As it prepared for its night game with LSU last Saturday, second-ranked Mississippi had a right to consider itself the No. 1 team in the country, for that afternoon, as Ole Miss was well aware, first-ranked Michigan State had lost to Minnesota, thus vacating the top position.
A few hours later that position was filled—but not by Mississippi. It belonged to Texas or Alabama or Ohio State or Colorado, all of which had won games to remain undefeated. Mississippi, which had lost to LSU 10-7, was out on the sidewalk.
Mississippi had started the second half with a 7-3 lead—still the top team in the country. But midway through the third period, LSU marched 80 yards, most of it on a 57-yard run by Jerry Stovall. With the ball on the seven-yard line, LSU tried a new reverse play it had never used before. Halfback Wendell Harris scooted into the end zone untouched, and Mississippi was dead.
Of the teams fighting for the national title, only Colorado had trouble winning. Matched against Missouri, its closest rival for the Big Eight championship and a trip to the Orange Bowl, Colorado scored on a 21-yard pass seconds before the end of the first half to lead 7-0. Missouri came back to score in the final period and then gambled on a two-point conversion and victory. Mike Hunter lobbed a pass into the end zone, which Colorado's Reed Johnson barely deflected with his fingertips. Coach Sonny Grandelius heaved a sigh of relief that could be heard a mile away.
November 13, 1961
For an entire year Syracuse had brooded over its 1960 defeat by Pitt. Last Saturday, after the Panthers built up a 9-0 lead, it looked as if the men from Piety Hill were in for another year of brooding. But Ernie Davis charged over from the eight-yard line late in the second quarter and, after that, there was simply no containing Syracuse. Davis slashed away at the Pitt line for 119 yards, Dave Sarette passed to End John Mackey and Davis for two touchdowns and ran for another and the aroused Syracuse defenders bowled over the Panther backs so forcefully they jarred them loose from the ball four times. The result: a 28-9 victory for Syracuse.
Meanwhile, other eastern independents were busy building a modest prestige at the expense of second-and third-line Midwestern rivals. Boston College, trailing meekly behind Iowa State 10-0, as it was supposed to, suddenly came to life in the last quarter and beat the Cyclones 14-10. Army, even without injured Quarterback Dick Eckert, was hardly a fair match for Detroit, especially after the Titans lost their fine quarterback, Jerry Gross, with a broken ankle in the second period, and the Cadets won 34-7. Holy Cross had the easiest time of all, beating Dayton 28-0.
Yale's demise as the Ivy League champion was almost complete. The bumbling Elis handed grateful Dartmouth an early touchdown, and the aggressive Indians methodically followed Quarterback Bill King to an easy 24-8 triumph. However, even without Yale, there were enough live contenders to challenge first-place Princeton, which stomped over poor Brown 52-0. Columbia's Tom Haggerty dashed through Cornell for 84-, 64-and 47-yard touchdown runs as the Lions won 35-7, and unpredictable Harvard throttled Perm's single wing, winning 37-6.
The Mid-Atlantic race was heading for a showdown. Unbeaten Rutgers (6-0) rolled over Lafayette 37-6 and can win the title by defeating Delaware (a 28-0 winner over Temple) Saturday. Lehigh, out of the running, upset Colgate 20-15. The top three:
1. SYRACUSE (5-2)
2. NAVY (5-2)
3. PENN STATE (4-3)
Maryland Coach Tom Nugent can make a little knowledge go a long way. When his scouts reported that Penn State's linebackers usually swung wide with the flankers and its defensive backs played deep, he decided to use Dick Shiner, his best passer, at quarterback and shifted Tackle Walter Rock to right guard for more protection. It worked. While Rock held out the crashing State linemen and End Gary Collins confused the secondary with his tricky patterns. Shiner pitched three touchdown passes and Maryland upset State 21-17.
Despite LSU's win over Mississippi, the SEC race—and the battle for bowl bids—was far from over. Unbeaten Alabama, which plays neither Ole Miss nor LSU, moved effortlessly past Mississippi State, 24-0, to remain at the top, while Georgia Tech was still alive after beating Florida 20-0. The Jackets found a weak spot in Florida's sagging middle, sent Fullback Mike McNames charging through it behind their powerful guards to set up two touchdowns, and the rest was easy. Even some of the also-rans had fun. Quarterback Bobby Hunt passed and ran Auburn to a 21-7 victory over Wake Forest; Kentucky smothered Florida State 20-0 but lost Passer Jerry Woolum with a broken leg.
But Saturday wasn't fun for Tennessee and Georgia. Tennessee watched almost helplessly while Quarterback Ray Farris moved North Carolina 80 yards in 66 seconds. He threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Ward Marslender with 15 seconds to go, then pitched a two-pointer to Gib Carson to beat the Vols 22-21. Miami, physically sound again, romped over Georgia 32-7 as slick sophomore George Mira ran and passed for four touchdowns.
General Mark Clark's program for athletic proficiency at The Citadel finally came to fruition. The Bulldogs went ahead of VMI 14-8, then hung on grimly for their first Southern Conference title in 24 years. The top three:
1. ALABAMA (7-0)
2. LSU (6-1)
3. MISSISSIPPI (6-1)
While Ohio State took the measure of Iowa 29-13, Minnesota rocked Michigan State 13-0 in the Big Ten. Purdue, which had been the first to unmask the Hawkeyes, beat Illinois 23-9, Northwestern managed to squeak past Indiana 14-8 and Michigan's Bennie McRae finally got a good grip on the football and carried it over for three touchdowns to help the Wolverines outscore Duke 28-14.
Although Colorado's victory over Missouri gave it a firm hold on the Big Eight title, second-place Kansas looked better than ever. Quarterback John Hadl completed seven out of 10 passes for 113 yards and skillfully directed the Jayhawkers to 229 yards on the ground as they whomped Nebraska 28-6. There was even some consolation for Oklahoma's Bud Wilkinson. After five straight defeats, his Sooners rallied around the rushes of sophomore Fullback Dick Beattie and senior Halfback Mike McClellan to beat Kansas State 17-6. However, there was no solace for Oklahoma State, which lost to Wichita's Missouri Valley champions 25-13.
Navy, which had started the season with such meager hopes, pulled another rabbit out of its cap. The Middies battled bigger and brawnier Notre Dame to a standstill in the line, and End Greg Mather sent the Irish to their third straight loss, 13-10, with two field goals. The top three:
1. OHIO STATE (5-0-1)
2. COLORADO (6-0)
3. MINNESOTA (5-1)
There is just no stopping Texas. SMU thought it had when it held the Long-horns scoreless in the first half. But the first time Texas got the ball in the third quarter, it sent Jim Saxton winging around right end for 79 yards and a touchdown. Before the crisp fall afternoon was over, Saxton zigged and zagged through the crestfallen Mustangs for 173 yards, Jerry Cook rammed over for two touchdowns, Tommy Ford added a fourth and the Longhorns won 27-0.
While Texas moved relentlessly toward the SWC title, the rest of the league was still hopefully going through the motions. Arkansas, after squirming uncomfortably behind Texas A&M 8-7, scored with 57 seconds to play to beat the Aggies 15-8, and Rice hammered Texas Tech 42-7. The only surprise was provided by Baylor. Coach John Bridgers spruced up the Bears' jaded pro-type offense with halfback passes, fancy reverses and reverse passes, put Dalton Hoffman, an agile 205-pound sophomore, at fullback, and turned the combination loose against TCU. Hoffman depressed the Frogs with his line-blasting, everything else worked just fine and Baylor won 28-14.
Arizona, which plans to join Wyoming in the new Great Western Conference next year, was inhospitable when the Cowboys came to Tucson. Quarterback Eddie Wilson shocked them with his precise passing and left them gasping when he tossed 33 yards to Bobby Thompson with 1:37 to go for a 20-15 Arizona victory. The top three:
1. TEXAS (7-0)
2. ARKANSAS (5-2)
3. RICE (4-2)
UCLA Coach Billy Barnes planned to beat California with wide sweeps, and that's just the way it happened. Tailbacks Bobby Smith and Mike Haffner shuttled in and out, pausing only long enough to tear around and occasionally through the leaky Cal line. Smith kicked a 26-yard field goal, ran 30, 1 and 63 yards for touchdowns and gained 177 yards. Haffner scored once, passed for another touchdown and ran for 119 yards. All told, UCLA rushed for 413 yards to whip Cal 35-15 and move closer to the Rose Bowl.
In another Big Five game, USC and Washington stormed at each other in a fruitless fury of long gains, intercepted passes and penalties, finally settled for a sodden 0-0 tie at Seattle. Stanford, back in its familiar cellar spot, had the misfortune to run into Oregon's swift Mel Renfro on one of his rare healthy days, and he beat the Indians 19-7. Renfro scored twice—on a four-yard plunge and a 94-yard kickoff return—and passed for a third touchdown. Oregon State's Don Kasso, converted from halfback to split end, caught eight of Tailback Terry Baker's passes for 93 yards, and the Beavers muddled past Washington State 14-6.
The Skyline race was down to two teams, Wyoming and Utah State, after Utah was upset by New Mexico 21-16, and undefeated but tied (by Wyoming) Utah State whomped Brigham Young 31-8. The top three:
1. UTAH STATE (7-0-1)
2. UCLA (5-2)
3. WYOMING (5-1-2)
SATURDAY'S TOUGH ONES
Notre Dame over Pitt. The Pitt defenses will be stacked to stop Notre Dame's running, but the Irish are hungry after three straight losses.
Columbia over Dartmouth. A sound running attack, an aggressive line and Tom Vasell's accurate passing should enable the Lions to overcome tricky Dartmouth.
Navy over Duke. The Middies have developed quality to go with their quantity, but they may need Greg Mather's educated kicking to pull them through against Duke.
Maryland over North Carolina State. The ambitious Terps have an eye on a bowl bid, and Coach Tom Nugent will find a way to stop Roman Gabriel's passing.
Michigan State over Purdue. But Only if the badly deflated Spartans have plugged their weak spots.
Minnesota over Iowa. That solid Gopher defense and Sandy Stephens will be too much for the slipping Hawkeyes.
Wisconsin over Northwestern. Ron Miller's' passing and Pat Richter's catching should be enough to win for the Badgers.
Colorado over Utah. The unbeaten Buffs are out to scalp the Redskins. They have the backs and the line to do it.
UCLA over TCU.* The Frogs are only as good as Sonny Gibbs's passing—which hasn't been quite good enough to win lately.
Arkansas over Rice. The Porkers and the Owls have one thing in common—they were both trounced by Texas. Better backs give the edge to Arkansas.
IOWA STATE OVER NEBRASKA
KANSAS OVER KANSAS STATE
KENTUCKY OVER VANDERBILT
LSU OVER NORTH CAROLINA
OREGON STATE OVER WASHINGTON
PENN STATE OVER WEST VIRGINIA
PRINCETON OVER HARVARD
RUTGERS OVER DELAWARE
TEXAS OVER BAYLOR
USC OVER STANFORD
* Friday night game.
LAST WEEK'S PREDICTIONS: 10 RIGHT, 9 WRONG, 1 TIE
SEASON'S RECORD: 88-46-6