If they had appeared on The Gong Show, several Big Eight teams might well have been gonged into submission. As it was, Missouri pulled a disappearing act and vanished from the Top 20, philanthropic Iowa State repeatedly gave the ball away, and Kansas State simply did not have the troops to spring an upset.
Missouri had a bid to the Sun Bowl in its hip pocket. All the Tigers had to do was beat Kansas, one of the few teams in the Big Eight not tied for first place. But the Tigers, who numbered Southern Cal, Ohio State and Nebraska among their victims, had their pocket picked. Ever since Quarterback Nolan Cromwell was injured halfway through the season, Kansas has had difficulty scoring. Missouri changed all that, playing as if it would be embarrassed to score, while Jayhawk sophomore Quarterback Mark Vicendese ran 23 times for 111 yards and Halfback Laverne Smith zipped and darted for 150 in 20 carries. That left Smith with a career total of 3,192 yards rushing, the third highest in Big Eight history. Mike Butler, a 6'5", 265-pound defensive tackle, was mainly responsible for containing the Missouri offense. Offense? Missouri was as bottled up as 12-year-old whisky during the first three periods, after which the Tigers trailed 34-0. When this 85th game in the oldest series west of the Mississippi was over, the Jayhawks had a 41-14 win.
Oklahoma State earned a share of its first Big Eight title by stopping Iowa State 42-21. Five Cyclone turnovers made it easy for the Cowboys, who converted three of them into touchdowns. Quarterback Charlie Weatherbie came off the bench after Harold Bailey was hurt in the opening period, and on his first play skirted right end for seven yards and a touchdown. Weatherbie later passed for another TD and ran for a third. Halfback Terry Miller had another big day, galloping for 199 yards in 25 tries, including touchdown runs of 33 and 42 yards. The latter came on a fake punt, Shortback Bruce Blankenship taking the snap and then handing the ball between his legs to Miller, who made it to the end zone untouched. Tailback Dexter Green gained 154 yards for the Cyclones. Although a loser, Coach Earle Bruce still had things to smile about: a surprising 8-3 season and a three-year extension on his contract.
November 29, 1976
Colorado also earned a share of the league championship, its first since 1961, by outlasting Kansas State 35-28. On paper, the game should have been a breeze for the Buffaloes, as State had lost nine of 10 games. But Colorado knew enough to be wary, recalling its 17-14 loss to the Wildcats in 1973 and a 33-19 shocker in 1974. There were three lead changes and two ties before the Buffaloes sealed the victory when, with 49 seconds left, Safety Mike L. Davis intercepted a pass deep in Colorado territory. Tailback Tony Reed romped for 140 yards in 36 carries as the Buffaloes gained 217 yards on the ground. State junior Linebacker Gary Spani did his best to halt the Buffaloes, taking part in 24 tackles. An Orange Bowl berth will be settled by this week's Oklahoma-Nebraska game. If Nebraska wins, it will take on Ohio State in Miami; if the Cornhuskers lose, Colorado will go to the Orange Bowl. But if Nebraska does lose, it can still play in the Bluebonnet Bowl. Oklahoma will meet Wyoming in the Fiesta Bowl.
After stopping Miami 40-27, Notre Dame accepted a Gator Bowl offer. The Irish zipped to a 30-0 lead as Rusty Lisch, filling in for injured Quarterback Rick Slager, ran for two touchdowns and passed for another. But the Hurricanes roared right back with the help of a 93-yard scoring jaunt by reserve Wing-back Tim Morgan on a kickoff return. Miami wound up with minus six yards on the ground, but gained 246 through the air. Halfback Al Hunter ran for 128 yards to break Notre Dame's alltime season rushing mark, his 943 yards surpassing the 927 by Marchy Schwartz in 1930, Knute Rockne's last year as coach.
While Michigan slugged Ohio State, Indiana stunned Purdue 20-14 in another traditional Big Ten game. Mike Harkrader, a 5'7", 185-pound Hoosier tailback, became the fourth freshman in NCAA history to gain 1,000 yards rushing. But shortly after passing that milepost he was injured. Replacing him was Darrick Burnett, who broke loose on a 14-yard scoring run that made Indiana a winner. With fourth and one on the Michigan State 40, Iowa went into punt formation—and then pulled off virtually a duplicate of Oklahoma State's trickery. The ball was snapped to Shortman Tom Grine, who slipped it between the legs of Fullback Jon Lazar. While most of the Spartans chased Grine to the right, Lazar tucked the ball on his hip and sprinted left down the sideline for a touchdown as the Hawkeyes breezed 30-17. Fullback Lawrence Canada broke loose for 153 yards, Tailback Ira Matthews for 99 and Vince Lamia kicked four field goals as Wisconsin topped Minnesota 26-17. Three touchdown passes by Kurt Steger propelled Illinois to a 48-6 conquest of Northwestern.
Steve Schultz kicked four field goals, one from 47 yards out, as Cincinnati bopped Vanderbilt 33-7.
Ball State, in its second season in the league, locked up the Mid-American title by drubbing Eastern Michigan 52-3. Quarterback Art Yaroch threw three touchdown passes, two of them to Flanker Mike Andress, and Tailback Earl Taylor scored three touchdowns. Kent State stopped Toledo 35-19. Tailback Jerome Persell accounted for 26 points and 162 yards as Western Michigan toppled Central Michigan 42-14. Miami of Ohio beat Dayton 28-8 and Ohio University battered Northern Illinois 63-15.
One of the best comebacks of the season was pulled off by Southern Illinois, which was 1-9-1 a year ago. Tailback Andre Herrera scored four touchdowns and raised his season's rushing yardage to 1,588 with a 158-yard effort as the Salukis whipped Marshall 44-16. That gave SIU a 7-4 record.
1. MICHIGAN (10-1)
2. OHIO ST. (8-2-1)
3. NEB. (7-2-1)
Houton's Cougars, the new kids on the block, have made themselves right at home. Their 27-19 jolting of previously unbeaten Texas Tech moved them a giant step closer to a berth in the Cotton Bowl in their first season as members of the Southwest Conference. Houston built a 24-5 halftime advantage, Quarterback Danny Davis passing for a pair of touchdowns and Fullback Dryal Thomas plunging in to cap an 81-yard drive. And Tackle Wilson Whitley led a defense that limited the Red Raiders to just 50 yards in total offense during the first two periods. Tech's attack did not click until late in the fourth quarter. With Houston leading 27-5 and only 6:45 left in the game, Defensive End Richard Arledge picked off a Davis pass and went seven yards for a Tech touchdown that made the score 27-11. Quarterback Rodney Allison, who completed 20 of 31 passes for 327 yards, then took only 58 seconds to drive the Red Raiders 93 yards in five plays. Allison concluded that march with a 16-yard scoring toss to Tailback Billy Taylor, and passed to Split End Sammy Williams for a two-point conversion that cut the deficit to 27-19. There was still 3:26 left, and Tech had a chance to gain a tie when it recovered a Houston fumble on the Tech 24. Hitting on a succession of rapid-fire passes, good for 11, 34 and 27 yards, Allison brought Tech to the Houston nine. But, with 1:25 to go, Safety Elvis Bradley intercepted an Allison pass at the Cougars' two to end the threat. If Houston defeats Rice this week, it will go to the Cotton Bowl. Should the Cougars lose, and should the Red Raiders take their final two games against Arkansas and Baylor, Tech goes to the Cotton Bowl. Whatever happens, Tech is assured of being in a postseason game, having already accepted an offer from the Blue-bonnet Bowl.
Baylor, which has defeated Texas only twice in the last 19 years, throttled the Long-horns 20-10 and limited them to 14 yards in 37 rushes, their lowest total in the 83 years they've been playing football. Texas freshman Halfback Johnny (Lam) Jones, who had averaged 6.5 yards per carry going into the game, picked up just one yard in 10 attempts. Baylor Quarterback Mark Jackson ran for 76 yards and one touchdown and passed for another score.
Arkansas' hopes of going to the Tangerine Bowl were dashed when Southern Methodist pulled off a 35-31 upset. SMU thus avoided setting a school record for consecutive losses by stopping its streak at seven. Mustang Quarterback Ricky Wesson tossed four seven-yard touchdown passes, three of them to Slotback Emanuel Tolbert, the other to Tight End Elton Garrett. Tailback Art Whittington set up one SMU score by returning a kickoff 92 yards. The Razorbacks committed 10 penalties, three blunting Arkansas drives, another three keeping SMU marches going. The only consolation for Arkansas was that sophomore Running Back Ben Cowins rushed for 147 yards to go past 1,000 for the season.
Texas A&M was the most convincing winner in the SWC, thrashing winless Texas Christian 59-10. The Aggies, losers of two of their first five games, have now won five in a row, piling up 207 points in so doing. That resurgence earned them an invitation to the Sun Bowl. For the Horned Frogs, it was their 30th setback in their last 31 games.
1. HOUSTON (7-2)
2. TEXAS TECH (8-1)
3. TEXAS A&M (8-2)
Two of the biggest guns in the West—Gifford Nielsen of Brig-ham Young and Dave Ziebart of Air Force—were on target again. Nielsen hit on 24 of 35 passes for 415 yards and three touchdowns as the Cougars whipped Utah 34-12 and earned a tie for first place in the Western Athletic Conference with Wyoming. That performance gave Nielsen a total of 3,192 yards passing for the season, only the seventh time an NCAA player has topped 3,000 yards.
Ziebart, a freshman, threw 26 passes, completed 19 for 339 yards and three touchdowns and directed the Falcons to a 41-21 upset over Wyoming. One of Ziebart's passes was an 89-yarder to Split End Paul Williams, the longest pass play in Air Force football history. The Falcons did not strike only through the air, however. Freshman Fullback David Thomas scored the Air Force's other three touchdowns on runs.
Fullback Mike Williams brought his season rushing total to 1,073 yards as he lugged the ball 28 times for 126 yards during a 21-15 victory by New Mexico over Arizona. A 17-yard touchdown run by Williams in the fourth quarter put the Lobos in front for keeps.
While USC and UCLA battled for a Rose Bowl berth (page 24), Washington won a less meaningful Pac-8 game. Three Huskies each accounted for a pair of touchdowns—Quarterback Warren Moon on passes, Tailback Ron Rowland (196 yards) and Fullback Robin Earl (122 yards) on runs—during a 51-32 victory over Washington State. Their heroics overcame the passing of State's Jack Thompson: 24 of 42 for 311 yards and five touchdowns. Oregon and Stanford, though, had to struggle right down to the closing moments before they won. The Ducks knocked off Oregon State 23-14, Quarterback Jack Henderson accounting for his third touchdown of the day by plunging a yard into the end zone with 2:35 remaining. A 27-24 Stanford triumph over California was not assured until Defensive End Duncan McColl recovered a fumble on the Bears' two that set up a scoring bolt by Ron Inge with 1:31 left.
1. USC (9-1)
2. UCLA (9-1-1)
3. WYOMING (8-3)
Boston College quickly locked up its seventh win, but it took West Virginia and Holy Cross longer—the Mountaineers nearly frittering away a big lead in the closing minutes, and the Crusaders going down to the final seconds before being assured of victory. After taking the opening kickoff, B.C. marched 80 yards for a touchdown and went on to grind out a 35-0 decision over Massachusetts. West Virginia broke a 14-14 halftime deadlock with a 17-point splurge in the third period, then had to hold on as Syracuse scored two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter. In the end, the Mountaineers prevailed 34-28, thanks in part to a pair of Dan Kendra-to-Steve Lewis touchdown passes and Tailback Duane Woods' 177 yards rushing. Holy Cross scored 41 points, but Connecticut kept coming back, often on long scoring runs: an 82-yard kickoff return by Split End Rich Hedgepath and gallops of 77 and 67 yards by Halfback Nick Giaquinto, who rushed for 277 yards in all. With 36 seconds to go, Hedgepath hauled in a two-yard scoring pass from Bernie Palmer to cut the Holy Cross lead to 41-40. Connecticut then went for a two-point conversion, but Safety Bill Campbell batted down a pass to preserve the win for the Crusaders.
Villanova won its fifth straight, downing Temple 24-7 as Quarterback Dick Bedesem ran for a pair of touchdowns and passed for another.
Pittsburgh and Penn State had the week off as they prepared for their showdown this Friday. Still, both made news, the Panthers by accepting a bid to meet Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, and the Nittany Lions by signing up to face Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl.
1. PITTSBURGH (10-0)
2. RUTGERS (10-0)
3. PENN STATE (7-3)
An increasing number of COME HOME, JOHNNY bumper stickers were popping up around Knoxville before the Kentucky-Tennessee game. And the Volunteers' 7-0 loss to the Wildcats merely spurred on those who want to have Coach Bill Battle replaced by former Tennessee All-America Johnny Majors, who has made Pittsburgh the No. 1 team in the nation. The Wildcat score came late in the first quarter on a 62-yard pass from Quarterback Derrick Ramsey to Halfback Greg Woods, but they also missed a nine-yard field goal try and had a drive stopped two inches from the end zone. It was Kentucky's first win over the Vols in 11 years. After the game, exhausted Kentucky Coach Fran Curci took off his shoes and did his weekly postgame radio show. As soon as he was off the air he learned his team had been invited to the Peach Bowl, its first chance to go bowling in 25 years.
Also coming up with a Southeastern Conference win was Mississippi State, which knocked off Mississippi 28-11. Two touchdown passes by Quarterback Bruce Threadgill and three field goals by Kinney Jordan enabled State to finish with a 9-2 record, its best in 36 years. But the Bulldogs won't go to a bowl—the school is on NCAA probation.
Florida accepted a Sun Bowl bid after thrashing Rice 50-22. Owl Quarterback Tommy Kramer, playing as usual in a losing cause, hit on 29 of 47 passes for 327 yards and one touchdown. Alabama, idle last week, agreed to take on UCLA in the Liberty Bowl. LSU held Tulane to minus 11 yards in the first half and went on to a 17-7 victory.
Maryland became the first Atlantic Coast Conference team to go undefeated in 21 years, stopping Virginia 28-0. That shutout, the third in a row for the Terps, was topped off by an invitation to the Cotton Bowl against the Southwest Conference champion, the first major bowl appearance by an ACC squad in 15 years.
Bowl-bound, too, was North Carolina, which held off Duke 39-38 to conclude its season with a 9-2 record. The Blue Devils had gone ahead 38-31 with only 2:53 left when sophomore Quarterback Mike Dunn scored his fourth touchdown of the day on a nine-yard run. But with 37 seconds showing on the clock, North Carolina's freshman fullback, Billy Johnson, caught an eight-yard touchdown pass. That made it 38-37. Duke. The Tar Heels went for a two-point conversion and got it. Tailback Mike Voight rambling into the end zone after taking a pitch-out. Voight also scored four touchdowns and gained 261 yards in 47 carries. That left Voight with a career total of 3.971 yards, the fifth-best mark in the NCAA books.
Fullback Tracy Perry and Quarterback Steve Fuller each ran for a pair of touchdowns to highlight the upset as Clemson surprised independent South Carolina 28-9.
Quarterback Jimmy Jordan and Wide Receiver Kurt Unglaub combined on a 96-yard pass play as Florida State upended Virginia Tech 28-21. Also going a far piece was Flanker Larry Stokes, who took a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown to help Tennessee-Chattanooga down Bowling Green 49-29. Southern Mississippi shocked Memphis State 14-12, Tailback Chuck Clancy throwing for one touchdown and bulldozing his way four yards for another.
There was a big game at Williams High School in Burlington, N.C. That's where Elon won the South Atlantic Conference title, wrapped up an 11-0 season and earned a berth in the NAIA playoffs by walloping Carson-Newman 49-25. Williams High, five miles from the Elon campus, has long been the home of the Fighting Christians, who have no football field of their own. Leading the assault was Running Back Howard Ferguson, who gained 207 yards in 36 carries and scored two touchdowns. His running mate, Alex McMillan, added three touchdowns and 143 yards in 25 carries.
1. MARYLAND (11-0)
2. GEORGIA (9-1)
3. MISS. STATE (9-2)
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
DEFENSE: Sophomore Gary Johnson, a 6'5", 252-pound guard, made 13 solo tackles, helped out on three others, caused a fumble and four times threw Longhorn runners for losses in Baylor's 20-10 upset of Texas.
OFFENSE: Senior Running Back Rob Lytle, coming through when it mattered most, carried the ball 29 times for 165 yards and one touchdown as Michigan earned a trip to the Rose Bowl in its 22-0 defeat of Ohio State.