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But most of the credit for victory belonged to Houston's defense. The muscular Beavers ran play after play into the line, but the Cougars invariably stiffened, turning three potential touchdown drives into field goals by Lynn Boston. Houston's Glen Lewis was in on 19 tackles, knocked a Beaver blocker into a punted ball that teammate Frank Ditta returned 52 yards for a TD and knocked down one pass. Which isn't too bad for a guy with a couple of bruised ribs.
In what many considered the best all-round game of his career Quarterback Chuck Hixson guided SMU to a 10-0 win over Rice. Hixson's reputation as a passer is well established (he already holds the NCAA career record, with 558 completions), but his running and play selection have often been criticized. Against the Owls, however, Hixson mixed his passes (13 of 19 for 130 yards and a TD) with runs by himself and junior Tailback Gary Hammond. The Mustangs' new attack befuddled a Rice defense that apparently was set only to stop the anticipated barrage of Hixson passes. Perhaps the biggest single play of the game was made by SMU's Sam McLarty, a 5'10" punting specialist. With less than three minutes to go a snap from center went over McLarty's head, and he retreated into the end zone with three Owls in pursuit. Somehow he grabbed the ball, eluded his pursuers and kicked it out to the SMU 40.
1. STANFORD (5-1)
For perhaps the only time in the history of college football a game was brought to a complete halt in the second quarter so that the game ball could be presented to the visiting quarterback. Of course, nobody in Spokane's Joe Albi Stadium seemed to mind. Stanford was well on the way to its eventual 63-16 victory over the home-town Cougars. And how many times does a guy get to see Jim Plunkett break the NCAA career record for total offense?
Plunkett went into the game needing only 214 yards to beat the record 6,568 gained by North Texas State's Steve Ramsey in 1967-69. He finished the day with 275 yards. The ones that put him over the top came on a weird pass play in the second quarter. With the ball on his four Plunkett dropped back, spotted Flanker Randy Vataha out near the 48 and threw. The ball came down squarely on the helmet of Cougar defender Chuck Hawthorne. Vataha trapped it there, lifted it tenderly and ran the remaining 52 yards for what added up to a 96-yard play. That gave Plunkett 220 for the game, six more than necessary, and shortly thereafter action stopped so that he could be given the ball. "It was good to win the way we did," said Plunkett later.
The only other excitement was provided by a rather demonstrative Cougar fan. In the third quarter Stanford's Eric Cross, a sophomore, ran through the Cougar line and into the clear at the 25. But when Cross got inside the 10 he was confronted by a fan dressed in a blue shirt and denims. They collided at the two. Cross shook off the tackle and gained the end zone, giving Stanford a 50-8 lead. The fan, later identified as Terry Earl Smith, 27, was taken into police custody and booked on charges of being drunk and disorderly. "He was the toughest one to hit me all day," said Cross. Hear that, State Coach Jim Sweeney? Got any scholarships left?
In Los Angeles, Southern Cal was a heavy favorite over Washington, but Sonny Sixkiller, the Husky sophomore quarterback by way of the Cherokee nation, almost pinned the Trojans with their second straight loss. He hit on 30 of 57 passes for 341 yards and a touchdown, but an interception by USC's Ron Ayala stopped the Huskies late in the game, and Southern Cal finally prevailed 28-25.
With only four seconds left, UCLA's Dennis Dummit ran around right end for three yards and a touchdown, giving the Bruins a 24-21 victory over California. Faced with the prospect of losing its third straight close decision, UCLA had taken over at its 15 with only three minutes left. In their final drive the Bruins were aided by two pass-interference calls. The first came on a fourth-and-13 play and gave UCLA possession at the Cal nine. Two plays later the second interference call put the ball on the three, which set up Dummit's winning run.
Unbeaten Arizona State was so lackadaisical in its 27-3 win over Brigham Young that the Sun Devils were chastised by both coaches. The losing coach, Tommy Hudspeth, visited the State dressing room and told the team: "If you perform the rest of the season like you did today you're going to waste this great talent and you will not continue undefeated." State Coach Frank Kush was more harsh: "Our offense stuttered, stammered and fell. Our receivers played as though they wore boxing gloves. We stunk up the place."