So Houston was not smothered by Michigan State's reputation, but it still might have been suffocated by the Spartan team. What now gives extra impact to the ease and scope of the upset is that the Spartans were not that bad and, in fact, were expected by Duffy not only to be pretty good physically, despite the loss of such stars as George Webster, Clinton Jones and Bubba, but emotionally just right.
On Friday, Duffy said, "We expect Jimmy Raye to be a more mature, more consistent quarterback. Anyone who doesn't respect his throwing might get surprised. We've got some fine runners. And I've never felt so confident that a Michigan State team would go out there tomorrow and do a good job."
Daugherty naturally was concerned about Houston's quickness, and even more so about the fact that the Cougars had already played a game (beating Florida State, the team which would tie Alabama, by 33-13), but Michigan State was sure of itself and ready. "It's an old saying but a true one that a college team improves more between its first and second games than it does all year," said Duffy. "We'll make some first-game errors, but I hope we'll be good enough to overcome them." He clearly felt that his hope was well placed.
But Michigan State could have played blunderless football all afternoon and not overcome Houston's speed. The first time McVea ( Mac the Knife, he is sometimes called) touched the ball he cut this way and that for 48 yards, and the second time he burst loose for 33 yards—both bobbing, weaving, beautiful runs that made it seem as if he were in Flint one second, Ann Arbor the next and Grand Rapids the next. You knew then that the Spartans were in trouble. Later, on the same play, an off-tackle quickie called 23-G, he went 50 yards for a touchdown—well, 50 in the statistics, but more like 80 what with all his cuts and feints. A run by Wondrous Warren seems to last six or seven minutes.
McVea was so effective that even when he did not have the ball the whole Michigan State defense sort of fell down trying to make certain. Jess Phillips and Drake Garrett, two of the Spartans' old campaigners in the secondary who have defended against the likes of Nick Eddy, Mel Farr and Jim Grabowski during their careers, were panic-stricken on the field and numb later.
"He's the best back I've ever seen," moaned Garrett. "His moves.... You don't know what he'll do next. He's there...and then he's not."
None of the Cougars were there, not for long. When McVea wasn't dashing off, others were, scoring touchdowns from insulting distances. Quarterback Dick Woodall, running the offense from a spread formation and throwing anyplace on the field, in the fashion of the pros, fired passes of 76 yards to Kenny Hebert and Don Bean for touchdowns, and Woodall's sub, Ken Bailey, set up a score with a 32-yarder to Hebert. And Mike Simpson went 41 yards for a touchdown with an interception before the Spartan who threw it could get his arm screwed back on and give chase. It was all so easy, exactly 37-7 easy.
More than slightly bewildered by the worst defeat of his Michigan State career, Duffy Daugherty was still congenial and honest after the game. "We're not this bad," he said. "But even if we'd played better, it only would have made the score closer. That team of theirs, you either catch 'em for a loss—or boom!"
Meanwhile, over in the giddy Houston dressing room, there was hollering about winning that Beaumont city championship and Bill Yeoman was saying that now maybe his players would get some recognition. He said he had known Wondrous Warren was the greatest runner in America for a couple of years, even if nobody else did.
And there was shave-headed, broad-smiling McVea himself, who had 258 yards in two games for a modest average of only 8.9 per carry (last year his average was 8.8), wondering if Tody Smith was going to wait around for him. "I want to talk to him about the killin'," he grinned.