1. USC (4-0)
2. UCLA (5-0)
3. WYOMING (4-0)
At 10:40 p.m. the kicker's toe hit the football and sent it high into the air at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The score was Stanford 24, Southern Cal 23 and now, as the ball sailed toward the goalposts, the clock showed 0:00 left to play. "I looked up to follow the ball and saw the clock flicking to all zeros," said the kicker, Southern Cal's Ron Ayala. "I thought the ball might not carry far enough. And it drifted a little, too." The ball skimmed over the crossbar, barely inside the left upright, but for a split second Southern Cal Coach John McKay didn't know if the 34-yard field goal was good. "I looked at the people behind the post," said McKay, "and they went crazy. That's when I knew it was good. If the referee didn't confirm it, they would have killed him."
Across the field, Stanford Coach John Ralston stood momentarily in disbelief, then began to run out of the wrong end of the Coliseum. Stanford's brilliant linebacker, Pat Preston, threw himself on the ground at the five-yard line and lay there sobbing. Ayala dropped to his knees and also began to cry before his jubilant teammates swarmed around. "Neither team should have lost," said McKay.
The game was indeed a classic, a victory that USC partisans will rank with the great ones. The teams had spent the night trading the lead, Stanford moving primarily on Jim Plunkett's passing and USC retaliating with an assortment of runs, interceptions and Jimmy Jones passes. With 63 seconds left, Stanford's Steve Horowitz kicked a 37-yard field goal to put Stanford ahead 24-23, and the Indians looked like winners when they backed up Southern Cal on its own 15 with 51 seconds to go. But Jones began hitting receivers all over the field and suddenly, with 15 seconds left, Southern Cal had a first down on the Stanford 17—but no more time outs. With the clock stopped momentarily for a shift of the first-down chain, Ayala raced on the field with eight seconds left. Quickly putting down the tee and drawing a bead on the goal, he set himself to kick. With two seconds left, Center Sid Smith snapped the ball to Jones, who was holding. "Their field goal was more beautiful," said McKay, "but ours was bigger."
USC's rival for the Pacific Eight's spot in the Rose Bowl will emerge from this week's UCLA-Cal game. Each had an easy tuneup, UCLA surviving five first-half fumbles to whomp Washington State 46-14 while Cal ripped Washington 44-13 behind No. 2 Quarterback Randy Humphries, who came in after Steve Curtis broke his collarbone. Cal's Randy Wersching, a left-footed, soccer-style kicker out of Austria, had three field goals, and UCLA's Dennis Dummit passed for as many TDs. Washington State was so bad that its fans peppered the field with the apples the Kiwanis Club had sold before the game on behalf of charity.
It was snowing and freezing cold in Laramie, but sophomore Quarterback Gary Fox braved it all to guide Wyoming past UTEP 37-9—the Cowboys' fourth straight win.
1. PENN STATE (4-0)
2. SYRACUSE (3-1)
3. WEST VIRGINIA (4-1)
Penn State had won its first three games, of course, but the Nittany Lions really hadn't impressed anybody in beating the likes of Navy, Colorado and Kansas State—except maybe Navy, Colorado and Kansas State. In fact, the weekly pollsters had dropped Penn State from second to as low as ninth, and with unbeaten West Virginia coming up the word was out that maybe the Lions were ripe for the first defeat in their last 23 games. "When the polls dropped Penn State from its No. 2 spot they might just as well have made us No. I," moaned West Virginia Coach Jim Carlen. "That's what we became to Penn State."