- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
The Tide will roll with juniors Ozzie Newsome, who led Alabama with 21 catches, five of them for touchdowns, and Johnny Davis, who averaged 6.7 yards per carry, third best in the SEC. In two seasons at fullback, he has not lost a single yard. Halfback Willie Shelby has left, but his 3.9 yards a carry ranked only 13th among Tide backs, nine of whom return. Calvin Culliver, a starter in 1974, and Pete Cavan will open against Ole Miss, but John Crow, son of John David (page 72), and Tony Nathan won't sit forever. Soph Jeff Rutledge, whose brother quarterbacked Alabama in 1973, will call signals, with Jack O'Rear, a 1975 redshirt, at the ready. Against Mississippi last year Jeff became the second freshman in Crimson Tide history to quarterback the varsity. He hit one pass in two attempts and ran seven times for 58 yards. The first frosh quarterback? That was O'Rear in 1973.
With 253 victories, Bryant trails only Amos Alonzo Stagg (314) and Pop Warner (313) as the winningest college coach ever. Bryant received unaccustomed criticism after he ducked Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, choosing instead to play Penn State. A win over the Sooners might have earned Alabama the national title. "I ain't afraid of anybody," growls the Bear. "I'll play King Kong if it's for No. 1."
In Tempe, home of the Sun Devils, it is not known as "that fabulous catch John Jefferson made in the Arizona game" or even as " Jefferson's Catch." It is simply "The Catch." In 1975 ASU enjoyed a perfect (12-0) season, including a 17-14 victory over Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl, and the outstanding-play of an outstanding year was The Catch. The highlights film shows it twice—the sophomore flat-out in the air above the end zone, his body parallel to the ground, the ball miraculously stuck in his hands. All year projectionists throughout cactus-and-coyote country—except perhaps in Tucson—have been stopping the film, reversing and going ahead again, as fans relive the moment. "He is the best receiver I ever coached," says Frank Kush. "He goes to the ball like a heat-seeking missile." As a freshman, Jefferson went by his stepfather's surname, Washington, but then he decided to switch to his father's name last season. As far as Kush is concerned he can be Lincoln this year and Roosevelt as a senior.
ASU has been the highest-scoring team in college football the past 10 seasons, and with athletes like Jefferson/Washington, '76 should prove no exception. Wingback Larry Mucker gives Quarterback Dennis Sproul another good target, and Tight End Bruce Hardy, a converted quarterback who was on SI's cover (April 29, 1974) as a high school senior in Bingham City, Utah, could be a superstar, according to Kush. Hardy played his new position only part of last season, but still made WAC honorable mention. If Sproul or backup Quarterback Fred Mortensen chooses to hand off rather than fling, it probably will be to senior Fast Freddie Williams, who comes from St. Petersburg, plays either halfback or fullback and has gained 1,000 yards or more each of the last two seasons. The offensive line, whose cornerstone is 6'5", 256-pound Tackle Steve Chambers, appears formidable.
ASU has to fill the gaps in the defensive backfield, where All-America Mike Haynes played so well last year (and the year before, when he led the nation in interceptions). But the Sun Devils are not starting from scratch either with All-WAC Cornerback Mike Martinez returning, along with Free Safety John Harris. Up front the "Crunch Bunch" figures to keep grinding up the opposition with the return of Linebacker Tim Petersen, twin brother of Defensive End Rob, who may join Tim as a linebacker. End Willie Scroggins, a fine pass rusher who had 62 unassisted tackles last season, is being switched to tackle.
This will be Kush's 19th year as ASU's head coach and he is improving with age. The Sun Devils have won or shared the WAC title six of the last seven seasons. Still, they have never won a national championship. Could this be the year?
Year in and year out the powerful Nebraska Cornhuskers display one of the outstanding football teams in the country, and 1976 should not be an exception. Thirty-seven letter-men return and, despite the NCAA scholarship cutback, there were 158 impressive young players in uniform for spring practice. Nebraska is popping with talent, yet the fans are uneasy. Why? Because the Cornhuskers dropped their final two games last season, and a two-game losing streak hasn't occurred at Nebraska since 1968.
It must be pointed out, however, that those were Nebraska's only losses of the season and that they came at the hands of national champion Oklahoma and second-ranked Arizona State (in the Fiesta Bowl). So there is not too much reason for concern. In fact, this could be the best Nebraska team since 1971's undefeated national champions, the last Cornhusker squad to beat Oklahoma.