Until Saturday, White was the x factor. Does he take charge in the huddle, chew guys out, tell them to shut up? "Nooo!" says All-America guard Ed King, laughing. "You can tell he's a first-year quarterback. Sometimes he talks so light we have to say, 'Speak up, Stan.' "
It was two years ago this December that Dye decided White would be his quarterback of the future. That's when White's schoolboy team, Berry High of Birmingham, met Vigor High of Mobile in the state championship game at Legion Field in Birmingham. Recalls Dye, "Stan's team was predominantly slow and white, and Vigor was predominantly fast and black, and as fine a high school team as I've seen in the state of Alabama. Stan had virtually no chance." But White was sacked just once in his team's 41-7 loss. "He showed me something deeper than athletic ability that night," Dye says. "Anybody can look like an All-America when everything's falling his way."
Things were falling every way but White's for most of last Saturday's game. One play into the final quarter, Tennessee took a 26-9 lead, which meant the Tigers would have to air the ball out against the nation's top-ranked pass defense. The Volunteers had this one sewn up, right? Lacewell knew better. At halftime he had glanced at a stat sheet and was shocked to see that his defense had been on the field for 47 snaps. "I told Johnny the offense was going to have to get something going, or we were in trouble," said Lacewell.
While his Auburn counterpart, Wayne Hall, had the luxury of shuttling in waves of fresh linemen and linebackers every two or three downs, Lacewell could only watch as the legs of his pass rushers, of which he used nine, grew heavy. By the fourth quarter his linemen appeared to be lining up in quicksand.
On Auburn's first possession of the quarter, White went into a no-huddle offense. Three minutes, eight seconds and two third-down conversions later, the score was 26-12. After Tennessee went three downs and out, White completed five passes, including two on fourth down, to pull the Tigers to within a touchdown.
The key play, on fourth-and-goal at the Tennessee 13, was named Victory Cross. It calls for wideout Dale Overton to run a post pattern and then hook back toward the quarterback.
"But the cornerback was sitting on that all night," said Overton. So Overton ad-libbed, running a route that resembled a giant question mark, and White answered with a nicely feathered scoring pass.
White's third TD throw, on fourth-and-10 at the Vols' 11, wasn't as pretty, but a Volunteer blitz left free safety Dale Carter one-on-one with wideout Greg Taylor. Both jumped for the ball at the goal line. Carter leaped higher, but Taylor had better position and latched onto the ball, just as Dye later latched onto Majors while giving him some friendly grief.
"That great offensive team of yours got 318 yards of total offense," said Dye. "Our offense isn't supposed to be worth a damn, and we got 452 yards!"
"Pat," said Majors, almost pleading, "let's play one more quarter."