Mothers are like football coaches. Both spend a lot of time saying the obvious. Coaches spend whole careers telling athletes to "keep your eyes on the ball" and "be alert" and to quit nursing minor injuries by lounging in the whirlpool because "you can't help the club in the tub." Mothers spend whole careers telling their children, "Do your homework, make sure you behave and get home early." Mothers and coaches also fib, of course. Coaches say, "If you work hard, you'll be a winner"; mothers say, "This Merthiolate won't sting."
Our pick as Sports Mother of the Week is Clarice Gerald, mother of Ohio State Quarterback Rod Gerald. True, she has always told Rod to mind his studies, his manners and his hours. And he has, pretty much, if your definition of compliance is broad enough. But along with the obvious instructions, she has over the years urged on him more significant advice: "If you make three people happy, one of them is bound to be you."
Last Saturday, Gerald made three, yea, more likely three million, people happy—and he was one of them. For the 19-year-old from Dallas was instrumental in giving Ohio State a hectic 12-7 win over a good, young Penn State team.
It was not all that obvious during the generally misty and foggy day in University Park that visiting Ohio State would be able to win; it was not especially obvious how well Gerald was playing; it wasn't obvious what the classic struggle meant to two coaching titans of collegiate football, Penn State's calm, candid and outgoing Joe Paterno and OSU's irascible, erratic and devious Woody Hayes.
Later it all became clearer, and the implications for the season are, well, obvious. It's certainly no fib that Ohio State showed it is a certified powerhouse that should flick off Missouri Saturday while thinking ahead to the Revenge Bowl it will host Oct. 2 when UCLA comes to Columbus. UCLA was the team that made Woody so mad he wouldn't even talk about it after the Bruins harassed and ultimately humiliated Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. Assuming Woody gets even with UCLA, the Buckeyes should rip through six Big Ten opponents, each of whom can be identified by tears they already are blinking back. Then, come Nov. 20, the Bucks will host Michigan in what may be the shootout for the national championship, if it doesn't rain on Michigan's parade. All of which is heady stuff for Ohio State, which feared it might be slightly off stride this year because it lost eight starters on offense, including Heisman winner Archie Griffin.
Forget it. The new guy on the block, Rod Gerald, and his offensive buddies went to the high pressure well at Penn State, drank deeply and didn't splutter or burp. The Bucks are beautiful. While Gerald didn't set off sparks, he did play his first complete college football game without fumbling or being intercepted (he completed one of three passes), scored one touchdown, participated in the other, recovered somebody else's fumble, read the defenses adequately and earned what passes for high praise from Hayes: "I think he did a pretty good job." Says Gerald, "It's a big inspiration to go into that huddle and see everybody grit-tin' their teeth."
Gerald, heir to the job held by Cornelius Greene, is figured to be on his way to superstardom. Offensive Backfield Coach George Chaump says frail-looking Gerald is quicker and faster than frail-looking Greene was as a sophomore. Says Gerald, "I want to try to stay humble. That's the only way you can receive God's blessings." The son of a Baptist preacher. Rod says his favorite Bible verse is the 23rd Psalm, although when he was sacked for a couple of big first-half losses, he could have wondered about the line that says, "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures..." A change of shoes at halftime helped keep the sophomore upright the rest of the contest.
Rod isn't short for Rodney. His name is Roderic. But nobody has ever called him that. Folks back home who watched him strut his stuff Saturday on the tube know him as "Crow," because, as his mother explains, "Crows get into everything." And despite his emerging national fame, Crow misses the nest. A few days before the Penn State game, he wrote a four-page letter detailing how much he misses his three sisters, three brothers and his parents. His mother misses him; as a memento, she keeps a 10-pound ice pack in the freezer that Rod used in high school to soothe various bumps.
Gerald likely could use the old ice bag this week. The Penn State game was highly reminiscent of last year's struggle, won 17-9 by OSU. The Nittany Lions could have won that one—and this one, too. Indeed, they should have. So how is it that Ohio State got the job done? "You have to understand," says OSU defensive coordinator George Hill, "that all our preparation is to get ready." Which explains everything.
Before the contest, which drew Penn State's largest crowd ever (62,503) to a stadium that is to be enlarged by 16,000 seats at a cost of $4 million by 1978, Paterno was chatting with a few friends. "Our No. 1 concern," he said, getting ready to list two, "is whether we'll be strong enough and quick enough." And a third candidate for No. 1 concern was the kicking game. In the 15-12 opening-game win over Stanford, Matt Bahr missed two field goals and a PAT, but he made one three-pointer, and Paterno said, "How can you be critical of a guy who wins the game?"