On his third try he did no better, and up in the press box aan said, "Army'll beat this team." Just then Bellino took the ball again. He shot through a gap near the middle of Army's line, veered to the left on a long slant through the secondary, and raced 58 yards before George Kirschenbauer hauled him down on the Army 42-yard line. Navy was off and rolling in the 61st engagement of its Seventy Years' War with the football paladins of West Point.
That first daring dash by the swift and stumpy marauder from the Severn didn't lead directly to a score, but in one stroke it changed the complexion of the struggle from Gray to Navy Blue. Taking the opening kickoff, Navy was smashed flat by the same clamoring Cadets who had smeared the dangerous runners of Syracuse and Pitt earlier this season. Then a punt by Army's Paul Stanley pinned the Sailors down a yard from their own goal line.
There was Navy staring glumly down the throat of a howitzer, and then Bellino busted loose. Before the first quarter was over, Navy was in front, 6-0. At intermission the score was 17-0, and 98,616 witnesses had a premonition that this might degenerate into another rabbit-hunt like Navy's 43-12 gambol last year.
Early Errors Nobody could foresee the heroics which the second half would produce, the wild excursions and alarums, the mounting tension as Army came clawing back in a frantic struggle against the stubborn foe on the field and the coldly impartial clock hung up against a bright blue sky.
At halftime it seemed a shabby show, in spite of the mildest, loveliest weather this production had enjoyed in years, in spite of all the elegant trappings of traditional pageantry, in spite of the exciting presence of the admirable Bellino.
Army had messed it up early through mental and mechanical error. After the Cadets smothered Navy's first action and forced a punt, Joe Blackgrove unwisely tried to field the bouncing kick with his back to an advancing horde. Smashed from behind, he fumbled away Army's first chance to attack.
Stanley's fine punt, repaired that damage, and after Bellino's long run took the ball into Army territory, the military braced and Navy tried a fourth-down field goal which Greg Mather missed. So it was still a scoreless game, but on the very next play Al Rushatz, the West Point fullback, fumbled the ball back to Navy, Needing 23 yards for a touchdown, Navy got 'em fast, Bellino slanting over for the last four wearing Kirschenbauer like a stole across his shoulders.
Up off the Rug
THERE never was another one-piece play like Bellino's big run, but in the second quarter he was a constant menace, butting the middle for short yardage and slipping outside the tackles to wriggle like a brook trout through congested traffic. With Joe running and Hal Spooner passing handsomely, Navy pushed down into scoring range again and Mather made the score 9-0 with a 26-yard field goal.
As the first half sifted away, the Midshipmen put on still another foray, once more with Spooner passing and Bellino carrying. With 17 seconds remaining, the quarterback threw to Jim Luper, who fell across the goal line with Bill Sipos hanging on. Trapped trying to pass for two extra points, Bellino flipped the ball back to Spooner, who ran for the 16th and 17th points.
Navy seemed In complete control. The Army attack, such as it had been, offered little to cheer the 2,400 Cadets in the stands. West Point backs couldn't seem to get traction on tile dyed green grass, kept falling before they reached the line of scrimmage. Even the fire of the Army defense seemed damped after Navy's first touchdown.
Something happened between halves, though. The third quarter opened, and it was a different game. With Tom Blanda's passes complementing the rushes of Rushatz, Glen Adams and Kirschenbauer, Army drove for one touchdown and almost immediately set out after another. Again misfortune balked the Cadets; a penalty for having an inengible receiver downfield on a pass play slowed one drive, and the score was still 17-6 when the last period began.
The jubilant Midshipmen on the stadium's west slope had just about had it. Now and then they whooped and brandished white caps aloft, but mostly they sat transfixed, watching and praying, Dick Eckert, Army's second quarterback, engineered a solid advance that Rushatz consummated with a dive into the end zone. Now it was 17-12 with nine minutes remaining for Army to chew at a five-point lead. Navy stopped a drive, then fumbled, Rushatz recovered for Army, 17 yards from victory. Yard by yard, cudgelling the line for short gains, Army ground ahead to the 6-yard line. There a hasty lateral got loose, rolled back to the Navy 20. Blanda passed and missed, passed and missed again. The clock showed 1:55 remaining when his last throw fell incomplete and Navy took the ball.
The contest was over, needing only a final theatrical flourish. There was a guy on hand to furnish just that. Guy named Bellino. Unable to run out the clock, Navy punted to midfield. Blanda wound up for the last prayerful shot, took aim on Blackgrove and fired. Bellino got in front of the receiver, picked off the ball on the goal line and went swrirling 45 yards back to safety as the curtain came down.