On the Thursday night before the biggest upset of a thoroughly demented college football season Mike Phipps, Purdue's sophomore quarterback, comes down with a cold and a sore throat. By Friday afternoon, when the team moves into the Morris Bright Hotel to isolate itself from the tensions of facing Notre Dame, Phipps (see cover) has added a fever to his ailments. This does not seem to bother Phipps very much, but it is making Purdue Coach Jack Mollenkopf sick. All week Mollenkopf has been warning that Purdue must run up a large score in order to beat Notre Dame, somehow score repeatedly against the No. 1 defense of the No. 1 team in the country. "There is no way," says Mollenkopf, "that anybody is going to shut out Hanratty and Seymour." And how can we score, Mollenkopf is nervously thinking, if my quarterback, my 19-year-old sophomore quarterback, is catching pneumonia?
But only 61-year-old Jack Mollenkopf is worried. If there is one trait that Mike Phipps shares with his predecessor—All-America Bob Griese—it is composure. The week before, in his first college game, Phipps had passed Purdue to a 24-20 win over Texas A&M. "The night before that game he was as calm as could be," Mollenkopf says. "This week he has been just the same."
But Phipps, who is taking pills for his cold, does admit to some curiosity about the Irish.
"Personally," Phipps says, "I can't wait to see Notre Dame's uniforms—those gold helmets and all."
"We have gold helmets, too," says Bob DeMoss, Purdue's offensive coach.
"Yeah." Phipps says, "but not like theirs."
Phipps is the latest youngster in Mollenkopf's pattern of selecting a sophomore quarterback every third year and sticking with him. "There is a tradition about sophomore quarterbacks here, no doubt about that," says Phipps "There have been some great ones before me." Len Dawson, Dale Samuels and Griese are apt examples. The first two upset Notre Dame in their sophomore seasons.
During spring practice this year Mollenkopf said that after watching Griese for three seasons his current quarterbacks all looked as if they were pulling plows. But Phipps, who is 6'2", threw a 65-yard pass off balance for a touchdown in the spring game and showed remarkable poise against Texas A&M. If he is pulling a plow it is a very light one, and Mollenkopf dares hope that Phipps is ready for the Irish, who are ranked No. 1 everything everywhere.
One Boilermaker who is certainly ready is Leroy Keyes, a junior who is developing into something special. In 1966 Keyes played mostly on defense, but he completed all three passes he tried on offense (two for touchdowns), caught two passes and rushed for an 8.4-yard average on 12 carries. In last fall's Notre Dame game he grabbed a fumble out of the air and ran 95 yards to score. "It's never hard to get up for Notre Dame," says Keyes. "It doesn't matter if they're No. 1 or No. 100. It's Purdue vs. Notre Dame, and that's enough."
Mollenkopf has never quite been able to make up his mind whether Keyes is more valuable on offense or defense, but he decided this summer that the offense needed help the most and shifted Keyes over to the Purdue attack. Keyes has attended only two defensive meetings all fall. Unless a crisis develops, he will be a running back against Notre Dame. A crisis is going to develop.