The key to the Cougars' attack is also a quarterback, Danny Davis. He is a fifth-year senior who has missed two seasons—1975 and 1977—because of injuries. Yet Davis says, "I just wish I could have come here earlier and could stay longer." So does Yeoman, who thought enough of his star to redshirt several other key players when Davis was redshirted after separating a shoulder at the start of last season. Yeoman calls his crafty veer quarterback a "riverboat gambler who'll palm a card or two on you if you don't watch him."
Both quarterbacks lived up to their advance billing in the Cotton Bowl last Saturday but both also proved to be human as well. Ford, whose arm was banged hard in practice on Wednesday, completed 21 of 42 passes for 357 yards and two touchdowns, including a sparkling 77-yarder to Emanuel Tolbert to tie the score at 14-14 in the second quarter. Perfect? Nope. Ford also threw five interceptions (he had thrown only seven in the first five games of the season) and fumbled a snap from center. Says Meyer, "Great football teams don't live by the pass. And when you do, you also die by it."
As for Davis, he, too, threw two touchdown passes, and he ran for a third, but it was not his best day, either. Early in the third quarter he was forced to leave the game with cramps in his toes, left calf and right hand. His understudy, Delrick Brown, proved more than equal to the challenge as he passed for a touchdown and ran the ball in for another.
The key play probably was the first one from scrimmage; it set the tone for the afternoon. Ford threw from his own 20 directly into the hands of Houston Safety Tommy Ebner. Four plays later Davis went 10 yards for the first TD. Still SMU hung tough and looked as if it would have a 14-14 standoff at halftime. But with no time showing, Davis scrambled around in a hully-gully play and finally passed crossfield to Terald Clark for a nine-yard touchdown. Aggrieved by Ford's two first-half interceptions, a fan yelled at him as he walked up the ramp to the dressing room, "Hey, Mike, that's why you lose." Ford put a lot of ice on his sore arm.
Meyer tried to rally his players: "Let's set our jaw and really compete. You are so close to being a fine football team." SMU did rally to tie the score in the third period on a 34-yard interception return by Cornerback David Hill. But with Emmett King and Randy Love rushing for 161 and 121 yards, Houston struck for two more touchdowns. And then came the killer. Rushing Ford, Cougar Tackle Leonard Mitchell saw the football, leaped, grabbed it one-handed and lumbered 30 yards for a TD. Afterward, Ford gave his view of the interception, "When he went up, he looked like he was eight or nine feet tall."
SMU now is 3-2-1, Houston 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the Southwest Conference. "We knew there would be days like this when we got into this deal," said Meyer as he walked out of the Cotton Bowl. "Shoot, we could be 0-6." "Or," suggested a bystander, "6-0." Meyer managed a laugh as he went off to do some more rekindling.