They came down out of the East, espousing crazy notions. "I consider football just another extracurricular activity, like debating, the band, or anything else on campus," said their coach, Joe Paterno. "It should never be taken out of context."
"Well," said a Tennessee supporter. He had on an orange shirt and hat. His wife had on an orange dress and was carrying an orange purse. His little boy had on an orange hat, shirt and bow tie. They were on their way into Neyland Stadium, and they were surrounded by enough orange shirts, hats, purses, dresses, ties and trousers to subdue the Irish Republican Army. If you could pan out and get a broad view of the whole city of Knoxville, also known as Big Orange Country, you could see that every third physical object was colored orange or had an orange, or the word "orange" printed or pasted or laminated or appliqu�d on it. The Tennessee man was asked to comment on the Penn State coach's remark.
"Well," he said. "We can beat their band, too."
It was what is called an intersectional collision. The husky, cultivated (they once had a pianist defensive tackle), everything-in-proportion Nittany Lions, ranked either sixth or seventh according to which poll you believe, versus the rangy, hard-pursuing, fully emphasized Volunteers (known as the Big Orange), ranked seventh or sixth.
It was also—not just incidentally—the first night home game in Tennessee's history, and it was a chance for Penn State to avenge its one loss of last year, a 31-11 defeat in its final game in the very same stadium. Furthermore, it was this season's first chance to find out whether Easterners—or at least their football—are effete or not. Some hours later, when the 384 new $65 light bulbs were blinking off and that orange crowd of 71,647, the largest ever to attend a sports event in the state, was filing out, Penn State was still seeking revenge but the consensus seemed to be that any team that could lose only 28-21 to Tennessee at home couldn't be all bad.
In fact, had it not been for two very fleet young Vols, Penn State might have won in a walk. In the first half the Tennessee defense performed the way it had last year, intercepting two passes and recovering two fumbles—only this year, instead of scoring the points itself via runbacks, the defense turned the attack over to the offense, led by Quarterback Condredge Holloway and Tailback Haskell (Snap Back) Stanback.
The diminutive Holloway (he looks closer to 5'9", 160 than the 5'11", 175 he is purported to be) fluttered in and out of rushers' grasps like a butterfly, completed key passes and kept a complicated, shifting, all-kinds-of-people-in-motion offense flowing up and down the field. The lean 200-pound Stanback scored on runs of 41 and two yards. An ordinarily less spectacular Vol, Fullback Steve Chancey, not only threw the big block on Stanback's 41-yarder but also went 22 yards through a jungle of shoulders and arms for a touchdown of his own. The result was a halftime score of 21-0.
That seemed a little excessive at the time, but all those points came in handy during the second half when the Tennessee pass defense not only ceased to create turnovers but became downright porous, which in terms of Tennessee tradition is like the Distant Early Warning Line becoming dotted. Penn State Quarterback John Hufnagel had looked shaky in the first half while passing for 21 yards. But in the second he threw for 171 yards and two touchdowns, and he handed off for a third.
Meanwhile the Penn State linebackers, instead of trying to adjust to every whim of the Tennessee shifts, had just dug in and started knocking down everyone who came to hand. As a result, the Vols ceased to move the ball.
This would have been normal enough last year, when the function of the Tennessee offense was to stay out of trouble until Bobby Majors or some other defensive back could pluck some form of loose ball from the air and score with it. But in this year's opener, a 34-3 victory over Georgia Tech, the Tennessee offense actually sustained drives. Some of that sustenance was what the Vol offense needed in the second half against Penn State.