This year Notre Dame would like No. 1. The Irish are ordering it in the casual way you would order a cheeseburger to go with that beer. That means beating everybody, including the annual nemeses—Purdue, Michigan State and USC—and revenge-minded LSU in a season-ending night game at Baton Rouge. "The Cotton Bowl, that was a start," Patulski says. "People are saying things like: Joe Theismann, someway, managed to win all those games for us. This year we don't have him. But we'll do it without him."
The loss of Theismann lends a certain mystery to the team. Since Parseghian discovered John Huarte in 1964, there has been only one year when he has not had an All-America playing quarterback. Yet now, surrounded by perhaps his best talent ever, he must deal with four diverse, rather inexperienced candidates.
First there is Jim Bulger, tall, rawboned, almost Namathlike in visage, who has exactly two plays of varsity experience. He has an exceptional arm—"when he throws a curl pattern you need a surgeon to remove the ball from the receiver's chest"—but has had trouble learning the complicated and multifaceted offense favored by Parseghian. Another junior, Pat Steenberge, played a little over 40 minutes last year as Theismann's backup. His throwing is merely adequate, but the knowledge he assimilated while working with Theismann makes him the best-rounded of the four. Finally there are Cliff Brown, a sophomore who, in between kicking 50-yard field goals, spent the spring learning, and Bill Etter, a senior who is Notre Dame's heavyweight boxing champion.
"There is no need to choose until the Friday night before the first game," he says. "We always prepare two or 2� quarterbacks every week anyhow. There's no problem having two quarterbacks work with the first unit."
"But how far can you go with an average quarterback?" someone asked.
"To the national championship," Parseghian replied.
Sorry, city folks, this year there won't be any of those meet-the-rubes anecdotes about the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Not so much because Nebraskans are getting fed up to the ears (no corn intended) with big-city barbs about their bucolic ways, but because there is barely room in which to pen their pigskin surplus.
Not one, not two, but three excellent quarterbacks are the most Z obvious excess. Jerry Tagge, a farm-boy type from Green Bay who completed a mere 61% of his passes, holds virtually all Nebraska passing records after only two years and is a strong runner, too. Van Brown-son, a flamboyant type from Shenandoah, Iowa, has the one other significant record—a 65% completion rate—and is a better runner. But a Nebraska coach admits that sophomore David Humm, son of an accountant at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, is probably already the best quarterback technically, both running and passing.
Last season's largest oversupply, Jeff Kinney and Joe Orduna alternating at I-back, has been halved, but Kinney, who gained 694 yards rushing and 206 more receiving, clearly looks capable as a full-timer. Leaping, tumbling, weaving, wriggling Slotback Johnny Rodgers (who moves to the wing when Nebraska substitutes a spread formation for the I) seems slipperier than ever. He was one of the flashiest sophomores in Big Eight history, and that means regular double-teaming.