Well, it looks like One is One and ever more shall be—at least until New Year's Day—thanks to Davis and Newton and Langner.
One, as in No. 1, is personnel-rich University of Southern California, a principality on the West Coast of the United States which beat 10th-ranked Notre Dame 45-23 Saturday to round out the regular season as the nation's lone undefeated major college team.
Davis, as in Anthony Davis, is the sophomore USC tailback who held the ball out in front of himself—and wiggled it one way while going another—when threatened, danced on his knees when triumphant, and scored a miraculous six touchdowns against the harassed Irish.
And Bill Newton and David Langner are the Auburn combination that blocked two fourth-quarter punts (Newton) and ran the resultant squibbles back for touchdowns (Langner) to upset hitherto-undefeated Alabama 17-16 and confirm USC's Onehood absolutely.
December 11, 1972
When Alabama led 16-0 after three quarters, it appeared that Bear Bryant had maneuvered the Tide into a New Year's shot at the national title, but there was one flaw in the Alabama athletic program. Newton found it twice and so it was back to the drawing board for the Bear no matter what his forces do against Texas in the Cotton Bowl.
The Trojans still face Ohio State in what may be a provocative Rose Bowl, but the big No. 1 is now virtually wrapped up—and any individual who has the speed, moves and blocking to score six touchdowns against Notre Dame could probably run over to the Ohio State bench, call Woody Hayes a pinko and get away with it.
Actually, if Davis' touchdown pace had not slacked off after the first quarter he would have scored 12. But six is still pretty good—one short of the NCAA record established by Mississippi's Showboat Boykin in 1951—and one of Davis' entailed a 97-yard run on the opening kickoff. Another one, a 96-yard return of a kickoff near the end of the third period, was the turning point of the game.
A.D., as Davis likes to be called, had already scored four times by then—and trotted to the other end of the field to kick off for the Trojans each time, just to keep his foot in—but all except one of the extra-point attempts had failed, so USC's total was only 25. And Notre Dame, trailing 19-10 at the half, had chosen the third quarter in which to make its big comeback move. Mike Townsend had intercepted two passes and Tom Clements had passed to Gary Diminick and Mike Creaney for touchdowns. USC's Steve (Sure As) Fate had broken up a two-point pass try, but the score was 25-23 and the Irish had whatever you call that stuff—momentum—working for them. The game bade fair to become a reversal of USC's 1964 upset of undefeated Notre Dame.
So Davis took the kickoff on the four, darted straight ahead into the blocking wedge as he had done with the opener, squeezed through a narrow gap between desperate, grasping tacklers and suddenly was past most of the Irish, who had streaked way downfield under the high, floating kick. As he had on his 97-yarder, Davis made for the left sideline. ("They were big and tough in the middle," Davis said after the game.) One tackier was coming at him with a good angle, but Davis responded by putting the ball out in front of himself. ("I just jack the ball up and down," he explained, "and whichever way they go, I go the other.") He feinted to the inside and then stepped out of the diving tackle. A second pursuer took a flyer at him but he high-stepped his way through and then it was just a matter of opening the throttle. "I have three accelerations," he said in the locker room. "One when I get the ball, one when I get to the line and one when I get to the open."
Once in the end zone, Davis did his knee dance. It's a little something new he has come up with—perhaps to distinguish himself from Showboat Boykin. He slides into the end zone as if he were stealing home and then does a sort of Charleston on his knees. It must have soothed Notre Dame's feelings immensely.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, the Trojans having regained possession on an interception, Davis started around left end and then cut back for eight yards and his sixth six-pointer. By the time Southern Cal reached the Irish three-inch line in the closing minutes its lead was so secure that another back—Sam (Bam) Cunningham—was allowed to score, despite the crowd's pleas of "We want Davis."
"Davis is the greatest I've ever seen on kickoff returns in college," said Ara Parseghian later. He neglected to mention that A.D. had also rushed for 99 yards from scrimmage, caught two passes for 51 yards and refrained from kicking off into any touchdowns.
Davis is 5'9", weighs 190 and lives alone in an off-campus apartment where he meditates before each game. Facially he resembles O.J. Simpson. The world did not care much about these bits of information at the beginning of the season, when Davis weighed but 184 and was third string. Only after injuries to junior Rod McNeill and fellow sophomore Allen Carter did Davis become a starter. And yet he ran for 1,034 yards this season, the first time a USC sophomore has reached 1,000. Asked why Davis had not been discovered earlier, USC Quarterback Mike Rae (who is one of 23 Catholics on the squad and whose uncle is the accountant for a Catholic church in Chicago) said, "In the spring he had to run against our line." No one knew how fast he was because the only time he had been timed in the 40-yard dash he had a pulled hamstring. Still, he managed a 4.6, which should have told the coaches something. The football-watching world knows how fast he is now, and if he has any more afternoons like Saturday during the next two seasons USC football history before 1972 may be referred to as B.A.D.—Before A.D.
But USC also owed a lot last week to Auburn, which has been referred to publicly as a "cow college" and whose coach, down-to-earth Shug Jordan, says, "I decided when I became head coach I wasn't going to concern myself with the people in New York or Hollywood."
Saturday in Birmingham, Shug and his boys concerned themselves with the people from Tuscaloosa, whose coach, the Bear, was the one who called Auburn a cow college. He put it rather complimentarily—"I'd rather beat the cow college once than Texas 10 times," he said recently. But Auburn's reaction was summed up by Tailback Terry Henley: "I think it's low down for him to call our school a cow college."
So a bunch of fired-up Tigers went out and made seven first downs, 50 yards rushing and 30 passing against the Tide. "We could have played all day and Auburn wouldn't have scored on our defense," said Alabama Linebacker Chuck Strickland. But Alabama had reckoned without the cow college's punt-blocking attack. "I did the same thing on both punts," said Linebacker Newton, who also made 11 individual tackles and assisted on 11 others. "Instead of coming right at the tackle I lined up outside him and looped inside. Nobody touched me either time."
Langner, who ran 20 and 25 yards with the blocked punts, said, "I didn't know what to think. It scared me to death. They just bounced right into my hands. All I had to do was run." Langner might have had a third touchdown after intercepting his second pass late in the game to stop an Alabama threat, but he went for a sure kneeling catch rather than try to run it back.
"Wasn't no use to run with it," he said. "We had the game won anyway."
"I've been teaching punt protection for a long time," said Bryant. "I'm still proud of our players. I'm just sorry I didn't teach them better."
Just as Southern California and Auburn found success by breaking down their opponents' kicking games, so did Army succeed against Navy. The Cadets took control in their 23-15 victory when Tim Pfister blocked a third-quarter field-goal attempt and Scott Beaty ran the ball 84 yards for a touchdown. Bob Hines led the Army offense with 172 yards rushing and a touchdown. Boston College junked its air attack against Holy Cross and ran off to a 41-11 victory. The Eagles rushed for 453 yards.
Georgia Tech Quarterback Eddie McAshan did a disappearing act two days before the Georgia game "because of some very serious problems," and Coach Bill Fulcher went with inexperienced Jim Stevens. The punchless Yellow Jackets lost 27-7. Tulane came within inches of upsetting Louisiana State before 85,372 people, the largest night crowd in the history of college football. LSU preserved its 9-3 win when the Green Wave ran out of time just short of the Tiger goal. Florida scored twice within 46 seconds of the fourth quarter on a one-yard run and a 54-yard return of a pass interception in defeating Miami 17-6. Haskel Stanback scored three touch-downs and gained 143 yards as Tennessee defeated Vanderbilt 30-10.
Southern Mississippi came alive to tie Memphis State 14-14 after surrendering two touchdowns in the first quarter. Grambling bombed North Carolina Central 56-6 in the initial Pelican Bowl to claim the collegiate championship of black schools.
Oklahoma had no trouble with Oklahoma State, rolling up a 24-0 lead by half-time and winning 38-15. Joe Washington and Leon Cross white gained 109 and 106 yards respectively, while Greg Pruitt, still nursing an injured ankle, was limited to a mere nine yards in four carries.
SMU beat TCU 35-22 to finish 7-4 for the season and tie Texas Tech for second in the Southwest Conference, while Baylor defeated Rice 28-14. That gave the Bears a 5-6 record, heady stuff for them. San Diego State, trailing 14-7 in the fourth quarter, rallied to upset Iowa State 27-14. And from Honolulu, Stanford 39, Hawaii 7. Aloha.