At midseason 1961, college football is an assured success. There have been upsets, such as Northwestern's 12-10 victory over Notre Dame (above) and Iowa's 9-0 loss to Purdue. There have also been an abnormal number of last-minute victories and exciting plays. But what has really made the season a success is the attendance, which is up as much as 40% in some parts of the country.
Responsibility for the renewed enthusiasm for college ball rests in large measure on the more volatile nature of the game this year. Almost every good team (Ohio State is an exception) has abandoned the trite, conservative tactics of the split-T and taken a cue from the pros with split ends and slot and wing-backs and other diffusive deceits. As a result, the ball is moving as it hasn't moved in years.
The "wild card" substitute, who can be injected into the game between every play, has also played an important role. Not only does this make it possible for coaches to preserve their quarterbacks from the hazards of defensive play but they can also send in specialists at almost anything from place-kicking to putting the evil eye on a 250-pound tackle. Mostly, however, the coaches use the wild card to send in new plays. As one put it, "If the play works it's mine, if it doesn't it's the quarterback's."
Place-kicking is especially emphasized this year. With the wider goal posts introduced in 1959 to aim at, kickers have made good on 80% of their attempts (compared with 74.6% last year), and 31 major college teams have yet to miss a conversion kick. Once again, games are being won by field goals, such as Georgia's 52-yarder that beat Kentucky last week 16-15.
November 6, 1961
Pitt Coach John Michelosen, hanged in effigy two weeks earlier, came very much alive as his sleeping Panthers suddenly awakened to trounce Navy 28-14. Led by Quarterback Jim Traficant, who broke away for two short touchdown runs, they slashed Navy's three alternating lines to bits with rollouts, halfback reverse fake passes and fullback traps. The Pitt defense was just as determined. It held the Navy runners to 73 yards while crashing Ends Steve Jastrzembski and John Kuprok made life miserable for passer Ron Klemick.
Navy had company in its misery. Army, ambushed by a hard-charging West Virginia line, was never able to gather enough momentum to move the ball and lost to the husky Mountaineers 7-3. Fullback Glenn Holton poured through the leaky Cadet line for 121 yards in 18 carries and scored the only touchdown of the game on a nine-yard burst in the third quarter.
Beginning at last to look like the best team in the East, Penn State gathered forces behind Quarterback Galen Hall, who rolled out smoothly and passed for two touchdowns, and injured Halfback Don Jonas, who kicked 34- and 28-yard field goals even though his right arm was wired, as the Nittany Lions stepped past California 33 16. Syracuse had Quarterback Dave Sarette back for Holy Cross, and the brave but outclassed Crusaders never had a chance. Sarette picked them apart with his precise passes and Halfback Ernie Davis pranced through and around them for two touchdowns as the Orangemen won 34-6. Villanova beat the Quantico Marines 34-0. Boston U. used a pair of touchdowns by sophomore Halfback Joe DiPietro to whip George Washington 20-6.
The Ivy League continued to suffer at the hands of unimpressed outsiders. While Harvard upset Dartmouth 21-15 and first-place Princeton barely made it past seventh-place Cornell 30-25, Penn, coached by John Stiegman, late of Rutgers, collapsed before the Scarlet Knights, 20-6, Columbia fell to Lehigh 14-7, Brown to Rhode Island 12-9 and Yale to Colgate 14-8, giving the Red Raiders a complete sweep over the Big Three. The top three:
1. PENN STATE (4-2)
2. SYRACUSE (4-2)
3. NAVY (4-2)
Two weeks running Duke's Bill Murray watched Georgia Tech and Clemson render his lonely end useless with a two-man defense. Last Saturday he pulled the same trick against North Carolina State while his aggressive linemen keyed on passer Roman Gabriel. It worked, and the Blue Devils won 17-6 when Quarterback Gil Garner fooled the Wolfpack with his passes and Sophomore Jay Wilkinson, son of the Oklahoma coach, ran a punt back 82 yards for a touchdown.
Maryland, which still had designs on the ACC title, will have to settle for something less after its game with South Carolina. The Gamecocks sent their tackles crashing in on Terp Quarterbacks Dick Shiner and Dick Novak and stopped them cold to win 20-10 as their own Quarterback Jim Costen passed for two scores from a conventional T. Now only North Carolina, which bowed to Miami 10-0, has a chance to keep Duke from its second straight championship.
While Mississippi rumbled past Vanderbilt 47-0, LSU sharpened its skills for Saturday night's SEC showdown between the two by beating Florida 23-0. Remembering Larry Libertore's 66-yard touchdown run on the first play last year, the gang-tackling Tigers, who were penalized 184 yards for their enthusiasm, held Florida's 137-pound Libertore to eight inches in eight carries and picked off one of his pitchouts in mid-air for a 25-yard touchdown.
Except for Georgia Tech and Georgia, the other SEC teams had their hands full with nonconference rivals. Tech, waiting patiently for the leaders to stumble, whomped Tulane 35-0. Georgia set Kentucky back on its heels with a booming 71-yard punt by Jake Saye, then topped it with a 52-yard field goal by Durward Pennington to upset the Wildcats 16-15. Auburn turned to the pass to beat Clemson 24-14; Tennessee turned back stubborn Chattanooga 20-7; Mississippi State took advantage of ailing Jim Earl Wright's inability to run, to end Memphis State's unbeaten streak, 23-16. The top three:
1. MISSISSIPPI (6-0)
2. ALABAMA (6-0)
3. GEORGIA TECH (5-1)
The Big Ten, which had all but conceded the title to Michigan State, Ohio State or Iowa, now wasn't quite so sure. Michigan State and Ohio State continued to win, the Spartans rather easily over Indiana 35-0, the Buckeyes less easily over Wisconsin 30-21. But Iowa succumbed to Purdue 9-0, its first shutout since 1952. The Boilermakers, wallowing happily in the mud at Lafayette, alertly latched on to three Iowa fumbles and picked off two of Matt Szykowny's passes, while their slower backs proved to be more sure-footed than the swift Hawkeyes.
Minnesota too was very much in contention after beating Michigan 23-20 for the dilapidated Little Brown Jug. Quarterback Sandy Stephens, a two-day-old benedict, had the time of his life, running and passing for 304 yards, but the Gophers won when rookie Tom Teigen shook Michigan's Bennie McCrae loose from the ball on the nine-yard line to set up Judge Dickson's touchdown plunge with 1:24 to go. Although hardly a title threat, Northwestern was nevertheless riding as high as Minnesota after beating Notre Dame 12-10.
Colorado and Missouri moved cautiously toward their Big Eight battle at Boulder next Saturday, but they both had an apprehensive eye on improved Kansas. The Buffs had to come from behind on the line-smashing of Fullback Loren Schweninger in the fourth quarter to beat Oklahoma 22-14 while Missouri, bogged down by its own fumbles, finally overcame Nebraska 10-0 on a 32-yard field goal by Bill Tobin and a three-yard plunge by Andy Russell. Kansas' John Hadl led the Jayhawks to a 42-8 victory over Oklahoma State. Dave Hoppman was only slightly less impressive than Hadl as Iowa State battered Kansas State 31-7. The Cowboy tailback sprinted 71 and 69 yards for touchdowns, ran for 271 yards in all, and passed 40 yards for a third score. The top three:
1. MICHIGAN STATE (5-0)
2. OHIO STATE (4-0-1)
3. COLORADO (5-0)
For once, the Southwest Conference appeared to have an unbeatable leader—Texas. The powerful Longhorns, manipulated with deadly proficiency by Quarterback Mike Cotten, ignored a potpourri of Rice defenses and stomped the poor Owls half to death to win 34-7. When Rice overshifted its line in the first half, Cotten cleverly exploited the weak side with thrusts by Fullback Ray Poage. When Rice moved into a balanced six-man line in the second half, Cotten worked on the strong side. He sent Halfback Jim Saxton through for a six-yard touchdown run. Halfback Jerry Cook through for 63 yards in seven carries on the way to another score and, in between, flipped a six-yard touchdown pass to End Bob Moses.
Continuing what may well turn out to be a futile chase, Texas A&M knocked Baylor out of the race, 23-0, and SMU, outrushed and outpassed by Texas Tech, beat the Raiders 8-7 in the final minutes.
Unbeaten Alabama got some unexpected resistance from Houston, but the Crimson had Quarterback Pat Trammel! on its side, which was enough for a 17-0 win. The top three:
1. TEXAS (6-0)
2. ARKANSAS (4-2)
3. RICE (3-2)
Utah's big Redskins, grabbing a quick 6-0 lead, started out as if they were going to run Wyoming clear out of Salt Lake City's snow-filled Ute Stadium. But then the big Wyoming backs went to work. Chuck Lamson ripped the Utah line with keeper plays. Fullback Mike Walker bulldozed up the middle, and the steady pounding took its toll. Walker scored twice in the second half, and Wyoming won 13-6 to lay a firm hand on the Skyline title. Meanwhile, Utah State, the other contender, ran and ran until Idaho was humiliated 69-0.
It was hardly sensational football, but UCLA and USC both won. Stanford tried hard to blunt the UCLA shotgun with a five-man line, but it was futile and the Bruins won 20-0. USC, after going ahead of Illinois 14-10 on Pete Beathard's passing, watched in grateful amazement as the confused Illini milled around frantically on the Trojan six-yard line while time ran out. Up north, Oregon, which had lost to Washington by a single point for two straight years, beat the Huskies 7-6. The top three:
1. WYOMING (5-0-2)
2. UTAH STATE (6-0-1)
3. UCLA (4-2)
SATURDAY'S TOUGH ONES
Mississippi over LSU. The first real test for Ole Miss. LSU's Chinese Bandits aren't above stealing a ball game, but Mississippi has the better offense.
Georgia Tech over Florida. Tech as Strong as it is on defense, will have to find a way to stop Florida's elusive little Larry Libertore.
Penn State over Maryland. Galen Hall's talented passing and that determined Penn State defense will be too much for the Terps.
Colorado over Missouri. It could go either way. Missouri's backs are swifter, but Colorado's Joe Romig and the other brawny Buff linemen have an edge up front.
Iowa over Ohio State. If the Hawkeyes can't get through the stalwart Buckeyes, they can go over them with Matt Szykowny's passes.
Michigan State over Minnesota. When two big lines batter each other, someone has to yield. The slower Gophers will be the first to give ground.
Michigan over Duke. The Wolverines are fit to be tied after the Minnesota loss—but not by Duke. Michigan's crisp attack will overwhelm the Blue Devils.
USC over Washington. Coach Jim Owens' Huskies will have their hands full. Pete Beathard's passes have made the Trojans harder to beat.
Arkansas over Texas A&M. The Porkers need this one to stay in the Southwest Conerence race. George McKinney and Lance Alworth will get it for them.
Rice over Texas Tech. The Owls, who Suffered such a rude awakening against Texas, are still strong enough to beat Tech.
DARTMOUTH OVER YALE
IOWA STATE OVER BOSTON COLLEGE
KANSAS OVER NEBRASKA
NOTRE DAME OVER NAVY
OKLAHOMA OVER KANSAS STATE
SYRACUSE OVER PITT
TENNESSEE OVER NORTH CAROLINA
TCU OVER BAYLOR
UCLA OVER CALIFORNIA
WYOMING OVER ARIZONA
LAST WEEK'S PREDICTIONS: 13 RIGHT, 7 WRONG
SEASON'S RECORD: 78-37-5