East Texas State will have to be good merely to survive in its own conference. SAM HOUSTON and STEPHEN F. AUSTIN, two teams almost as strong in football-rich Texas, will be waiting eagerly for East Texas to make a mistake. It could be a long wait.
Similarly potent are the predominantly Negro schools. No one, for instance, can quite believe the PRAIRIE VIEW line is real. It averages 243 pounds a man and last year held opponents to 59 yards per game rushing. End Otis Taylor caught 630 yards of passes for 13 touchdowns and was chosen All-NAIA. So was Guard George Dearborne, while Tackle Horace Chandler made second-team All-America, TEXAS SOUTHERN claims to be undaunted by the Prairie View giants. This optimistic outlook, plus End Herman Driver and Guard John Thompson, is why the Tigers still hope to take the Southwestern Conference. Along with ARKANSAS AM&N and GRAMBLING, Texas Southern will be disillusioned quickly.
Abilene Christian, whose 8-1 record in 1963 was second best in ACC history, has last year's balanced backfield essentially intact. Reunited are fleet Tailback Dennis Hagaman (459 yards and eight touchdowns rushing), Fullback Mike Love (see box page 74), Wingback Bubba Brown and a skillful ballhandling quarterback, Charlie Reynolds. With Tackles Mike Capshaw and Larry Cox, Guard Ron Anders and End Dewitt Jones up front, Abilene can duplicate last year's defense, which allowed an average of only 86.2 yards per game on the ground. ARLINGTON hopes to rebound from an atrocious season and challenge Abilene Christian for the new Southland championship. That large order is being given to Wingback Kenneth Vaughn (336 receiving), Fullback Ken Bowman (158), Tailback Al Smith (278), Guard Jerry Stephens and whatever deputies they can find. ARKANSAS STATE or LAMAR TECH may beat them to the draw.
Lake Charles, La., situated on the Calcasieu River above Calcasieu Lake and accessible from the Gulf via Calcasieu Pass, is the seat of Calcasieu Parish. It is also the seat of McNEESE STATE and football Coach Les DeVall, a circumstance that may yet induce the citizens of Lake Charles to rename river, lake, pass and parish after DeVall. DeVall has lost only 17 of 65 games at McNeese and may have the best small-college team in the South this year. He has Tailback Charlie Anastasio (594 yards), Fullbacks Dan Suire and Merlin Walet and Quarterbacks Richard Guillory (401 yards passing, 125 running, eight touchdowns), George Haffner and Baron Thomas to lead the attack.
The Gulf States Conference is sublimely aggressive. If McNeese is not example enough, take LOUISIANA TECH. Tech will open its 1965 season with Rice, its 1966 season with Alabama. For the present, Joe Aillet's men content themselves with terrorizing their own league. Fullbacks Gerald McDowell (358 yards) and Wayne Noland and Halfbacks Al-den Reeves (196) and Jack Odom are the team's good runners. End Wayne Davis (309) and Halfback Corky Corkern (172) are the best catchers. Billy Laird, 90 of 157 for 1,103 yards, is the passer. Nearly everybody scores, but not enough to beat McNeese for the conference title.
Another potentially strong team is SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA, which reregisters a nicely matched set of running backs this fall: Halfbacks Ellis Johnson and Jerry Joe Dunaway and Fullback Kenny Dyer or Harry Nunez. Towering Tackle Maxie Williams is supported by experienced sophomore Linemen Billy Andrews, Carl Barbier, Eddie Brescher and Fred Gary.
Florida A&M Coach Jake Gaither, who always before has been able to find some reason why fast backs are a handicap, had a perfect one presented to him this year: Halfback Bob Hayes, 9.1 world-record holder, will be away at the Olympics. His quarterback-end combination of last season, while not in Tokyo, is just as gone. There are consolations. Guard Owen McKay, all 265 pounds of him, is one. Ends Carleton Oats (255) and Art Robinson, Tackles Emmette Gamble (260) and David Daniels and Guard Bob Brown are others.
The Hilltoppers of WESTERN KENTUCKY topped the hill country Ohio Valley Conference a year before anybody thought they would. Western hurt the OVC with not one Burt but two—brothers Jim and John. Fullback John pounded 438 yards, bad enough. Halfback Jim rushed 530 yards, passed 334 (for four scores), received for 105 and intercepted five passes. Meanest of all, Quarterback Sharon Miller—one man who plays like two—passed 428 yards, rushed exactly another 428, received for 133 and scored 10 touchdowns.
So, does Western Kentucky stand alone? It does not. MIDDLE TENNESSEE has the statistics to prove it is almost equally good. The Blue Raiders, 123-45-7 and never a losing season in 17 years under Coach Bubber Murphy, figure at least to continue their record of finishing no lower than second in the Ohio Valley Conference. The statistics blitz does not end with Quarterback Teddy Morris' 12 touchdowns on 1,325 yards' passing in 1963. Halfback Larry Whaley rushed 207 yards and caught passes for 126 more, and Fullback David Petty rushed 332 for six touchdowns.