The following ix excerpted from the book, "The Terrapins, Maryland Football," by Paul Attner and tells of Maryland's last undefeated regular-season and major-bowl team.
In the nine years he has been at Maryland, Jim Tatum had talked a lot about his "feelings" pior to the start of a season.He usually figured right about a team - how many games it would win, who it would lose to, if it would go to a bowl - and by 1955, his prognostications were being taken seriously by Tatum watchers. So when he admitted during the summer that his next team could be his best yet, it created a stir. Better than 1951? Between than 1953?
"Better than any of them," Tatum said. "We have more talent and speed than any team I've coached. We could be very good." For Tatum, very good meant undefeated once again. At first glance, it seemed that he could not be serious. He had lost seven starters from his 1954 squad, including his entire first-string backfield. But Tatum had learned a lesson from his loss to Oklahoma in the in the 1954 Orange Bowl. Oklahoma had field ed two almost-equal platoons, while Maryland had experienced a dropoff from first string to second string. Tatum was determined to develop better balance in his 1954 team, and he did - so much so that many of his so-called second stringers were really the stars of the team, especially sophomore quarter-back Frank Tamburello and lineback-guard Bob Pellegrini. Most of those second stringers were back for 1955, experienced and ready to start.
Only one major problem had developed.Fullback Tom Selep, who Tatum said was his best-yet breakaway threat at the position since coming to Maryland, tore a knee cartilage in the first preseason drill and was out for the year. Tatum converted two light backs, Fred Hamilton and Phil Perlo, into fullbacks.
"I never thought that we had better personnel than the 1953 team," said Pellegrini, who was moved to center to fill the one weakness on the offensive line. "But I thought we were more together as a team. We were always pulling for each other. As one of the captains, I served as a go-between from the players to Tatum. I knew the problems. There weren't many."
Tatum had a particular obsession about the season: he wanted to beat UCLA, his second opponent. He was never one to hide his desire for revenge. He had gotten it in 1953 against Mississippi and Alabama, and now he wanted UCLA. The Bruins ultimately had cost Maryland an Orange Bowl bid in 1954, when the Terrapins logged a 7-2-1 record after a 2-2-1 start, including a 12-7 loss to UCLA in game No. 2. A bad snap from center on a punt had set up one UCLA touch-down, and a 14-yard punt in the fourth period allowed the Burins to score the winning touchdown.
In 1955 Tatum had a halfback named Ed Vereb, who had carried the ball only 17 times in 1954. By the time he and Tamburello had finished, Maryland's offense had regained most of its scoring touch.
It took a while, however, for the Terrapins to get untracked. They struck for two quick touchdowns against Missouri, a 14-yard dash by Vereb and a 23-yard pass from Tamburello to Bill Walker. But Missouri came back and scored twice in the second half, only to miss both extra points and lose, 13-12. Pellegrini, who had hurt his knee the week before in a scrimmage, played 29 minutes intercepted a pass, and made several sensational tackles. "I was mad as hell," he said. "I thought they'd operate and take away my season."
Tatum now could concentrate completely on UCLA. But he had been doing that since the spring. "We spent 20 days in the spring defending against the single wing," said Vereb. "We really overlooked Missouri. We had UCLA soi well-scouted that the coaches had discovered manerisms of each of their players that helped give plays away. Each of us were asigned a man to watch so we would know what was happening."
The game had long been a Byrd Stadium sellout, a rarity although Maryland had been winning for so long. It got so lively in campus that Tatum decided to move his team into a motel the night before the game the first time he had done so in his career. "Everyone wanted tickets or was trying to encourage us and it was just making us uptight" said Vereb. "We had to get some sleep."
It rained the day of the game, and the Maryland players thought it was a bad omen. But it turned out that the muddy field slowed down the UCLA single wing and allowed Maryland's strength to dominate the game.
The Bruins, the nation's No. 1-ranked team, unbeaten machine from 1954, suffered their first shutout in 40 games and could gain only 79 total yards in the 7-0 defeat. It was to be their only loss of the season. The single wing ground attack was held to minus 21 yards against the play of Pellegrini, 240-pound Mike Sanducky, 215-pound Al Wharton, 215-pound Ed-Heuring, 165-pound Jack Davis, 210-pound Russ Dennis, 240-pound Don Healy, and 230-pound Ed Cooke.
Maryland managed only one touchdown, a 17-yard run by Vereb around right end on a fourth-and-one play following the second-half kickoff. Tamburello checked off the original call at the line of scrimmage. He went with an option, pitching to Vereb, who followed Halmiton's crunching block into a clear path to the end zone.
UCLA threatened once, early in the second quarter. Starting from its own four passes to move the ball to the Maryland ten.
On first down, Doug Peter almost scored but was stopped a foot short. On second down, UCLA lined up differently, which Pellegrini noticed immediately. Don Shinnick, the right guard, had split out from the center. "I wasn't supposed to blitz but when I saw the gap, I took off," said Pellegrini. He went through the hole left by Shinnick's shigt, hit peters and jarred the ball loose. Gene Dyson recovered it. "They said I did," admitted Pellegrini. "They thought it would help me make all-American."
Knox, who played the second half with a slightly separated shoulder, resorted to passes most of the game. But his day was summed up better by one sequence of plays. UCLA had the ball on the Maryland 39 when the Terrapins were penalized five yards for delay. Knox lost 12 yards on a bad snap, then Davis threw him for an 18-yard loss. Davis again charged in and, with help from Wharton, tackled Knox for another 22-yard loss. UCLA would up with a fourth down-and 57 situation.
"This is the greatest Maryland team of the era," said UCLA coach Red Sanders, agreeing with Tatum. "I've said right along," said Tatum, "that we've got a powerful line and that Pellegrini is an all-American. It showed out there."
Maruland found itself ranked No. 1 again. It would play hide-and-seek with that spot for the rest of the season.
The rest of way the Terrapins were aiming for revenge game No. 2 - against all-conquering Oklahoma. Maryland wanted another Orange Bowl shot at the Sooners. It would get, it.
First, however, was the matter of winning its remaining games and giving Tatum his third unbeaten regular season in five years. Maryland downed Baylor, 20-6, as Tamburello turned passer and connected for touchdowns with Dennis and Jack Healy. Halfback Dave Nusz hit Howie Dare for a thired score. Baylor was limited to 71 yards rushing and had five passes intercepted. The Terrapins scored three of the first five times they had the ball to coast to 28-7 victory over Wake Forest. Maryland had four touchdowns fro the one-yard line and outgained Wake on the ground, 237 to 9.
North Carolina fell next, 25-7. Maryland went on long marches for its touchdowns, with Vereb scoring three times and passing to Dare for another. North Carolina could gain only 18 rushing yards against the Maryland defense, which was ranked first in the nation, although the team had slipped to No. 2 in the polls behind Michigan. Syracuse was victim No. 6, 34-13. Orangemen fullback Jim Brown picked up 74 of his team's 115 rushing yards. But Vereb gained 132 yards, scored once and passed for another and substitute fullback Perlo tallied twice. It was Maryland's 11th straight win, second only to its 1951-52 streak.
Vereb, the future dentist from Pittsburgh who weighed 185 pounds and ran with weighed 185 pounds and ran with both power and speed, broke the ACC scoring record by registering three touchdowns against South Carolina to give him 66 points for the season. He gained 113 yards and set up another score with an interception. Maryland won, 27-0, as Carolina gained only 71 yards rushing compared to the Terrapins' 249.
LSU was more of a problem the next week. Maryland was a 19-point favorite but led only 7-0 at the half on a 32-yard pass from Tamburello to Healy. The Terrapins got their other touchdown in the 13-0 win in the third period on a 53-yard drive ended by Vereb's four-yard scoring run. Four interceptions by Maryland, including one in the end zone by Perlo, kept Paul Dietzel's Tigers from scoring, but the close victory knocked Maryland from the No. 1 spot again.
A bid to the Orange Bowl followed a 25-12 triumph over Clemson. It did not come until the Tigers had delighted a home crowd by jumping ahead, 12-0. They took the opening kickoff and moved 84 yards to score and then Joel Wells went 50 yards in the second period for another touchdown. Quarterback Lynn Beightol, subbing for a sick Tamburello, brought Maryland back. He drove the Terrapins 35 yards for a Vereb touchdown before the half, then passed 18 yards to Vereb for a go-head score in the third quarter. Tamburello added an eight-yard scoring run and Beightol tossed 16 yards to Walker to give Maryland the win. Maryland limited Clemson to 22 total yards in the second half.
Maryland ended the season with a 19-0 victory over George Washingotn to finish with 15 straight wins and a share of the ACC title (with Duke) going into the Orange Bowl date with Oklahoma, now the nation's No. 1 team. Vereb scored twic, missing Shemonski's school point record of 97 by one. Beightol passed 41 yards to Dennis for another touchdown, the longest of the season for Tatum's usually more explosive split T.