As Texas' sun set in the West last week, Alabama's rose in the East. Undefeated, the Crimson Tide beat Georgia Tech, perhaps the toughest team on its schedule, 10-0 and replaced Texas as the nation's highest-ranked team.
The Georgia Tech game, played before 53,000 fans in Birmingham, was rugged and fundamental, and, by the lights of those not involved, dull. Alabama marched for a touchdown in the second quarter and kicked a field goal in the third, then resorted to possession football for the rest of the game. It really wasn't necessary, for Georgia Tech couldn't move when it did get the ball. Early in the game it recovered a fumble on the Alabama 42. Failing to make a first down, Georgia Tech punted and never again got as close to the Alabama goal.
After the game, Alabama Coach Bear Bryant, with visions of bowl bids dancing in his head, praised his boys. "I am convinced this football team has class," he said. Bobby Dodd of Georgia Tech agreed. His team had previously lost to LSU, also by 10-0, but he claimed, surprisingly, that there was no comparison between the strengths of Alabama and LSU. His vote was definitely for Alabama as the No. I team in the country.
Mr. Dodd will get an argument from the folks out in Utah, where the mere mention of national rankings provokes growls. Utah State is undefeated (tied once), but before last Saturday's game against rival Utah it was not included among the nation's top 10. As if to point out this error of judgment, Utah State beat Utah 17-6 to finish the season as one of the four major unbeaten teams (the other two: Ohio State and Rutgers).
November 27, 1961
For Utah State's outstanding halfback, Tommy Larscheid, the game was a personal triumph. In a fine career, he had never had any luck against Utah. As a sophomore he had been thrown out of the game for roughness. As a junior he was the Skyline Conference back of the year, the nation's No. 2 ground-gainer. But against Utah, Larscheid's total for the day had been a minus six yards rushing. When the game was over, there were signs all over State's dressing room reading: "Tommy-gun turned out to be a water-pistol." Larscheid was furious. "The worst thing about it was that they ruined our undefeated record," he said later. "Well, don't forget one thing. I've still got one more game to play against Utah."
The largest crowd ever to watch a Skyline game—32,437—came to Ute Stadium in Salt Lake City to see State and Larscheid get their revenge. The huge State team, whose best three tackles averaged 265 pounds—"They have bigger tackles than we do," Jim Lee Howell of the New York Giants said recently—crunched out enough yardage through sheer power to score a field goal in the first quarter and a touchdown plus 2-point conversion in the second to lead 11-0 at the half. Once again, however, Larscheid had turned out to be a water-gun. Every time he ran there seemed to be a wall of Utah linemen in front of him.
It was midway through the third quarter that Larscheid's moment arrived. Utah was forced to punt, and Larscheid caught the ball on his own 15. He ran for the sideline, saw he was hemmed in and did a little backward-forward toe dance. Two lunging Utah tacklers missed by inches. Then, escorted by a wedge of blockers, Larscheid raced 85 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. As he crossed the goal line, Larscheid threw the ball high into the air, then turned and hugged every teammate he could find. "Two years!" he shouted after the game. "Two years of failure ended today."
Utah State's victory will certainly move it into the 10 top teams and the only question is how high. Utah State beat Utah, which the week before beat Colorado. Colorado beat Missouri and Missouri beat Minnesota. Minnesota, ranked fourth in the nation last week, may be third now, so theoretically, Utah State should be ranked around there. At least that's the way Tommy Larscheid and Utah State see it.
In a game Coach Murray Warmath described as "for men only," Minnesota out-bulldozed Purdue 10-7 to take the Big Ten lead, while Ohio State protected its national ranking by beating Oregon 22-12. Minnesota scored all its points in a four-minute span during the second quarter on a 25-yard field goal by Tackle Tom Loechler and a four-yard run by Quarterback Sandy Stephens. Purdue, held inside its own 32-yard line during the first half, finally scored late in the game on a dive by Quarterback Gary Hogan, but an error in judgment by Purdue Coach Jack Mollenkopf cost the Boilermakers a chance to score earlier. With fourth down on Minnesota's 25-yard line, Mollenkopf ordered a punt. "I thought we were on the 35," he said. "When I realized it was the 25 I yelled to Ron DiGravio [his quarterback] to call time out so we could try a field goal. He didn't hear me." Thus the fortunes of college football teams.
Iowa dropped farther into its own slough of despond. After taking a 14-3 lead the Hawkeyes fell apart in the second half under the constant prodding of Michigan's swift backs and lost their fourth straight, 23-14. Michigan State, too late, was showing strength again. Sophomore Sherman Lewis perked up the spotty Spartan offense with two touchdown runs, and MSU beat Northwestern 21-13. At Madison, Wisconsin's Ron Miller and Pat Richter found Illinois' pass defense as leaky as its line, and the Badgers routed the Illini 55-7.
The luck of the Irish, with some help from Syracuse, was working overtime in South Bend last Saturday. Frank Budka had put Notre Dame in front 14-0, but Dave Sarette and Bob Lelli matched his two touchdown passes, and as time ran out Syracuse led 15-14. Then the Irish's Joe Perkowski stepped back to try a 56-yard field goal. He missed, but some intemperate and not very thoughtful Orangemen roughed the ball holder, giving Perkowski a second chance. This time he made good from 41 yards out, and the Irish won 17-15.
Big Eight leader Colorado, perhaps too anxious to show off for Orange Bowl officials, bumbled fitfully against Nebraska and, while never in danger, was hardly impressive in beating the Huskers 7-0. Missouri Valley champion Wichita, perhaps too satisfied with its invitation to play Villanova in the Sun Bowl, lost to Dayton 23-12. The top three:
1. OHIO STATE (7-0-1)
2. MINNESOTA (7-1)
3. KANSAS (6-2-1)
The game was not significant. Oklahoma had lost five straight before beating Kansas State and Missouri. Army had looked good only against second-class opposition. But for a few minutes in New York's Yankee Stadium the Sooners looked like Coach Bud Wilkinson's teams of old. Going off on a fast count that caught the Cadet defenses huddling, Oklahoma sprang Mike McClellan loose around left end for 75 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter. The Sooners added another in the third and for the rest of the game depended on crashing linemen, who relentlessly rushed Army Quarterback Dick Eckert to near distraction. The final score: 14-8.
Pitt, nearing the end of a treacherous schedule, salvaged what little was left of the East's reputation against USC—but just barely. Ahead 10-3 on Ricky Leeson's three-yard plunge and Fred Cox's 43-yard field goal, the Panthers fumbled, then held off the rallying Trojans to win 10-9, when Leeson batted down a two-point pass attempt. Disappointing Penn State finally had a good day. Against Holy Cross, Halfback Roger Kochman ran for three touchdowns, Buddy Torris scored twice and the Nittany Lions rushed for 380 yards as they won 34-14. Navy, attacking less spectacularly, beat stubborn Virginia 13-3 while Boston College overcame Boston U. 10-7 on the power running of Harry Crump and Lou Kirouac's 23-yard field goal.
Rutgers remained unbeaten, mostly because of defensive play by Quarterback Sam Mudie. While Colgate pushed the supposedly inviolable Scarlet Knights around scandalously, Mudie ran back intercepted passes 52 and 38 yards for touchdowns. He plunged a yard for another and passed 35 yards to End Bill Craft for a fourth as Rutgers won 26-6. Lehigh, playing Lafayette for the 97th time, won 17-14 on a field goal by Andy Larko in the last six seconds while undefeated Amherst lost to Williams 12-0.
In the Ivy League, Columbia, hardly straining, ran over inferior Penn 37-6 to clinch first place. Princeton, a 26-16 winner over Yale, and Harvard, which beat Brown 21-6, can still tie Columbia by winning Saturday. The top three:
1. PENN STATE (6-3)
2. SYRACUSE (6-3)
3. RUTGERS (8-0)
Alabama all but locked up the SEC championship with its convincing victory over Georgia Tech, but the result had little effect on the bowl aspirations of LSU and Mississippi. Mississippi State gave LSU some exceedingly anxious moments before Fullback Earl Gros bailed out the Tigers in the last quarter. Gros ran 30 yards with an intercepted pass, barreled off tackle for 49 more, then plunged over from the one, and LSU won 14-6. Ole Miss, its running game blunted by a hard-hitting Tennessee line, was forced into the air to beat the Vols 24-10. Quarterback Doug Elmore spread the Tennessee defense with his precise passes, creating just enough gaps for the Mississippi backs to dart through.
The other SEC teams were content to play out the string. Auburn, the next team to test unbeaten Alabama, beat Georgia 10-7; Tulane gave Coach Andy Pilney another week of respite by beating Vanderbilt 17-14.
Duke and North Carolina banged heads furiously for 60 minutes at Durham but, in the end, the game was decided by field-goal kickers. NC's Bob Elliott had the Tar Heels out in front 3-0 until Duke's Bill Reynolds got into the act with 5½ minutes to go. He kicked a 32-yarder to get the Blue Devils even, then, with six seconds to play, kicked another from the 29-yard line to give Duke a 6-3 victory and the ACC title. Among the also-rans, Maryland used John Hannigan's three-pointer to beat Wake Forest 10-7 while North Carolina State finally released Quarterback Roman Gabriel from his shell. He completed 17 of 22 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns, ran for two more as the Wolfpack beat South Carolina 38-14. The top three:
1. ALABAMA (9-0)
2. LSU (8-1)
3. MISSISSIPPI (8-1)
Arkansas, maintaining its balance as Texas stumbled (see page 22), moved into a tie for the SWC lead as Halfback Lance Alworth confounded the ragged SMU defenders with his brilliant pass-catching and snaky runs to lead the Razorbacks to a 21-7 win.
Meanwhile Rice and Texas A&M met in Houston to defend the honor of their coaches: Rice's durable old Jess Neely had been hanged in effigy, and the Aggies' Jim Myers was rumored on his way out. "We're going to show people what we think of Coach Myers," said one Aggie. Rice won 21-7, leaving a good many people, including Myers, uncertain just what the Aggies do think of him.
While Nolan Jones scored four times to lead Arizona State past Detroit 40-6, West Texas State assured the Sun Devils of the Border title. Pete Pedro, the nation's leading scorer, ran for two touchdowns to boost his point total to 132, and the Buffs eliminated New Mexico State 35-22. But Aggie Halfback Preacher Pilot ran for 114 yards to lead the major-college rushers with 959. Arizona's Eddie Wilson threw three touchdown passes, and the Wildcats beat Texas Western 48-15. The top three:
1. TEXAS (8-1)
2. ARKANSAS (7-2)
3. TCU (3-4-1)
California football, which had seemed to be on the rise, was suddenly down on all fours again. In the most disastrous weekend of the season, UCLA and USC, who meet Saturday for the right to go to the Rose Bowl, and California and Stanford sadly came to defeat.
Washington's tricky Charlie Mitchell put UCLA in a hole when he ran the opening kickoff back 90 yards for a touchdown. The Bruins fumbled the first time they got their hands on the ball and, three minutes later, Washington's Dick Schmidt kicked a 21-yard field goal to put Washington ahead 10-0. Forced to throw when Washington's ends and corner backs throttled their favorite sweeps, the Bruins passed for 241 yards, but it was Mike Haffner's two short runs that put them in front 13-10 in the second quarter. However, the lead proved to be a temporary one. Bill Siler broke through the UCLA line for 25 yards in the last period, and Washington won 17-13. "We made enough mistakes to last for 10 years," said a disgusted Coach Bill Barnes. "We just played a damned lousy game."
Things were even worse up north. Washington State, wisely mixing a potent ground game with Quarterback Mel Melin's passes to End Hugh Campbell, who scored twice, had no trouble rolling over Stanford 30-0. But the most humiliating disaster was the one that hit Cal. Kansas, aiming for a bowl bid, sent John Hadl, Curt McClinton (who scored four touchdowns) and its other talented backs running through, around and over the sprawling Bears, flattening them 53-7. The top three:
1. UTAH STATE (9-0-1)
2. UCLA (6-3)
3. WYOMING (6-1-2)
SATURDAY'S TOUGH ONES
Penn state over Pitt. The Nittany Lions still have bowl hopes. A solider defense will get them past Pitt and, with luck, a trip to a place in the sun.
Harvard over Yale. The Harvards, yearning for a share of the Ivy League title, are strong defensively and with a modest offense will be too much for the Elis.
Northwestern over Miami.* But the Wildcats will have to find a way to hold Miami's squirmy George Mira.
Auburn over Florida. A clawing match between the Tigers and the Gators. Auburn's firmer line will make the difference.
Notre Dame over Iowa. Frank Budka has given the Irish the passing they needed. That's enough to beat the Hawkeyes.
Ohio State over Michigan. Woody Hayes has his heart set on an unbeaten season. Bob Ferguson and Bob Klein will find the holes in the Michigan defense.
Minnesota over Wisconsin. Ron Miller's passing and Pat Richter's catches may bother the Gophers, but not enough to keep them from the Big Ten title.
Oklahoma over Nebraska. The Sooners are on the way back. If they can't overpower the Huskers, they can outsmart them.
Kansas over Missouri. The Jayhawkers are flying high again. John Hadl and Curt McClinton will be too much for the ailing Tigers.
UCLA over USC. The stakes—the Big Five title and the Rose Bowl—are big. But the Bruins have the better runners.
ARIZONA OVER ARIZONA STATE
CALIFORNIA OVER STANFORD
COLORADO OVER IOWA STATE
N.C. STATE OVER CLEMSON
OREGON STATE OVER OREGON
PRINCETON OVER DARTMOUTH
RICE OVER TCU
RUTGERS OVER COLUMBIA
TENNESSEE OVER KENTUCKY
WASHINGTON OVER WASHINGTON STATE
*Friday night game
LAST WEEK'S PREDICTIONS: 16 RIGHT, 4 WRONG
SEASON'S RECORD: 119-55-6