- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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Nothing was going right for Florida—a 21-point favorite over the Air Force—in its new 46,000-seat Tampa Stadium. Coach Ray Graves did not mind that 52,626 people somehow got into the stadium, but he was upset by their noisiness, which he said confused his offensive linemen and kept his team from calling automatics. What is more, the scoreboard clock did not function, gusty winds nullified the Gator passing game and, worst of all, Curtis Martin of the Falcons ran back the opening kickoff 98 yards for a TD. Despite such frustrations, the Gators won 23-20, thanks to an Air Force fumble.
Southeastern Conference teams had mixed results against intersectional foes, with most of the triumphs being overshadowed by lackluster performances that raised the question of whether the SEC is going to be the nation's toughest conference this year. Alabama held VPI runners to minus-17 yards and surrendered just 68 on passes, but its offense was more makeshift than shifty in a 14-7 victory. The Tide's winning score came when George (Lone) Ranager caught a tipped pass and ran 65 yards. Said Alabama's Bear Bryant: "We won, but we didn't beat 'em."
Much the same could be said of Mississippi's 21-7 victory over Memphis State. The Rebels trailed 7-0 and highly touted Quarterback Archie Manning had not moved the team in the first half. Given better field position in the second half, however, Manning produced. In less than two and a half minutes of the third quarter he passed for two touchdowns, one of which he set up with a 44-yard run.
There were only three seniors on the Kentucky defensive unit that held Missouri four times inside the 20 and preserved a 12-6 win which, at least in part, was made possible by the Tigers' failure to convert field goals from the 10, 15 and 22. Auburn and Mississippi State both lost to nonconference opponents. Sophomore Chuck Hixson passed for three TDs and scored two himself as SMU dumped fumbling Auburn 37-28. Louisiana Tech, a small-college team, beat Mississippi State 20-13 as Terry Bradshaw threw a fourth-quarter 37-yard touchdown pass to Tommy Spinks.
Miami, which was supposed to have an Orange Bowlful of runners and no quarterback, found that Quarterback David Olivo was its best weapon in a 28-7 victory over Northwestern. He completed 18 of 26 attempts—seven of them to David Kalina. For Georgia Tech the passer turned out to be Larry Good, who finished off TCU 17-7 by connecting on 18 of 25.
One night last week UCLA Coach Tommy Prothro was engaged in his favorite form of escapism—chess. Football, though, was far from forgotten. "How we go depends to a great extent on how whole we can keep Bill Bolden," he told a friend. Bolden, a 6'3", 207-pound junior who is reputed to be a better long passer than Gary Beban, remained whole for 17 minutes and 51 seconds against Pitt. That was long enough for him to throw a 53-yard touchdown pass and to pick up 32 yards in five carries. His last run was good for three yards and a touchdown, but it was a costly score. Bolden was bowled over, landed on his right shoulder and had to be led from the field. Enter one James Michael Nader, who is more noted for being the nephew of Janice Rule and Ben Gazzara than for being a UCLA quarterback. In the grand Hollywood tradition, he put on a show worthy of an Oscar, completing 13 of 24 passes, four of them for touchdowns, as the Bruins romped over Pitt 63-7.
"They ought to put up a statue for the timer and give him the game ball," complained Rice Coach Bo Hagan after Washington got off seven plays in 11 seconds to get a 35-35 tie on its new Astro Turf field, and Hagan may have had a point. Not only did Washington have to run off its plays in split seconds, it needed every one of them to reach the point where Ron Volbrecht could kick a 51-yard field goal at the gun.
Stanford scored the first four times it had the ball as Quarterback Jim Plunkett hit on 10 of 13 passes and led his team to a 68-20 win against San Jose State. This was to be a down year for Colorado, which has lost some of its offensive punch, but attacking by land (208 yards) and air (14 of 22 for 122 yards), the Buffaloes kept Oregon off balance and won 28-7.