Fun time, right? It's something like that down in Houston. None of that nonsense about painful grass drills and tackles having to run six-minute miles. Coach Bill Yeoman doesn't like the thought of being called General. "There are enough serious things around to worry about," he says. "It doesn't hurt to laugh once in a while." So when Ted Nance, the school's sports publicity director, walks out to practice to get All-America End Elmo Wright to pose for pictures, there stand Yeoman and all his assistants and about eight million sweating bodies circled round, cheering. "And, Elmo," Yeoman yells over with a smile, "please come back when you're through. We'd sure appreciate it."
If there is anything less traditional than Yeoman's idea of a practice, it's his offense, the by-now-famous Houston veer-triple-over-under option, an experiment a lot of people had a lot of trouble taking seriously at the start. Until it won. Since 1965 Houston has been—or has been among—the nation's total-offense leaders. "It's really not that hard an offense," Yeoman claims. "It's just repetitions, a thousand repetitions. You eliminate the thought process and make each reaction instinctive."
The theory results in a limited offensive notebook (only 12 basic running plays), no game plan per se and adds the necessity of making adjustments during the game itself. "The blackboard doesn't do," Yeoman says. "They have to learn to read on the grass." It's his favorite phrase, and he repeats it often. "They have to learn to read on the grass."
This puts the pressure on the quarterback, a baby-faced, cocky junior with the comic-strip name of Moon Mullins—if he recovers completely from knee surgery he had last April. Yeoman made him a starter last season after the Cougars lost their first two games, and he carried them to nine straight wins, including an Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl victory over Auburn. "He's 5'10", nearsighted, runs the 50 in 6.0 and can't throw," says Yeoman of Mullins. "Aside from that, he's fine. People rally to him."
Where Mullins is the leader, and a good one, Wide Receiver Elmo Wright is the star. Nicknamed Little E (Elvin Hayes, of course, stands as the Big E), Wright is on his way to becoming all-time national leader in career yards, career touchdowns and average yards per catch. "They ought to give him a red light and a siren when he gets the ball," says his teammate, Tackle Craig Robinson. "He's just flat dangerous."
Steve Tannen, the New York Jets' No. 1 draft choice, will attest to that. They were in Chicago together before last season to be photographed for a magazine All-America team. Tannen walked up to Wright. "You're Elmo Wright from Houston, aren't you?" he asked.
"Yes," Wright said.
"Well, my name's Steve Tannen from Florida," he said, introducing himself. "And when we play you're not going to catch a pass off me."
Wright smiled. "No way," he said softly. There wasn't. When Florida and Houston met in last season's opener Wright caught six for 127 yards and three touchdowns. No one stops Little E.
And not many will stop Houston.