A few hours before Washington State would try to add USC to its list of upset victims, Cougar Quarterback Jack Thompson happily discovered that his locker-room cubicle in the L.A. Coliseum was the same one used by his NFL idol, Joe Namath. It may have been the most misleading omen of the year.
In a 41-7 rout, USC hammered WSU and Thompson with a defense that keyed the Trojans' 15th straight victory. USC repeatedly drove Thompson out of the pocket, intercepted him twice and treated the Throwin' Samoan the way rivals treated Joe Willie in his last seasons with the Jets.
Because the Cougars had upset Nebraska and Michigan State, USC Coach John Robinson said, "They had our attention all week—and sometimes it's bad to get our attention." Indeed, USC matched a strong rush with superlative coverage, holding Thompson to three completions in nine attempts in the first half, even though four Trojan defensive starters were out with injuries. Thompson, who was averaging 21 completions a game, finished with 10 in 21 attempts for 136 yards and a touchdown scored after USC led 41-0.
October 9, 1977
Southern Cal Tailbacks Charles White and Dwight Ford combined for 246 yards rushing and four touchdowns while Rob Hertel, the Trojan quarterback, completed 11 of 18 for 182 yards, including a touchdown bomb to Randy Simmrin.
USC's win streak is the nation's longest among major teams and, depending on which poll you read, the Trojans rank No. 1 or No. 2. While Robinson said, "No. 1 is not that much of an issue right now," he also admitted, "We impressed me a little bit tonight."
For the first time since 1952, California also stands 4-0 after its first four games, the result of a 52-3 blitz of injured and overmatched San Jose State. The Golden Bears racked up 333 yards total offense in the first half, and Quarterback Charlie Young paced the offense by completing 12 of 15 passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns.
Stanford made a successful conference debut by dropping Oregon 20-10, but the Cards' joy was tempered when Quarterback Guy Benjamin, the Pac-8 passing leader, suffered a knee injury in the fourth quarter. He is not expected to play against UCLA this week.
Brigham Young followed a familiar format in smashing New Mexico 54-19. The Cougar defense forced early turnovers and Quarterback Gifford Nielsen was devastating. The nation's leading passer, Nielsen completed 19 of 23 for 273 yards and five touchdowns before he went to the bench with six minutes left in the third quarter. Although he has played but 10 quarters, Nielsen has a 70.4% completion rate and has thrown for 912 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Missouri got its first victory by blanking Arizona State 15-0 as the Tigers intercepted five passes and recovered three Sun Devil fumbles. Both Missouri touchdowns came on 80-yard drives under the direction of freshman Quarterback Phil Bradley, who passed for one score and ran for another.
Unbeaten San Diego State shut out Utah State 19-0, UCLA took Iowa 34-16 and Wyoming edged Arizona 13-12.
1. USC (4-0)
2. CALIFORNIA (4-0)
3. BYU (3-0)
I told the players they bought some respect tonight," said LSU Coach Charles McClendon after his Tigers stunned ninth-ranked Florida 36-14 before 68,029 fans. In the first half LSU erupted for a 29-0 lead and ran off 56 plays to the Gators' 17. Florida managed only two first downs in that half as LSU forced two fumbles and intercepted two passes.
On offense, the Tigers powered past the Gators with a ground game that netted 385 yards and 25 of LSU's 30 first downs. Topping the 100-yard mark for the third time, Tailback Charles Alexander racked up 170 yards on 31 carries and scored two touchdowns while his sophomore backup, Jerry Murphree, rushed 25 times for 105 yards.
North Carolina State was the last team to beat Maryland before the Terps went on a 21-game win streak against Atlantic Coast Conference rivals. Saturday the Wolfpack socked it to Maryland again, winning 24-20 when Quarterback Johnny Evans scored on a two-yard plunge with 0:27 left to play. NC State's final drive was aided by a couple of Maryland penalties. The game ended with the Carter Stadium P.A. system playing a tape of wolves howling. The Terps might be howling as well; they have now lost three straight.
Alabama got its 40th successive victory at Tuscaloosa by beating Georgia 18-10 in a game that avenged last season's loss that cost the Tide the Southeast Conference title. Alabama's superior kicking game made up for a spotty defensive effort. Buddy Holt twice punted the ball dead on the one and once on the four to give Georgia poor field position.
Sophomore Linebacker Freddie Smith returned a fourth-quarter pass interception 45 yards for a touchdown to spark Auburn to a 21-15 conquest of Ole Miss. The Rebels came back to score a field goal and threatened with a fumble recovery on the 25, but Auburn's defense held.
Texas Tech Coach Steve Sloan, looking to spark his torpid offense, called on reserve Quarterback Mark Johnson, whose first varsity game ended in a 10-7 triumph over North Carolina. Replacing Tres Adami, an unsuccessful substitute for the injured Rodney Allison, Johnson took the Red Raiders 80 yards with the second-half kickoff, concluding the drive with a three-yard touchdown run. Tech Fullback Billy Taylor rushed for 150 yards on 35 carries, and Bill Adams' 35-yard field goal put Tech ahead for good.
Field goals also decided the outcome of an intrastate rivalry at Columbia, S.C, where South Carolina beat East Carolina 19-16 by scoring 13 points in the fourth quarter. The Gamecocks' Britt Parrish set a school record by booting four field goals while East Carolina's Junior Creech kicked three.
West Virginia blanked Virginia 13-0, Georgia Tech ripped Air Force 30-3, Clemson beat Virginia Tech 31-13, Tulane surprised Vanderbilt 36-7 and Grambling destroyed Prairie View 70-7 as Quarterback Doug Williams completed 10 of 24 passes for 329 yards and five touchdowns.
1. ALABAMA (3-1)
2. KENTUCKY (3-1)
3. AUBURN (3-1)
Yielding little on defense while wielding Lott on offense, Oklahoma methodically disposed of Kansas 24-9 in the Big Eight opener for both teams. The Sooners defense kept the Jayhawks outside Oklahoma territory through the first 3½ quarters while Quarterback Thomas Lott, sound for the first time this season, directed his mates to a 24-0 lead. Lott scored all three Sooner touchdowns, rushed for 102 yards and was awarded the game ball.
The Sooner offense coughed up only two fumbles—three fewer than its game average—and made four first downs on five fourth-down gambles.
Notre Dame's 16-6 victory over Michigan State was marked by 11 turnovers, the starting debut of Quarterback Joe Montana and an improved Irish pass rush. Notre Dame sacked Spartan quarterbacks eight times and intercepted four passes but also lost three fumbles, including two on the MSU three-yard line. Dave Reeve kicked three field goals of 42, 40 and 51 yards to become the first Irish player to score more than 200 points since Stan Cofall in 1916.
With Tailback Rick Berns sidelined by a hip-pointer, Nebraska's neatly named I. M. Hipp played nearly the entire game against Indiana. The result was disaster for the Hoosiers, who lost 31-13 as Hipp racked up 254 yards on 28 rushes to break Berns' team record of 211 yards. Hipp also gained 30 yards on a pass reception but his only score was a two-point conversion.
Mississippi State averted disaster in the last 76 seconds against Kansas State when Quarterback Bruce Threadgill connected on a 24-yard touchdown pass to Dennis Johnson to give the Bulldogs a hard-earned 24-21 victory. The Wildcats' upset try was sustained by Mack Green, who rushed for 181 yards on 37 carries—the second highest total in Kansas State history.
After four games, Wisconsin is undefeated, untied and unimpressive. Rated a four-touchdown favorite over Northwestern, the Badgers won 19-7 when two blocked punts and a pass interception erased a 7-all halftime deadlock. The loss was the Wildcats' 20th in their last 21 games.
Paul Rogind kicked four field goals, one a 32-yarder in the last five seconds, to give Minnesota a 19-17 win over Washington.
Florida State upset Oklahoma State 25-17, Syracuse beat Illinois 30-20 and Purdue topped Wake Forest 26-17.
1. MICHIGAN (4-0)
2. OKLAHOMA (4-0)
3. OHIO STATE (3-1)
In the esteem of most coaches, first-down passes rank alongside 70-yard field-goal tries, but Kentucky's Fran Curci opted for the unconventional against previously unbeaten Penn State and was rewarded with a 24-20 upset victory.
Trailing 20-14, Kentucky came out gambling in the second half, with immediate and favorable results. Quarterback Derrick Ramsey completed five first-down passes in the third quarter and another completion resulted in a 33-yard interference penalty against the Nittany Lions. In that span, the Wildcats controlled the ball for 10 minutes and 25 seconds, and held Penn State to two first downs and a total of 41 yards in the second half.
Penn State, which took a 10-0 lead on Matt Bahr's 20-yard field goal and Jimmy Cefalo's 75-yard punt-return touchdown, may have lost the game on its first offensive series. On first and goal at the Kentucky one, a Penn State lineman jumped offside and, instead of a probable touchdown, the Lions had to settle for the field goal.
Pitt's defensive secondary of Bob Jury, J. C. Wilson, LeRoy Felder and Jeff Delaney earned the admiration of Boston College Coach Joe Yukica, who said, "That unit could start in the NFL tomorrow without embarrassing itself." In the Panthers' 45-7 conquest of Yukica's Eagles, the Wildcat secondary embarrassed no one quite so much as BC Quarterback Ken Smith, who was stung for five interceptions while completing 18 of 32 passes for 158 yards, a far cry from his pre-Pitt performances. Four of the interceptions led to Pittsburgh touchdowns while Jury et al. held the BC wide receivers to four receptions, none of the deep variety.
Miami of Ohio was Yale's first intersectional opponent since 1948 and the Redskins overcame a 14-6 halftime deficit to beat the Bulldogs 28-14. It was a game that Miami alumnus, and Yale coach, Carmen Cozza viewed with mixed emotions. "From one Miami man to another," he said in the winner's locker room, "I wish you all the luck and I hope you win the rest of your games."
Seventh-ranked Colorado improved its record to 4-0 by ripping Army 31-0 in a game that might have been billed "Leamon's Lemon." The Buffs sacked Cadet Quarterback Leamon Hall six times and intercepted four of his passes.
Princeton's bid for an Ivy League upset, and its first victory, died with 0:52 left to play as Quarterback Mark Whipple dived one yard for a touchdown to give Brown a 10-7 victory. Whipple set up the score with a 28-yard pass to Flanker Charlie Watkins. The loss was Princeton's eighth in succession.
Columbia chalked up its first Ivy League win by beating Penn 30-18, Halfback Bruce Stephens passing for one touchdown and running 18 yards for another.
Colgate downed Harvard 38-21, Rutgers beat Cornell 30-14, Dartmouth blanked Boston U. 38-0 and Temple edged Delaware 6-3.
1. PENN STATE (3-1)
2. PITTSBURGH (3-1)
3. WEST VIRGINIA (3-1)
In a 3½-hour ordeal—it may have been the longest non-televised game ever—Texas gorged on Rice, 72-15. If the game had a turning point, it came on the first play from scrimmage when Texas Quarterback Mark McBath unloaded a 55-yard touchdown pass to Johnny (Lam) Jones.
The Longhorns crammed their nine touchdowns, eight extra points, two field goals and two safeties into the first three quarters, which was considerably more than Earl Campbell required to tie a Texas single-game record with four touchdowns. In little more than one quarter, Campbell rushed for 131 yards on 13 carries to take over third place among the Southwest Conference alltime career rushing leaders with 3,073 yards. Teammate Russell Erxleben shattered an NCAA record with a 67-yard field goal that came after he talked Coach Fred Akers out of punting on fourth-and-16 from the Rice 49. Texas was nursing a 54-7 lead at the time, so Erxleben's plea took less time than his wind-aided kick, which broke the mark of 65 yards set by Texas A&M's Tony Franklin last season.
In a more competitive Southwest Conference clash, Houston stung Baylor 28-24 in the final 39 seconds on a 10-yard touchdown pass from sophomore Quarterback Delrick Brown to Tight End Don Bass. The reception spoiled a brilliant comeback by Baylor Quarterback Sammy Bickham, who overcame a 21-9 deficit by tossing two of his three touchdown passes and running for a two-point conversion in the last quarter.
Ben Cowins, the nation's No. 2 ground-gainer, rushed for 87 yards and three touchdowns as unbeaten Arkansas clubbed hapless TCU 42-6. The Horned Frogs now have lost 15 straight and 39 of their last 41.
Quarterback Rod Gerald enjoyed a Dallas homecoming as he led sixth-ranked Ohio State to a 35-7 waltz over SMU. In the city where he starred in high school, Gerald scored on a 33-yard touchdown run and completed five of eight passes for 88 yards. The Buckeyes made the evening miserable for SMU's freshman Quarterback Mike Ford, who suffered seven pass interceptions—three in the Ohio State end zone—for a school record.
1. TEXAS (3-0)
2. ARKANSAS (4-0)
3. HOUSTON (3-1)
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
OFFENSE: Brigham Young Quarterback Gifford Nielsen, the NCAA passing leader, completed 83% of his passes for 273 yards and five touchdowns in BYU's 54-19 rout of New Mexico. He has yet to throw an interception.
DEFENSE: Kentucky Defensive Back Dallas Owens intercepted two passes—returning one 23 yards for a touchdown—in the Wildcats' 24-20 upset of Penn State. Owens also helped keep the Lions scoreless in the second half.