PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Bob West

December 13, 2012

Best of West: College All-Stars count on PA neighbors Washington, Harris

PORT ARTHUR — Editor’s note: The following column from the Best of West collection is a compilation of columns originally published in the Port Arthur News on July 22 and July 23, 1976.

CHICAGO — Joe Washington and Duriel Harris, a couple of explosive offensive talents deprived of showing off their skills on national television the past couple of years, get their big chance tonight and the College All-Stars are going to need all the fireworks the Port Arthur duo can provide.

Oddsmakers have established the two-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers as three-touchdown favorites over the cream of the 1975 collegiate crop in the 43rd renewal of the College All-Star game at Solider Field. Kickoff is 8:30 p.m. on ABC.

Only nine times in this series dating back to 1934 have the college boys managed a victory,  and they have not turned the trick since defeating the Green Bay Packers, 20-17, in 1963. Only other All-Star triumph in the past 20 years was a 35-19 romp over the Detroit Lions in 1958.

One of the assistant coaches who helped orchestrate that 1958 decision was a guy named Ara Parseghian, and he’ll be back on the sidelines tonight as the head coach. Parseghian has been in semi-retirement since leaving Notre Dame after the 1974 season.

“I feel pretty good about our chances,” asserted Parseghian, after sending the All-Stars through a snappy 90-minute workout Thursday afternoon in Soldier Field. “As I’ve said all week, I think the key is for us to avoid making mistakes early. We can’t afford to spot the Steelers a couple of easy touchdowns.”

Parseghian, by the way, loves the offensive weapons provided him by Washington and Harris, who grew  up as neighbors on Cashmere St. in Port Arthur before becoming college stars at Oklahoma and New Mexico St., respectively.

“I knew all about Washington, but Harris has been somewhat of a surprise,” Parseghian said. “He’s an outstanding receiver. I understand they live on the same street in Port Arthur. Recruiting must have been hot and heavy when they were seniors.”

How Notre Dame missed on recruiting Washington is something which really baffles the coach.

“I’d have loved to have had him in our offense,” he noted. “Joe is simply unbelievable. I can’t ever recall seeing a back who could make the moves he does. He can be going forward, move laterally and go forward again without losing speed. It’s incredible.”

Parseghian says his favorite recollection of Little Joe is from a film highlight of the Oklahoma-Texas game two years ago.

“He popped through the line on an inside counter, put an absolutely undefinable move on a linebacker and went about 50 yards for a touchdown. A little later three Texas players had him trapped on the sidelines headed out of bounds. Then, all of a sudden, he was back in the middle of the field. I don’t know how he got there.”

Washington and Harris, then, figure to play prominent roles in an All-Star attack featuring perhaps the strongest fleet of running backs ever assembled on a collegiate team. Two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin of Ohio State, California’s Chuck Muncie and Washington can claim over 10,000 rushing yards between them.

Among the All-Stars biggest question marks going in is the passing game. Boston College’s Mike Kruczek, San Diego State’s Craig Penrose and Tulsa’s Jeb Blount are the team’s three quarterbacks and none are exactly household names.

Which of the three does the throwing, it’s a good bet Harris will do some catching. Although the former Stephen F. Austin standout is one of the few players in the game not drafted in the first two rounds, he’s been the most impressive receiver during workouts and will be in the starting lineup.

“I’m really pumped up,” Harris said, on the eve of his first televised game. “I’m looking forward to facing the world champions, especially Mel Blount. He’s supposed to be one of the best cornerbacks in the business. As far as I’m concerned, this is the biggest game of my life.”

Harris, a third-round draft choice headed for the Miami Dolphins, says he doesn’t have any preference between the three quarterbacks. “It doesn’t make that much difference to me. All I want is for whoever is playing to throw the ball my way.”

Washington, who participated in many big games at Oklahoma, isn’t quite as psyched up for the Steelers as his neighbor. “I’m ready for the game,” he said. “I’m ready to play any time I step on the field. But I don’t think I’m any more excited about this game than I was at Oklahoma.”

Because of Parseghian’s game plan, Washington is in good position to win the MVP Award, a feat achieved by Beaumonter Bubba Smith in the 1967 College All-Star game. Little Joe will be the deep man on punts and kickoffs, he’ll carry the ball from scrimmage and several pass play are likely to be directed his way.

It’s a cinch Washington will need all his many moves against Mean Joe Greene, Dwight White, Jack Lambert and company on Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain defense. With that suffocating unit leading the way, the Steelers have won 28 of their last 34 games.

The Super Bowl champs don’t figure to be anywhere near as geared up as they were for Dallas six months ago in Super Bowl X,  but a near embarrassment in this game last year assures they will be all business. Pittsburgh needed 14 fourth-quarter points to win 21-14 in 1975.

“We found out last year you can’t just go through the motions,” observed QB Terry Bradshaw. “We’re going against the best college players in the country and they’ll be sky high. I’m very impressed with their talent.”

Some of the defensive talent trying to contain Bradshaw, Franco Harris and Lynn Swann includes Oklahoma’s Selmon brothers — Leroy and Dewey —, Texas A&M linebacker Ed Simonini, Dallas’ No. 1 draft pick Aaron Kyle, a cornerback from Wyoming, and former Silsbee standout James Hunter, a cornerback from Grambling.

Nowhere, of course, will interest in the game be higher than on Cashmere St. in Port Arthur.

Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at rdwest@usa.net.

 

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Bob West