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THE WEEK
Douglas S. Looney
December 04, 1978
WEST
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December 04, 1978

The Week

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With a game against Vanderbilt coming this weekend, Tennessee (4-5-1) continued its struggle toward a .500 season with a 29-14 triumph over Kentucky. The keys were five field goals—of 48, 40, 42, 42 and 36 yards—by Alan Duncan, which broke the school record and tied the Southeastern Conference record. Favored Mississippi State fumbled seven times as Mississippi scored an easy 27-7 win in their annual interstate showdown, in Jackson. At Baton Rouge, where all eyes were, as usual, on Charles Alexander, LSU trounced Tulane 40-21. Alexander rewarded the faithful by getting 156 yards on 28 carries—which included a 64-yard touchdown run—as he set a Southeastern Conference record for career rushing. His 3,981 yards surpasses the 3,835 achieved by Kentucky's Sonny Collins.

1. ALABAMA (9-1)
2. CLEMSON (10-1)
3. GEORGIA (8-1-1)

EAST

It was cold, windy and dark in University Park, Pa., ominous signs for the Friday afternoon confrontation between Penn State and Pitt. Yet by twilight Penn State Coach Joe Paterno pronounced it a "very delightful day," which is how things look when you're on top and have just struggled for a 17-10 win to stay there.

As it turned out on this delightful day, the wind that was gusting up to 25 mph was a huge factor. All 27 points were scored going with it, and Penn State had it in its favor in the final quarter. But with 5:02 to go, Pitt was on top 10-7, and the nation's longest winning streak (18 games) seemed to be in peril. A Chuck Fusina-directed drive got Penn State down to the Pitt four with a fourth and one, and Paterno sent in field-goal kicker Matt Bahr. Paterno was going to settle for a tie? Time out. In the excitment on the sidelines, Paterno had been told that there were four yards to go for the first down. When he found out it was one, Paterno decided to go for it. The Nittany Lions got even more, as Mike Guman found a crack in the Pitt line and darted into the end zone.

Rutgers had won nine straight, and playing Colgate (2-8) was thought to be merely a fun outing. But although Rutgers got to the Colgate 22 or closer seven times, it could come away with only three field goals by Kennan Startzell. Meanwhile, Colgate's John Marzo passed for one touchdown and ran another in from five yards out and Rutgers, heading for the Garden State Bowl, was upset 14-9.

1. PENN STATE (11-0)
2. PITTSBURGH (8-3)
3. NAVY (7-3)

MIDWEST

Could it be that times really are a-changin' in the Big Ten? That somebody other than Michigan and Ohio State can play football? Apparently so, for, with surprising Michigan State claiming a share of the conference title this year (with Michigan), it marks the first time since 1967—when Purdue, Minnesota and Indiana tied—that a team other than Michigan or OSU has been on top. The Spartans took up residence in this exclusive neighborhood via a devastating 42-7 defeat of Iowa. It was their seventh straight triumph, including a win over the Wolverines.

Three years ago, Michigan State was hit with an NCAA probation for recruiting violations, and the school can't go to a bowl until next season, when it will be out of the NCAA jailhouse. But nobody can deny the Spartans' excellence this year. They established a conference record of 523.1 yards per game, largely because of senior Quarterback Ed Smith, who set a conference career record for passing of 5,606 yards. "We've laid the foundation for next year." said Smith after Michigan State blitzed Iowa with 35 first-half points, including three on touchdown passes by Smith. One was a 54-yarder to Flanker Kirk Gibson, once a hot NFL prospect who has signed to play baseball with the Detroit Tigers. Eugene Byrd gathered in short passes to score twice and Tailback Steve Smith ran for two more TDs while gaining 131 yards in 14 carries.

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