For breakfast last Saturday, Penn State's Joe Paterno fed his unbeaten Nittany Lions steak and eggs plus a horror movie, something called "Upset 1970: Syracuse 24, Penn State 7." It was a good way to start the day—a tasty appetizer mixed with a bitter reminder of last year's game. Then for lunch Paterno offered his boys Syracuse live, and when the meal was over toward late afternoon there was nothing left of the Orangemen except a few bones scattered around the floor of old Archbold Stadium. Scoring 24 points in the first half, Penn State won with surprising ease 31-0 to secure its position as king of the East and stay in contention for national honors.
Perhaps the major difference at Penn State this season is that Joe Paterno finally has everyone playing in the proper position. Since that loss to Syracuse a year ago, Paterno, in separate moments of inspiration, has converted his second-string safety into his starting quarterback and his second-string quarterback into his No. 1 tight end. He also has moved one of his top linebackers to defensive end. Which started the rumor that Dr. John W. Oswald, the university president, had been bypassing all practices in fear that he might wind up as Paterno's center. "I don't mind playing," he had allegedly said, "but do you think Mike Botts could run the school?"
No matter. With Botts still at center and all the others playing their new roles even better than Paterno has a right to expect, Penn State has put down five straight opponents by an average score of 38-6.
The ex-safety at the helm is John Hufnagel, a 187-pound junior accounting major who runs the option to perfection and who is slowly overcoming a bad rap as a mediocre passer. In Penn State's first four games he completed 30 of 55 for three scores and 412 yards, which is several rungs above mediocrity.
"If Notre Dame had Hufnagel," said Syracuse Coach Ben Schwartzwalder, "they'd be a great team. If we had him, we'd be a good one."
But Penn State has him, and has ever since last year's loss to Syracuse. He started the final five games of the 1970 season and won them all.
"The story that he couldn't pass started after the Army game, his first for us at quarterback," said Jim Tarman, assistant to the athletic director. "It was tough for him. He knew very few of the pass plays. So he just stuck to the running game. Because of that everyone decided he couldn't throw."
But Hufnagel's success left Paterno with a problem. As his second-string quarterback he had Steve Joachim, a 6'3�" sophomore with a strong throwing arm. What then would he do with Bob Parsons, his 6'4�" 236-pound ex-quarterback who is the team punter and a fine athlete? Finally he approached Parsons midway through last spring's practice. "Uh, Bob," said Paterno, "you know that Hufnagel is our quarterback?" Parsons nodded. "And that Joachim gives us a fine backup quarterback?" Parsons nodded. "Uh, Bob, did you ever consider playing tight end?"
Parsons grinned. "Coach, I thought you'd never ask."
"And what a difference he's made in our offense," Paterno says happily. "With him we are a great third-down team. The linebackers can't make a move until he does. They just stand around waiting to see what he's going to do."