Plunkett, Dummit. Dummit, Plunkett. Gunfight at the LA corral. That was the staging last week out in the California wonderland where the mini still thrives, where they still elect things like Miss Taco Delicious and where Stanford and UCLA still play those football games that don't end until everybody has to be taken to the hospital on stretchers.
They played another one last Saturday night that was supposed to have all sorts of influence on such immense treasures as the Heisman Trophy, the Rose Bowl and the Pacific Eight championship, and maybe it settled all of that and maybe it didn't. What it did do was leave the large impression that the most harrowing football of the season is being played by West Coast teams, and it is probably a shame that Plunkett Dummit, or Dummit Plunkett, isn't one guy.
Jim Plunkett is the Stanford fellow who has this hard-sell campaign going for him in regard to that trophy everybody knows about. And Dennis Dummit is the UCLA guy who keeps beating everybody he plays—but seeing some of those victories turned into late-hour losses by a defense that finally gives out after afternoons and evenings of heroic performances.
To fully appreciate the terrible things that have been happening to Dummit—and happened again last week when Stanford placekicked its way past the Bruiins 9-7—let's go back a bit. Last season Dummit has USC beat 12-7 with 1:32 to go, but USC throws a pass and wins. This season he has Texas beat 17-13 with 12 seconds left, but Texas throws a pass and wins. He also has Oregon beat 40-21, but Oregon throws several passes and wins in the last 30 seconds. Now comes Stanford. Dummit has Stanford beat 7-6, but with 4:57 to go Stanford kicks its third field goal of the night and wins. Dummit thus loses four games in his varsity career while wearing headphones on the sidelines. The only four losses.
As so often happens when all of the buildup insists there will be wild, hellacious scoring because of the presence of a couple of gunslingers like Plunkett and Dummit, you get a 9-7 ball game that hurls everyone back to the late 1950s. They did their share of pitching, but the defenses of both teams dominated the evening, UCLA's by holding Stanford to no touchdowns for the only time in Plunkett's life.
Statistically the two passers wound up about even. Plunkett, the big dark guy from the North ( San Jose), hit on 18 of 37 throws for 262 yards. Dummit, the medium-sized blond from the South ( Long Beach), hit on 18 of 35 for 244 yards. More of a crucial nature was Steve Horowitz' record. He hit on three of live field goals for Stanford. Seeing as how it was Horowitz who had a field goal blocked last year that kept the Indians and Bruins in a 20-20 tie, it was appropriate that the placekicker should wind up the biggest hero of the night.
Stanford Coach John Ralston, though, either lacked faith in Horowitz or had an abundance of faith in Plunkett. In any event, Ralston rarely could bring himself to watch the game. Nervously, clipboard in hand, he paced behind his team and let his assistants dictate strategy. Never before had he won in the Coliseum and perhaps he feared that somehow, some way, the sky would again fall in on him. In fact, he looked as if the sky had already fallen in on him, dressed as he was in navy blue blazer and sky blue slacks.
Going into the game, the best reading material anyone from Stanford could get his hands on was a four-page 8-by-10 pamphlet entitled Stanford University's Heisman Trophy Nominee. There on the cover was a portrait of Plunkett, the 23-year-old, 204-pound, 6'3" Mexican-American. And the opening statement, as penned by that noted writer Bob Murphy of Palo Alto, the Indians' publicity chief, said: " Jim Plunkett is unquestionably one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play football."
In the pamphlet, along with just about every known and unknown statistic pertaining to Plunkett as a passer, were quotes from a handful of leading authorities—USC Coach John McKay, Bud Wilkinson, Frankie Albert, Cowboy Scout Gil Brandt and UCLA's Tommy Prothro, among others—testifying that Plunkett was the greatest thing since frozen dinners.
For the Heisman voters who might fall for the sympathy bit, there was a paragraph reminding everyone of what kind of a "person" Jim is. He had worked "long" hours as a grocery clerk, gas-station attendant and paper boy to help earn a living for his legally blind father, who passed away last year, and his mother, who is totally sightless. And there was a reminder of what kind of "student" Jim is. He carries a B average as a political-science major.