"Our overseas curriculum is marvelous," says Ralston, without a gulp. "If I were a kid I'd try for it."
Maybe he can afford to be magnanimous because Quarterback Jim Plunkett stayed at home, and this imposing junior from San Jose, who can heave a football 80 yards and who led the Pacific Eight in total offense and passing as a soph, seems to be in the mold of such great Palo Alto passers as Frankie Albert, Bob Garrett and John Brodie. He is being pushed hard for All-America, which should add spice to his early-October duel with Purdue's Mike Phipps.
Plunkett has not had an easy road. He was a good high school quarterback but was relegated to defensive end in California's scholastic all-star game. Surgery to remove a fatty tumor made him miss his frosh season, and then he was redshirted a year. Surprisingly, he even has a pretty good signal-calling rival, his fraternity brother Don Bunce. Don, also a junior, was voted the outstanding offensive player in the final spring game, although Jim's team narrowly won. They worked together all summer as carpenter's helpers.
"Our basic offensive strength is the pass," says Ralston. "Plunkett is as quick to release the ball as any man in the country, and he throws a harder ball than Bunce. He is now a seasoned veteran and we think his presence will create many defensive problems for our opponents."
The vital thing, of course, is for the Indians to bombard Cal in the Big Game, but USC rates second on the hate list. There are more than 100,000 Stanford alumni in Southern California, and they have fumed as the Trojans knocked off Stanford 11 years in a row. Last year the score was 27-24 (Kicker Steve Horowitz missed on three field-goal attempts), and before the Indians came out of their deep gloom they had lost two more games and had been tied by weak Washington State. If Plunkett can inspire a victory over USC, he'll get a niche next to Ernie Nevers in the Stanford Pantheon.
Plunkett has plenty of good receivers. Lasater, the tourist, averaged 24.8 yards a catch last year before he suffered a shoulder separation. Tight End Bob Moore, who turned down a big baseball bonus out of high school in Klamath Falls, Ore., is a fine blocker and was the second-leading receiver last year. Split End Jim Cross missed last season because of a near-fatal auto accident but was one of the league's best the year before. Rick Tipton, a cocky high hurdler from New Mexico, and stubby JC transfer Randy Vataha, deft and speedy, add depth.
Should Plunkett and Bunce choose to hand off the ball once in a while, just for variety, it will likely be to Isaiah (Bubba) Brown, a hefty breakaway threat who actually had a better yards-per-carry average last year than O. J. Simpson. Howie Williams, now at fullback, was the team's leading ground-gainer.
The offensive line is solid, too, anchored by Center John Sande, Tackle Pete Seymour and Guard Bob Reinhard, son of Cal's All-America lineman of the same name. Their work was so efficient last season that Stanford quarterbacks were caught behind the line of scrimmage only 13 times.
What worries Ralston and his staff is the defensive line, which they call the Down Four. Graduation wiped out last year's group, and there is some danger that Stanford will present a rushing defense made of wet tissue paper. Sophomore Pete Lazetich from Montana could fill one spot capably, but the rest seems to be patchwork. Linebacker Dennis Moore and second-team Fullback Jack Schultz have been switched to defensive end.
What might save the situation are the linebackers, principally senior Don Parish, who led the team in tackles last year and made first-team all-conference and honorable-mention All-America. Don was a fullback in high school and a defensive end as a freshman and sophomore on The Farm.