Almost any kind of runback would have allowed Griese room to manipulate his offense—and it could have stood some manipulation, Purdue having piled up exactly one first down in the second half. If he got the runback and still failed to move, Griese could at least ride the wind with his punt and Purdue would be reasonably assured that Michigan State would have to begin again deep in its own territory.
But on the kickoff Purdue's Lou Sims, bearing down on the ball, careened into the receiver, Gordon Teter. Teter stumbled as he caught the ball and went to one knee at the nine-yard line. He got up quickly and ran forward, but it was painfully obvious, even to Purdue followers, that he had touched down, and there was Purdue backed up to its goal line once more.
Still, what of it? Griese had driven the Boilermakers 96 yards to their touchdown in the second quarter—he got it on a seven-yard pass to Flanker Jim Finley—and in games past (with Notre Dame, Michigan, Iowa) had he not performed prodigies in the fourth quarter? He had, despite the fact that he had come to Purdue a poor passer, an end-over-ender, a palm-ball thrower. Griese practiced diligently, however, and became an excellent passer, the best in the country, in the judgment of one Michigan State coach. But the frustration of the third quarter may have done him in. His second-half completions included only two inconsequential passes for a total of 14 yards, and frequently he threw poorly. He missed his last six in a row and, in short, finally was behaving like a mortal.
When Teter fell at the nine, a confident Purdue man in the press box said, "It is now time for Griese to walk on water." But, too near to his goal to throw, Griese had to call running plays, and they got only six yards. His punt went to midfield, and Drake Garrett returned it to the Purdue 39. It was the only punt Michigan State returned all day.
Now Apisa and Jones went grimly back to work and achieved a first down at the 24. At the 22, however, Juday missed a vital third-down pass, but Jack Calcaterra, a defensive guard, blundered into him after the whistle and, instead of having to try a fourth-down field goal into that wind, Michigan State was happy to relocate with a first down on the Purdue 12. Behind brutal clearout blocks by Apisa and Guard John Karpinski, Jones cut back neatly and ran in from the eight for the winning touchdown.
Michigan State has now zipped through six straight opponents, with only Northwestern, Iowa and Indiana left on its Big Ten schedule and Notre Dame after that. It would appear that the only way to keep the Spartans from the Rose Bowl would be to have Northwestern, Iowa and Indiana play them simultaneously.
This is, with a few important exceptions, the same Michigan State team that won only four games last year. If half of the coaches in the Big Ten are wondering where these big cutthroats come from, the Spartans are surprising themselves and their own coaches. "Every day in September when I'd see that schedule on the back of the scoreboard at home," recalls Line Coach Hank Bullough, "I'd about break out in a sweat. Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State.... 'Just no way,' I'd say to myself. 'No way.' "
Daugherty says the secret ingredients are enthusiasm and the team's willingness to play up to its potential—"and, of course, some excellent coaching." Daugherty is kidding, but enthusiasm is part of it. This Michigan State team is an extremely coachable one, far more so than other Daugherty teams. Bullough is amazed continually by players streaming into his office to ask questions, to make a meal on stunts and blitzes, "and when they leave they always want to take a movie of one of the games back home to study."
The defense—a colossal mass of sinew that averages out to 245 pounds a man and five scare stories for every visiting scout—not only plays together but plays around together. The regulars lift weights together and push against doors together, and over the summer they stacked on 105 pounds of muscle among them. "I think they felt they got pushed around by the other boys in the league a little too much last year," says Daugherty. Pushing now where once they were pushed, the defense left Michigan and Ohio State with minus yards rushing.
Moreover, the Spartans are a fiercely competitive bunch. End Bob Viney has been playing on a bad knee all year. "They see him limping around, making tackles," says Bullough, "and they know they haven't the right to loaf. And they're all the time correcting each other, sometimes in no uncertain terms. Man, they yell at one another."