The Longhorn schedule reads like an AP poll. The non-conference opponents include Missouri and Oklahoma, and in the SWC, Texas must play Arkansas, Houston, Texas A&M and SMU—on the road. If none of those teams is at the Cotton Bowl come January, Texas will be there. And no doubt you'll be hearing how Akers did it again.
By his own admission, Mark Herrmann is a stick-in-the-mud, more in the mold of Andy Hardy than Tony Manero. He still dates his high school sweetheart. His best friend has been his best friend since childhood. Evenings he usually stays in the Sigma Chi house. He admits that he has to force himself to socialize with his teammates and says that although he is a junior he is just beginning to know them well. "I think we've got a mutual respect," Herrmann says. "I can give constructive criticism or compliments now." Of course, a stick-in-the-mud is usually calm and controlled at all times, which is just dandy for Herrmann on the field but makes him something of an oddball in West Lafayette these days.
Aside from Herrmann just about everybody at Purdue is gaga because this could be the year the Boilermakers crack the Michigan-Ohio axis that has ruled the Big Ten for the last 11 years. "You walk around campus and you hear people say, 'We've ordered our tickets for Pasadena, we're going to the Rose Bowl,' " Herrmann says. "Well, I haven't ordered my tickets yet." Herrmann is the man responsible for the state of excitement. He has already passed for 4,357 yards and has only to surpass Chicago Bear Mike Phipps and Miami Dolphin Bob Griese to become Purdue's No. 1 alltime quarterback. "Yeah, but my arm could be stronger," Herrmann says. "And my legs and upper body."
Herrmann cut his interceptions from 27 in '77 to 12 last year, and he hit on 55.5% of his passes—14 for touchdowns. Suddenly Purdue, which hadn't had a winning season since 1972, soared to 9-2-1, beat Ohio State for the first time since 1967 and got a bowl bid (Peach), only its second in 91 years. Bid No. 3 should be forthcoming this November. An invitation to the Rose Bowl isn't too farfetched—not with Ohio State off the schedule. And not with all 11 offensive starters from the Peach Bowl team back, including Running Back John Macon (913 yards in '78) and receivers Mike Harris, Bart Burrell and Dave Young.
In fact, the Boilermakers have an embarrassment of riches and are in a quandary about finding room for blue-chip freshman Running Back Jimmy Smith, a speedster who handled six kickoffs and returned four of them for touchdowns for Westview high school in Kankakee, Ill. How highly sought was Smith? Well, Oklahoma Coach Barry Switzer thought enough of him to phone Smith's coach from New York the night Billy Sims got the Heisman Trophy.
The team's flex defense, patterned in part on that of the Dallas Cowboys, features Purdue's alltime leading tackier, Linebacker Kevin Motts, and All-Big Ten linemen Ken Loushin and Keena Turner. In 1978, Turner tackled opponents for losses 25 times for a total of 201 yards. Three-fourths of the secondary is new, and Coach Jim Young needs replacements at punter and placekicker. Not to worry. Assessing safeties Tim Seneff and Bill Kay, defensive coordinator Leon Burtnett says, "Abilitywise, they're better than what we had last year." And freshman placekicker Walt Drapeza booted a 50-yarder in high school.
"Our starting defense has the ability to be great," Burtnett beams.
"It's the finest recruiting year I've ever had as a coach," chimes in Young.
"We'll be No. 1," is the boast frequently heard at the Chocolate Shoppe, a local bar.