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Most people think that a football game, even one held on New Year's Day, should be, well, a football game. Oh, go ahead: hold a parade, puff up some balloons, vote for a bowl queen—but then let's get serious. This purposeful attitude just won't do for the fun-loving folk of New Orleans, however. They like their sport to last a week and their bowl of sugar to be nine parts confectionery to only one part lumps and bruises. And so, from the French Quarter (left) to the posh Garden District, and right out to the playing field, Louisiana's famed old city is a swinging place.
It is the blend of sport, elegance and the lively arts that gives New Orleans' bowl week its distinction. For those who prefer their athletics with a dash of the pari-mutuel, there is the Fair Grounds, where a glass-enclosed grandstand can shelter 9,000 if the day turns gray. Evening brings parties in the Garden District, one of the last refuges of antebellum aristocracy. And always there is the glittering music and soulful mood of Bourbon Street.
Teams like Southeastern Louisiana come with looks of dedication for the track meet. But for other visitors there is wining, first in the forenoon at Brennan's and then at night, when an exotic display of vintages by Rita, a star stripper, brings to mind the town's celebrated Bernard de Marigny, who, after squandering his $4 million fortune pleasuring, told his wife, "I wish you to know that I possess in the highest degree every vice of a gentleman."
As the bowl game nears, the sailing regatta, tennis matches, track meet and a basketball tournament crown their champions and step back. Only one preliminary remains, the New Year's Eve party: whirling lights at the governor's ball, a crescendo of noise, a snifter of '47 Cognac—ah, perhaps it was 1847—and then out to the stadium. Last Jan. 1 it was LSU's Tiger, red nose and all, biting Wyoming's Cowboys, while...this year 80,000 are ready to shout about...
There are striking similarities in the '68 success of the Sugar Bowl rivals, Georgia and Arkansas. Both played testing but scarcely superhuman schedules; both had major position switches work out well and both had sophomore quarterbacks who performed with distinction. But there were differences, too. When someone asked Coach Frank Broyles of Arkansas what had made his Razorbacks a Southwest Conference co-champion (with Texas), he barked: "Confidence! This team believed it could do anything." When someone asked Billy Payne, one of Georgia's more murderous defenders, what the Bulldogs' secret was, he replied: "Love. We really love one another."
Love? Golly jellybeans! Ah, but lest Arkansans come to believe that they'll find naught but daisy petals and gingerbread crumbs in New Orleans, Georgia's Coach Vince Dooley says hurriedly, "Listen, the way kids think today, ol' Billy summed it up right. Of course, I might put it differently—like saying this team achieved complete unity."
Well, be it a totality of oneness or simply flower power in the locker room, Georgia surprised even its most fanatic followers this year by going 8-0-2, winning the Southeastern Conference title and finishing No. 4 nationally. There are even Bulldog brethren who think this team is better than those of Frankie Sinkwich and Charley Trippi. Dooley won't go that far, but he allows proudly, "No doubt this is a great team."
Georgia has a splendid defense, led by two All-Americas—Tackle Bill Stanfill and Safety Jake Scott, who intercepted 10 passes—along with Billy Payne, who personally displayed a team love greater than most by willingly switching from his '67 glamour position as a pass catcher to defensive end. Georgia also has a versatile offense, led by sophomore Quarterback Mike Cavan, who completed 116 of 207 passes for 1,619 yards and nine touchdowns.
The story was much the same at Arkansas, where sophomore Quarterback Bill Montgomery completed 57% of his passes for 1,595 yards and 10 touchdowns, and also scampered through sprint-outs, bootlegs, triple options and counter-options for enough yardage to break his school's alltime single-season total offense record. Coach Broyles hedges just a trifle on Montgomery's value. "It wasn't only Bill," he says. "We had 12 new people come through for us, eight of them sophomores." Among the surprising youngsters were Flanker Chuck Dicus, who caught 38 passes for 589 yards and eight touchdowns, and Tailback Bill Burnett, who rolled up 859 yards in 207 carries and scored 16 touchdowns.