Those funny little creatures on the opposite page replaying the college football season in all of its quaint confusion—from a washed-out Notre Dame-Michigan State game to the three-way tussle for the Heisman Trophy to the two-way fight under Houston's dome—show as well as anything that the only way to look upon the events of this reasonless autumn is with a smile.
What made the season so disorderly, of course, was the fact that upsets were continuous. They began the first big weekend, when teams like Houston and Florida State beat and tied teams like Michigan State and Alabama, and they did not stop until other weird outfits, like Indiana, Texas A&M and Navy, had embarrassed the elite forces of Purdue, Texas and Army.
Out of this mischief emerged some strange conference champions—teams that had not won in years: Indiana, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Yale and Oklahoma, among them—and some new coaching wizards with equally unfamiliar names. Until 1967, for example, who had ever really heard of John Pont, Gene Stallings, Doug Dickey, Carmen Cozza and Chuck Fairbanks? These are men who won a total of 41 games and lost only eight during the year, while some of their famous fraternity brothers, Duffy Daugherty, Frank Broyles, Darrell Royal, Bob Devaney and Jim Owens, to name a few, wound up at 24-25-1.
The year served to disprove a lot of the favorite truisms of college football that coaches, pro scouts, bookmakers and writers have been living by for years. You could hear them everywhere, such gems as: "Bear will find a way," and "You can't run on Texas," and "Notre Dame at home," and "Frank will always have a quarterback," and "Washington in November" and "When in doubt, Ohio State."
December 25, 1967
Well, for once, Bear Bryant did not find a way when Alabama got tied by Florida State 37-37, or when he lost the big game to Tennessee. A lot of teams ran on Texas. And ran and ran. Not just O. J. Simpson and USC, but Texas Tech and TCU, and A&M, of all people. Notre Dame was good at home against the dogs that Ara Parseghian upped the score on, but not against USC when the Irish were favored by 12 and lost by 17. Meanwhile, Arkansas' Frank Broyles ran out of quarterbacks, as he suffered back and forth between Ronny South and John Eichler—and lost with both. Washington in November was beautiful, just beautiful. The Huskies lost three times in November. And, as things turned out, Ohio State was nearly always in doubt, losing to Arizona, Purdue and Illinois and barely defeating some lesser souls.
The magic date for 1967 was supposed to be October 28, and the place was supposed to be South Bend. There, with ABC-TV in an absolute drool, Notre Dame and Michigan State were expected to claw out another 10-10 tie as they did in 1966's famous "poll bowl." Unfortunately, when the two powers came up to that game they had 3-2 and 2-3 records, respectively, and most of television's millions had gone off boating, bowling and golfing.
Some interesting things had happened to both teams. A few Saturdays previous, Notre Dame's glamour player, Quarterback Terry Hanratty, set a national record by handling the ball 75 times, passing and running, in a single game—and the Irish lost to Purdue. Then Hanratty experienced his very worst afternoon, throwing five interceptions, as Notre Dame lost again, this time to USC.
But this was nothing compared to the woes of the Spartans. Duffy Daugherty's team never recovered from its opening defeat by Houston, a 37-7 massacre before the home folks of East Lansing. As the good-natured Daugherty told USC Coach John McKay later, on the occasion of McKay's acceptance of a No. 1 trophy, "Just think, John. If you work real hard next year, you can be 3-7."
The Houston team that turned Duffy Spartan green wound up being as curious as any other. In their first three games the Cougars scored 104 points, looked faster than the Blue Angels and had the surest bet for All-America that September ever produced. He was Warren McVea.
Then curious things began happening at the Astrodome to the world's only indoor football team. McVea got in a scrap with a teammate, End Ken Hebert, during a game before 40,000 fans. McVea then got hurt. McVea then started fumbling. And Houston finished with three losses. Ironically, Houston never stopped receiving bowl feelers and being mentioned in print as a potential bowl team (one national magazine went so far as to predict, in its preseason summary, that Houston would play Arkansas in the Gator Bowl) even though the team is ineligible because of a three-year NCAA probation handed down in 1966.
For a while, as the season wore on, it seemed that the races for No. 1, for conference championships and for all of the bowl berths might prove less exciting than the fight for the Heisman Trophy. There were three strong candidates, each of whom could be supported with reams of newsprint and logic—UCLA's Gary Beban, USC's O. J. Simpson and Purdue's Leroy Keyes. Even that noted syndicated columnist, Duffy Daugherty, took sides. As provincial as the next man, Duffy was rooting for Keyes from his own Big Ten.
Keyes's admirers had a splendid case, but good as he was, his performance did not quite measure up to that of Simpson. Both Simpson and Keyes had far better years than many Heisman winners of the past, as it turned out, but neither could outpoll Gary Beban for the honor, proving that most Heisman awards are given for a performance throughout a college career instead of for a season. Perhaps the "best of the year" stipulation of the Heisman award should be changed to "best of the year, but last year, too, if he's really a nice guy." Beban, who is really a nice guy, had a large backlog of heroics going for him, and he did manage to live up to his preseason raves better than any returning star. But if the Heisman is for the best player of 1967, then it should have gone to Simpson.
Undoubtedly, the day that Beban clinched the Heisman was November 18, which became the magic date to replace October 28. This was the Saturday that UCLA played USC for the national title. Beban and Simpson were both magnificent in the game, which was won by the Trojans 21-20. As USC and the Bruins put on their brilliant show, however, there was another team from the Pacific Eight Conference that had to be getting a big laugh from the California frenzy. That was Oregon State, the upsettingest crew of the year. The Beavers had just finished knocking over the Trojans 3-0 and tying UCLA 16-16. And before that they shocked Purdue 22-14. The disquieting thing about Oregon State was that it caused these calamities shortly after losing to such dreary foes as Brigham Young and Washington.
It was fortunate that those letdowns on the way to November 18 did not really detract from the importance of the USC-UCLA meeting. It was still the showdown for No. 1, for there were no two better teams over the season, at least up to that point. And once again a game of this type proved, as the Notre Dame-Michigan State game did a year ago, what kind of furor could be caused if college football would somehow find a way to arrange a national playoff.
Not that the polls fail to provide a lot of pleasure and debate. Usually there is a large amount of hollering about who should be No. 1, as in 1966 when Notre Dame outpolled Michigan State and Alabama. This year the choice of USC caused little in the way of complaints, except for some muttered drawls down Tennessee way, where Volunteer rooters have trouble remembering that their team stubbed its toe against UCLA way back in September.
Otherwise, the polls were filled with their usual popularity whims as the Top 10 was rounded out. If the nation's best teams were to be ranked on a who-is-most-deserving basis, one that properly weighs their won-lost performance and the quality of their opposition, the Top 10 would read like this: 1) USC, 2) Alabama, 3) Wyoming, 4) Purdue, 5) Tennessee, 6) UCLA, 7) Florida State, 8) Oklahoma, 9) Penn State and 10) North Carolina State.
It is not quite so easy to list the reasons why this was such a crazy season. One thing is certain. There is far more good football talent available than there was a decade ago, and this includes coaches as well as players. There seem to be hosts of young, skillful coaches around, men who know the game and have the ability to get the finer points across to their recruits. And because more good players are available, a few big schools are no longer able to corner the market.
In addition, the two-platoon age is settling down. At first only the major powers adjusted quickly, probably because they had lots of resources. Now others are adapting well. Players are being recruited with specialties in mind, place-kicking, receiving, punting and, above all, passing—you can't survive these days without a passer. The ability to make maximum use of what might be called the incomplete football player is increasingly important. The season also pointed up the necessity of being able to adjust well in the face of adversity. It was the innovators who prospered, the coaches who were forced to build teams in early season that were quite different from the ones they had planned initially. Thus Texas A&M lost its first four games and won a conference title, USC shaped an entire offense around a star it knew virtually nothing about until the season opened, Penn State won with sophomores because everybody else got hurt, Tennessee beat Alabama with a third-string quarterback, etc.
There is one last curiosity of the season, and it is going to make the business of bowl watching more fascinating than ever this time. The stars of the year are returning next season, and many of the teams of the year are, too. The list is startling: USC, Indiana, Penn State, Purdue, Texas, Miami, Oregon State, Texas A&M and Yale. All are teams dominated by sophomores and juniors. Keyes and Simpson return. So does Ted Hendricks at Miami—about the year's best lineman—as do Bill Bradley and Chris Gilbert at Texas and Terry Hanratty and Jim Seymour at Notre Dame. So one old football motto not only has survived the upset autumn, it has become doubly meaningful: "Wait 'til next year!"
Meanwhile there is the matter of the bowls to settle. Do you just suppose that as a climax to this way-out season Indiana could possibly...?
USC vs. INDIANA
There is always a built-in credibility gap to fairy tales, but not even a full-fledged, right-thinking fairy godmother—or John Pont, the coach at Cinderella U. in Bloomington, Ind.—would nave predicted this particular ending: that after 22 grimy years of being a kind of wallflower on a doormat, the last of the Big Ten sisters would be invited to the Big Ball in Pasadena. Hans Christian Andersen would have been drummed out of Denmark.
It began after two horrible seasons, seasons so bad that one of the men who originated the Old Oaken Bucket rivalry with Purdue 42 years ago suggested, quite seriously, that Indiana drop intercollegiate football because it obviously could not play it. "I got very mad at myself," Pont says. "I couldn't believe that I couldn't get the job done here." So last summer Pont ordered his players to lose weight, and they did—a total of 577 pounds. Encouraged, in part, by the refreshing ability of his team to move, Pont opened up his offense to let Quarterback Harry Gonso do more outside running and passing, switched 14 players to different positions, prayed that his sophomores would be supermen, began carrying two lucky pennies in his billfold and started the season dreaming an impossible dream—that his Hoosiers might somehow improve from miserable to mediocre. "A 5-5 season would not have been a disappointment," he observed.
Indiana showed the pattern of its year in its first game, an unresounding 12-10 win over Kentucky. In that one Harry Gonso flubbed a hand-off, then turned the mangled play into a touchdown pass. The pattern was to be no pattern or, as Pont puts it, "I encourage improvisation; it is basic to our offense." The Hoosiers improvised their way past Kansas and Illinois, and suddenly, against Iowa, something electric happened. Recalls Pont: "We were flat, and Iowa was ahead late in the fourth quarter. Normally I don't hear the stands; I'm turned off. But just before we got the ball the whole stadium rose and cheered. Last year they would have said, 'Oh, hell, so we lose again.' Now you could sense they felt we'd win, and the players felt it, too. From then on, things snowballed." Eventually they snowballed to the point that John Isenbarger, the halfback who sometimes punts and sometimes doesn't, was found standing in front of a mirror practicing the look he would use when he was introduced on national television. "That was when I knew we would make the Rose Bowl," says Pont.
Minnesota almost turned the Indiana snowball into a puddle of despair with a 33-7 victory, but then came a stunning 19-14 upset of Purdue. The key defensive play of that game, needless to say, was unplanned, too—a Purdue fumble on the Indiana one-yard line.
Although USC is far from the ashes-to-roses darling that Indiana is, the Trojans did not reach their No. 1 zenith without both surprises and adversities. Surprises? However obvious their abilities may seem now, both O. J. Simpson and Earl McCullouch were untried at the season's start. Adversities? Coach John McKay lost his No. 1 fullback, a starting halfback, a starting defensive tackle and a starting defensive end to knee surgery. Adversities and surprises? Top Quarterback Toby Page was hurt for two games, but Steve Sogge—"too short, too slow, too inexperienced," to quote one USC rival—filled in. Superbly. And when Simpson sprained his foot against Oregon an unheralded senior named Steve Grady took over. Superbly.
To McKay the essential win of the season came against Notre Dame because it "made us strong, unified us and bolstered our confidence." The year's key play was, naturally, a Simpson run, this one for 64 yards and a touchdown against UCLA. But that had its ironic oddity, too, for the block that broke Simpson free was contributed by Split End Ron Drake, a spindly, 170-pound receiver who had been benched much of the day to make room for burlier ends who could hit. McKay ordered a pass and sent Drake in to catch it, but when Quarterback Page saw UCLA's defense he called an audible for O.J.'s off-tackle blast. Instead of Ron Drake catching a pass, he threw the block that put USC in its 15th Rose Bowl game.
Can Indiana's improvisers fool No. 1 for a whole afternoon? It isn't likely, though the Hoosiers did stop All-America Leroy Keyes, and they might give O.J. some trouble. For a while. But there isn't a fairy-tale teller around who would match Cinderella against Helen of Troy and pick the country girl in the glass slippers to win.
TENNESSEE vs. OKLAHOMA
When Tennessee Coach Doug Dickey was asked about his Orange Bowl game against Oklahoma, Dickey's reply did not flash around the world or force pressmen to replate page one. "It should be a good game," he said. Right, Doug Dickey, it should. And what it lacks in gee-whiz romantics, it should more than make up in unadorned, no-nonsense football.
These days people around Tennessee are buying bumper stickers that say GO BIG ORANGE BOWL, but back in September it was hard to look at the Volunteers' first five opponents—UCLA, Auburn, Georgia Tech, Alabama and LSU—without wondering if that Big Orange might not turn a little green before long. "We knew the burden would be on the offense," says Dickey, "because our defense was young." Fair enough. Things stayed intact through a loss to UCLA, but then—one by one—Tennessee lost No. 1 Quarterback Dewey Warren, No. 2 Quarterback Charlie Fulton, its top place-kicker and two desperately needed defensive players. What happened through this period was the kind of thing, quite unpredictably, that gives one team a season to remember and another the urge to bury the class yearbook forever. Tennessee's replacements held the defensive fort and Auburn was beaten 14-13. Third-stringer Bubba Wyche pulled out the Georgia Tech game with two touchdown passes to Flanker Richmond Flowers, and a victory over Alabama was sewed up when Defensive Back Albert Dorsey intercepted his third pass and went 40 yards to score with a minute to play.
Despite the patching-up, Dickey was reasonably certain that his team was of bowl caliber, but it took the LSU game to guarantee it. And the hero of that particular clincher was a relatively anonymous kicker named Karl Kremser, a West Point transfer who had gone to Tennessee for its track program. Dickey found Kremser kicking a football for fun one day, signed him up and, of course, Tennessee beat LSU 17-14 because Kremser made one of the few field goals he ever had tried in public.
While Tennessee had to keep dipping into its wondrous supply of Wyches and Kremsers to stay even with its cripple roll, Oklahoma went the entire season with only one really notable injury—Line Coach Buck Nystrom sprained his ankle during practice. The Sooners figured to be a sound team from the start, but not an Orange Bowl entry, if only because the death of their popular young head coach, Jim Mackenzie, was sure to have an upsetting effect. In addition, the Sooners lost nine starting linemen from 1966. Oklahoma won its first two games easily enough with Quarterback Bob Warmack, a frail-looking junior, performing well. Then, with Texas due, a flu epidemic leveled the squad. Queasy or not, the Sooners pushed Texas all over the field for a half before finally losing 9-7. "That was the game that mattered," says Sooner Coach Chuck Fairbanks. "It told us we could play well against good football teams." From then on it was just one win after another, as Oklahoma's quick defense came into its own, shutting out both rugged Missouri and highly touted Colorado. Over the season Oklahoma gave up only 6.8 points a game, making it the top defensive team in the country. All-America Middle Guard Granville ("It's a thrill to hit people") Liggins was as tough as expected, and Linebacker Don ("I love collisions") Pfrimmer, a transfer to OU this year, was an unexpected terror.
In the Orange Bowl the Sooner defense may not be quite as effective as usual, for it has not come up against the likes of Dewey Warren or his big offensive line, led by Center Bob Johnson. On the other hand, Tennessee probably will have some trouble bottling up the Sooners' quick, diverse offense, especially the thrusts of Tailbacks Steve Owens and Ron Shotts, who spell each other to double their stamina (they finished one-two among Big Eight rushers). Both teams are well balanced, exquisitely drilled and profoundly unflappable. Both have efficient, executive-style coaching staffs. Dickey, for example, uses a computer to analyze his scouting reports. As a result, the Orange Bowl probably will be the textbook game of New Year's Day. When Doug Dickey was asked if he thought a bowl game might push his team to any new emotional peaks, his reply was typical Dickey, one that did not lead networks to interrupt their regularly scheduled programs. "A bowl game is a big event for a football player," he said. "Everyone will be playing his best." Right, Doug Dickey. Tennessee's best probably will be just a little bit better than Oklahoma's.
ALABAMA vs. TEXAS A&M
Bear Bryant wept in 1965 when Gene Stallings left Alabama to go to Texas A&M. During the seven years that Stallings served Bryant as an assistant coach, the two developed just about every classic relationship there is—pro-and-tyro, father-and-son, teacher-and-pupil, author-and-ghostwriter (Stallings ghosted Bryant's book, Building A Championship Football Team). Although he has been out on his own as A&M's head coach for three years now, Stallings still calls The Bear "Coach Bryant," and he is still habitually very big with the yessirs and nosirs in Bryant's presence. Now the old friends become foes-for-an-afternoon in the Cotton Bowl, and Gene Stallings is not kidding himself about that. "There is nobody I would rather play than Alabama," he says. "But I don't trust Coach Bryant out in the arena; I've been on his sideline too many times."
Obviously, Bryant is not to be trusted when he is across the field. This is his ninth bowl team—and ninth Top 10 team—at Alabama in the last nine years, and you don't do that by being palsy-walsy with the opposition. There were moments this year when Bryant's team did seem passive enough, such as the 37-37 tie against Florida State and the loss to Tennessee. But, as Gene Stallings knows better than anyone, The Bear believes a stout defense is the antidote to most losers' woes. In its last five games Alabama allowed a total of two touchdowns. The offense, too, took on some much-needed balance around mid-season. Splendid as the Kenny Stabler-to-Dennis Homan passing combination may be, it could not produce every yard the Tide needed, so when Fullback Ed Morgan and Tailback Tommy Wade finally started gaining on the ground, Alabama did not stop rolling until it had an 8-1-1 record.
All of which bodes exceedingly bad for Stallings' on-again-off-again Aggies. Although the A&M defense came up with 27 interceptions—that could mean trouble for Stabler—and has Linebacker Bill Hobbs, whom Stallings thinks is the best since Lee Roy Jordan, the Texans gave up an average of 340 yards a game. That is being too generous against any bowl opponent, to say nothing of a wise old Bear. Stallings likes to say, "Statistics are for losers." True or not, statistics certainly did not make his team a winner. They were out-first-downed, outrushed and outpassed all season. The A&M players call themselves a big play club, but the big play worked both ways. SMU beat them with four seconds left, and they lost to Florida State 19-18 because Place-kicker Charley Riggs's extra-point try hit the right upright and bounced back. After FSU, which was A&M's fourth straight loss, Stallings instituted Operation Shake Well, a vast realignment of the team. A&M never lost again, as the big plays began to go its way. On the next Saturday a 15-yard touchdown run by Quarterback Edd Hargett after the gun went offbeat Texas Tech 28-24, and the season ended with Texas A&M beating Texas 10-7 because a Riggs field-goal try hit the left upright and flopped inside the goalpost.
Even more than the big plays, it was that mad midseason lineup scramble that brought A&M to the Cotton Bowl. Stallings is entirely too self-deprecatory about it. "Smart coaches don't have to do that," he says. "They find their best football players in the spring and leave them at one position. I'm not that smart." Perhaps, but there is nothing not-smart about Stallings. Still, when you come up against The Bear it is best not to have any weaknesses at all. Certainly Bryant will find a way to exploit the Aggies' too-generous defense and the occasionally slow-footed ways of Quarterback Hargett. "There aren't many folks who beat Coach Bryant," said Stallings, "but I sure would like to. You would rather beat your friends than your enemies any day." In addition, if another philosophical point of view is needed, there is the one provided by the few million A&M fans who remember that Bryant was a head coach there from 1954 to 1957. They would gladly beat him, on the theory that he is an enemy for sure.
For Stallings, victory day may have to wait. Alabama's offense, defense, bench and overall class seem too much for Texas A&M. As to the coaches—well, Gene Stallings is 32 and Paul Bryant is going on 55, and even though Gene did write that book, it was The Bear who told him what to say.
LSU vs. WYOMING
Around Laramie it is being talked about as the greatest thing since readymade horseshoes. Certainly Wyoming has been in bowls before (one Gator and three Sun), and the team has never lost in a bowl. But some 10,000 people, which is 3% of the state's entire population, are planning to hit New Orleans—including the governor, two Senators, most of the legislature and a Shetland-pony mascot named Cowboy Joe II. As Coach Lloyd Eaton puts it, "This is Wyoming's biggest chance in history. The kids are thrilled, but I think they'll stay close to earth."
This is merely a figure of speech, of course, because without its passing attack Wyoming would be bleak at best, and certainly not the only undefeated major team in college football. The Cowboys started their season billed as good-run, no-throw. Senior Quarterback Paul Toscano was a veteran, of course, with two fine seasons behind him. Unfortunately, they were seasons spent in the defensive backfield, so Wyoming planned to run a lot and not strain Toscano's passing arm. But Toscano apparently had learned how defensive backs think, for he hit 55.6% of his passes and threw for the gala total of 18 touchdowns. "Paul just got stronger and stronger," says Eaton, smiling. Paul almost had to be stronger than a goalpost, for early in the season Wyoming lost five of its top six offensive linemen. While Toscano dodged and ducked, Eaton dug out three sophomores, a junior college transfer and an ex-defensive expert to replace the wounded, and although the running game suffered somewhat, the pass protection was more than adequate. For the Sugar Bowl the Cowboys have all but one of their injured in shape, which means the running, led by Tailback Jim Kiick, may come back surprisingly strong and harass LSU from an unexpected angle.
Wyoming and Louisiana State are a far cry apart—in culture, cuisine, topography, politics and football. The Sugar Bowl is everyday stuff at LSU, a routine 90-minute ride away, and this (ho-hum) is the eighth time the home-state team has played in it. Still there is plenty of incentive for LSU to prove that its 6-3-1 record is really better than Wyoming's 10-0. And maybe it is, because LSU plays the likes of Tennessee, Alabama, Miami, Mississippi and Texas A&M. What do those teams have in common? They are all in bowls.
Also, unlike Wyoming, LSU fell on heartbreaking times this year, suffering three losses by a total of six points. "If a football team played through 100 seasons, I don't think the same set of near misses would happen again," says LSU Coach Charles McClendon. Probably not, especially with LSU's rugged defense, led by All-America End John Garlington and an expert safetyman named Sammy Grezaffi, who is a 9.5 sprinter. Grezaffi is so good that he held three of the country's best receivers to a grand total of three catches—Florida's Dick Trapp (none), Tennessee's Richmond Flowers (one), and Alabama's Dennis Homan (two). LSU's depth is impressive; McClendon used between 50 and 57 players nearly every game. The offense is more workaday than whiz-bang and is run by one of the most hospitalized quarterbacks in the business. Nelson Stokley had two knee operations and surgery on one shoulder in the 18 months preceding the season, but he gave LSU enough passing to keep the defense from playing a nine-man line all over the field. "Nellie's statistics may not be very impressive," says McClendon, "but remember, LSU is a running team."
One thing LSU definitely is not is a kicking team. It has come to be called The Toeless Tigers, good at getting the ball across the goal line but almost never through the goalposts. LSU kickers missed a field goal against Tennessee for a 17-14 loss, an extra point against Alabama for a 7-6 defeat and another against Ole Miss for a 6-6 tie. If Wyoming were allowed to play the game by the toe alone, LSU wouldn't even need to make that 90-minute bus ride. The Cowboys' kicker, Jerry DePoyster, made 21 of 31 points after touchdown and booted crucial field goals to beat Colorado State and Texas at El Paso. But the Sugar Bowl—though it is going to be closer than all those enthusiastic Tiger fans think—probably won't be close enough for DePoyster to win it for Wyoming.
FLORIDA STATE vs. PENN STATE
First find a team that has six ex-high school quarterbacks in its starting 22, a linebacker who returns punts and eight other players who had their heads shaved before the season because they "wanted identity." Then get another team that has a superstitious halfback who asks people in the school band to feed him peanut butter for luck on nights before games and where the defensive backs have a bonded brotherhood called The Rat Pack, with personalized code names like Splinter Rat, Under Rat, Mumble Rat, Clap Rat and Zeus Rat. Put them together in the Gator Bowl, call one Penn State and the other Florida State. Then ask Coach Joe Paterno of Penn State what he thinks: he used to be an usher at Ebbets Field, and he will tell you. "This could be the best bowl game of them all," he says. "We don't feel we can stop them, and we don't believe they can stop us. Who knows, the final score might be 42-41."
Who knows, indeed? Joe Paterno started his season with a predominantly senior team, then lost his best halfback and best linebacker and wound up playing 10 sophomores on his first-string. His team lost—but barely—to Navy and UCLA and beat such powerful opponents as Miami, Syracuse and North Carolina State. No one could have known that sophomore Halfback Charlie Pittman would average 4.9 yards a rush or that sophomore Fullback Don Abbey would score 88 points or that sophomore Linebacker Dennis Onkotz (the punt-returner and one of those ex-quarterbacks) would intercept six passes, two for crucial touchdowns. Paterno did foresee a fine offense, with senior Quarterback Tom Sherman passing to Split End Jack Curry, who is another ex-quarterback, and All-America Tight End Ted Kwalick, a ringleader in seeking identity through head shaving. But Penn State's offense was better than just fine: the team averaged 28.2 points a game, Sherman finished sixth in the country in total offense, Curry wound up holding every Penn State pass-catching record there is and Kwalick, a junior, was so good that UCLA Coach Tom Prothro called him "the best tight end I have seen in college football."
But Florida State is not lacking offensive zing either, not with the brilliance of Flanker Ron Sellers, who gained more yards with pass receptions than anybody else in the nation, and Quarterback Kim Hammond, who was No. 2 in total offense and is so adept at reading defenses that after FSU's 37-37 tie with Alabama, poor Bear Bryant growled, "He picked us apart like he was picking a chicken." Besides the Alabama tie, Florida State lost to Houston and North Carolina State, but when it beat Texas A&M 19-18, after trailing 9-0, "that made us a bowl team," says Head Coach Bill Peterson. Which bowl team was something else. The week before Florida State's last game, which was against the University of Florida, FSU had a firm Liberty Bowl bid. Peterson rejected it, gambling that his team would get the more glamorous Gator Bowl invitation if it waited—and if it beat Florida. That was done, 21-16, and now comes Penn State.
Joe Paterno's team should know what to expect. Although the rushing of FSU's Fullback Bill Moremen and Halfback Larry Green, the peanut-butter nut, is helpful, FSU is sure to pass, pass, pass, since Hammond and his underlings averaged 24 throws a game during the season. "We are not," says Peterson, "what you'd call a well-balanced team. You would want stronger running and maybe more defense."
Despite FSU's Rat Pack spirit, pass defense was not a Seminole forte during most of the season, and Penn State's Sherman will probably find plenty of open receivers. On the other hand, Penn State's plucky defense is not exactly Green Bay either, and Hammond has no less than four splendid pass catchers who are just a little less talented than Sellers.
In recent weeks Paterno has been irked about some not-very-veiled cracks concerning the caliber of football played in his part of the U.S. "We'd like to use the Gator Bowl to show the country that the East still plays a great brand of football, contrary to what some people think," he says. Unfortunately, it seems likely that the Who Knows Bowl is going to be more conducive to football that is frantic than classic. In fact, 42-41 sounds about right—Florida State and a lot of fun.—WILLIAM JOHNSON