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One other Penn State problem was that no one knew how to figure Stanford. The Cardinals had Mike Boryla, a good passing quarterback, and John Winesberry, an impressive runner-receiver with 9.7 speed. While Stanford had lost 25 lettermen, the word from the West Coast was that Christiansen had plugged all the holes with an army of talented junior college stars.
"Who can tell?" said Paterno. "But in fairness to Stanford, Christiansen doesn't know much more than we do. You can fill your lineup with junior college kids, but you never know how they'll do until they play."
So State flew west, where Stanford was waiting with its army of JC players that turned out to include only one starter. "They must have mixed us up with UCLA," said Christiansen. "We thought we had a lot of fine freshmen coming up, so we didn't go after JCs."
Christiansen's main concern had been finding an offensive line that could protect Boryla, who was fourth among the nation's passers last year. At the same time he had been sacked enough to lose 213 yards. For better or worse, all but two of that offensive line had graduated.
"We'll be a lot tougher this year," promised Bill Reid, who was returning at center. "Last year we just ran around in circles. And we had a great line, real super-studs. The line coach worked us like dogs, but he never told us who to block. He was a one-year wonder. He's not around anymore."
The trouble was, Reid would discover, that all the blocking assignments the line now had were designed for last year's Penn State defenses. But Penn State gave Stanford a 1972 look and then suddenly opened up a whole new bag of stunts. As a rule the Lions seldom blitz, but here they were pouring in on every other play. Boryla went down and down and down; nine times in all for minus 47 yards. Understandably, he began to hurry his throws. When he did connect, the receivers were ripped immediately.
Surprisingly, when Stanford did run at Penn State it was up the middle into the arms of Crowder and Greg Murphy and Mike Hartenstine. What these three missed was quickly scooped up by a set of quick linebackers led by Ed O'Neil and Tom Hull. Stanford's runners went at Penn State 29 times and lost eight yards.
It was the defense that gave the visitors their first score. With Doug Allen leading the way it blocked a Stanford punt out of the end zone for a safety and a 2-0 Penn State lead. Moments later Jim Bradley recovered a fumble 10 yards from the Stanford goal and Shuman rifled a pass to Gary Hayman for the touchdown.
So at halftime it was 10-0 and Joe Ruetz, the Stanford athletic director, was convinced. "I can see now why Penn State is ranked where it is," he said. "They really hit. They intimidate you. We've got good receivers, but they know if the ball touches their hands they are about to be belted."
In the third quarter Penn State turned one drive over almost solely to top Running Back John Cappelletti, who surprised everyone with his first pass as a college player, a 17-yarder to Chuck Herd that carried to the Stanford four. Then, using the powerful legs that gained 1,117 yards last year, Cappelletti scored in three short bursts, the last from the two.