On UCLA's first offensive play Beban faked from the shadow and sprinted to the opposite side of the field for 28 yards. "That gave us confidence," said the sophomore, "and gave them the hint we could run on them." UCLA got its first touchdown when a fumbled punt put the Bruins in possession at the Spartan five. Beban carried twice from the three. He was stopped once, but the second time he edged over from the one for the first of the two touchdowns he scored. The other also came from only one yard out.
If Michigan State did not seem bothered too much by that first touchdown, it had a right to its confidence. The Spartans had trailed six opponents during the regular season and always had won. But this time things were different. The Bruins, unafraid of what State could do to them if they failed, promptly pulled their onside kick. They won the gamble, had the ball and field position. It was time, they told themselves, for the new alignment again.
In the huddle Beban called "shadow set Michigan, spread left post." Out went Altenburg and Witcher, split wide. Both receivers sprinted deep and crisscrossed, with Witcher going all the way to the end zone, Altenburg inside him. Beban calmly spiraled the ball to Altenburg, running at the four-yard line between two defenders. Altenburg fell forward to the one, and Beban quickly stabbed through for the score. "It was a perfect pattern, a perfect throw and a great catch," said Prothro.
But almost everything about the day was perfect for UCLA, whose players had; as only collegians do, dedicated the game to their families, their school and West Coast football.
"They kept us off balance from the start," said Daugherty, a gracious loser. "They forced us into mistakes."
COTTON BOWL: A lady whose intention undoubtedly was kind wove through the balloons and paper hats at the Cotton Bowl New Year's Eve party and clutched the arm of Arkansas Coach Frank Broyles. "Frank," she said, "you have nothing to worry about tomorrow," meaning the Razorbacks were certain to beat Louisiana State for their 23rd straight win. "Lady," said Broyles, "that is exactly what worries me." Later, thinking about the mood of the game, Broyles said, "LSU is sitting behind a log with its 7-3 record. We know they're good, but we're having a hard time convincing people."
Early in the game, when the Razorbacks drove 87 yards for a 7-0 lead, largely on the dazzling pass catches of End Bobby Crockett, the lady and not Broyles appeared to have been right. But the Tigers had a game plan, and soon began to put it into effect. The place where they could beat Arkansas, Coach Charley McClendon reasoned, was on the left side of its big, hard-blocking line. There LSU had Tackle David McCormick (6 feet 6, 240), Guard Don Ellen (6 feet 1, 225) and Tight End Walt Pillow (6 feet 2, 215), and they were capable of blocking straight ahead like steamrollers. Moreover, Arkansas' best defensive lineman, All-America Tackle Lloyd Phillips, played on the opposite side. The question was whether LSU could control the ball long enough for Halfback Joe Labruzzo to get the goal lines clearly in focus. LSU could. First, Labruzzo squirted behind McCormick, Ellen and Pillow from three yards out to top off an 80-yard drive for the touchdown that tied the score 7-7. Then, as the last few seconds of the first half ticked away, Labruzzo banged for five straight downs and finally barged over for the winning touchdown. In the second half LSU clamped double and even triple coverages on Crockett, and the Arkansas offense, sputtering on the sore arm of Jon Brittenum, was far from the smooth thing it had been all season. At the game's end the Tiger players went into the kind of ritual only upsetting teams enjoy: they grabbed a red practice jersey with 23 on it (for Arkansas' expected 23 straight) and gleefully shredded it.
ORANGE BOWL: The games in Dallas and Pasadena were over. After a long day of college football and a season that began in the heat of September, it was left, almost miraculously, to the last two teams scheduled to play—Alabama and Nebraska—to decide between themselves which should be considered the country's best. If one team appeared to have more of an incentive, and therefore an edge, it was Alabama. In the same Orange Bowl exactly a year before, the Tide was embarrassed as it now hoped to embarrass unbeaten Nebraska. On that occasion, undefeated and already voted No. 1, Alabama failed to move the ball the length of a bow tie in the last few minutes and lost to Texas 21-17.
Coach Paul Bryant heard a lot about that Texas game in Miami last week as he prepared for this year's Orange Bowl. At the kickoff luncheon the master of ceremonies pointed out the incredibility of Bear Bryant coaching 30 years and not having a play in his repertoire to get over the Texas goal. No amount of needling, however, could alter the fact that in 1964 the polls had closed early, and that Alabama—though a loser—was still ranked No. 1.
This season an overpoweringly simple, reasonable alternative was decided on. One of the wire services—the Associated Press—announced it would hold off its final vote until after the bowl games, the bowls being the closest thing to an actual play-off of contenders from the various sections (SI, Sept. 20). The AP also advised Alabama to crate up the championship trophy and be ready to send it along to the new champion. There were three unbeaten teams in bowl competition and Alabama was not one of them. The Alabama publicity director took the instructions under advisement but did not hurry to get the crating done. In fact, he never even started the job. Any farsighted partisan could see that the three unbeatens—Michigan State, Arkansas and Nebraska—would not survive the day and by natural accession once-beaten, fourth-ranked Alabama would again wind up at the top.