Next year, or the
year after, football people were saying, the Big Ten would again be king of the
conferences. It would take that long to repair the damage done by a strict aid
program forced on the coaches by the schools' faculties in 1956. It would
probably take longer to live down the embarrassing trampling Washington handed
Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl last New Year's Day.
But football is
not always a game of logic, and by late Saturday it was apparent that there had
been an untagged but seismic change: the Big Ten already had regained its
power, and it was going to take the best in the country to beat its teams. In
eight games with nonconference schools, the Big Ten won six and tied the other
interesting test was the Northwestern-Oklahoma game. To be sure, Northwestern
had won easily last year, 45-13, but the Oklahoma squad had come down with food
poisoning just before the game, and there were many who thought that the
outcome might otherwise have been reversed. All last week Northwestern Coach
Ara Parseghian, the adept Armenian amateur psychologist, needled his players
about the questionable victory. He posted derogatory clippings on the
locker-room "clobber board" and sneeringly reminded all hands, "No
one really believes you licked them."
On Saturday at
Norman, Northwestern licked Oklahoma 19-3. The loss was only Oklahoma's fourth
at home in 13 years. The crowd of 62,000 had barely cheered Oklahoma Guard Karl
Milstead's 35-yard field goal after the kickoff when North-western's superb
backfield took control. Quarterback Dick Thornton and Halfback Albert
Kimbrough, both out almost all last season with injuries, teamed up with
Fullback Mike Stock to put Northwestern in front to stay. With Thornton helping
clear the way, Stock took a pitchout around right end and went 27 yards to the
Oklahoma nine. A few seconds later Thornton threw a three-yard touchdown pass
to End Elbert Kimbrough, Albert's twin. In the second and third periods Stock
kicked two field goals, and in the final period Thornton, waiting until the
Oklahoma line was almost upon him, threw a lovely soft floater 25 yards into
the arms of Halfback Al Faunce.
pleased Parseghian was the strength of his line. From tackle to tackle
Northwestern had only one player who had ever started. "I knew that if our
interior line held up, we would have a good team," Parseghian said
afterward. "Well, they're some group." After checking his
first-stringers, Parseghian played everyone he could. He had to. Northwestern,
the sole private school in the Big Ten and one requiring College Board exams,
has the smallest squad in the conference. Toward the end of the season it often
has the weakest. This year Parseghian wants experienced reserves who can help
"overcome the late-season letdown."
Texas-Maryland game was not so much a question of lines but of a straight line.
Texas's James Saxton, who used to amuse himself by chasing jack rabbits, can be
an exasperating runner. Instead of using his speed to score, he has been in the
habit of dancing a jig while deciding which way to go. He would sometimes run
60 or 70 yards to the left and right, alas, but seldom more than two or three
After Texas lost
a one-point opener to Nebraska a week ago, Coach Darrell Royal gave Saxton the
word: the shortest distance to the goal is a straight line. Royal apparently
made an impression. Saxton stopped Maryland's opening drive with an
interception in the end zone. Not long after Maryland stalled and quick-kicked.
Saxton caught the ball on the Texas 31 and began running—straight ahead. He
kept running until he crossed the Maryland goal. Texas went on to win 34-0, in
a game that had been rated even. Toward the end, Saxton sat grinning on the
Texas bench as he recalled Royal's advice. "It works good," he said.
"The coaches really know what they're talking about."
In another game
involving a Southwest Conference team, it was Bears against Buffaloes but a
Bull was the deciding factor. The Bull is Halfback Ronnie Bull of the Baylor
Bears. The Buffaloes are Colorado. Last year Bull ran for 106 yards and two
touchdowns against Colorado to give Baylor a 15-7 win. For Saturday night's
game Colorado Coach Sonny Grandelius planned his defense accordingly, and that
called for no Bull.
It didn't work.
Bull recovered the fumble that set up Baylor's first touchdown, returned a punt
60 yards for the second, gained 40 yards on two pass receptions and 30 more in
rushing as Baylor won 26-0. Bull's play gave the Bears hope that this year poor
Baylor might very well go on to win its first conference championship in 35
years. Said Colorado Guard Joe Roming: "Neither Baylor nor Bull was this
good a year ago."
Back East, deep
in the John O'Hara country of northeastern Pennsylvania where the action often
is hot and heavy, Lehigh made it hot for heavy Delaware. In a game likely to
determine the championship of the Middle Atlantic Conference, Lehigh won
easily, 27-14. Pitted against the likes of Ronald Rubino, Delaware's 298-pound
center, the Lehigh line showed speed and mobility. No one was happier than
Coach Bill Leckonby. He now stands at five and six with Dave Nelson, Delaware's
acclaimed coach. "It's always satisfying to upset the experts,"
Leckonby said, "and they universally picked us to lose."