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History Project: 1958 Football Team Makes History with Undefeated Season

History Project: 1958 Football Team Makes History with Undefeated Season

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Rose-Hulman Athletic History Project is designed to educate current Fightin' Engineer fans on the outstanding and unique history of Rose-Hulman and Rose Polytechnic athletics.  The Project will allow fresh content for the Rose-Hulman athletics website and social media channels during our athletic downtime caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. We will begin with the discussion of one memorable season from each of Rose-Hulman's current 20 varsity athletic teams over the next 20 weekdays (March 23-April 17).  After the first 20 days, Rose-Hulman alumni and fans can have their memories become our daily "Rose-Hulman Athletic History Project" story by e-mailing us your story with one (appropriate for publishing) accompanying photo.

March 23 - Football (1958 season)

(This text was run at the 1983 25th-year celebration of Rose-Hulman's last undefeated football team in 1958.  Information was gathered from Rose-Hulman's yearbook, the 1959 Modulus, and the Sunday Nov. 9, 1958 issue of the Terre Haute Tribune-Star)

It was some kind of year for Rose Polytechnic Institute's football team in 1958!  Not only did the Engineers go undefeated for the first time in 16 years with an 8-0 record, but it won 15 straight games over two season to set a new school record, and it captured the Prairie Conference Championship.  Yes, Phil Brown's last year as head coach was a memorable one, and it marks the last time a Rose team has posted an unblemished record.

Perhaps the key to the season was the outstanding play of senior tailback Carl "Rocky" Herakovich.  The team captain helped the Engineers average nearly 34 points per game by becoming national scoring champion with 168 points.  His point total broke the record of former Rose Poly great Eddie McGovern set in 1943.  Herakovich scored 25 touchdowns, 11 from outside the 30-yard line, and helped the team place 7th in the nation in rushing entering the last game of the year.  "I'm very glad for 'Rocky,' but it was a team effort," said Brown of the team's most valuable player.  "He could not have done it without fine blocking ahead of him."

Another offensive key was the fine play of freshmen quarterbacks Dave Lindzy and Bob McWilliams.  They demonstrated unusual composure for freshmen and combined to complete 58 of 80 passes on the year.  

But the real key may have been the play of the tough Rose defense, which yielded the opposition to a mere 31 points on the year, an average of 3.9 per game, and was ranked first in the nation in overall defense for small colleges.  The Engineers also picked off 21 opponent aerials and allowed just 24 completions the entire season to rank second in the nation in pass defense.  Brown could not pick out any one great defensive player, stating that "defense is a team effort".

The Engineers opened their season in fine fashion by thrashing St. Procopius, 42-0, in Lisle, Illinois.  Herakovich led the scoring parade by notching three touchdowns and adding a pair of PAT kicks for 20 points.  Bob Michael added 10 points and threw touchdown passes to "Rocky" and Bart Gronberg.  Rose's final touchdown came on a pass from Bob Checkley to Hal Booher.  The defense, which did not allow a first down, was led by Gary Anderson and Dick Tucker.

Rose traveled to the Chicago area for game two and struggled to a 21-6 win over North Park.  Neither team scored in the first quarter, but the Engineers carried a 7-0 lead into the locker room at halftime thanks to a Michael 8-yard TD run and a Herakovich PAT kick.  The second half started out with a boom as "Rocky" took the kickoff and raced 82 yards for a touchdown.  North Park scored early in the fourth period on a 43-yard punt return, but Rose iced the game when Herakovich scored later in the period and added the two-point conversion.  The Engineers outrushed North Park, 240 yards to 94.

The home crowd finally got a chance to see their team play in week three, and the Engineers dazzled the fans with a 78-6 stomping of Eureka.  Herakovich had 40 points on five touchdowns and five two-point PAT conversions, while Michael added a pair of touchdowns.  A rugged defense held Eureka to 78 total yards.

The team helped celebrate Rose's Diamond Jubilee the following week by handing Concordia a 26-0 loss.  The Engineers had a sluggish first half, scoring just one touchdown on Herakovich's 4-yard run.  But Browns halftime pep talk fired the team up for the second half and they put the game out of reach.  "Rocky" ran 44 yards for a touchdown early in the third period and sealed the victory with an 11-yard run late in the contest.  Checkley added a touchdown in between.  Once again the defense was tough, yielding just 80 yards rushing.

Rose ran its record to 5-0 the next week when it knocked off Franklin, 12-0, in Indianapolis.  The Engineers held a 6-0 lead at halftime on Herakovich's 52-yard interception return.  He added the game's only other tally on a 4-yard run early in the final stanza.  Time and again the Rose offense was slowed by penalties.  

For the first and only time of the year, the Engineers found themselves down 7-0 early in the first period at home against Illinois College in the sixth game of the year.  But the team regrouped to score 20 points in the first half enroute to a 40-7 win.  Herakovich had a pair of touchdowns to lead the scoring parade, while Anderson scored on a 73-yard interception return.  Other touchdowns came from Michael, who had a 4-yard run, McWilliams, who caught a 16-yard pass from Checkley, and Bill Yochum, who added a 3-yard run. 

The Engineers played their final home game on a rainy afternoon and clinched the Prairie Conference Championship by defeating Principia, 24-0.  Herakovich scored all four touchdowns on 2-, 1-, and 8-yard runs and a 62-yard punt return.  He rushed for 95 yards, while Yochum topped the club with 131.  Rose rushed for 386 yards for the afternoon, and yielded Principia to just 46 yards rushing and 29 yards passing.  

Rose ran its unbeaten string to 15 games and finished the year as the only unbeaten team in the state by knocking off Earlham, 27-12, in Richmond, Ind., for the season finale.  Again the Engineers' offense was slowed by a muddy field, but led by Herakovich, the team had enough power to make it a perfect season.  "Rocky" scored all but one point, including a 70-yard punt return, and set a new Indiana collegiate single season scoring record.

1958 (8-0)
Coach: Phil Brown
Prairie Conference CHAMPIONS
St. Procopius (a)       W, 42-0
North Park (a)           W, 21-6
Eureka                      W, 78-6
Concordia (Ill.)          W, 14-0
Franklin (a)               W, 12-0
Illinois College           W, 40-7
Principia                    W, 24-0
Earlham (a)               W, 27-12
(a) denotes away game