1948-55 Tigers
(Authentic Reproduction)




Missouri football in the modern age begins with Don Faurot. The first of four brothers who would letter in football for the University Of Missouri, Faurot was a three-sport letterman who left the family farm and became the captain of the Tigers basketball team, the starting fullback for the football squad, and an infielder with the baseball team. Upon graduation he became the football coach at Kirksville Teachers College, later renamed Truman State University. He won twenty-six consecutive games and seven conference titles in nine years before becoming Mizzou’s head coach in 1935. The moribund Missouri program had compiled two wins in the three years prior to Faurot’s appointment and he took little time in turning the squad into the finely tuned machine he knew he could produce. Behind The College Football Hall Of Fame play of “Pitchin’ Paul” Christman who was a star quarterback for the Chicago Cardinals after Naval duty in World War II, Faurot’s team was a national power and played in both the Orange and Sugar Bowls. Needing to spring loose what he thought were talented backs after the graduation of two-time All American Christman, Faurot developed what became his legacy to the game of football, the Split-T Offense. Faurot was always “a tinkerer” with formations and he was intrigued by the modernized T-Formation used by the victorious Chicago Bears in the NFL, and the Rose Bowl champs of Stanford coached by Clark Shaughnessy. Biff Jones, the Nebraska coach who was on the losing end of the Rose Bowl game to Stanford, gave his copy of the game film to the Missouri coach and Faurot soon came up with his new offensive plan. Faurot and his Split-T, as former Missouri and Notre Dame coach Dan Devine stated in 1995, “made the only significant change in offensive football in, I used to say, fifty years but now I’d say seventy-five years.” The Single Wing Offense of the era placed the offensive linemen very close together and the back would receive the ball from the center while in a crouch a few yards behind the line. The Split-T took the closely spaced offensive linemen and moved them further apart, a significant move that placed one foot of distance between the center and each guard, two feet between the guards and tackles, and three feet between the tackles and ends. This unique spacing provided more lanes to run through and as importantly, placed the quarterback directly behind the center in a half-crouch stance. To complete the Split-T innovation, Faurot gave the quarterback the option of handing to the back diving into the hole, or pulling the ball back and keeping it. With Bob Steuber in the 1941 backfield, an eventual entrant to The College Football Hall Of Fame, and All American Dan Jenkins at center, Faurot wanted to produce a scenario he had taken great advantage of as a basketball player at Missouri, forcing defenders to respond to the football equivalent of a two-on-one break. The wider line spacing allowed the quarterback to give a running back a hand-off on a dive play into a specific hole or dependent upon the reaction of the defender, keep the ball and run down the line with the option of keeping it himself or pitching it wide to a trailing back. The Wishbone, Veer, and I-Formations are all off-shoots or modified versions of Faurot’s original Split-T attack. Incredibly, the 1941 Missouri offense averaged 307.7 yards-per-game rushing, the best in the nation, and almost unbelievable numbers for that era. The Tigers’ top three backs ranked as the top three rushers in the conference.


It was said that “the only mistake Farout made in creating the Split-T was sharing it with others” because prior to the widespread use of film study, the only way to learn the nuances of a new system was to be taught by another coach or player who had been in that system. Faurot served in the military after the 1942 season, leaving the team to former Mizzou football letterman, assistant football coach, and track coach Chauncey Simpson and was assigned first to Iowa Pre-Flight and then the Jacksonville Naval Station. While the Tigers struggled with a team of those too young for the military draft and wounded veterans, Faurot taught his military assistants Jim Tatum and Bud Wilkinson the secrets to his new formation. Tatum and Wilkinson would both copy Faurot’s theories and win national championships, Tatum at Maryland and Wilkinson as a long-time Missouri nemesis at Oklahoma. Wilkinson himself was quoted as saying that “The Split-T Formation was the greatest offensive innovation in a quarter-century.” Faurot returned to the Columbia campus after the War, resuming his head coaching and athletic director’s duties in time for the 1946 season. Simpson’s ’45 team had posted a 6-3 record and traveled to the Cotton Bowl to be taken apart by Bobby Layne and his Texas Longhorns 40-27 to finish at 6-4. Faurot’s ’46 squad came in at 5-4-1 as life after the War began to return to normal.  


As the ‘47 team showed some improvement to 6-4, Harold “Bus” Entsminger, the QB on Missouri’s 1942 Conference Championship team returned from military service in time for the ’46 season and blossomed in 1947. Considered by most football historians as the best Split-T QB that ever directed a Faurot-coached team, he led the team in rushing, passing, and total offense and was an All Big Six pick. He had a lot of assistance from end Mel Sheehan, tackle Chester Fritz, guard Virlie Abrams, and versatile back Dick Braznell, all of them All Conference. Guard John Kadlec was one of the youngsters with obvious potential and Ed Quirk, primarily a FB, went on to play for the Redskins for four seasons at both FB and LB. In 1948, Faurot introduced his team to the Riddell plastic RT model helmets, painted black with a one-inch old gold center stripe, reflecting the school colors. The ’48 squad was again led by All Conference QB Entsminger who led the Tigers in passing and total offense and he again teamed with three-year starter Sheehan to form the core of an explosive unit. The 331 points scored remained the highest total for a Tiger squad until 1969 and they averaged over 370 yards per game. Entsminger later became the University Of Missouri’s Vice President and Sheehan the school’s athletic director after years as a public school superintendent and Big Eight football official. The 8-3 record came from the contributions of a strong line led by center Bob Fuchs, guard Gene Pepper, and tackle and captain Chester Fritz. The 20-14 upset win over the SMU Southwest Conference Champions led by Doak Walker and Kyle Rote broke the Mustangs’ sixteen-game winning streak and put the Tigers on the national map in what is still considered one of the most exciting and significant games in the program’s history and one that began the trend of posting one or two major upsets each season. In a fantastic Gator Bowl contest against Clemson, the Tigers lost 24-23 but it was noted with exuberance and pride that all forty-eight members of the team hailed from the state of Missouri. The 225 points given up by the 1949 defense was the highest in Missouri history but the team dubbed “The Krazy Kats” was scappy and benefited from Faurot’s scrimmage habit of having the goal line dive play practiced against a fifteen-man defense. With a bevy of All Big Seven performers setting the tone, the 7-3 record included only one conference loss, to Oklahoma, and earned the Tigers a berth in the Gator Bowl against Maryland. The line featured guards Pepper who was All Conference and played for the Redskins from ’50-’53 and then spent a year with Baltimore, and Kadlec. Fuchs remained the fiery team leader and Gene Ackerman was another All Big Seven pick who went both ways at end and caught forty of QB Phil Klein’s passes. The backfield play highlighted the talents of HB’s Dick Braznell and John Glorioso. Faurot tried a platoon system early in the year but the squad was stronger returning to two-way players across the board. The 20-7 bowl game loss to Maryland dropped them to 7-4. 


After the 1949 season when successful Ohio State coach Wes Fesler unexpectedly bowed to the enormous pressure of the job and stepped down after the Buckeyes defeated Cal in the Rose Bowl, Coach Faurot was a natural choice for this plum position and he took it. Two days later he announced that he would stay at Missouri where his heart was and where he would remain until he decided to devote full time to the AD job prior to the 1957 season. Unfortunately, his 1950 Tiger team was beset by “senioritis” and what seemed like a recurring lack of motivation. They opened the season by being shutout by their first two opponents. The offense eventually found itself and in a wild game that was lost to Nebraska 40-34, the two teams amassed 1054 total yards! There were talented players, among them All Big Seven selections Ackerman at end and tough John Kadlec at guard. Kadlec has the distinction of being the very first Missouri player to be featured on the cover of the football media guide and in time earned the nickname “Mr. Missouri” due to his lengthy tenure at the school. He was on staff as a grad assistant in 1951 as he finished his Masters Degree and then served as an assistant coach under Faurot, Broyles, Devine, and Onofrio before taking on a number of administrative positions at his beloved alma mater. Typical of Faurot teams, there were outstanding two-way players with HB Ed Stephens among them and he saved the game against hated Kansas by recovering four fumbles. Bill Fuchs stepped in to replace his brother Bob at center and was an exceptional defensive lineman. The wide runs to the outside were left to rapid HB Junior Wren. Seeking an extra game to offset athletic department expenses, Missouri closed the season at Miami and got thumped 27-9 to finish at 4-5-1, Faurot’s first losing season since 1937. With the start of the Korean War and the graduation loss of many seniors, Faurot had a very young team on the field for ’51 and felt it necessary to scrap his pet Split-T offense after watching Oklahoma State almost beat the Tigers with a Spread Formation. With an inexperienced QB and backfield, he adopted the Spread Formation and made use of the passing arm of eighteen-year old QB Tony Scardino. Despite injury HB Wren still turned in another All Conference season leading the squad in rushing, punting, and total offense and as an All American Baseball outfielder, played in the Major Leagues after serving in the military. He returned to football in 1956 with the Browns who had originally drafted him in ’52 and played DB for them through 1959. Wren finished his NFL career with the Steelers in 1960 and played with the AFL Titans in ’61. Fuchs, also All Big Seven, was the bulwark of the line for the exciting but disappointing 2-8 squad.


In 1952 Faurot was pleased when the University President announced that formal athletic scholarships would be granted and noted that all but three of the eighty varsity, junior varsity, and freshman team players were from Missouri. However he did look forward to the play of DE/FB Bill Rowekamp who was from Ohio and who had transferred after being expelled from West Point in the infamous cheating scandal. Unfortunately, the slow 1-4 start belied the talent that included a horde of All Conference picks. Both tackles, Don Rutter and Paul Fuchs, guards Bob Castle and Jack Lordo, LB Terry Roberts, and HB Ed Merrifield who was a defensive specialist, all received honors. Merrifield later served with distinction as a Big Eight official. With Rowekamp moved to HB and teamed with Nick Carras at FB, the sleeping giant awoke to finish at 5-5 using the usual Faurot Split-T. A change in NCAA rules for 1953 mandated strict substitution rules to offset the manpower shortages of the Korean War and this played into the hands of Faurot who always preferred two-way performers. FB Bob Bauman won All Conference honors primarily on his linebacker play and blocking ability and guard Roberts repeated as an All Conference pick for his defensive acumen. QB Scardino directed the attack that helped the squad to a 6-4 finish. The highlight of the Kansas game occurred with minutes remaining when a KU player was stripped of the ball and a massive bench-clearing brawl ensued. It was left to Faurot and KU coach Jules Sikes, who resigned immediately after the game, to wade into the melee and break up the free-for-all.  Harold “Hank” Burnine was the leading receiver in the conference in 1954 and played exceptionally well next to All Big Seven tackle Al Portney but the defense was inconsistent. Tiger fans were ecstatic after the 41-18 victory over Kansas that finally evened up the series at 28-28-7. If the season had ended there at 4-4-1, the win over KU would have made for an acceptable winter but Faurot’s friend Jim Tatum had convinced the head man to make the Tigers’ first appearance on national television against his eighth-ranked Maryland team after what was the traditional close of Mizzou’s season. Five days after besting Kansas, Missouri did appear on national television and received a frightful 74-13 embarrassment from Maryland. Faurot stated “They stomped my guts clear to my backbone” and thus the season ended on a disastrous note. Perhaps it was fitting that the Tigers would open the ’55 season against Maryland who had bombed them 74-13 on national television in 1954’s season finale. After losing by only 14-13 to the Terps who would go on to an undefeated season, it seemed that the Tigers would be strong in ’55 but they managed a poor 1-9 mark with their only win against Colorado. Even with QB Jim Hunter in and out of the lineup with injury, end Burnine managed to lead the nation in receiving with forty-four receptions. The military veteran was named All American and All Big Seven and then played two seasons in the NFL with the Giants and Eagles. A petition emanating from the Kansas City area that called for Faurot’s resignation made headlines as the season mercifully ended.

If interested in any of these Mizzou helmets please click on the photos below.