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Despite the loss of Lowry to the offense, the defense will be at least solid enough to keep Texas alive until the offense begins to work out the inevitable swarm of bugs. Gaspard will be joined at linebacker by all-conference Randy Braband. The deep secondary will be weakened, but the defensive ends look stronger than last year.
Aided by the blocking of Sisemore and veteran Guards Don Crosslin (6', 242) and Travis Roach (6'3", 251), Lowry may put some surprising muscle into the Wishbone. He and the rest of the inexperienced Longhorns have just three games to acquire the necessary seasoning before the real toughies, Oklahoma and Arkansas, come rolling around on consecutive Saturdays in October. Chances are good the Texans will lose both these games, though not by the 48-27 and 31-7 whompings they suffered last year; drop possibly one more, to Texas Tech or resurgent Texas A&M; and finish the season with their horns held respectably high.
Exciting pass-catch combinations are as much a tradition at Florida State as the nickname "Seminoles." Invariably the coming of autumn produces such lively pairings as Steve Tensi throwing to Fred Biletnikoff, Kim Hammond to Ron Sellers or, as last year, Gary Huff to Rhett Dawson. In 1971 Huff, with Dawson catching 62 passes and a quintet of other fine receivers gathering in 110 more, led the nation in total offense with 241 yards per game and in touchdown passes with 23. That all added up to an 8-3 record and then a 45-38 loss to Arizona State in a Fiesta Bowl that had all the excitement its title indicates. This year Dawson and four other top receivers are gone, but Huff will be back for his senior year and in all likelihood the other half of the tradition will be upheld by Wide Receiver Barry Smith, who warmed up for the role last year by averaging 22 yards gained on 33 receptions, one for 88 yards. Tradition will be severely taxed, however, by the fact that Florida State will be short of zap in its kicking game, short of experienced running backs and short of depth at key positions. If the Seminoles are to rank with the top teams in the country again, Huff-to-Smith may have to become one of the more memorable passing combinations ever seen on the Tallahassee campus.
What will make life difficult for Huff-to-Smith is that there are no receivers likely to complement Smith, as Smith and the others complemented Dawson, and so defensive double-teaming could seriously muffle all that explosive potential. Which is doubly a shame because Coach Larry Jones may not have much of a running threat to relieve defensive pressure on Huff-to-Smith. His three top running backs from last year are gone and Jones must count on transfers Mack Brown, from Vanderbilt, and Hodges Mitchell, from TCU, to provide that punch. Nor did spring practice yield any reliable kickers to fill the void left by Punter Duane Carrel and Placekicker Frank Fontes. A weak bench will also be a problem. "To equal last year we're going to have to find depth," says Jones, "and be lucky enough to stay healthy."
The cheerful news is a sturdy defense, one of the best in the country, and a far from awesome schedule. The Seminoles have six defenders who, like Huff and Smith, will certainly go high in this winter's pro draft. They are James Thomas, a sure tackier and alert pass defender who will play rover after two years at cornerback; big, tough Defensive Ends Charlie Hunt and Bert Cooper; speedy Cornerback Eddie McMillan and Linebackers Dan Whitehurst and Larry Strickland. If State can stay healthy; if weaknesses can be alleviated; if it can get by perennially tough Houston, Auburn and Florida at midseason, then it could finish undefeated. But that is probably one or two ifs too many.
As a reward for consistently giving 110% effort, top defensive players at Washington—few of whom are math majors—get their helmets painted purple to match their bruises. The offensive men are less ostentatious. When singled out by the coaches for uncommon hustle, they slick little Husky-head decals on their helmets. Some people think such motivational gimmicks are childish, but Defensive Back Phil Andre says, "Let 'em scoff. They don't really understand what it means—to set out to do something and be told you've done it well."
Andre and that celebrated Cherokee quarterback, Sonny Sixkiller, are part of a cadre of seniors who have helped bring the Huskies back to respectability: 6-4 as sophomores, 8-3 last year when two of the losses were by a frustrating total of three points, and a solid chance for the Rose Bowl this season. Washington has 19 starters back and the enthusiasm in Seattle has been raging like the fire that destroyed most of the business district in 1889.
The featured attraction is Sixkiller, the strong-armed, quick-releasing passer from Ashland, Ore. who led the nation in his specialty in 1970, then was overshadowed in his own league by Stanford's Don Bunce in 1971. Dropped passes and interceptions contributed to his statistical slippage. His favorite target again will be Split End Tom Scott, so small at 5'10" and 170 pounds that Sixkiller, no giant himself, must search through the crowd for the most-decorated helmet. Scott not only caught 35 passes last year but gained nearly a quarter of a football field on each reception, an average of 23.4 yards. Sixkiller has a tough, veteran line blocking for him all the way across. The defensive line, led by Tackle Gordy Guinn, and the defensive back-field, led by two-time All-League Cornerback Calvin Jones, are exceptionally strong. Jones left school after the 1970 season when the team was torn by racial problems, and had actually enrolled at Long Beach City College before being lured back to Washington. The school has since hired a black assistant coach and a black assistant athletic director in hopes of preventing a recurrence.