Next year, or theyear after, football people were saying, the Big Ten would again be king of theconferences. It would take that long to repair the damage done by a strict aidprogram forced on the coaches by the schools' faculties in 1956. It wouldprobably take longer to live down the embarrassing trampling Washington handedWisconsin in the Rose Bowl last New Year's Day.
But football isnot always a game of logic, and by late Saturday it was apparent that there hadbeen an untagged but seismic change: the Big Ten already had regained itspower, and it was going to take the best in the country to beat its teams. Ineight games with nonconference schools, the Big Ten won six and tied the othertwo.
The mostinteresting test was the Northwestern-Oklahoma game. To be sure, Northwesternhad won easily last year, 45-13, but the Oklahoma squad had come down with foodpoisoning just before the game, and there were many who thought that theoutcome might otherwise have been reversed. All last week Northwestern CoachAra Parseghian, the adept Armenian amateur psychologist, needled his playersabout the questionable victory. He posted derogatory clippings on thelocker-room "clobber board" and sneeringly reminded all hands, "Noone really believes you licked them."
On Saturday atNorman, Northwestern licked Oklahoma 19-3. The loss was only Oklahoma's fourthat home in 13 years. The crowd of 62,000 had barely cheered Oklahoma Guard KarlMilstead's 35-yard field goal after the kickoff when North-western's superbbackfield took control. Quarterback Dick Thornton and Halfback AlbertKimbrough, both out almost all last season with injuries, teamed up withFullback Mike Stock to put Northwestern in front to stay. With Thornton helpingclear the way, Stock took a pitchout around right end and went 27 yards to theOklahoma nine. A few seconds later Thornton threw a three-yard touchdown passto End Elbert Kimbrough, Albert's twin. In the second and third periods Stockkicked two field goals, and in the final period Thornton, waiting until theOklahoma line was almost upon him, threw a lovely soft floater 25 yards intothe arms of Halfback Al Faunce.
What especiallypleased Parseghian was the strength of his line. From tackle to tackleNorthwestern had only one player who had ever started. "I knew that if ourinterior line held up, we would have a good team," Parseghian saidafterward. "Well, they're some group." After checking hisfirst-stringers, Parseghian played everyone he could. He had to. Northwestern,the sole private school in the Big Ten and one requiring College Board exams,has the smallest squad in the conference. Toward the end of the season it oftenhas the weakest. This year Parseghian wants experienced reserves who can help"overcome the late-season letdown."
TheTexas-Maryland game was not so much a question of lines but of a straight line.Texas's James Saxton, who used to amuse himself by chasing jack rabbits, can bean exasperating runner. Instead of using his speed to score, he has been in thehabit of dancing a jig while deciding which way to go. He would sometimes run60 or 70 yards to the left and right, alas, but seldom more than two or threeyards forward.
After Texas losta one-point opener to Nebraska a week ago, Coach Darrell Royal gave Saxton theword: the shortest distance to the goal is a straight line. Royal apparentlymade an impression. Saxton stopped Maryland's opening drive with aninterception in the end zone. Not long after Maryland stalled and quick-kicked.Saxton caught the ball on the Texas 31 and began running—straight ahead. Hekept running until he crossed the Maryland goal. Texas went on to win 34-0, ina game that had been rated even. Toward the end, Saxton sat grinning on theTexas bench as he recalled Royal's advice. "It works good," he said."The coaches really know what they're talking about."
In another gameinvolving a Southwest Conference team, it was Bears against Buffaloes but aBull was the deciding factor. The Bull is Halfback Ronnie Bull of the BaylorBears. The Buffaloes are Colorado. Last year Bull ran for 106 yards and twotouchdowns against Colorado to give Baylor a 15-7 win. For Saturday night'sgame Colorado Coach Sonny Grandelius planned his defense accordingly, and thatcalled for no Bull.
It didn't work.Bull recovered the fumble that set up Baylor's first touchdown, returned a punt60 yards for the second, gained 40 yards on two pass receptions and 30 more inrushing as Baylor won 26-0. Bull's play gave the Bears hope that this year poorBaylor might very well go on to win its first conference championship in 35years. Said Colorado Guard Joe Roming: "Neither Baylor nor Bull was thisgood a year ago."
Back East, deepin the John O'Hara country of northeastern Pennsylvania where the action oftenis hot and heavy, Lehigh made it hot for heavy Delaware. In a game likely todetermine the championship of the Middle Atlantic Conference, Lehigh woneasily, 27-14. Pitted against the likes of Ronald Rubino, Delaware's 298-poundcenter, the Lehigh line showed speed and mobility. No one was happier thanCoach Bill Leckonby. He now stands at five and six with Dave Nelson, Delaware'sacclaimed coach. "It's always satisfying to upset the experts,"Leckonby said, "and they universally picked us to lose."