UCLA might have been unspectacular but the Bruins, ranked 12th in the AP's preseason poll, at least had rain as an excuse. Seven of the eight nationally ranked teams that played and won last week were also unimpressive, and most of them have only themselves to blame. Then there was Notre Dame, which was not only unimpressive but also upset, 3-0, by Missouri.
The Irish downfall came largely as a result of blowing three scoring opportunities, and eschewing the field goal in two of them. In the third quarter Quarterback Joe Montana tried a sneak on fourth-and-one at the Missouri 11 but was stopped. Three minutes later, third-and-goal from the one. Montana again was stopped for no gain. Then Chris Garlich and Kurt Petersen threw Vegas Ferguson for a loss on his fourth-down blast.
The game was still scoreless late in the third quarter when Notre Dame marched from the Missouri 36 to the three, but a penalty brought the ball back to the 18, from where Notre Dame finally attempted a field goal. It was botched when Joe Restic mishandled the snap. Missouri then marched to the Irish 16, where Jeff Brockhaus booted a 33-yard field goal. "I can only criticize myself," said Irish Coach Dan Devine. "Field goals win games, the idea is to win, and we were in range several times."
Oklahoma Coach Barry Switzer was also questioning his strategy. With 41 seconds left, the fourth-ranked Sooners led Stanford 35-20 and had the ball on their own 12. Oklahoma took an intentional safety in order to get a free kick, making it 35-22, but three plays later Stanford's Steve Dils hit Ken Margerum on an 11-yard pass for a Stanford touchdown, and the successful kick cut the score to 35-29. Then the Cardinals recovered an onside kick at Oklahoma's 11 and on the next play Dils threw into the end zone again. It took Darrol Ray's interception with no time left to save the Sooners' day.
Another perplexed coach was Penn State's Joe Paterno. "I'm not sure what the problem is, but we've got to get better or stop talking," he grumbled as the No. 3-ranked Nittany Lions looked lackluster in a 26-10 win over Rutgers. The Lions were particularly unimpressive in the first half, gaining only 32 yards rushing in 22 attempts. Quarterback Chuck Fusina, who completed 13 of 23 passes for 191 yards, finally mounted an 11-play, 82-yard touchdown march in the fourth quarter. "They will be a tremendous team," gushed Rutgers Coach Frank Burns. With Ohio State coming up this week, they had better be. "If I were scouting for Ohio State, I'd tell Woody Hayes not to worry," Paterno said.
Ninth-ranked USC was so lackadaisical that it was booed at home for the first time in memory before defeating Texas Tech 17-9. To hear Tailback Charles White tell it, the catcalls were uncalled for. "Our game plan was to wear them down," he said. White had 136 yards in 30 carries and the game plan went fine in the third quarter when USC gained 156 yards to Tech's one.
Iowa State, ranked 20th, pulled out all the stops—which is to say it fed Dexter Green the ball often—to stave off upset-minded Rice 23-19. Green, who had 165 yards rushing, scored on runs of nine yards, 13 and one, two of the TDs coming in the last quarter. "When we didn't stop ourselves, they stopped us," said Cyclone Coach Earle Bruce.
Another unimpressed coach was Nebraska's Tom Osborne. The 10th-ranked Cornhuskers showed what they can do by scoring three TDs in a three-minute stretch of the third quarter. Nevertheless, their 36-26 win-over California left Osborne cold. "At times, we played like a grammar-school team," he groaned.
Sixteenth-ranked Texas A&M broke a 10-10 deadlock against lightly regarded Kansas late in the third quarter as Curtis Dickey capped a nine-play, 65-yard drive by bulling over from the one. From there, the Aggies cruised home 37-10.
Only 18th-ranked Florida State had an easy day. The Seminoles, led by Quarterback Jimmy Jordan's 16 completions for 209 yards and a touchdown, out-gained Syracuse 587 yards to 148 in a 28-0 defeat of the Orangemen.