Some of the diversions were obvious. Boulder sits at the foot of the Rockies, and they were splashed with snow. On game day, in fact, right there on good old Sept. 26, the ski area of Eldora, only 24 miles away, opened up. Meanwhile, The Hill near the campus was populated as usual with its hordes of milling hippies, the kind of people who made Boulder a stop on the peace circuit a few years ago when they heard that California was going to fall into the ocean.
This was the school, then, that was expected to have the best chance of ending Penn State's run: a school noted for its inconsistency and indifference, its sophistication and diversions, a school half stocked with long-haired fun types discussing new mountain crags to start a commune on, and half stocked with the other kind, those afraid even to drive past The Hill for fear that some fleas might leap off the hippie cloaks and sandals and jam the engines of their Maseratis.
Somewhere in between, however, Eddie Crowder had worked a few football players into the "party school," as it has been called, an odd assortment of musclemen who just might turn Boulder into one of those Fayettevilles after all. So Colorado unleashed on startled Penn State a squad of vicious hitters led by a tall, strong defensive end named Herb Orvis, from Flint, Mich.; a tall, strong linebacker named Rick Ogle, from Bozeman, Mont., and a short, strong safety named "Bad Dude" Stearns. When they can't find anything else to hit, they hit each other. They hit Penn State early with some pride-bending tackles and interceptions, and jumped out in front 13-0. Then they started hitting on offense with the in-vogue triple option, which Penn State had not seen much of. Colorado just ran and ran off the triple, sending a bouncing tailback named John Tarver, from Bakersfield, Calif. around the ends with option pitches, and Fullback Ward Walsh, from Weaverville, Calif. slicing up the middle.
The pass was there, too, radared in on Penn State's three-deep secondary, and Quarterback Jim Bratten, another Californian, used it just when he needed to. Colorado drove 71 yards for the touchdown that made the score 20-7 at halftime, and called on another transient to put the thing away on the second-half kickoff. Cliff Branch, a 9.3 dart from Houston, had been waiting a year to get eligible at CU, and Crowder had been trying to stay patient, anticipating what Branch could give to his team. Speed and moves.
Branch took the kickoff 97 yards away from the Penn State goal, came up the right-middle of the field, got a couple of good blocks, flashed into the open, stepped out of a tackle about midfield—and whoosh. Colorado had it nailed now, 27-7, and Fred Casotti planned to kid Crowder that Branch wasn't so fast, actually, seeing as how it had taken him 12 seconds to go 97 yards.
If Branch's dazzling return didn't finally take everything out of Penn State, then the Colorado defense did only moments later. Paterno's team tried to fight back, the way a team accustomed to winning does, partly on instinct, perhaps. Its two fast and powerful runners, Franco Harris and Lydell Mitchell, kept punching away, and the Lions drove 66 yards to a first down at the Buff's six-yard line. A Lion score then would have made it 27-14 and would at least have given Penn State some hope, although Colorado had looked so clearly superior that you couldn't imagine Crowder being very worried. At any rate, Colorado's defense held at the two, after four plays, with Orvis and Ogle and another top transient, Rich Varriano from Minnesota, doing the biggest job.
It was all over then for sure, except for the scoreboard operator. And Joe Paterno, as anxious to leave now as he had been unanxious to come, was gracious and honest in his new role as the loser of a football game.
"We were outcoached, outplayed, out-hit and outscored," he said. "It's as simple as that. The trip wasn't a total loss, though. My wife got to see the Rockies. Sue had never been out of Western Pennsylvania. She woke me up this morning pointing and said, "Have you seen those mountains?"
The game took on so many elements of a Colorado romp that it was difficult to tell exactly how good the Buffs might be, or whether Penn State can be that bad. There was no question that Colorado had more muscle, infinitely better quarterbacking and a fine, varied attack, with Crowder using the triple option off the I-formation to get more flexibility with the forward pass. Colorado also had the tough defense for which Penn State was noted before it graduated its Mike Reids and Dennis Onkotzes.
There can't be a better defensive end than Herb Orvis, who did two years in the Army before Crowder got him to Colorado. There can't be many linemen better than Rich Varriano. And there can't be a meaner safety than Bad Dude Stearns, who has his head shaved and openly admits he wants to become known as the most insane hitter in the history of football. Only a sophomore, Bad Dude may not live that long. If he doesn't kill himself running into things, he may get assassinated in the still of the night by an aggrieved opponent. Bad Dude could become the first player to discover how to throw a shoulder at somebody on his way to church.