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A&M will have the most proved defense in the Southwest as well as the surest offense if everyone stays well, and Stallings knows he will need both when he looks at a schedule that includes not only Texas but LSU and Florida State, all away from home.
Success seems to come in spurts at A&M. Back in 1939 John Kimbrough started the Aggies on a three-year stretch in which they won 29 games and lost only three. After a drought of 14 years, John David Crow arrived and led A&M to three years of prosperity. Now, 11 years after that, the Aggies are winning again. It is like the big sign in Gene Stallings' office says: MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN.
A&M already has. If the Aggies keep it up another year, the only guys making jokes will be the Aggies.
Once more the only question is, will slow and steady win the race?
Solid is the word for Nebraska. Solid God-fearing farmers. Solid Republican politics. Solid spine-jarring football. Solid red is the color scheme of the University's Memorial Stadium on Model T Street in Lincoln and solid sellout is what its 64,000 seats are this fall. That's Nebraska, and, of course, blocky, amiable Bob Devaney, his consistent coaching record and his no-nonsense approach to football are as solidly appropriate there as putting the silo next to the barn.
With a 51-9-0 record, five bowl games and four Big Eight championships in his six years at Nebraska, Devaney has achieved just what his neighbors like most—sound, down-to-earth success that can be measured without a lot of fancy rationalizations. As a coach, Devaney is dependable and responsible and not given to flighty ups and downs: he has never won fewer than six games at Nebraska and he has never lost an assistant coach. As a tactician, he honors the writ of conservatism that has served so long as both the muse and the muscle of Cornhusker teams.
Devaney still operates the kind of team that puts all of its backs through blocking drills first, and only after stressing those skills turns to the more exciting matters of running and passing. When Bob Devaney talks about offense, one could not for a moment mistake him for a student of the flea-flicker school.
"We haven't had a lot of speed in our backfield, but our backs have been sound football players," he says. 'They block well and run tough. We tend not to have star backs. All of our All-Americas, except one second-string choice, have been linemen. That's because our offense is such that no one back carries the ball much." So the emphasis at Nebraska is on the usually joyless jobs in the line. As Assistant Coach Carl Selmer says, "It's hard to encourage a kid to play in the offensive line sometimes. It takes a certain thick-skinned, determined, unselfish kind. But here we try to give linemen a bigger share of the glory."
This plowman's philosophy of football does not unfailingly deliver championships. Last season's so-so 6-4 record and second division Big Eight finish added up to the worst season Devaney has ever had. One reason was that Nebraska's towering young quarterback, Frank Patrick, who stretches a relatively meager 210 pounds over 6'7", developed a tendency to throw the ball to the other team. This happened no less than 13 times. Another source of woe was a back-field that was fumble prone. Nebraska played drop-the-pigskin 46 times in 1967. Nevertheless, the Cornhuskers were a typically strong Devaney team and their defense was No. 1 in the nation, allowing only 158 yards a game.