BOWLING GREEN - Quick history lesson for all of the current Bowling Green State University Falcons: 50 years ago, the school you play for won a national college division championship.
The field you play on is named after the head coach of that team - Doyt Perry. And the celebration continues today.
Members of that special team are back for the 50th anniversary and will be recognized during halftime of today's homecoming game against Ohio.
From the first victory of the season, a 51-7 rout of Marshall, to the last, a thrilling 13-9 win over Ohio, the journey involved a number of individuals contributing to what has become one of the most memorable seasons in Falcons sports history.
Some of the names are
synonymous with college and
Ron Blackledge played a key role in the undefeated season as one of quarterback Robert Colburn's top receivers. The father of
Todd Blackledge, former Penn State quarterback and ESPN
college broadcaster, Ron Blackledge will be in attendance for the halftime ceremony.
"I'm really looking forward to it," said Blackledge, 71, who went on to have a career coaching in both college and the NFL, claiming four Super Bowl rings.
"It was just a great bunch of guys and although it might sound clich, we went through the season, it was one game at a time," Blackledge said. "It was that kind of attitude."
Bill Mallory's coaching career at the collegiate level started that year as a member of the Falcons staff. He went on to enjoy success as a head coach at Miami and
Indiana. He considers the 1959 team as one of the most special teams he's ever been associated with.
The likes of Colburn, Blackledge, Robert Zimpfer, Russ Hepner, Bernie Casey, Jack Harbaugh, Chuck Comer, Jerry Dianiskas and the late Larry Smith are among those who provided plenty of skill on the field for the Falcons coaching staff to work with that season.
"We had good talent and good depth," Mallory said. "It was a team that was very focused. It seemed like whatever we did we'd come out on the winning side."
He added: "It was a charisma and an air about them that they wanted to be champions."
Mallory, 74, said the success of the Falcons' 1959 team began and ended with the coach primarily responsible for putting together the team and coaching staff.
"You have to start with Doyt Perry," Mallory said. "He was our head coach. He was just a special person. He was a tremendous leader. He had his own unique way of doing things. He had his own way of reaching you and he could get your motor turned on. He was an outstanding motivator."
Perry, who died in 1992, coached the Falcons from 1955 to 1964, winning five Mid-American
Conference championships and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1988. Perry's record at BG was 77-11-5, an .855 winning percentage in 11 seasons.
Hepner was a starting halfback and defensive back on the 1959 team. He recalls the defensive unit as the strength of the team and the head coach keeping the team playing with the proper perspective.
"I remember we were up 31-0 at halftime against Toledo and Doyt came in the locker room and said the score was 0-0," said Hepner, who resides in Shelby. "No matter the score, they [BG's coaching staff] kept your head in the game."
Tony Ruggiero was a freshman at BG in 1959. He was a member of the freshman football team that finished 4-1 that year.
Ruggiero never dressed in any of the nine varsity games that season because NCAA eligibility rules did not allow freshmen to participate in varsity games.
Yet, Ruggiero, who lives in Fremont, believes he knew as well as any of the Falcons' opponents that season just how special the 1959 team was because he lined up against the varsity unit nearly every practice.
"All I could do was dream about playing on that team," said Ruggiero, 68, who grew up in Gibsonburg.
"We went all out on the practice field together and the freshmen wore green jerseys. They would beat the crap out of us."
Ruggiero's fondest memories of that season came during the week leading up to the much-anticipated matchup with highly touted Delaware, a team that was also undefeated and a preseason favorite to claim the national championship.
Ruggiero took part in playing on the scout team against the Falcons defense during practices that week.
"What I remember the most was trying to learn Delaware's offense because they ran the single-wing and it was weird because it took us a few days to learn a few of those plays," Ruggiero said.
BG proved to be more than prepared for Delaware, rolling to a decisive 30-8 victory over the Blue Hens to improve to 8-0 with one game remaining.
A week later, the Falcons secured a special place in the hearts of BG fans by defeating Ohio 13-9 with Jerry Colaner returning an interception 30 yards for the decisive score and an exclamation mark on the perfect season.
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