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Ranked No. 2 in the preseason polls and a 20-point favorite to beat Missouri, Alabama did an el foldo before a national television audience and 63,000 stunned onlookers in Birmingham. Before the game an ABC executive voiced the hope that Missouri somehow might score at least one touchdown before halftime so the eastern viewing audience wouldn't turn off and turn in. He got his wish and more, as the ball-hogging Tigers took a 20-0 halftime lead en route to a 20-7 victory.
With no mind for sustained drama, Tony Galbreath gained 75 of his 120 yards in the first quarter, one of his 32 carries producing the game's first touchdown. Another hero was Defensive Tackle Keith Morrissey, a former high school quarterback who was making his debut in that position for the Tigers. The 227-pound Morrissey made nine individual tackles, including two sacks of Alabama Quarterback Richard Todd that washed up a Tide comeback with seven minutes left. Bama's running attack gained only 31 yards (in 34 carries) while Missouri, with a 75-57 edge in plays, rushed for 206 yards.
"They made us look like some kind of barnyard outfit," the Bear grumbled.
Alabama's loss caused Shug Jordan, in his 25th and final year as Auburn head coach, to warn his seventh-ranked Tigers about upsets. "Remember," he said, "Goliath was a 40-point favorite over Little David, but Little David knocked him on his can."
The Tigers, however, either missed the point or weren't listening as Memphis State, a 17-point underdog, stung them 31-20. Six Auburn turnovers and the passing of sophomore Quarterback Kippy Brown enabled State to build a surprisingly easy 24-0 half-time lead as Auburn's offense never crossed midfield. The Tigers closed the gap in the third quarter, scoring twice on their first two possessions, but a fumble killed their hopes as State drove 76 yards for the clinching touchdown. Auburn's Mitzi Jackson, who scored on a 61-yard run, finished with 177 yards on 21 carries, the best game an Auburn runner has had in 16 years. It also marked the first time since 1965 that both Alabama schools dropped their opening games.
In Knoxville junior Tailback Stanley Morgan scored on a 50-yard draw play, a 70-yard punt return and a one-yard sweep to lead Tennessee to a 26-8 rout of Maryland. The Vols defense also sparkled, recovering three fumbles and holding the Terps to two first downs in the first half.
Completing nine of 12 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns, Florida Quarterback Don Gaffney ran for another score as the Gators crushed SMU 40-14. Florida racked up 527 yards total offense in its most impressive opening win in nine years.
Clemson, a dark-horse pick for the Atlantic Coast Conference title, committed eight turnovers in a 17-13 loss to Tulane after giving Coach Red Parker another turnover of sorts before kickoff. Taking a pitchout in warmup drills, Running Back Don Tester-man turned the corner, nailed his coach full tilt and sent Parker sailing into the end zone. "I wasn't paying attention," Parker said. Tulane's Wyatt Washington was. He intercepted three passes, returning one 76 yards for a touchdown.
Elsewhere, Wake Forest won its first ACC game since 1972 by upsetting North Carolina State 30-22; Kentucky veered over Virginia Tech 27-8 and South Carolina made Jim Carlen's coaching debut a happy one with a 23-17 defeat of Georgia Tech.