When Tulane beat Duke last week on the last-act heroics of the brothers Foley (Quarterback Steve, Wide Receiver Mike), the Greenies were 4-0 for the first time since 1934, the season they played Temple in the first Sugar Bowl game (Jan. 1, 1935). It hasn't been all downhill since but it seems that way. After three successive losers Jim Pittman produced a bowl team in 1970 but then he went off to TCU.
Bennie Ellender became the head coach. Lank, limby and unimposing, Ellender had neither the hair nor the flair of Pittman, but inside that skinny physique lived a full-bodied drive to excel. Bennie went to work. Now expectant Tulane fans can hardly wait to see what happens next. What they'd obviously like to see happen is a victory over LSU. They have already bought out the stadium (81,000) for the traditional game Dec. 1.
Like Majors, Ellender's method was to quickly achieve that time-honored clich� of football preparedness: depth. Ellender used 50 players in the first half against Pittsburgh, and alternates his first and second offensive lines at will.
Steve Foley is the guts of the offense. An exceptional athlete, his running and passing beat Boston College and his 41-yard touchdown pass precipitated Pittsburgh's downfall. Against Duke, with the score tied 17-17, Foley drove the Green Wave 56 yards in seven plays, four of them passes to brother Mike. The last (officially a three-yarder) was on a diving catch in the corner of the end zone with nine seconds remaining.
Defense, however, has been Tulane's longer suit. It held Duke to 129 yards total offense and has been the most solid at Tulane since the coaching heyday of Henry Frnka. Four of its standouts are black: Tackles Charles Hall and Nathan Bell, Cornerbacks John and Wyatt Washington (no relation). Hall made 16 unassisted tackles against Duke. Times have indeed changed in New Orleans.
The Big Eight has another surprise team in Kansas, but until now an undercurrent of skepticism surrounded its progress. Don Fambrough had stilled optimism with successive 4-7 seasons. A student selling "The Jayhawks Are For Real" stickers in Lawrence before the Minnesota game (a week prior to the trip to Tennessee) advised patrons to "buy them early—next week they'll be antiques." But Kansas hung tough against Tennessee. David Jaynes, who may be the best quarterback the Big Eight ever had, passed for 394 yards (35 for 58) and three touchdowns and almost pulled a major upset in a 28-27 breathtaker. Memphis sportswriters were awed. "I'm going home right now and fill in one spot—quarterback—on my All-America ballot," said one.
Jaynes suffered his first interception in 142 passes last week against Kansas State, but he still completed 12 of 22 for 146 yards (he now has five Big Eight passing records on 296 completions for 3,966 yards and 29 touchdowns) and, on the heels of a fortuitous fumble recovery, drove the Jayhawks 40 yards to the winning touchdown with 64 seconds left. The fans at Lawrence, no longer skeptical, turned out 52,000 strong, a record.
Fambrough, who had been a Kansas assistant for 19 years, had concluded, however, that much of his slow early foot was traceable to an inconsistent defense. So he hired Jim Dickey off Oklahoma's staff to put in the Oklahoma 5-2, and built a solid front around Nose Guard Mike Lemon, a transfer from Ellsworth Junior College in Iowa Falls, and Defensive End Dean Zook, brother of John Zook of the Atlanta Falcons. And the secondary, too, came around. Spectacularly. Through the Kansas State game it had intercepted 15 passes.
"This is a hungry football team," says Fambrough. "Hungry for recognition, hungry for rewards."
Those are not unusual traits for a football team on the make, of course. All these surprises—which, if you could have gauged the extent of their hunger, would not be surprises at all—are of similar bent. There are others. Arizona is unbeaten after five games, including last week's 22-14 victory over New Mexico; and Maryland, despite a two-point loss to North Carolina State, has been turned 180 degrees by Coach Jerry Claiborne. SMU, which used to live by the pass, now feeds on the Wishbone with its excellent running backs, Alvin Maxson and Wayne Morris, and has won three out of four.