The Sooners this season were without a doubt faster, bigger, smarter, more deceptive and more varied than any other team in the country except Nebraska. Those two stand alone, and whoever winds up No. 3—and Big Eight fans insist Colorado, beaten only by Nebraska and Oklahoma, rates consideration—is a light year behind the first two.
Before the Rose Bowl began, the unbeaten Michigan Wolverines were telling anyone who would listen that they were the best team in the country. But in the most exciting bowl game of the holiday season, mighty mouse Stanford pulled another upset, just as it did last year when Ohio State was on the verge of becoming national champion.
Stanford is not a bad football team, but it did lose this season to San Jose State, Washington State and Duke, so naturally it was somewhat of an underdog—10� points, to be exact—to a team that had made it through a Big Ten schedule without a loss. But being the underdog is just what Coach John Ralston and the Indians seem to enjoy, and when they are, anything goes. Such as a fake reverse on the opening kickoff. It did not work, but Michigan should have gotten the message right there. With Stanford, nothing is as it seems.
Midway through the final period, with Michigan leading only 10-3, thanks to a spirited Indians' defense that bottled up the Wolverines' strong running game, Stanford's Steve Murray dropped back to punt. It was fourth down and 10 yards to go from his own 33; there was no doubt that Murray would punt. So the snap went to Fullback Jim Kehl, who slipped the ball forward to Halfback Jackie Brown between his legs. As the Wolverines fell back to block for the punt return there was Brown running all the way to the Michigan 36. A few plays later Brown raced 24 more for a touchdown and it was 10-10.
With less than four minutes to go, Michigan tried a 46-yard field goal that was short. Where many teams are involved, the missed field goal would mean defeat averted, possession of the ball at the 20-yard line and plenty of time to score, but not for Stanford. Gambling John Ralston ordered a "field goal return." Jim Ferguson, an obedient sophomore, caught the ball in the end zone, came out as far as the five, cut back to the two, was hit by Michigan's Ed Shuttlesworth and thrown back into the end zone. Although Ferguson's forward progress was clearly dead at the two, the back judge, William Quimby, ruled it a safety. Quimby is an official of the—er, well, Big Ten. So instead of having the ball at the 20 and a tie game, Stanford was behind 12-10 and had to kick to Michigan.
But Michigan was unable to run out the clock, and with 1:48 Stanford got the ball on its own 22. Suddenly Don Bunce, the Indians' quarterback, began to look like a combination of Jim Plunkett and John Unitas in his prime. With professional calm Bunce completed four passes, and Stanford had the ball on the Michigan 17. Now there was no more gambling. Bunce called two running plays and a time-out with 12 seconds left. In came 5'9", 155-pound Rod Garcia, a sophomore who had missed five field goal attempts in Stanford's shocking loss to San Jose State. Garcia's kick was dead center and Michigan was just dead, 13-12. To Bo Schembechler, the Wolverines' coach, who had argued with the justice of the polls, it was a bitter moment. As for Stanford, its victory provided a happy ending to what had been a depressing season for West Coast football fans.
Thus the long day worked out just the way Larry Jacobson had said it would. Jacobson, the big Nebraska tackle, was lounging by the swimming pool one day last week. "Come Saturday night, there won't be anything else to discuss," he said. "We'll still be No. 1 and Oklahoma will be back to No. 2."
So it was. As a lot of people had known all along, the real Game of the Decade had already been played back in Norman, Okla. on Thanksgiving Day.