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Claridge, a 6-foot-4 222-pounder, is a long-striding power runner who telegraphs his destinations but gets there anyhow. Nebraska's game is to control the ball, and no one controls it better than Claridge, who was drafted a year ago by Green Bay. For that matter, ten other Cornhuskers have also been drafted by the NFL and AFL pros. Two up front who clear the debris for Claridge's keeper plays are Guard Bob Brown (6 feet 4, 269) and Tackle Lloyd Voss (6 feet 3, 247). They were first-round choices. It was with such raw power that Nebraska was able to win the Big Eight title.
For all its brute strength, Nebraska has weaknesses, a fact of which Coach Bob Devaney is only too aware. His ends can be circled, his defensive secondary pierced by good passing. His only defeat, in fact, came after a long Air Force pass.
All of which brings up Auburn and Jimmy Sidle. Sidle, only a junior, is a dazzling option runner who lost the national rushing championship by ten yards. More important, Sidle is a sharp passer. He completed 53 of 136 passes for 706 yards and five touchdowns while leading Coach Ralph Jordan's team to a season that included victories over mortal enemies Alabama (10-8) and Georgia Tech (29-21).
Auburn has two other weapons that give it an edge: the place-kicking of Woody Woodall (six field goals and 23 straight conversions) and the punting of Jon Kilgore (41.3 average). One last item: Auburn, coming from the Southeastern Conference, also plays defense. This should make Auburn's day.
THE ROSE BOWL
A year ago Pasadena, fog and all, had the best of the bowl games as Southern California outrebounded Wisconsin 42-37. This time the score may be closer to 4-3, give or take a fumble, as the Big Six and Big Ten send two entirely different teams—different from last year's but, unfortunately, not different from each other—into the oldest of all post-season games. Washington, the West Coast representative, and Illinois, from the Big Ten, are both coached by disciples of Oklahoma's Bud Wilkinson—which is to say they are conservative. Washington's Jim Owens, who played for Wilkinson, would sooner swallow the ball than order it thrown. And Pete Elliott of Illinois, who coached under Bud, is a chip off the same block and tackle.
During the season Washington was an infuriating team even for the home folks. Admittedly, its best player, Fullback Junior Coffey, was out for several games with a preseason injury, but that hardly explained the team's first three games—all losses. Owens had not been 0-3 since the last time he played baseball, and gloom hung heavy over Puget Sound. But then the Huskies won a couple, got Coffey back and won three more, including the big one—22-7 over USC. If Washington suddenly seemed the power it was supposed to be, just as suddenly it again became a powder puff—it lost to woefully weak UCLA. Only victory in its last game over old rival Washington State clinched the Rose Bowl berth.
"This team," says Owens, "lacked stability all year." And how. Washington fumbled 40 times in 10 games and lost the ball 21 of those times. The Huskies drew penalties at roughly the same rate, nearly 60 yards per game. "But," says Owens, "there were moments when we were very good and did some things better than our previous teams."
Washington was most effective when running opponents into the ground, with perhaps the best 1-2 fullback punch in the land: Coffey, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound speedster, and the 6-foot, 197-pound Charlie Browning, who was second-team All-Pacific Coast. Defensively, the Huskies had the best rushing defense on the Coast, and a vicious tackling secondary, led by Linebacker Rick Redman, which yielded short gains but never permitted long ones. Indeed, a linebacking duel between Redman and Illinois own All-America, Dick Butkus, who is 24 pounds heavier and four inches taller, may prove to be the most fascinating thing about this Rose Bowl game. Coach Elliott takes such pride in Butkus and his line defense that he bribes his deep defenders with gold stars for each intercepted pass. The theory is that if a team suffers enough interceptions, it will revert to smashes at the line. It works fine. Halfback Mike Dundy now wears seven stars pasted to his helmet, and Butkus personally made 144 tackles this season while causing seven fumbles.
When the time comes for Illinois's offense, the attack is inside power and outside sweeps supplied by two fine sophomores, Sam Price and Jim Grabowski. Like Washington, Illinois was at times awfully sloppy and unimaginative, but it won when it was expected to lose. The outcome should be decided by Washington, a far better team now than its 6-4 record indicates. The Huskies' lighter but more agile line will be difficult for Illinois to block or get around, Junior Coffey poses more of an all-the-way threat than anyone the Illini have, and Washington Quarterback Bill Douglas can throw a spiral if it comes to that. Washington should win in a mild upset.