afternoon, 3 p.m. Zeke House, home of the Yeomen. Several
players return from their last class of the week and are lounging
around the cluttered dorm room that their co-captains share, including
one lineman who waltzes in with a 12-pack... of Mountain Dew. Everyone
starts swapping war stories, from the season-opening loss to Swarthmore
in the so-called Brain Bowl to dreaded practice drills like The Chutes,
The Blaster, and a grueling regimen sadistically dubbed "The
Ryan and Jordan talk about their first two seasons, when the team
was so short-handed that assistant coaches played the roles of the
scout team, and players routinely lined up on offense and defense.
"This team is night and day," says Ryan, a horror-movie
buff who has endured his share of nightmares on the football field.
"Even guys I played with one or two years ago say the same thing:
night and day. It's just a completely different team, a completely
different attitude. You can see it. You can feel it on the sidelines."
They're confident that the first payoff will come against Case Western.
"We're clearly bigger, faster, and stronger," says Dave.
"On paper, we're a better football team. It's all gonna come
down to who wants it more tomorrow."
Jordan strolls out of his room toting a souvenir of Oberlin's glory
days. "My girlfriend gave me this," he says, handing over
a framed program from Oberlin's memorable win over the Ohio State
game on October 8, 1921.
Now, as he and the rest of the Yeomen spill out the door for a final
team meeting, Jordan remembers to pick up the present he's been waiting
all day to give his girlfriend, who's parked at the curb: a huge basket
Friday afternoon, 4:30. In a classroom across from Coach
Ramsey's office, the Yeomen offense slouches behind school desks waiting
for the half-hour meeting to begin. Several players are wearing gray
T-shirts bearing this crimson-lettered inscription on the back:
"I will persist
until I succeed.
I will persist.
I will win."
An assistant coach in the back of the room calls out one player's
name. "Yes, sir?" he replies.
The coach points to the student's baseball cap.
"Oh, sorry," he says, removing it from his head.
Ramsey enters the room and gets right down to business. He diagrams
a few plays on the blackboard, reviews blocking schemes ("Block
it like a 49 or 47," he advises a tight end, "but do not
go downfield"), and then runs a videotape of Case Western's previous
game. "Look at their cornerback," Ramsey says, stopping
the action with a remote control. "He's gonna play bump here.
But see the way he spreads his feet apart?" The tape rolls, and
the wide receiver sprints past the flat-footed corner back. "He's
dead," Ramsey notes. "He can't move when he spreads his
Fifteen minutes later, the offense joins the defense on Dill Field
for a final walk-through of specific plays and certain game situations.
Ball at the 50-yard line, 1:07 to play, one time-out. Twice, the offense
sticks it in the end zone.
With dusk approaching, Ramsey gathers his team at midfield. "Do
not leave your A game in your room," he tells them. "No
excuses. This is a team we should beat.
"Don't be afraid of my expectations--or your own," he adds,
his eyes surveying his players as he makes one final reference to
the streak that haunts them. "Let's end this thing."
The Yeoman close around their coach in a circle, everyone raising
one arm in the air. On the count of three, they bellow one word in
Friday night. Nine members of
Oberlin's 1950 football team, which posted an impressive 7-1 record,
are in town for alumni weekend. Tonight, they're enjoying a prime
rib dinner on Philips' ground floor, where one of the attendees, Richard
Bailey '50 of Houston, recently agreed to help finance construction
of a climbing wall.
But the dinner conversation revolves around how long it will take
the Yeomen to get over a more formidable hump--finding the way to
win a football game. Still, for the first time in years, they are
satisfied that the program is headed in the right direction.
"I've never felt this optimistic about the future of sports at
Oberlin," says Oberlin Trustee Jim Pohlman '54, praising the
"very solid" support of President Dye and Acting President
Clayton Koppes. "We want wall-to-wall institutional excellence."
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