The list of the nation's unbeaten and untied major-college teams, dwindling rapidly, was down to three—Texas (8-0), Alabama (8-0) and Rutgers (7-0)—after Colorado got caught up in the latest wave of upsets, bowing to twice-beaten Utah.
Meanwhile, bowl promoters, scurrying frantically to lock up appealing attractions, were busy rearranging their plans. The Orange Bowl, which had decided to invite Colorado and Georgia Tech, now wasn't so sure. The Bluebonnet was angling for Arkansas, while Gator officials had an eye on Syracuse. The best bowl bets: Rose—UCLA vs. Ohio State or Minnesota; Cotton—Texas vs. Mississippi; Sugar—LSU vs. Alabama.
The Ivy League, of course, looks down its collective nose at postseason bowls, but at least four teams played as though an invitation were in the offing. While Columbia was securing its future against Dartmouth, Harvard, defending with a tenacity seldom seen in Harvard Stadium in recent years, beat Princeton 9-7. The Tigers' single wing, weakened by injuries to Tailbacks Greg Riley and Hugh MacMillan, was reduced to ineffectual probing after a first-period touchdown and Harvard eventually turned a fumble into the winning score. Guard Ernie Zissis pounced on the loose ball and sophomore Quarterback Bill Humenuk led the Crimson on a 39-yard scoring march, bootlegging around end for the last yard with 4:45 left to play.
November 20, 1961
The incentive seemed just as great at Pitt Stadium, where Notre Dame and Pitt bobbled the ball back and forth until the Irish won 26-20. Fred Cox tried desperately to keep the Panthers in the ball game with a touchdown, 45-and 52-yard field goals and two extra points, but it wasn't enough. Notre Dame's Frank Budka passed for one score, set up another, intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble. Other major eastern independents had it much easier than the poor Pitts. Syracuse turned its "last hurrah" with Colgate into a 51-8 rout; Army swarmed over William & Mary 48-13; Penn State beat West Virginia 20-6; Holy Cross whomped Massachusetts 44-7.
Unbeaten Rutgers, pushed back on its heels by two quick Delaware touchdowns, rallied behind the running and passing of Quarterbacks Sam Mudie and Bill Speranza and the line busting of Fullback Steve Simms to outscore the persistent Blue Hens 27-19 and win the Mid-Atlantic title. The top three:
1. SYRACUSE (6-2)
2. PENN STATE (5-3)
3. RUTGERS (7-0)
While Alabama, Mississippi and LSU nonchalantly devastated nonconference rivals—Alabama ran over Richmond 66-0, Ole Miss battered Chattanooga 54-0, and LSU beat North Carolina 30-0—there were some significant rumblings in the lower reaches of the SEC. Tennessee caught Georgia Tech looking ahead to Saturday's battle with Alabama and upset the daydreaming Jackets 10-6. A Tech fumble gave the Vols' Gary Cannon a chance to kick a 31-yard field goal, and Tailback Mallon Faircloth did the rest. Running behind superb single-wing blocking, he picked apart the usually ungiving Jacket defense with slashing charges, then passed 22 yards to End Mike Stratton for the winning touchdown. Auburn, too, was brought up short. Mississippi State, which hadn't won a conference game since 1958, unexpectedly turned on the Tigers and beat them 11-10 when Billy Cook rushed over from the three-yard line and End Johnny Baker made a diving catch of Billy Hill's pass for two points with 2:45 to go.
Duke, heading for an Atlantic Coast showdown with North Carolina on Saturday, warmed to its next task by beating Navy 30-9. Coach Bill Murray, weary of watching his lonely end trying to match muscles with two defenders, sent a halfback in motion toward the same side to force the Middies to split their forces, and it worked even better than he expected. On Duke's fourth offensive play, End Jay Wilkinson grabbed Walt Rappold's 12-yard pass and jigged 65 yards for a touchdown. On the fifth play, Rappold ran 45 yards for another score, and Navy never recovered.
Things weren't quite so simple for some other ACC teams. Maryland stuttered and bumbled frequently against North Carolina State before barely winning 10-7, while South Carolina shook loose Jim Costen for two touchdowns in the last quarter, then held on grimly to shock favored Clemson 21-14. The ton three:
1. ALABAMA (8-0)
2. LSU (7-1)
3. MISSISSIPPI (7-1)
Minnesota's Murray Warmath is fond of pointing out, "It isn't the spectacular plays that win. It's the mistakes you don't make." Last Saturday his Golden Gophers were too busy forcing Iowa into mistakes to make any of their own. The bruising Minnesota defense, led by Tackle Bobby Bell and Center Dick Enga, separated the harassed Hawkeyes from three fumbles, intercepted three passes, blocked a punt for a touchdown; Minnesota won, 16-9. Despite some stubborn resistance from Indiana, Ohio State, the other Big Ten leader, kept pace, methodically hammering out a 16-7 win.
Purdue, the surprise of the Big Ten and Minnesota's next opponent, shelved its gingerbread offense for a battering game and further deflated Michigan State 7-6. Wisconsin, with a lift from Jim Bakken, who kicked Northwestern into a deep hole with his brilliant punting, defeated the Wildcats 29-10.
Without quite overwhelming anybody, Big Eight leader Colorado had won all season long and didn't expect any trouble from Utah, which had lost to New Mexico a week earlier. When Gale Weidner passed to Jerry Hillebrand for a first-period touchdown, the Buffs' unbeaten record seemed safe enough. Then Coach Sonny Grandelius sent in his second team and that was the game. Quarterback Gary Hertzfeldt passed superbly, the quick Utah backs slipped through the Colorado line and, almost before the astounded Buffs realized it, they were beaten 21-12.
In other surprises, Oklahoma roused itself for an oldtime Sooner effort and upset Missouri 7-0, and Iowa State foundered against Nebraska 16-13, leaving Kansas as the conference's big team. The Jayhawks, with John Hadl operating the option play brilliantly, smothered Kansas State 34-0. The top three:
1. OHIO STATE (6-0-1)
2. MINNESOTA (6-1)
3. PURDUE (5-2)
For a change, everything was crystal clear in the Southwest Conference. Texas had the championship all but won, runner-up Arkansas was again proving to be invincible in November and the rest of the league was nowhere. The powerful Longhorns, a little more ragged than usual on offense but more savage on defense, tromped all over Baylor 33-7. Arkansas kept Rice mired down in the mud at Houston, pecked away at the bulky Owls until it went ahead 10-0. At Dallas, SMU alumni were wailing louder than ever for Coach Bill Meek's scalp after Texas A&M scored twice in the fourth quarter to beat the Mustangs 25-12. But Texas Tech rooters were happy. The Raiders beat brawny Boston College 14-6.
Arizona State paid its last compliments to the Border Conference, out-scoring Texas Western 48-28 to clinch a share of the title. Arizona crushed Idaho 43-7; West Texas State's Pete Pedro ran for three touchdowns to help beat Trinity 29-28. The top three:
1. TEXAS (8-0)
2. ARKANSAS (6-2)
3. RICE (4-3)
Coach Billy Barnes, who had become very sensitive about UCLA's passing, needn't be any more. Using the weapon sparingly but efficiently against TCU, Bruin Tailbacks Bobby Smith and Mike Haffner completed six out of eight for 138 yards to keep the Frogs hopping, then whipped them with their favorite ground game, 28-7. USC, looking ahead to its Nov. 25 date with UCLA, kept its Rose Bowl hopes very much alive. The Trojans alertly covered six Stanford fumbles, ran over the defenseless Indians for 310 yards and beat them 30-15.
Elsewhere on the West Coast, favorites had a miserable Saturday. Air Force pushed over a late touchdown, gambled on a two-point play and beat California 15-14. Washington State, eschewing the pass for once, used a belly series to send Fullback George Reed crashing over for three scores and the Cougars upset Oregon 22-21. Oregon State went ahead of Washington 3-0 on Dave Richman's 23-yard field goal, then stopped the sluggish Huskies on the six-inch line to win its third game. The top three:
1. UTAH STATE (8-0-1)
2. UCLA (6-2)
3. UTAH (6-3)
SATURDAY'S TOUGH ONES
Alabama over Georgia Tech. Bowl-conscious Tech will be ready for this one, but Pat Trammell and an unyielding defense will keep the Crimson Tide rolling.
Duke over North Carolina. The proud Blue Devils aren't eager to give up the Atlantic Coast title. Better passing will help them keep it for a second straight year.
Michigan State over Northwestern. Life has been far from pleasant for Duffy Daugherty lately, but better play should restore sagging Spartan spirits.
Michigan over Iowa. The Hawkeye defense has developed holes, and those swift Michigan backs will find them.
Minnesota over Purdue. But the Gophers will have to be extra careful against the Big Ten spoilsports. The hard-hitting Minnesota line will be the difference.
Syracuse over Notre Dame. Dave Sarette's passing and talented Ernie Davis' running will be more than even the tough Irish can handle.
UCLA over Washington. Scoring is a problem for the Huskies this year. But not for the Bruins, who have their hearts set on the Rose Bowl.
Utah state over Utah. The unbeaten Aggies carry imposing credentials—first in scoring, second in total defense and third in offense. They will be hard to beat.
Pitt over USC. Points come rather easily against these two teams. The Panthers will get more than the Trojans.
Princeton over Yale. Even without their two best tailbacks, the Tigers generate too much power from the single wing for the Elis.
ARMY OVER OKLAHOMA
BOSTON COLLEGE OVER BOSTON U.
COLORADO OVER NEBRASKA
KANSAS OVER CALIFORNIA
MARYLAND OVER WAKE FOREST
MISSISSIPPI OVER TENNESSEE
PENN STATE OVER HOLY CROSS
RICE OVER TEXAS A&M
RUTGERS OVER COLGATE
SOUTH CAROLINA OVER N.C. STATE
LAST WEEK'S PREDICTIONS: 15 RIGHT, 5 WRONG
SEASON'S RECORD: 103-51-6