Next week USC takes on Nebraska, a big and fast team that had things pretty much its own way in beating Wake Forest 36-12 in Lincoln. The Cornhuskers' war chest fared well, too. Usually Nebraska plays opponents on a home-and-home basis, with both teams splitting whatever is in the day's pot. But for this one Wake Forest agreed to come for $135,000, and when 66,103 fans turned out and the invaders were paid off the Nebraskans scuttled to the bank with something like $250,000.
There were a few other bonuses, like Joe Orduna, back from a season's absence after knee surgery, and Johnny Rodgers, Nebraska's most-touted sophomore in years. "It was good getting into a varsity game," Rodgers said. "I was getting awfully tired of doing nothing but practice, practice, practice." At one point on Saturday, Quarterback Jerry Tagge called Rodgers' number on a fly pattern, one of football's more complicated plays. And the pair executed it brilliantly. Rodgers ran as fast and as straight as he could, and Tagge threw the ball as far as he could. And when it was over Nebraska had scored on a 61-yard pass. When Rodgers caught the ball he was 15 yards behind the nearest defender. That's flying.
"That was the second time we tried it," said the candid Rodgers. "I messed up the first one. Tagge had a few words for me on the sideline after that one. I didn't miss the second chance."
Nebraska's latest star finished the day with 33 yards on three carries and another 37 yards with a kickoff return. Orduna, Nebraska's leading runner in 1967 and 1968, appeared as fit as ever. He averaged five yards on 10 carries, scored twice and apparently took the I-back job away from Jeff Kinney, last year's best sophomore back in the Big Eight. Well, maybe. Kinney did gain 55 yards in 11 carries, and he scored once. It's tough duty having two guys like that fighting for a job.
In another big, ah, tune-up, Georgia Tech emerged as one of the South's top independents, for the moment, and made a move toward recovering some of its past glories by beating South Carolina 23-20. Before the game Head Coach Bud Carson said Tech had to win it with defense, and then he sat back and watched his offense rip South Carolina for 25 first downs and 396 yards, and, of course, enough points to win.
Carson's worries over his offense were understandable. For one, he started a sophomore line, and when it blocked exceedingly well a lot of shudders went through the South. And, two, he started a kid named Eddie McAshan, who was under just a little bit of pressure as a sophomore, being Tech's first black player and the Deep South's first major college black quarterback. If that didn't give the youngster butterflies, nothing ever will. Apparently nothing ever will. He completed 20 of 38 passes for 202 yards and one score, and twice in the second half he commanded touchdown drives, each starting with Tech behind. Kevin McNamara scored Tech's last two touchdowns with runs of five and two yards, leaving Paul Dietzel to exclaim: "I was amazed at the way we wilted in the last quarter. I thought we were in shape, but they just kept throwing fresh backs at us and we couldn't stop them."
Not too far away in Chapel Hill, something of a minor miracle in medicine was taking place. Actually it began last December when Paul Miller, a left-handed junior quarterback with limited experience in four games, thought he had pulled a muscle in his back. An examination disclosed arthritis around a spinal disk. The disk was removed and a piece of his hipbone was fused into his back. The doctors told him no heavy exercise until July, and as for football, well, many people told him to forget it. Last Friday Miller was scheduled for a final examination, a yes or no on his football career. But he didn't show up for the appointment.
Saturday, just before North Carolina's game against Kentucky, Miller sat in the dressing room. The doctor walked in. "He pulled up my shirt, knocked on my bones and said O.K.," said Miller. And Coach Bill Dooley said to the third-stringer, "You'll start." And he did, passing for two touchdowns, and a 20-10 victory.
Then things really got tough for Miller. Walking from the locker room with his father, he spotted three female admirers. The one on the right was his girl from back home in tiny Ayden, N.C. The one on the left was another girl friend, a Wake Forest majorette. Miller quickly called a power play up the middle. Looking neither left nor right, he walked straight into the arms of the female in the middle. His mother's. If that doesn't win him the Heisman Trophy nothing will.
The score wasn't thunderous, only 14-9, but there were serious rumblings out West when UCLA came up with an unexpectedly strong running attack to defeat Oregon State. Three of Tommy Prothro's corps of reportedly weak running backs—Art Sims, Randy Tyler and Gary Campbell, the last two sophomores—averaged just under six yards per carry and between them ran for a total 275 yards. When you talk about points it was a pair of touchdown passes by Dennis Dummit that put them on the scoreboard, but it was UCLA's surprising power on the ground that kept Oregon State off-balance.