Anthony (or A.D. or Tony) Davis, on his knees in the end zone, still looked like somebody winning a jitterbug contest in a 1943 Stage Door Canteen. Which means that he had just scored for USC in the Rose Bowl and that the Trojans were having the kind of fun day against Ohio State that reflects the difference between the currently sad Big Ten and the brash, bruising Pacific Eight. When all the bowls were finally over, the question was not whether USC was still No. 1 but who might be No. 4, because surely these talented, flashy types of John McKay were No. 2 and No. 3 as well. Right? Next case.
For a while out there in Pasadena it seemed as if the Trojans had taken McKay too seriously when he told them that they were the national champions regardless of what happened against Woody Hayes. In the first half they lolled around and got themselves outblocked and outtackled and tiescored, 7-7. But then came a new half and an old Trojan team, the one that had buried 11 straight opponents. Davis kept wiggling through holes that weren't always there, gaining his 157 yards; and Mike Rae kept throwing to a Lynn Swann that the Buckeyes never did find, and to Charles Young, who might be the best tight end ever; and Sam Cunningham kept high-jumping for a record four touchdowns, and all of a sudden, even before the third quarter was over, the Rose Bowl was no longer a football game, only a telecast.
This was the one that mattered the most, since it settled the debate over a national champion, but after that close first half, it turned out to be as one-sided as two of the other big bowls—the Sugar and Orange—played last weekend. Only the Cotton had real drama.
Before McKay got around to winning his third national title, Oklahoma on Sunday night in New Orleans had won a battle with itself and whipped Penn State, and on Monday afternoon a most surprising Texas team had stung Alabama in one of the best Cotton Bowls ever. Eventually, the whole hangover weekend concluded with the Orange Bowl on Monday night, where Nebraska did just about anything it wanted to do with Notre Dame, a bit of a surprise in itself. Johnny Rodgers even came up with a new kind of miracle by throwing a 52-yard touchdown pass. Threw it. Didn't catch it, like usual. Took a lateral and threw it.
Very few collegiate football teams have ever swept through their schedule the way USC did, with hardly a bead of sweat beyond the third quarter. McKay simply had too many weapons for the Buckeyes. When Ohio State slowed down the running game, Mike Rae hit the passes. And this in turn opened it up for A.D., the artful dodger. It was Davis' sneaky 20-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, when he swerved, broke two tackles and then high-stepped into the end zone, that put the game away. That is when he went into his end-zone act. Crawling and jiving on his knees, arms upraised, teeth flashing. Well, he's only a sophomore.
Davis did not play much the last quarter when the Trojans were making it 42-17. It was probably because McKay wanted to make a hero of Sam Cunningham, whose four high-soaring touchdowns set a Rose Bowl record.
Said McKay, "I owe Sam something. He was a great runner but I made him a blocker for three years. He's the best runner I ever ruined."
No doubt the Oklahoma Sooners were pretty happy watching the Trojans struggle during the first half of the Rose Bowl. Oklahoma had muddled through against Penn State, finishing up with an 11-1 record and visions of claiming any No. 1's available if USC lost. Oklahoma, however, had not actually looked that good.
For some reason Penn State has a knack of bringing out the worst in good teams. Maybe it's because the Nittany Lions do not command enough respect, being from the East and all. Whatever the reason, Joe Paterno's bowl opponents seem to show up looking as if they had food poisoning and Oklahoma was no different in that New Year's Eve Sugar Bowl affair.
Oklahoma did its usual thing of losing five fumbles, but this time the Sooners were a trifle more inventive. They lost two of them inside Penn State's two-yard line, boners that helped hold the score down to 14-0.