Alabama Coach Bear Bryant knows that confidence is the first step on the way to victory and that over-confidence is the first step on the way to defeat. So he chooses his words carefully and utters them at opportune moments. Pregame pep talks, Bryant has insisted for years, are useless. Or, as he puts it, "If you haven't told them everything they need to know before Saturday, you've wasted the week." With Louisville coming to town, the Bear set the stage with some well-timed oratory.
On Wednesday evening Bryant walked into a team meeting, marched straight to the rostrum and delivered what Defensive Tackle Marty Lyons called, "The most inspiring talk I've ever heard. Coach was really emotional. He said we had as much talent as any of his national-championship teams. Coach said the only difference might be that each of them wanted it—the national title—more than we have maybe showed we want to win it. He said those teams had 'that certain spark' about them that he thought we had in us, too. When he sat down, you wouldn't believe how quiet it was. None of us could say anything, really, because we were choked up."
A day later, Bryant worked his eloquence from the other angle, telling the press that Louisville was capable of making it a "sad, sad homecoming" for Alabama.
On Saturday, the Tide showed more than "that certain spark"; it displayed a burning intensity, rushing for 413 yards, passing for 161 and scoring 55 points to the Cardinals' six to make it a happy, happy homecoming. Among the heroes were Running Back Tony Nathan, who ripped off a 71-yard scoring run, and Quarterback Jeff Rutledge, who teamed with Split End Ozzie Newsome on 67- and 32-yard touchdown passes.
"I still don't know how good we are," said Kentucky Coach Fran Curci after winning 33-0 at Georgia. His Wildcats were good enough to hold the Bulldogs to 47 yards in 38 rushing attempts and to 80 yards passing as Georgia was shut out for the first time in 58 games. Quarterback Derrick Ramsey solved Georgia's Junkyard Dog defense as he passed for three touchdowns and helped Kentucky roll up 392 yards in total offense. Alabama currently leads the Southeastern Conference by a half game. However, second-place Kentucky, because of its probation, is ineligible for the championship.
Even though he was dazed in the second period, Larry Key established a Florida State record by rushing for 170 yards during a 24-3 trimming of Auburn. Key, the country's No. 2 all-purpose runner, also returned a kickoff 39 yards to set up a scoring drive.
Late scoring splurges enabled Florida and Mississippi to come up with victories. Tennessee had tied Florida at 17-17 when Kelsey Finch dashed 99 yards in the third period. There was no further scoring until the Gators put 10 points on the board in the last 92 seconds, Berj Yepremian kicking a 28-yard field goal and Tony Green going six yards for a touchdown. Mississippi, which had lost three times following its upset of Notre Dame, scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to topple Vanderbilt 26-14. The Commodores had taken a 14-3 lead at the end of the first period with the aid of a length-of-the-field kickoff return by Preston Brown.
LSU tore apart visiting Oregon 56-17, and Mississippi State was beaten 14-7 by outsider Southern Mississippi. Charles Alexander of the Tigers improved upon his 142-yard rushing average as he ran for 237 yards and four touchdowns. A 36-yard TD run with an intercepted pass by Defensive Back Mike Crenshaw in the fourth period gave the Golden Eagles their victory, their third over an SEC team, Auburn and Mississippi having fallen previously.
A tenacious defense helped North Carolina throttle South Carolina 17-0. Two fumble recoveries by the Tar Heels set up a field goal and a touchdown. North Carolina has given up only 44 points in seven games.