But it was the quick, hard-tackling Wood who had the biggest part in butchering the Hogs. He is the younger brother of ex- Detroit Tiger Infielder Jake Wood, and McKay says he is "the best linebacker prospect we've had since I've been here." A few more assault and batteries like Saturday night's and there will be nothing prospective about it.
"I've just got to try harder than anyone else because I want to be a great football player," said Wood in the jubilant Trojan dressing room. "I know we have the quickest and fastest defense in the country. I'm not worried about the national championship. I just want to go to the Rose Bowl three years in a row."
With considerably less potent opposition two other candidates for national honors opened their fall campaigns with convincing, vote-grabbing wins. In Atlanta, Tennessee touched off a four-touchdown, second-half explosion and walloped Georgia Tech 34-3, the widest winning margin in their 30-year series. The game was historic for another reason: for the first time in major Southern college football both opposing quarterbacks were black. Tennessee's Condredge Holloway got the best of this particular confrontation with Tech's Eddie McAshan, completing eight of 12 passes before sitting out most of the second half, but the jarring Vol defense is what suddenly turned a close game into a rout. It took the sting out of the Yellow Jacket offense by forcing and falling on five fumbles and intercepting three passes during the nationally televised game, and it set up all four second-half scores with turnovers. Though overshadowed by the defense, Holloway, a sophomore, looked impressive in his varsity debut. "People have yet to see some of the things Condredge Holloway can do," announced Vol Head Coach Bill Battle after the game, sounding an ominous chord for future opponents.
In Birmingham, Alabama also produced some second-half fireworks to defeat surprisingly tough Duke 35-12. In the first quarter the Crimson Tide marched impressively to scores the first two times it had the ball. The second quarter belonged to Duke, which scored two touchdowns on passes by Quarterback Bob Albright. But finally it was Alabama's running game that turned the Tide around. It hammered out 333 yards and put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter when Steve Bisceglia raced 39 yards from scrimmage for his team's fourth touchdown.
"We found out tonight we can play when we have to," said Tide Quarterback Terry Davis, who was a perfect six for six passing. "When Duke put the pressure on us, we didn't fold. It definitely brought this team together a little more. We needed that."
Meanwhile, three other highly rated teams showed more sputter than crunch in scoring rather unimpressive victories. In Boulder the Colorado Buffaloes launched an irresistible stampede the first time they had the football against California, moving 80 yards on a series of deftly executed pitchouts to Charlie Davis, who finally scored from the one. But then the Buffs went flat, grinding out a listless 20-10 victory thanks to two long field goals by Fred Lima, a Chilean who kicks barefoot, and a 48-yard touchdown runback by Linebacker Ed Shoen of a pass interception.
"We thought we had a sound offense and a questionable defense," said Colorado Head Coach Eddie Crowder, "but it turned out to be just the opposite. I'd rather have it that way. We know we have an offense. We just have to smooth it out."
In Pittsburgh, Florida State stumbled, bumbled and fumbled its way through a 19-7 victory over the Pitt Panthers, rescued by the strong arm of Quarterback Gary Huff, who lofted touchdown strikes of 71 yards to Wide Receiver Barry Smith and 54 yards to sophomore Joe Goldsmith, and the sure foot of freshman Placekicker Ahmet Askin, a 17-year-old Cypriot. The Seminoles gained only 69 yards rushing. Pitt's new Wishbone attack had its effective moments but few when it counted against a sturdy Florida State defense. "Our defense won it for us," said Coach Larry Jones. "Our offense takes a little while to get cranked up."
Out west in Seattle a sullen, faintly mutinous crowd of 57,500 booed as Washington barely slithered through its opener, a 13-6 win over Pacific in what should have been a light workout. Husky Quarterback Sonny Sixkiller sat this one out with a sprained ankle and though backup passer Greg Collins completed 19 of 28 passes for 240 yards, the running game operated at more of a crawl, gaining only 16 yards on 24 first-half attempts. The heavily favored winners escaped a humiliating tie with less than six minutes left in the game. Fullback Pete Taggares scored the winner over right tackle from three yards out and Washington avoided a fate that would have been more disastrous than that which hit Nebraska and Arkansas.
Finally Houston, traditionally a winner, lost to intracity rival Rice 14-13. The Cougars almost pulled it out when they moved to the one-foot line in the last 30 seconds. But when they tried to win by a touchdown instead of a field goal, perhaps remembering that a misplayed snap was the reason they trailed, Linebacker Rodrigo Barnes and End Larry Walling stacked up Leonard Parker on the first dive and Quarterback D. C. Nobles was nailed on a second as the gun sounded. John Coleman, a freshman, was the leading rusher for the Owls with 84 yards. He is from Los Angeles, a blue-chipper who somehow escaped from UCLA and USC. On Saturday they didn't need him.