of the finest Beaver squads in school history earned postseason honors, including trips to the Rose Bowl in 1942, ’57, and ’65, the Liberty Bowl in 1962, and the Pineapple Bowl in 1940 and ’49; as well as Conference Championships in 1941, ’56, ’57, and ’64, and finishes in the Top-10 of the AP poll in 1956, ’64, and ’67.
Many of the greatest figures in Oregon State football history made their mark during these decades. Coaches like Lon Stiner, Tommy Prothro, and Dee Andros are names unlikely to ever be forgotten by the Beaver Faithful. Among the great players of this era were 1962 Heisman Trophy winner and Player of the Year Terry Baker, as well as All-Americans Bill Gray (1946), John Witte (’56), Ted Bates (’58), Vern Burke (’63), Jack O’Billovich (’64), Jon Sandstrom (’67), Jess Lewis (’67), John Didion (’68), and Bill Enyart (’68).
Yet, of all these successful seasons, of all these great coaches, and of all these remarkable football players, one season and one team stands tall above the rest…
The Giant Killers
In 1966, Coach Demothenees (Dee) M. Andros had just completed his second season as head coach of the Oregon State Football Team. It had been an excellent season. The Beavers had finished a very respectable 7-3, 3-1 in the PAC (see writer’s note below), a big improvement over the 5-5 record from Coach Andros’ first year at OSU. The popular coach, affectionately known as “The Great Pumpkin”, had every reason to believe the upward trend would continue. As with all seasons, a number of stars and veterans had been lost to graduation, but there were enough returning starters and enough young talent to convince Coach Andros he had the makings of a special team.
As true then as it is today, success in the PAC often depends on a skilled and experienced quarterback. Unfortunately for Coach Andros, the starting quarterback from ‘66, Paul Brothers, had been lost to graduation. Replacing Brothers was a relatively untested junior from Idaho by the name of Steve Preece. Two years before, Preece was Coach Andros’ top recruiting target, prompting the rotund coach to send one of his assistant coaches for an in-home visit with the orders, “Don’t come back without him.” Preece was a speed-demon, having recorded a time of 10.0 in the 100-yard dash. With a good arm and natural leadership skills, Preece was the ideal athlete for Coach Andros’ option attack.
Joining Preece in the backfield were wingbacks Don Summers and Jerry Belcher, halfback Billy Main, and fullback Bill “Earthquake” Enyart. Summers and Belcher shared time at wingback. Main was the big play threat. “We knew that Billy Main was as good as anybody”, remembered Coach Andros. “He was my speed.” Enyart was replacing departing senior and two-time 1,000 yard rusher Pete Pifer. Even though Enyart had been recruited as a fullback, he was too talented to keep off of the field, so he had spent the early portions of his OSU career at linebacker.
The offensive line was manned by an experienced group of big men. At tackle were Bob Jeremiah and Roger Stalick, at guard were Dave Marlette and Clyde Smith, and at center was one of the all-time great Beavers in John Didion. Despite being part of an option offense, Roger Cantlon and Gary Houser were among the most talented receivers in the conference.
The defense was less of a concern, and as Coach Andros put it, “We knew we had a good defensive team.” The defensive formations would look very strange to most of today’s younger football fans. The Beaver defense generally employed a 5-3 formation (five linemen and three linebackers), and less frequently a 6-2 formation (six linemen and two linebackers). The defensive backfield was covered by two backs and a safety.
On the defensive line were Harry Gunner, Mike Leep, Jess Lewis, Jon Sandstrom, Ron Boley, Mike Foote, and Bill Nelson. This group comprised one of the strongest and most stalwart units in the country - especially against the run - but it wouldn’t be until the season was nearly over that most observers would recognize their talents.
The linebackers were Mike Groff, Skip Vanderbundt, and Rich LaSalle. Vanderbundt would go on to a 10-year career with the 49ers, but he was a relative unknown in 1967. Covering in the secondary were backs Don Welch, Don Whitney, and Charlie Olds, and Safety Mark Waletich. Said Coach Andros, “Waletich was as good a safety as I’ve ever had.”
The Coaching Staff:
The coaching staff was young, but among the best in the conference. As Coach Andros reminisced during our recent interview, “You don’t win just being a head coach, you win with your staff and your players. I’m smart enough to know that.” Many of the coaches from his ’67 coaching staff would go on to enjoy very successful coaching careers.
Sam Boghosian was the Offensive Line Coach, and went on to a long and successful career as a NFL assistant, including stops with the Raiders, Seahawks, and Oilers. 1967 was Bob Herndon’s first year at OSU, but Coach Andros had coached him at Oklahoma and coached with him at Cal and Illinois, and had enough confidence in his ability to put him in charge of the Offensive Backfield.
Rich Brooks is generally remembered as a thorn in the Beavers’ side during his long tenure as Head Coach for the Ducks, but before his defection to the dark side, Brooks was the Defensive Line Coach at OSU. A young Ed Knecht handled the Defensive Ends and Linebackers, and Bud Riley, who became a Head Coach for a number of years in the CFL, handled duties in the Defensive Backfield. Interestingly, Bud Riley is the father of former Beaver Head Coach Mike Riley.
Next up: Week 1 – The Stanford Indians
For the sake of simplicity and to avoid confusion, the conference in which Oregon State competes will be referred to as “PAC” throughout all of the articles in this series. In actuality, the conference is correctly referred to as the AAWU - Athletic Association of Western Universities. Pre-1959, Oregon State was a member of the PCC – Pacific Coast Conference. In 1959, the PCC was disbanded and the AAWU was formed. In 1968, the AAWU's name was changed to Pacific-8, and after expansion in 1978, the name was changed again to Pacific-10.