Navy's mascot had disappeared, its nation-leading defense was regarded by some as a phenomenon of the Middies' schedule, and despite being unbeaten and not having trailed at any time this season, the Middies were five-point underdogs against Pittsburgh. None of that dampened an uncustomary display of enthusiasm at Annapolis, where bed sheets urging on the Middies were draped from buildings, where Tecumseh's statue was daubed with paint to mark this as a truly pivotal game and where nobody seemed to mind that Bill XXI had been MIA since Oct. 10.
Pitt tested Navy's defense right off, reaching the Middie 25-, 23- and 32-yard lines in the first quarter. Each time the Panthers came away empty, and Navy led 7-3 at halftime. In the third period the Midshipmen scored twice as Larry Klawinski rammed over from three yards out and Kurt Gainer gathered in a four-yard pass from Bob Leszcynski for a TD.
It was not until the fourth quarter that the Panthers got their lone touchdown on a two-yard run by Freddie Jacobs. John Merrill, a 6'6", 248-pound defensive end, said Navy's defense had been "fired up" by Pitt Quarterback Rick Trocano. Explained Merrill, "Trocano said our stats were impressive but that we hadn't played anybody." Thus fired-up, Navy shut off Pitt's rushing game, leaving the Panthers with minus-28 yards to show for 34 carries. Trocano had to go to the air, completing 25 of 51 passes for 275 yards. But even with Steve Gaustad grabbing 11 of those throws, Pitt lost 21-11 before a record crowd of 32,909 at Annapolis.
Army downed Colgate 28-3 behind the passing of Jerryl Bennett, a freshman quarterback making his first start. Bennett threw two scoring passes, and Jim Merriken dashed 49 yards for another touchdown.
West Virginia, playing at home, had the makings of a major upset when it shot to a 14-0 lead over Penn State after less than four minutes. The Mountaineers scored on an 11-yard pass from Dutch Hoffman to Rich Duggan and then, after an interception, on a 13-yard run by Dane Conwell. From there on, though, the Nittany Lions were in charge, scoring the next 42 points on the way to a 49-21 win. Mike Guman returned a punt 85 yards for State's first score. Pete Harris, Franco's brother, intercepted his sixth pass of the season and ran it back 26 yards to the Mountaineer one, from where Chuck Fusina took it in. Fusina locked up State's 16th straight win by hitting on nine of 13 passes.
In much the same way that Trocano's slight enlivened Navy, comments by Holy Cross players aroused Brown, the Bears taking exception to quotes that they would be a "breather." Brown broke a 10-10 tie in the second half and went on to knock the Crusaders from the unbeaten ranks, 31-25. Mark Whipple of the Bears ran for two touchdowns and passed for another pair. Using a split-six defense, with its linebackers playing wide to shut down outside runs, Brown allowed visiting Holy Cross only 94 yards on the ground, 136 below its average.
Dave Dorn raced 94 yards with the opening kickoff to start Rutgers on its way to a 69-0 rout of Columbia. Added to the spree were a 36-yard pass reception by Dorn and three short scoring runs by Ted Blackwell.
Cornell's Joe Holland, who took the field as the nation's top rusher with 155.4 yards a game, was outgained by Dartmouth's Jeff Dufresne 169 yards to 112. The Big Green's 14-7 victory left them tied with Brown for the Ivy League lead. Yale outgained Pennsylvania 202 yards to nine through the air and 361 to 196 overall, but had to settle for a 17-17 deadlock. The Bulldogs earned the tie when Pat O'Brien passed 14 yards to John Spagnola for a touchdown with 27 seconds left and then tacked on a two-point conversion by connecting with John Hatem. Battling to another stalemate were Harvard and Princeton, the Tigers scoring last to earn a 24-24 standoff.
A 17-10 victory over Connecticut clinched at least a tie for first place for defending Yankee Conference champion Massachusetts. Boston University's hopes for the crown were set back by a 7-6 loss at Rhode Island. Maine, which had yielded 227 points, gave up 25 more against independent Lafayette. But John Marquis picked up 208 yards in 49 carries for the Black Bears, who scored 31 points of their own to earn their second win.