After unknown Memphis State tied powerful Ole Miss 0-0 last year it was no longer true that the most exciting activity around Memphis was watching the ducks float in the marble fountain with the artificial gladiolas on top in the lobby of the Hotel Peabody. The thing to do was to whoop it up for Memphis State and to believe Coach Spook Murphy when he said his Tigers would beat Mississippi this year. "If we don't," said Spook, "there ain't a cotton picker in Mississippi." Last Saturday more than 15,000 Memphis State whoopers followed Spook to Oxford, Miss. for the big day, surviving a 21-car collision on Interstate Highway 55, a severe parking and hiking problem on the Ole Miss campus and 93� heat. When the game was over Ole Miss had won by the nightmarish score of 30-0 and Spook's friends headed home to watch the ducks.
It was quickly apparent that Ole Miss has another of those teams—faster, bigger and deeper than many of Coach Johnny Vaught's fine ones in the past. The Rebels scored on the fourth play of the game, when a lot of people were still trudging down the hill from the statue of the Confederate soldier. Quarterback Jim Weatherly threw a pass in the Memphis State end zone to Halfback Billy Clay. Two hours later, on the last play of the game, Ole Miss was again on the Memphis State goal line, fumbling away what should have been another touchdown.
In between, Ole Miss pounded out 439 yards passing and running, held Memphis State to a mere 36 and aggressively forced the stunned, jittery visitors into eight fumbles. In fact, the only element of suspense during the long afternoon was whether or not State could make a first down. With two minutes and 56 seconds left in the third quarter, they finally did so, winning a few well-scattered cheers from Memphis people filing out of Hemingway Stadium.
Unfortunately for Memphis State, it was a football-wise audience, one that included Coach Weeb Ewbank and Assistant Coach Chuck Knox of the New York Jets and Talent Scouts Pat Peppier of the Green Bay Packers, Don Klosterman of the Kansas City Chiefs, Harley Sewell of the Los Angeles Rams, Red Ettinger of the Houston Oilers and Charlie Flowers of the San Diego Chargers. Elroy Hirsch of the Rams was lucky. He left the day before the game after watching Memphis State in workouts.
Like most of the enthusiasts, the pros believed they were going to see an epic contest between two teams loaded with prospects. Memphis State had at least four, led by 275-pound Tackle Harry Schuh. Ole Miss certainly would have some; it always does. Before the kickoff the Rams' Sewell said, "You like to see quality go against quality."
Most of the prospects the pros saw turned out to be from Ole Miss. Quarterback Weatherly, for one. Weatherly sprinted the Memphis State ends with ease and completed 14 out of 22 passes. There were other standouts, too. End Allen Brown caught passes in midair, with Tigers glancing off him, and Guard Stan Hindman sometimes smothered Memphis State's quarterbacks before they could fumble.
Nothing had happened during the days before the game to give Spook Murphy the slightest suspicion that a crushing defeat lay ahead. There had been a couple of uninspired workouts, sure. On Wednesday, for example, the Tigers looked so bad the coach had to say, "Just get outa my sight." But on Thursday, Memphis State was sharp again, and Spook, a tall man with a booming voice, was cheerful and confident. Driving through the narrow, shaded streets of the Memphis State campus, Spook almost had a minor collision with one of his assistant coaches. "By dog," he said, "you can tell we're gettin' near game time, because my coaches are stoppin' on green and goin' on red. Well, the hay's in the barn now, anyhow. Nothin' to do but wait."
He seemed to enjoy relaxing and waiting in the athletic dormitory, a new one with a color television set, and discussing his personnel—and that of Ole Miss. "Now you take old Brooks, our end," said Murphy. "He's a big one [6 feet 5, 240], but he's also got some mean in him. Yes sir. He's about half mean." About Hindman, the Rebels' best lineman, Spook said, "That boy is somethin' else. Man, when he lays his ears back he's about half gazelle. You don't find big old boys who run like him."
Nor did it disturb Murphy to talk about the curious fact that most of Memphis State's players come from such quaint southern strongholds as Oak Park, Ill. and Feasterville, Pa. Memphis State had two starters from Illinois, two from Pennsylvania, two from Missouri and one from New Jersey. "You know what?" said Spook. "Those old boys like it down heah. Why, they get taken into our fine homes and get in this fine, warm climate and they like it." Spook grinned and said, "Of course, now, we got some, too, who came because their coaches phoned me up and said come get 'em."
One such player is Quarterback Olie Cordill. Spook acquired him from the University of Southwestern Louisiana in Lafayette because Cordill, the son of a former star at Rice, admittedly could not "get along" with the coaches at the Louisiana school. "Just a personality clash, so to speak," said Murphy. "Wish they'd send me more like him. That boy can kick [his kicking against Ole Miss was Spook's only weapon] and do some other things, too."