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College football's first big week of 1968 was one of its wildest offensive displays in years. Not only did major college teams roll to totals like 48-3, 55-7 and 63-7 over significant—or what was thought to have been significant—competition, but there were some stimulating ties, such as 35-35 and 20-20. It was, from coast to coast, a much better day for those who like to run with a football than for those who like to knock them down.
The most noteworthy case in point was that of Notre Dame. The 81� heat in the South Bend stadium was almost as oppressive as the clamor that greets visiting teams, but Coach Ara Parseghian was more concerned about his defense than the heat. Ever since last spring he has been proclaiming its youth and inexperience, and it seemed that maybe he was right when Oklahoma jumped into a 14-7 lead in the first quarter. Then, on the first play of the second quarter, the Sooners recovered a Notre Dame fumble on the Irish 20-yard line. "I thought we were in for it," said Parseghian later, "but when we got the ball back we took charge. That was the turning point."
What really turned the game around, however, was the fact that the Irish defense proved to be much better than Parseghian expected. For the next 30 minutes it held well-regarded Oklahoma to a single first down. Meanwhile, Notre Dame finally got around to establishing the ball-control game that Ara had planned. With 240-pound Tackle George Kunz leading the offensive charge against the smaller Oklahoma linemen, Fullback Jeff Zimmerman and Halfback Bob Gladieux took turns chewing up huge yardage. Quarterback Terry Hanratty, who completed 18 of 27 passes for 202 yards, repeatedly found his favorite target, Jim Seymour, and he passed to him for two touchdowns. Then Gladieux boomed over for his second and third scores. When it was all over, Notre Dame had piled up 35 first downs, 571 yards rushing and passing, had a 45-21 win over a good team and had alerted future foes to the Irish muscle.
But Notre Dame cannot afford the luxury of getting behind again next Saturday when Purdue comes to South Bend. The Boilermakers were not exactly overwhelming in the first half against Virginia, but a tough defense, led by Middle Guard Chuck Kyle, saved them from being acutely embarrassed. Once Quarterback Mike Phipps found the range with his passes, beating the Cavaliers 44-6 was easy, even with Leroy Keyes playing part-time because of a minor back injury. Keyes scored only once and passed for another touchdown, but he will be ready for Notre Dame. "I'd pay to see that game," he said.
The grass was up to the ankles and the rain was blowing down from the tops of the smoke stacks and grain elevators and into Minnesota's Memorial Stadium where the Gophers have in years past thwarted the likes of Red Grange and Tom Harmon. A very good place for defending national champion USC and O.J. Simpson to be opening the season, correct? And how; Simpson fumbled on his first carry, setting up a Gopher touchdown, and big, tough Minnesota took a 10-0 lead into the second quarter, as USC Coach John McKay said to himself, "Here's where we see how the heart beats." It slowly beat just fine, although it stopped one more time in the fourth quarter when Minnesota dredged up an old sandlot trick—an across-the-field lateral—for an 83-yard touchdown play to go ahead, 20-16. Between, and after, all of this, O.J. got stronger and faster, as he always does. He had his best day ever. If he had produced anything less, USC would probably not have escaped with its hard-earned 29-20 victory.
If Simpson was up to his old form, so was madcap Indiana. It seemed the Hoosiers were about to run out of luck when Baylor's Terry Cozbo kicked a 30-yard field goal with 1:30 to play to put the Bears ahead 36-34. But Quarterback Harry Gonso, who had already thrown two touchdown passes to Jade Butcher and was to complete 13 of 14, took Indiana 80 yards and scored on a three-yard run with 18 seconds to go to win for the Hoosiers 40-36.
The biggest Big Ten surprise occurred in Iowa City where Iowa, showing off some able sophomores, upset Oregon State 21-20. Sophomore Tailback Dennis Green's nine-yard run and Marcos Melendez's third straight extra-point kick in the last quarter did it for the reviving Hawkeyes. The Beavers were hurt by the loss of Quarterback Steve Preece, the manipulator of OSU's beautifully timed multiple offense, when he dislocated a shoulder in the third quarter. "I'm not going to alibi," said OSU Coach Dee Andros. "No man in America makes an entire football team" (a point that O.J. Simpson could contest).
There were no surprises, though, in Champaign and Ann Arbor. Kansas, looking even stronger than its boosters thought possible, overwhelmed Illinois 47-7 while California, which has come through its racial problems of last spring with the highest possible morale, is no longer a Pacific Eight patsy. Cal, with Tailback Gary Fowler scoring three times, took the Wolverines 21-7 in a 2:40 game that seemed for Michigan fans to be as long as a Hubert Humphrey speech—the new rule that stops the clock after a first down helped add 20 minutes to normal playing time. Michigan State survived against Syracuse 14-10, but neither enhanced its reputation. With the Orange leading 10-7 in the last quarter, MSU Quarterback Bill Feraco went back to pass, slipped, recovered and decided he had better run. The Syracuse linemen, caught in a pass rush, could not get to him as he went eight yards for the winning touchdown.