As any frustrated Nittany Lion knows, east is east and Penn State is a victim of its geography. And an awful lot of people are going to be mugged because of it. Joe Paterno's kids are getting thin-skinned about being patted on the head and their Lambert trophies while the big boys wrestle over the serious business of college football. Last week, Stanford Coach Jack Christiansen, who should have known better, said his team was going to beat Penn State because it had worked hard and it was dedicated, as if that was all that was needed. A sign in the Stanford dressing room asked: HAS ANYONE HAD A LITTLE NITTANY LION LATELY? It was good fun, and as John Lindblom, a columnist for the San Jose News, wrote, " Penn State once again ranks as the No. 1 team in the East...but in reality that's more a matter of being least bad."
In reality, and before a national television audience, Penn State knocked Stanford silly 20-6, and as usual discovered it had not proved a thing. "We can't let this get us down," Christiansen said afterward. "We've got to play tougher teams than this." Maybe so, but if there is anything out there tougher than the Penn State defense, it should not be allowed loose without a muzzle.
When Paterno heard of Christiansen's remark he only laughed, conceding, "They do have to play Michigan and USC." He said it with a trace of envy.
More than its Eastern image, Penn State's cross is a soft schedule made up years ago under another and less ambitious regime. Texas grows fat on people like Rice and TCU and Baylor, and it matters not. Notre Dame dines on Army, Navy and Pitt, and it bothers no one. But let Penn State take on Ohio University and sirens go off.
"Thank God for the 11th game," said Paterno, who had hustled out and made dates with Tennessee and Stanford—and been turned down by Texas and Ohio State—while waiting for the current contracts to run out. "We've got to get some people off our schedule." One is Temple, which somehow is going to begin a six-year series with Penn State in 1975, an opponent Paterno would gladly trade, with cash, for the saltwater rights in Death Valley.
Temple came up with its Penn State contract in the mid-'60s, after the Philadelphia school, along with the University of Pittsburgh, became state-related. Temple has a law school, Penn State does not, and some believe that political muscle was used to forge the agreement. Temple denies it. Temple Athletic Director Ernie Casale says the pact was made after he was approached by Penn State. No matter how the union was formed, Paterno does not like to talk about it. Understandably.
But all that is in the future. Last week there was Stanford, not Temple, on the other side of the field, and Paterno was more than a little concerned. Getting a strong school on your schedule is one thing; winning the game is another. State's fall practice had gone well until heat and high humidity moved in for 10 days across the East and players began to complain that they had nothing in their legs. "You're conning me—it's not hot," said Paterno, conning them. They worked and he worried. There were other anxieties: off to the pros was All-America Quarterback John Hufnagel, and with him two other All-Americas, Defensive End Bruce Bannon and Linebacker John Skorupan. Nor was anyone counting heavily on Randy Crowder, a strong 6'2", 235-pound defensive tackle who was coming off knee surgery after a basketball injury.
In to replace Hufnagel was Tom Shuman, a junior who had played only long enough the year before to complete eight of 21 passes. He can throw a ball 70 yards with a flick but is embarrassed when anyone suggests he has a super arm.
"I don't think it's super," he says. "It's the fine coaching. They taught me the correct technique and that's all it is."
"You should see the guy who taught him the technique," grins Paterno. "He can't throw a ball 20 yards."