Missouri's defense was spicy and hard-hitting, though it yielded 407 yards. The secondary, patrolled by Jim Whitaker and Gary Grossnickle, intercepted three Beban passes, and rather miraculously kept Flanker Harold Busby, an authentic 9.4 sprinter, from getting deep. Russ Washington blocked a punt, picked it up and raced for a touchdown that narrowed the gap to 17-15 in the final quarter. But before, during and after all of this, Farr was displaying the talents that make the pros rate him so highly—yes, even several long steps ahead of Syracuse's more publicized Floyd Little, who Saturday passed Ernie Davis in career scoring. Farr is not just big, fast and quick. He is tough, he has sure hands, he is a superblocker and superfaker and he has the kind of attitude that last week encouraged his coach, Tommy Prothro, to say, "He's the greatest halfback I've ever seen. He's not All-America, he's All-Universe."
Farr seemed both on one 40-yard pass from Beban. He found himself darting at top speed just inside the sideline, a Missouri defender attached to his pale-blue jersey and the ball coming high over the wrong shoulder. He leaped, he looked straight up and back, he stretched out his hands and he made the catch.
As a runner, his 13-yard squirt for UCLA's final touchdown was enough proof for the most skeptical. Farr took a quick hand-off from Beban and shot through left guard, sped in his long-gaited style briefly into the clear, then broke one tackle, only to be hit at the knees on the five by another defender. In a combination hurdle, broad jump and hop, step and jump, he soared into the air and crashed head first into the Missouri end zone. Chancellor Murphy steeplechased up and down the sidelines.
Even before the game there was no doubt in the minds of UCLA's coaches that Farr was less than super alltime fantastic, to choose a modest Hollywood-style description.
"I think he could probably run a 9.6 or 9.7 in the hundred," said Track Coach Jim Bush. "That is, if he'd work, if he liked it as much as football."
"He's the perfect halfback," said Backfield Coach Pepper Rodgers. "He has speed and strength and he breaks tackles, which is what the pros like."
Although Farr still trails his teammate Beban as far as raves go, he received a clear decision as the best of the running backs in a poll taken by SPORTS ILLUSTRATED of a panel of the most successful professional scouts. The following is a list of the 10 favored backs, together with the paraphrased comments of the scouts and a summation of their season performances thus far.
Mel Farr, UCLA, senior: "Best in country. Big, fast, quick and super blocker. Great attitude, good hands, game breaker. Can get bigger without losing speed." Through three games Farr has gained 252 yards, averaging 6.4 per carry, has scored five touchdowns and, together with Gary Beban, is the foremost reason why UCLA is 3-0, is second in the nation in scoring and ranks fifth in total offense.
Harry Jones, Arkansas, senior: "Speed, enough size, great hands and apparently durable. Run or catch, can be another Alworth. Maybe fastest runner in the country from scrimmage." This year he has rushed for 106 yards. Last Saturday Jones caught two scoring passes of 72 and 48 yards and ran for another touchdown.
3) Clinton Jones, Michigan State, senior: "Tough, nifty moves, extremely durable, fine attitude. Rates third only because he gives up slight edge in height and speed to Farr and Harry Jones." This year he has rushed for 194 yards, caught two passes for five yards and two touchdowns. Last Saturday Jones, partly because of a bruised knee and partly because of a solid Illinois defense, had the worst day of his career, gaining only 16 yards.