College football danced its last tango Saturday and for the most part everyone kept in step. Winners from Tuscaloosa, South Bend and Norman remained winners, while losers from West Point, Tallahassee and El Paso stayed losers. Some things never change. But happily some do, and thus, after 25 years, Tulane has finally defeated LSU.
Last Saturday was the 14th of the regular season—surely you remember Drake versus New Mexico State on September 1?—a weekend of traditional rivalries, emotional games that often produce unexpected outcomes. But not in the Brag Bowl, as Bear Bryant calls Alabama's game with Auburn. The Crimson Tide won in a romp, 35-0, to hold on to No. 1. Having captured the Governor's Cup, emblematic of the championship of Alabama, the Tide now goes after more glittering hardware in its Sugar Bowl game with Notre Dame. The Irish finished unbeaten also by laying it on overscheduled Miami 44-0.
The paragon of these late-season identity conflicts remains Army-Navy. What other two teams with only three wins between them could attract 92,000 customers and a national television audience? "I couldn't be more excited if I were playing for the national championship," said one Navy player before the game. Afterward, when the Middies had scarred Army with the worst setback in their 74 meetings, 51-0, there was no comparable way to measure the Cadets' disappointment. Thoroughly drubbed, Army was saddled with a 0-10 record, its worst ever. "We all feel bad," said Guard Ted Davis. "The Army is supposed to represent something in this country. It's a shame we let it down."
Navy, whose only previous wins had come against VMI, Syracuse and Air Force, took command with a 31-point second quarter. The Middie running game totaled 366 yards with Tailbacks Cleveland Cooper and Ed Gilmore carrying the load. Cooper gained 102 yards and scored three touchdowns; Gilmore had 123 and one TD.
December 10, 1973
Army's showing this year raised questions about the future of Coach Tom Cahill, whose five-year contract has expired, and the entire structure of academy football. "We're going to take a realistic look at some of the teams we play," says Colonel Jack Schuder, Army's athletic director. "We are not going to play lots of bowl teams." Four of the Cadets' opponents still have postseason games ahead. "We faced a Mission Impossible schedule," said Cahill. "I think it's important that we maintain a nationally flavored schedule but against teams with whom we can be competitive." Cahill then cited as examples Tulane, Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt, Stanford and Northwestern—all of whom probably would have defeated the Cadets this year also.
As bad as Army was, its record is not the worst. Texas-El Paso lost its 11th straight, 63-0 to Brigham Young. And Florida State, which fell apart at the end of last season and has not been recognizable since, plunged to 0-11 after a 49-0 loss to Florida, the worst defeat in its history. It was the fifth straight win for the Gators, who take a 7-4 record into the Tangerine Bowl against Miami of Ohio. Florida's biggest offensive day of the year was sparked by the fulltime return to action of Nat Moore, who had missed most of six games with a broken leg. Moore tallied the first two scores and rushed for 109 of the Gators' 494 offensive yards.
Remember that wonderful year 1948? Remember Johnny Belinda, "Dewey Wins" and the Berlin Blockade? Remember Tulane 46, LSU 0? The Green Wave was looking back on a quarter century of misery when it met once-beaten and Orange Bowl-bound Louisiana State in New Orleans last week. Tulane's prospects for an upset were not too promising, either, following late-season losses to Kentucky and Maryland that soured an otherwise impressive eight-victory record. But Tulane Coach Bennie Ellender, sensing the time had finally come, took a change of clothes to the stadium in anticipation of a postvictory dunking. Tulane got the win, all right, 14-0, and Ellender got his shower. The Wave's second unit scored both the touchdowns. A 36-yard pass from Terry Looney to Darwin Willie put Tulane ahead with only 19 seconds left in the half. Lyndon Lasiter smashed over from the one to cap an 80-yard fourth-quarter march that finished the scoring. Tulane intercepted LSU's Mike Miley three times and out-gained the Tiger offense 315 yards to 220. Linebacker Rusty Chambers made 11 solo tackles and assisted on six others. "We just got it kicked out of us tonight," said LSU's Charlie McClendon. Anybody want an Orange Bowl ticket cheap?
One hundred of them would not get you end-zone standing room at the New Year's Eve Alabama-Notre Dame clash. For the record, Miami Middle Guard Tony Cristiani, who has felt the wrath of both, is picking 'Bama because "they have more outside speed." The Hurricane's earlier 43-13 loss to Alabama was not quite as bad as last week's but maybe the Tide did not try as hard. Notre Dame's first wave of attackers was still in there when the score was 38-0 just before the fourth quarter. And the Irish never did call off their defensive dogs. Notre Dame was also fired by reminders of its 40-6 loss to Nebraska on the same Orange Bowl carpet 11 months ago. Ara Parseghian was embarrassed by that one. He called it "disastrous" and said he wanted to "make amends." Running Backs Wayne Bullock (116 yards, two touchdowns), Pete Demmerle (two TDs) and Art Best (92 yards) answered the call.
Auburn was as ill-suited for its game with Alabama as one supporter's fears imagined. "It would take a miracle for us to win," he said. "I know they were also unbeaten when we upset them last year but they are a lot better and we haven't shown much of anything all year." The 12 months since that 17-16 setback have been difficult ones for Alabama. Everywhere a Bear looked there were posters, signs, stickers, graffiti urging "Punt, 'Bama, Punt"—a slogan born of the two blocked kicks Auburn returned for touchdowns in last year's game. A radio station put the game's highlights on record and sold 20,000 copies. "You live from year to year with this football game," said Auburn's Shug Jordan, "and for Alabama it's been tough. But for us to beat them again would be the biggest upset we've ever had against them."
Despite hanging in gamely through two quarters, when they trailed only 14-0 and had shown surprising offensive promise, the Tigers were all out of miracles. Wilbur Jackson's running and pass catching accounted for 124 yards and one touchdown. A mark of the Tide's depth was the fact that 11 different runners gained 352 yards. The game ended on an interception by an Alabama player not even listed in the program. Somebody named Rhodes.
Afterward it was Bear Bryant's turn to chortle. "It was never a game," he said. "I think I saw a goose egg up there on the scoreboard." Then he added, "I've been sitting here trying to remember a little tune, something about 'Punt, "Bama, punt.' "
The song they are singing in Norman, Okla. is "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep." The Sooners concluded an unbeaten season marred only by a 7-7 tie with Southern California by romping past Oklahoma State 45-18. It is the second year in a row Oklahoma's defense did not give up more than two touchdowns in a single game. Quarterback Steve Davis tallied three for the Sooners, running his Big Eight leading total to 18. Fullback Waymon Clark joined Halfback Joe Washington over the 1,000-yard rushing mark. The last unbeaten Sooner club was Bud Wilkinson's 1956 national champions.
Another team staying at home this holiday season is San Diego State, but that did not stop the uninvited Aztecs from inaugurating a bowl of their own. Dubbing their finale with Iowa State the "Carnation Bowl," they went out and pasted the Big Eight club 41-28. Many of the 38,627 fans came out in formal attire for the occasion. A helicopter dropped carnations at halftime and a hot-air balloonist hovered over one end of the stadium. All the better to watch Jesse Freitas, the nation's passing and total offense champion, complete 19 of 28 attempts for 303 yards and three touchdowns. The Aztecs jumped off to a 28-0 lead, but the Cyclones closed to within a touchdown with 6:45 to go. Then the San Diego State defense tightened and Freitas pitched his 21st scoring pass of the year. That made San Diego State's record 19-2-1 for the past two seasons, giving it both PCAA championships.
Like the Aztecs, Houston is not known for the strength of its schedule. The Cougars had to struggle to defeat Tulsa 35-16, but when it was over the 10-1 record was the best in the school's history. Houston, which will play Tulane in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl, trailed 16-0 at halftime. It went ahead 2½ minutes into the fourth quarter when Marshall Johnson raced 42 yards with a pitchout on fourth and seven.
Houston began this season by drubbing Rice 24-6 but the Cougars would not recognize their crosstown rivals now. The Owls won their fourth straight game by burying Baylor 27-0 to take third place in the Southwest Conference. "Five weeks ago I didn't think I'd be here, much less talking about a third-place finish," said Al Conover. "We suffered every problem known to man this year." Baylor's problems were the usual against Rice—turnovers. The Bears gave up the ball seven times on interceptions and fumbles, just over their five-per-game average.
Texas Christian wanted desperately to win its last game under Billy Tohill, whose dismissal had been announced three weeks ago, but Southern Methodist Quarterback Keith Bobo prevented the upset almost singlehandedly. He rushed for three touchdowns, the first a 77-yard gallop, and completed three long passes in a last-ditch drive to set up a winning 22-yard field goal by Clint Hackney with 31 seconds left. It all added up to a 21-19 defeat for Tohill, whose miseries this season began with a near-fatal automobile accident early in the year. "It makes me sick that we couldn't win this one for him," said Quarterback Lee Cook, who completed a scoring pass in a fourth-quarter rally from an 11-point deficit that eventually saw TCU take a momentary lead.
So Tohill is gone, and Georgia Tech's Bill Fulcher, the rumors say, is going. Tech had a chance to keep Georgia out of the Peach Bowl but the Bulldogs nailed down the bid with a 10-3 victory. A loss would have given the invitation to South Carolina, a notion that prompted Georgia Defensive Coach Erk Russell to say, "I hope Dietzel listened to every play." If he did the South Carolina coach may have been as bored as he was disappointed. The game's only touchdown came on a 12-yard pass from Andy Johnson to Bob Burns in the third quarter, capping a 95-yard drive. The only other scores were first-half field goals by Tech's Cam Bonifay of 26 yards and Georgia's Allan Leavitt of 42 yards. The Bulldogs secured the victory, their sixth against four losses and a tie, by shutting off a deep penetration by the Yellow Jackets in the final minutes. "It isn't much of a trip," said Johnson of the 66-mile ride to Atlanta for the Dec. 28 game with Maryland, "but as frustrating as this season has been, you don't want to see it end without getting another chance to show people how really good we can be. We didn't do it today, but I hope we will in the Peach Bowl."
The highlight of Georgia's season was its 35-31 win over Tennessee four weeks ago. It came after the Volunteers were unsuccessful on a fake punt deep in their own territory late in the game. Coach Bill Battle ordered that one but the one Vanderbilt Kicker Barry Burton tried against Tennessee on Saturday was on his own. There were just under three minutes left when it happened and the Volunteers and Commodores were locked in a 17-17 tie. "I froze," said Burton later, who ran instead of kicking on fourth and six at the Vandy 24. "I don't know what got into me. When I finally came to, there was nothing to do but run." He made it only to the line of scrimmage and four plays later Ricky Townsend's 37-yard field goal gave Gator Bowl-bound Tennessee a 20-17 victory.
Two of the East's outstanding backs had mixed results in their team's final games. J. J. Jennings, the nation's leading scorer with 21 touchdowns, scored once and rushed for 123 yards, but Rutgers was outclassed by Tampa 34-6. Mike Esposito has one more year left at Boston College but he scored his 17th touchdown and rushed for his 2,219th yard to break alltime career records as the Eagles bombed Holy Cross 42-21. Esposito topped the rushing mark by totaling 192 yards in the afternoon's work.
Supermatchups like this year's Sugar Bowl are nice but, unfortunately, they are infrequent accidents of scheduling. A lot of unexpected turns had to be taken before a game between a pair of unbeaten, untied teams finally emerged. Right, Woody? Realizing this, the NCAA college division has begun a national championship playoff, using its established postseason bowls as the format. First-round games were played last week, with Wittenberg and Juniata advancing to the Division III title game in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl. Wittenberg remained unbeaten, holding off the University of San Diego 21-14, while Juniata toppled Bridgeport 35-14.
The stronger Division II teams began with a field of eight. Grambling and Western Kentucky moved on to the Eastern championship game in the Grantland Rice Bowl by respectively knocking off Delaware 17-8 in the Boardwalk Bowl and Lehigh 25-16. The other semifinal, representing the Western championship, will be played in the Pioneer Bowl between Louisiana Tech and Boise State. Tech eliminated Western Illinois 18-13 while Boise bombed South Dakota 53-10. NAIA semifinal games went to Abilene Christian 34-6 over Langston, and Elon 35-24 over Wisconsin-La Crosse. A good system, playoffs. Perhaps the time will come when the major colleges try it.