Penn State

Lenny Moore
(Authentic Reproduction)




Nicknamed "Spats" in the pros, he was the "Reading Rocket" or the "Reading Rambler" at Penn State, a shifty, stop-on-a-dime runner who blocked ferociously and was perhaps the best defensive player on the team. Lenny Moore often seemed to exceed the abilities of his 6'1", 175 pound body from 1953 through the 1955 season. Many believed that his battles with Syracuse great Jim Brown and the prejudice against Eastern football prevented both of them from achieving First Team or Consensus All American status in 1954 and 1955 although Brown received his due in '56. Rarely leaving the field, Moore rushed for 1082 yards in 1954, another 697 in '55, and a career total of 2380 in an era of pedestrian and limited offenses. His ten career interceptions, six as a senior, and ability to hit "bigger" than his size would predict, made him a feared defender and special teams player. Moore's 15.8 yard punt return average and 24.3 per kickoff return still rank him high on Penn State's all time records list but more than his numbers, he was the Lions' bell cow, the one player the others knew could get the job done in the clutch. Moore took what Coach Rip Engle called his "ability to be moving at full speed after two steps" and what appeared to be his "change in direction in mid-air" to the Colts as their first round choice in 1956 and rushed for over 12,000 yards in twelve years and an NFL Hall Of Fame career.     
Graduation took a toll going into the '57 season as many second stringers moved to starting positions. Charles Janerette, Andy Stynchula, and Richie Lucas were three sophs who cracked the starting lineup and made an impact. As injuries mounted, unheralded Dave Kasperian became the rushing leader for the 6-3 Lions. 1958 was the year of Richie Lucas as he was the Nittany Lions' best passer, runner, blocker, ball handler, and defender, the epitome of the complete football player. Number 33 became a familiar sight as he dominated play and rarely left the field. Sophs stepped up as they had in '57. Junior linemen Stynchula and Janerette were joined by future Buffalo Bills tackle Stew Barber while Dick Hoak became Lucas' dependable backfield mate. Despite injury, Pat Botula led all rushers out of his FB spot and the high-powered though inconsistent offense secured a 6-3-1 record.

With a tally of forty-nine consecutive non-losing seasons between 1939 to 1987, Penn State football was always good, always consistent, and always highly respected in the East. Unfortunately, Eastern football was not highly respected in other parts of the country, seen as a diversion for the effete, rather than the essential fabric of college life the game was believed to be in the South or Midwest. Under long-time coach and former Penn State All American Bob Higgins, the Nittany Lions were a consistent winner and his 1947 team was considered one of the East Coast's all time best. Undefeated and untied, they traveled to the Cotton Bowl and tied a Doak Walker-led SMU squad that was also undefeated and a national powerhouse. Steve Suhey was an All American guard who would begin a family pipeline that would later bring additional glory to the mountain campus. With a core group of WW II veterans returning for 1948, Higgins' expectations were high but a tie against Michigan State and an unexpected loss to Pitt that resulted in a 7-1-1 record did not soothe Higgins' distress at his perceived failure. Combined with failing health, the successful Higgins retired and the baton was to be passed to either long time assistant line coach Joe Bedenk or assistant Earle Edwards for '49. Even with Edwards' departure the year was marred by staff discord and the disadvantage of not having available football scholarships. After a 4-5 finish Bedenk requested a return to his line coaching position and a search began for a new head coach. Assistant coach Earl Bruce served as interim head coach for spring practice until Brown University's Charles "Rip" Engle was hired and brought with him, his former quarterback to install the new Wing T formation. With assistant coach Joe Paterno on board, Engle quelled the staff dissent, installed the new offense, and launched a sixteen year head coaching stint that would produce a winning percentage of .679. The 1950 team moved into the modern era with the new offensive formation and the introduction of the Riddell RT white helmets with navy blue one-inch center stripe, leaving behind the Single Wing and white leather headgear of the past. Engle posted a 5-3-1 record for 1950, admirable as he was forced to keep the entire existing staff with Paterno the only addition, and had no backlog of scholarship players. In 1950 the administration agreed to allow a limited number of scholarship football players to participate and Engle began building his dynasty. The timing was right as the glut of GI players were finished with their eligibility and the game was returning to "the kids." Vince O'Bara proved a decent T Formation QB and Tony Orsini made the switch to wingback and led the team in rushing. Engle's 1951 5-4 record marked the arrival of lineman Roosevelt Grier although his playing time was limited as he learned the college-level game. RB Bob Pollard's 248 yards gained against Rutgers was the season highlight and end Jesse Arnell at 6'5" showed great promise for the future. The 7-2-1 record of 1952 was highlighted by a 17-0 victory over a nationally ranked Pitt team and a 20-20 tie with Purdue that featured a passing duel between the Boilers' Dale Samuels and the Lions Tony Rados. Rosey Grier blocked and carried a 240 pound Purdue lineman into the end zone from the five yard line which allowed the running back to walk in for the tying score. Lenny Moore and Rosey Grier: that is the summary of the 1953 season that ended with a 6-3 record as Moore tallied over 600 yards and showed great ability to both accelerate and change direction. Grier overpowered opponents but more importantly, became a true team leader. 1954 proved to be important as Penn State and Eastern football made a mark that put both on the national map. With Rados gone, Moore would be the entire attack as the Lions approached the opener at number one ranked Illinois who featured future pro greats J.C. Caroline and Abe Woodson. Supposedly without a chance to win and 17 point underdogs, the Nittany Lions surprised the 54,000 fans and all of the experts behind Moore's 137 rushing yards and his fourth quarter interception to complete what may have been the biggest upset of the '54 season, 14-12. Grier was a terror at tackle on both sides of the ball. Moore, "The Reading Rocket", continued his opening day heroics to the tune of 1082 yards and the 7-2 record included another win over Pitt.

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