Of course Georgia, with only a 5-4 record, had no business being in a bowl in the first place, and the same might be said of Alabama and Ole Miss. The Crimson Tide fought the good fight against Auburn but blew a 17-0 lead and lost 33-28, its fifth setback in 11 games and hardly the sort of record to merit a berth even in the Astro Blue-bonnet Bowl. And Ole Miss, which will meet Auburn in the Gator Bowl, was upset by Mississippi State 19-14, for a 7-2 record overall but only 0-2 within the state (Has anybody forgotten the Rebels' loss to Southern Mississippi?). It should be remembered, however, that Ole Miss has played its last two games without Archie Manning. His broken left arm has now been put in a special cast and the word is that Archie will play against Louisiana State this Saturday in Baton Rouge.
LSU, one of the SEC's three legitimate bowl teams (if the Tigers beat Ole Miss this week), came back from its narrow loss to Notre Dame to defeat Tulane 26-14. The Greenies put up surprisingly stiff resistance but were victims of their own mistakes. Tulane fumbled at each 10-yard line and LSU turned both recoveries into touchdowns. An interception and a bad snap from center on a punt led to two more LSU touchdowns. Nevertheless, there was some satisfaction for Tulane. David Abercrombie's one-foot plunge with 5:58 left in the game was the first rushing touchdown allowed by LSU in 13 straight games. And afterward the Greenies were rewarded for their 7-4 record with an invitation to the Liberty Bowl.
At Birmingham, Auburn and Alabama were tied at 17 heading into the final period. The Tide took a 28-27 lead with 5:18 left when Quarterback Scott Hunter passed 54 yards to George Ranager for a TD, then to David Bailey for a two-point conversion, but Auburn needed only four plays to regain the lead on Wallace Clark's run from the three. Then the Tigers' defense held on to preserve the win. Quarterback Pat Sullivan hit on 22 of 38 passes for 317 yards, including nine completions to Split End Terry Beasley.
The SEC's best team, Tennessee, methodically chewed up Vanderbilt 24-6. The Vols' 381 yards in total offense gave them a school record of 3,949 for the season. And Tennessee's secondary intercepted four passes—two by Bobby Majors—for a season total of 35, a conference record.
A funny thing happened in Tampa. Not Houston's 53-21 win over Florida State after trailing 21-12, although that was some laugher. When Houston's Nick Holm intercepted a pass at the Houston 25 and took off down the sideline in front of the Florida State bench, it was too much for State's Dan Whitehurst, a sophomore linebacker. He came off the bench to stick out a foot and trip Holm at the 50. The officials penalized State 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. This is something of an improvement for Whitehurst. When he did the same thing in high school, the opposition was awarded a touchdown.
1. ARIZONA STATE (9-0)
2. AIR FORCE (9-2)
3. STANFORD (8-3)
Apart from Southern Cal's upset of Notre Dame, the big news out West was that Stanford's Jim Plunkett was named the 36th winner of the Heisman Memorial Trophy Award, that oversized bronze paperweight given annually to the young man who is supposed to be the best college football player in the country. When the telephone call came from President John Scott of New York's Downtown Athletic Club, sponsor of the trophy, Plunkett conveniently happened to be in midtown Manhattan in the studios of ABC, taping a segment of the Kodak All-America show. His reply will not be engraved in granite, but then he didn't break down and cry, either, the way Oklahoma's Steve Owens did last year.
"Gee," stated Plunkett. "That's great."
Exactly 1,059 newsmen cast ballots and, somewhat surprisingly, Plunkett was an easy winner with 2,229 points (510 first-place votes, 285 for second and 129 for third). The runner-up, Notre Dame's Joe Theismann, had 1,410 points, while Mississippi's Archie Manning got 849 and Texas' Steve Worster 398.