As Texas' sun set in the West last week, Alabama's rose in the East. Undefeated, the Crimson Tide beat Georgia Tech, perhaps the toughest team on its schedule, 10-0 and replaced Texas as the nation's highest-ranked team.
The Georgia Tech game, played before 53,000 fans in Birmingham, was rugged and fundamental, and, by the lights of those not involved, dull. Alabama marched for a touchdown in the second quarter and kicked a field goal in the third, then resorted to possession football for the rest of the game. It really wasn't necessary, for Georgia Tech couldn't move when it did get the ball. Early in the game it recovered a fumble on the Alabama 42. Failing to make a first down, Georgia Tech punted and never again got as close to the Alabama goal.
After the game, Alabama Coach Bear Bryant, with visions of bowl bids dancing in his head, praised his boys. "I am convinced this football team has class," he said. Bobby Dodd of Georgia Tech agreed. His team had previously lost to LSU, also by 10-0, but he claimed, surprisingly, that there was no comparison between the strengths of Alabama and LSU. His vote was definitely for Alabama as the No. I team in the country.
Mr. Dodd will get an argument from the folks out in Utah, where the mere mention of national rankings provokes growls. Utah State is undefeated (tied once), but before last Saturday's game against rival Utah it was not included among the nation's top 10. As if to point out this error of judgment, Utah State beat Utah 17-6 to finish the season as one of the four major unbeaten teams (the other two: Ohio State and Rutgers).
For Utah State's outstanding halfback, Tommy Larscheid, the game was a personal triumph. In a fine career, he had never had any luck against Utah. As a sophomore he had been thrown out of the game for roughness. As a junior he was the Skyline Conference back of the year, the nation's No. 2 ground-gainer. But against Utah, Larscheid's total for the day had been a minus six yards rushing. When the game was over, there were signs all over State's dressing room reading: "Tommy-gun turned out to be a water-pistol." Larscheid was furious. "The worst thing about it was that they ruined our undefeated record," he said later. "Well, don't forget one thing. I've still got one more game to play against Utah."
The largest crowd ever to watch a Skyline game—32,437—came to Ute Stadium in Salt Lake City to see State and Larscheid get their revenge. The huge State team, whose best three tackles averaged 265 pounds—"They have bigger tackles than we do," Jim Lee Howell of the New York Giants said recently—crunched out enough yardage through sheer power to score a field goal in the first quarter and a touchdown plus 2-point conversion in the second to lead 11-0 at the half. Once again, however, Larscheid had turned out to be a water-gun. Every time he ran there seemed to be a wall of Utah linemen in front of him.
It was midway through the third quarter that Larscheid's moment arrived. Utah was forced to punt, and Larscheid caught the ball on his own 15. He ran for the sideline, saw he was hemmed in and did a little backward-forward toe dance. Two lunging Utah tacklers missed by inches. Then, escorted by a wedge of blockers, Larscheid raced 85 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. As he crossed the goal line, Larscheid threw the ball high into the air, then turned and hugged every teammate he could find. "Two years!" he shouted after the game. "Two years of failure ended today."
Utah State's victory will certainly move it into the 10 top teams and the only question is how high. Utah State beat Utah, which the week before beat Colorado. Colorado beat Missouri and Missouri beat Minnesota. Minnesota, ranked fourth in the nation last week, may be third now, so theoretically, Utah State should be ranked around there. At least that's the way Tommy Larscheid and Utah State see it.
In a game Coach Murray Warmath described as "for men only," Minnesota out-bulldozed Purdue 10-7 to take the Big Ten lead, while Ohio State protected its national ranking by beating Oregon 22-12. Minnesota scored all its points in a four-minute span during the second quarter on a 25-yard field goal by Tackle Tom Loechler and a four-yard run by Quarterback Sandy Stephens. Purdue, held inside its own 32-yard line during the first half, finally scored late in the game on a dive by Quarterback Gary Hogan, but an error in judgment by Purdue Coach Jack Mollenkopf cost the Boilermakers a chance to score earlier. With fourth down on Minnesota's 25-yard line, Mollenkopf ordered a punt. "I thought we were on the 35," he said. "When I realized it was the 25 I yelled to Ron DiGravio [his quarterback] to call time out so we could try a field goal. He didn't hear me." Thus the fortunes of college football teams.