Those funny little creatures on the opposite page replaying the college football season in all of its quaint confusion—from a washed-out Notre Dame-Michigan State game to the three-way tussle for the Heisman Trophy to the two-way fight under Houston's dome—show as well as anything that the only way to look upon the events of this reasonless autumn is with a smile.
What made the season so disorderly, of course, was the fact that upsets were continuous. They began the first big weekend, when teams like Houston and Florida State beat and tied teams like Michigan State and Alabama, and they did not stop until other weird outfits, like Indiana, Texas A&M and Navy, had embarrassed the elite forces of Purdue, Texas and Army.
Out of this mischief emerged some strange conference champions—teams that had not won in years: Indiana, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Yale and Oklahoma, among them—and some new coaching wizards with equally unfamiliar names. Until 1967, for example, who had ever really heard of John Pont, Gene Stallings, Doug Dickey, Carmen Cozza and Chuck Fairbanks? These are men who won a total of 41 games and lost only eight during the year, while some of their famous fraternity brothers, Duffy Daugherty, Frank Broyles, Darrell Royal, Bob Devaney and Jim Owens, to name a few, wound up at 24-25-1.
The year served to disprove a lot of the favorite truisms of college football that coaches, pro scouts, bookmakers and writers have been living by for years. You could hear them everywhere, such gems as: "Bear will find a way," and "You can't run on Texas," and "Notre Dame at home," and "Frank will always have a quarterback," and " Washington in November" and "When in doubt, Ohio State."
Well, for once, Bear Bryant did not find a way when Alabama got tied by Florida State 37-37, or when he lost the big game to Tennessee. A lot of teams ran on Texas. And ran and ran. Not just O. J. Simpson and USC, but Texas Tech and TCU, and A&M, of all people. Notre Dame was good at home against the dogs that Ara Parseghian upped the score on, but not against USC when the Irish were favored by 12 and lost by 17. Meanwhile, Arkansas' Frank Broyles ran out of quarterbacks, as he suffered back and forth between Ronny South and John Eichler—and lost with both. Washington in November was beautiful, just beautiful. The Huskies lost three times in November. And, as things turned out, Ohio State was nearly always in doubt, losing to Arizona, Purdue and Illinois and barely defeating some lesser souls.
The magic date for 1967 was supposed to be October 28, and the place was supposed to be South Bend. There, with ABC-TV in an absolute drool, Notre Dame and Michigan State were expected to claw out another 10-10 tie as they did in 1966's famous "poll bowl." Unfortunately, when the two powers came up to that game they had 3-2 and 2-3 records, respectively, and most of television's millions had gone off boating, bowling and golfing.
Some interesting things had happened to both teams. A few Saturdays previous, Notre Dame's glamour player, Quarterback Terry Hanratty, set a national record by handling the ball 75 times, passing and running, in a single game—and the Irish lost to Purdue. Then Hanratty experienced his very worst afternoon, throwing five interceptions, as Notre Dame lost again, this time to USC.
But this was nothing compared to the woes of the Spartans. Duffy Daugherty's team never recovered from its opening defeat by Houston, a 37-7 massacre before the home folks of East Lansing. As the good-natured Daugherty told USC Coach John McKay later, on the occasion of McKay's acceptance of a No. 1 trophy, "Just think, John. If you work real hard next year, you can be 3-7."
The Houston team that turned Duffy Spartan green wound up being as curious as any other. In their first three games the Cougars scored 104 points, looked faster than the Blue Angels and had the surest bet for All-America that September ever produced. He was Warren McVea.
Then curious things began happening at the Astrodome to the world's only indoor football team. McVea got in a scrap with a teammate, End Ken Hebert, during a game before 40,000 fans. McVea then got hurt. McVea then started fumbling. And Houston finished with three losses. Ironically, Houston never stopped receiving bowl feelers and being mentioned in print as a potential bowl team (one national magazine went so far as to predict, in its preseason summary, that Houston would play Arkansas in the Gator Bowl) even though the team is ineligible because of a three-year NCAA probation handed down in 1966.