Terry Davis (see
cover), the quarterback of unbeaten Alabama, is too small for the pros. His arm
and statistics are ungodlike and he has the countenance of a Norman Rockwell
boy who thinks he might go cane-pole fishing after a while. But last week in
Birmingham, the football capital of the South, Davis passed and ran and pitched
and faked and handed off, and just generally executed so thoroughly that
hitherto undefeated LSU rarely knew what to expect from him. Alabama won 35-21,
which leaves it sitting pretty, bowlwise and pollwise. Saturday night the
streets of Birmingham ran red with the school colors and the flushed faces of
Crimson Tide enthusiasts yelling "Hooo Lordy" and "Roll, Tide."
Those bards who celebrate legendary Confederate quarterbacks must surely have
whipped together a "Ballad of Terry Davis" plus an aggressive bumper
sticker or two. And after the game Coach Bear Bryant went so far as to say,
"I don't know how you get consideration for that Heisman, or whatever it
is, but Terry Davis hasn't lost a regular season game."
This, briefly, is
what Davis did to LSU. Behind 7-0 in the second quarter, after LSU's own gifted
quarterback, Bert Jones, had thrown a 21-yard touchdown pass, Davis faked a
handoff and tossed a 25-yard strike to Wayne Wheeler to tie the score. Early in
the second half he threw to Wheeler again for a 29-yard touchdown that put
Alabama ahead 14-7. When LSU fumbled a punt minutes later, Davis swept end for
25 yards and it was 21-7.
LSU came back to
make it 21-14 late in the third quarter, but it was here that Davis and Alabama
really took charge. Had the LSU defense been able to hold, the momentum of the
game would have shifted to the Tigers, but Alabama took the kickoff and nearly
ran LSU back to Louisiana. Like this: Steve Bisceglia gained five. Bisceglia
again for 18. Joe LaBue for six. Bisceglia for four. Bisceglia two. Davis 37.
Davis five. And Bisceglia, appropriately, for one and the touchdown. Eight
running plays, 78 yards, 28-14, game over, essentially. In fact, Alabama so
demoralized LSU Coach Charlie McClendon that given a fourth down and three at
his own 31 with about 4:50 left to play, his team still trailing by 14, he
chose to punt, giving up any chance for victory. "I felt like I didn't want
it to be 50," he said later.
It must be
pointed out that Davis did not quell the Tigers singlehanded. Jones stands
three inches and 25 pounds larger than the 6-foot, 179-pound Davis, but Davis'
blockers average 250 pounds from guard to guard, and some say that John Hannah
is the best lineman in SEC history. "They're tremendous size people,"
says LSU Running Back Brad Davis, who ran well against them.
Terry Davis also
had better receivers than Jones. The best one on the field by far was Alabama's
Wheeler, who caught 112 yards' worth of Davis passes, including those two
touchdowns. The bulk of the Alabama offense was on the ground, however, and
Bisceglia, on the inside, and LaBue, on the outside, gained a little more than
half of the team's 335 yards rushing.
Give a little
credit too—as if he needed it in Alabama—to Bryant, who installed the Wishbone
last year and since then has developed it to the point where its inventor,
Darrell Royal, has picked up several refinements from him.
McClendon devised a no-nonsense "one-track" defense to stop Alabama,
which LSU did, holding the Tide's running game to 214 yards and one touchdown.
Alabama had to come up with two field goals and a two-point conversion for its
14-7 victory. This year McClendon set up essentially the same eight-man-front
defense, and for half the game it seemed to work well enough.
"One man has
to go after the quarterback and another one after the pitch man on each
play," said McClendon when explaining his one-track idea. "If you play
halfway in between you're usually just wrong."
The trouble is,
old one-track does not offer much protection against the pass. Playing LSU last
year, Alabama threw only three times with no completions. Bear Bryant has been
saying right along that Davis can pass well, but statistics like that hardly
enforce the notion. But in the first half last Saturday he threw 12 times, and
when he completed three more passes at the start of the second half as Alabama
went ahead 14-7 LSU had to adjust its defense. At which point the Wishbone
began to work in all its fury.
Alabama team is a lot better than last year's," McClendon conceded after
the game. "They know so much more about the game and about running the