And Missouri had pulled out the plum. Undefeated in five games, the Tigers have their best start since 1969 when they went to the Orange Bowl. Onofrio said afterward that he hadn't mentioned the 62-0 game all week. Never mind. The fans remembered. They tore down the goalposts, just like the good old days.
For teams like Miami, Pittsburgh, Tulane and Kansas, the good old days are harder to remember, but that they are coming back seems undeniable. Miami has its most exciting team since George Mira and, interestingly enough, looks as much like a Big Eight team as Missouri. It is no accident—Elliott himself and Defensive Coordinator Bob Herndon were once at Oklahoma, and two other assistants, Carl Selmer and Jim Walden, were at Nebraska under the retired Bob Devaney. It is the highly efficient, beautifully diversified Nebraska power I that they installed. Thompson, who has scored six touchdowns and averaged 103 yards a game, has found himself as an I back and is improving, says Elliott, "by leaps and bounds."
But it is more than an I back and an offense that has turned Miami around. It is an attitude. Miami has always had talented players—two were drafted in the first round and six are starters in the NFL this year—but it has been a tight, almost self-conscious team, one prone to error. Under Elliott not a nerve ending shows; hair does, from under the helmets, but the players exult over tackles and touchdowns as if they really mattered. Theirs is a loose, happy ship, and it is reflected in the fact that the Hurricanes have come from behind in every game, three times to win in the last quarter.
If you had to classify him you would probably conclude that Elliott is a humanist. He plays so many players that he gives the illusion of having two or three starting lineups, and does, in fact, employ two quarterbacks, using sophomore Kary Baker, the better passer, and senior Coy Hall interchangeably. This is sheer psychology. Elliott does not want a quarterback thinking ill of himself when taken out of a game.
It was, surprisingly enough, a third quarterback, last year's starter, Ed Carney, who came cold off the bench to beat Boston College, a big tough team that is on the verge of being good enough to challenge for the Lambert Trophy. Miami's defense, exceptional throughout (BC's touchdown came on a 100-yard kickoff return by its workhorse running back, Mike Esposito), had just repelled a final thrust at the goal when Carney came on to direct a 14-play 80-yard drive that was a model of tidiness—running plays all, and without a counter or an influence play to break the rhythm. Thompson ran for 51 yards en route, and Carney scored from the one.
Elliott says this is probably a better team than either of his Rose Bowl entries at Illinois (1963) and California (1958). Being young and still learning, it will also get better, which is good, Elliott says with a smile, because "we're still in the buzzsaw"—with Houston, Alabama and Notre Dame to come.
Like Elliott, Johnny Majors has made an immediate and dramatic change in the course of events at Pittsburgh, where the problems are similar: a big-city school with a popular professional team vying for the entertainment dollar. Unlike Miami, Pittsburgh for years has been a slag heap of mediocre players. Majors, fresh from a successful engagement at Iowa State, responded with a whirlwind recruitment that netted 72 freshmen and six junior college transfers. Five of his recruits are in the starting lineup.
But the one to beat all is a 5'11", 175-pound running back from Aliquippa, Pa. named Tony Dorsett. Dorsett turned in three consecutive 100-yard games, including a wondrous 265-yard effort against Northwestern, as Pitt tried to make up its mind whether to be good or bad. The Panthers tied heavily favored Georgia, then split with Baylor and Northwestern, winning the latter. Injured against Tulane, Dorsett sat most of that one out, and Pitt floundered 24-6. Last week, however, he was back in the lineup—and quickly into the secondary of the West Virginia Mountaineers, who never knew what hit them.
Dorsett scored on touchdown runs of 35, 12 and 12 yards, and totaled 150 yards in 24 carries. The 35-7 Pittsburgh victory was called an "upset," but it was more a vindication. Rival West Virginia has been at Pittsburgh's throat for six years, winning five games. When it was over a thick knot of cheering Pitt fans stood around clamoring for Majors to come out of the dressing room. He came out, and brought Dorsett with him.
Since 1964 Pitt has averaged about two victories a season. This year the Panthers could win six games, a Majors breakthrough that will help shore up newly won enthusiasm. Fullback Dave Janasek cannot get over the impact of winning. "People are beginning to recognize us," he says. The other night Tackle Dave Jancisin and Center Mike Carey went into a restaurant in Turtle Creek wearing their Pitt blazers. The owner picked up the tab. "That never happened before," said Janasek.