With botanical and climatic illogic, a north wind came whistling down across the prairies of Oklahoma this week, bringing with it the unmistakable smell of orange blossoms.
The scented air rolled into the Southwest from Manhattan, Kansas and, to football fans of the Big Seven Conference, it made sense. For it was at Manhattan Saturday that Coach Bud Wilkinson's coldly efficient Oklahoma Sooners brushed aside another obstacle in their march toward the Orange Bowl—and another unbeaten season.
The 40-7 thrashing that spoiled a homecoming celebration for Kansas State hardly came as a surprise. But the methodical, machine-like manner in which Wilkinson's wreckers ground Kansas State to bits conjured up frightful visions of an apparently inevitable clash between Oklahoma and Maryland at Miami January 2.
Between Oklahoma and the Orange Bowl stand only three more conference foes: Missouri, Iowa State, Nebraska. An upset of the Sooners by any one of the three would be the biggest reversal of form since David took Goliath.
Against Kansas State, Wilkinson's biggest problem was how to keep the score from mounting to embarrassing heights. His first stringers rolled 77 yards to score the second time they got their hands on the ball. It was 21-0 at the end of the first quarter; then the second string took over to make it 33-0 at the half and 40-0 early in the third quarter. Kansas State and the rest of Oklahoma's bench played on even terms the rest of the game.
It is difficult to say whether this is the greatest of the Oklahoma teams Wilkinson has coached. Bud himself isn't sure. But the key to their success remains the same as in seasons past: superlative physical condition, a savage line, great team speed, cool and capable split-T quarterbacks supported by a host of power runners, unceasing pressure on both offense and defense and—above all—a burning desire to win. Wilkinson's own favorite term for this attitude is "intensity."
"If we can maintain our intensity," he says, "we may be able to go on winning."
Meanwhile everything returned to painful normalcy in the Southwest Conference. After Saturday there was not a clear-cut favorite in the league.
Immediately responsible for this typical state of affairs were a couple of upsets: Arkansas's 7-7 tie with rollicking young Texas A&M and suddenly scary Texas' 19-18 squeak over Southern Methodist. The results left the Aggies still in the lead with a record of two wins, no losses and a tie, but breathing hard on their necks were half the teams in the conference: Texas Christian, Texas and SMU.
TCU, which many still consider the best in the conference despite its 19-16 loss to the Aggies two weeks ago (SI, Oct. 17), hasn't lost another game all year. Saturday the massive TCU line pushed Baylor all over the field, sent its fine halfback, Jim Swink, streaking for a 68-yard touchdown and walked off with a 28-6 victory.
But the real story was unfolded before a howling mob of 27,000 homecoming Arkansans at Fayetteville when Bear Bryant's eager Aggies failed to achieve the razor-sharp edge they had demonstrated in winning five straight games. Arkansas's "pigeon-toed" T-formation caught A&M flatfooted and the Razorbacks ran the Aggies bowlegged in the second half. After it was over, Fayetteville, a pretty little mountain town of 7,000 fewer souls than jammed their way into Razor-back Stadium, rocked and rolled with joyous abandon far into the night.
Playing against a fired-up Arkansas team, A&M had no reason to apologize for the tie: the two teams ran a statistical dead heat and were as evenly matched as the score indicated. But inevitably the question arose: What happened to the Aggies?
Bear Bryant had only one answer: "We spent too much time reading our press clippings."