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Sports Then and Now

1945: When Army Dominated Both Home and Away

Posted on November 11, 2010 by Dean Hybl

Glenn Davis (41) and Doc Blanchard (41) powered Army to two national championships and a 27-0-1 record from 1944 through 1946.

In honor of Veterans Day, we look back 65 years to the last time one of the United States Service Academies won the College Football National Championship.

Given the great victories enjoyed by the United States in 1945 with the conclusion of both the war in Europe and the war in the Pacific, it was quite fitting that the United States Military Academy at West Point was also illustrating the strength of the American military by dominating on the gridiron.

After having claimed the National Title in 1944, the 1945 Army Black Knights were an even stronger team. Head coach Earl “Red” Blaik’s squad included two of the most dynamic offensive players ever to wear a football uniform.

The pair of “Mr. Inside” Felix “Doc” Blanchard and “Mr. Outside” Glenn Davis was nearly impossible to stop, but neither player took the direct route to get to West Point.

A native of California, Davis initially began his college career at Cal-Poly Pomona and had planned to play football at the University of Southern California. However, he and his twin brother Ralph were both awarded appointments to West Point and he headed East for a date with sports destiny.

Likewise, Blanchard, who was born in South Carolina and went to high school in Mississippi, didn’t get to Army immediately out of high school.

Though recruited by Army, Notre Dame and others, Blanchard chose to attend the University of North Carolina and played on the freshman team in 1942. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943 and received an appointment to West Point in 1944.

Once the pair reached West Point, they reached heights never previously seen on a football field.

In three seasons playing together in the Army backfield, Blanchard and Davis compiled a number of statistical records that weren’t eclipsed for 60 years.

The duo combined for a total of 97 touchdowns with Davis reaching the end zone a then-record 59 times and Blanchard scoring on 38 occasions. That record for most touchdowns by a backfield duo stood until being broken in 2005 by Reggie Bush and LenDale White.

During the nine game 1945 schedule, the Black Knights out-scored their opponents 412 to 46. They averaged eight yards per play and 46 points per game while holding their opponents to six points per game and registering five shutouts.

Davis and Blanchard were featured on magazine covers across the country.

On November 10, 1945, Army faced Notre Dame in a much-anticipated battle between the top rated team in the country (Army) and the number two rated squad (Notre Dame).

The game turned out not to be much of a contest as Army completely dominated from start to finish in 1 48-0 victory. They went on to win at Penn 61-0 and against Navy 32-13 to finish their second consecutive perfect season and claim a second straight AP National Title.

Following the season, Blanchard, who played fullback, linebacker, placekicker and punter and seemingly never left the field, became the first junior to ever be named the winner of the Heisman Trophy.

Davis averaged an amazing 11.5 yards per carry during the 1945 season. He also played both offense and defense and reportedly averaged 58 minutes on the field per game. After finishing second in the Heisman Trophy voting in both 1944 (to Les Horvath of Ohio State) and 1945, Davis received the Heisman Trophy in 1946. He finished his collegiate career with 4,129 yards rushing and passing and 59 total touchdowns.

After finishing undefeated in both 1944 and 1945, Army nearly accomplished the trick for a third consecutive season. However, after winning their first seven games their rematch with Notre Dame ended in a 0-0 tie. Notre Dame was eventually awarded the AP National Title with Army finishing the season second.

During the three year run of “Mr. Outside” and “Mr. Inside”, the Cadets finished with a record of 27-0-1 and two national titles.

Yet, as we celebrate this Veterans Day, that isn’t the true end to the story for the two American heroes who sparked Army’s success during those years.

Glenn Davis spent three years in the Army, including a stint in Korea, before retiring and playing briefly in the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams. He worked for the Los Angeles Times for three decades and passed away in 2005.

Doc Blanchard was commissioned in 1947 as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force. He became a fighter pilot and went on to reach the rank of Colonel. He received the Air Force medal for bravery in 1959 when a fire broke out on his plane, but he was able to still pilot it to safety, instead of parachuting out and having the plane crash into a populated area. He also flew more than 100 missions during the Vietnam War. After retiring, he spent several years as the commandant of cadets at the New Mexico Military Institute.

Davis and Blanchard are just two examples of the many men and women who have enjoyed sports success while also helping protect the values of our country. On this Veterans Day we salute and thank all members of the Armed Services and all Veterans for their dedication and commitment to the United States and to preserving the freedoms that all of us enjoy.

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