On scoreboards across the nation there was ample evidence that college football was continuing its trend toward wide-open, try-anything offenses. In contests involving at least one Division 1-A team, points per game so far this season average 39.8, and if the point production goes up as the season goes on, as is usually the case, the NCAA foresees this as being the fourth-best scoring year in its history.
A major reason for the upswing is an increase in passing yardage. Last season's per-game average of 269 yards through the air was a 22.1-yard improvement over 1976 and the biggest such gain since 1958. This season's average is up to 271.
Steve Dils of Stanford has helped boost both the scoring and through-the-air figures. Dils was a jayvee quarterback as a freshman in 1974, was redshirted the next season, was in on one play in 76 and sat out all but two games last year when he played behind Guy Benjamin. Now in control of Coach Bill Walsh's aerial circus, Dils has been passing with metronomelike consistency and leads the country with 171 completions in 264 tries (.647), 1,972 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Five of Dils' scoring strikes came last week as Stanford romped 43-27 at Washington State. Altogether, Dils passed for 430 yards. That broke the Pac-10 single-game record and Dils' total offense of 438 yards surpassed the conference record of 416 set in 1969 by Jim Plunkett. Even when in a pickle, Dils came through. Once when he was about to be sacked, he simply underhanded the ball to Fullback Phil Francis, who picked up 14 yards.
Augmenting the attack was the running of 5'9", 170-pound Darrin Nelson who, although only a sophomore, became the Cardinals' alltime rushing leader. Nelson's 95 yards in 15 carries brought his season yardage total to 725, his career yardage to 1,794. He also has caught 88 passes in less than two full seasons for 860 additional yards.
Almost lost in the flurry of Stanford statistics were the deeds of State's Jack Thompson. The Throwin' Samoan earned some fine numbers of his own: 24 completions in 34 tries for 274 yards and two touchdowns. Together, the two teams amassed a staggering 1,133 yards in total offense.
Despite outgaining UCLA 241 yards to 18 through the air, California failed to score. The flaw in the Golden Bears' aerial assault (they completed 23 of 52 passes) was 10 interceptions, a Pac-10 record. Substitute Cornerback Brian Baggott stole two of those passes and returned each for a touchdown, weaving 61 and 62 yards. Baggott's first score was part of a 28-point second-period spree that helped the Bruins salt away a 45-0 victory that left them atop the conference with a 4-0 record.
Oregon State felt its best chance for springing an upset at Southern California was to hammer away at whoever was serving as the Trojan center. Having lost its first four centers via injuries, USC did, indeed, seem vulnerable. No. 5 was Ray Peters, a converted nose guard who had never played over the ball until forced to do so the week before at Arizona State, where USC was toppled from the unbeaten ranks. To prepare for Oregon State, Peters "worked every minute I could from eight in the morning until midnight" with Quarterback Paul McDonald. So well did Peters do his jobs of snapping and blocking that he was awarded the game ball after the Trojans had whipped the Beavers 38-7. With the aid of Peters' blocks, USC rushed for 350 yards, 154 of them by Charles White, who carried 22 times and scored on runs of 41 and 14 yards.
Washington Coach Don James said sophomore Fullback Toussaint Tyler would get his first starting assignment when Oregon came to town, and so he did. And gained 151 yards. The most impressive of Tyler's 17 carries was a 55-yard scoring run that topped off the Huskies' 20-14 victory. Added to that were 37- and 40-yard field goals by Mike Lansford, and the running of Joe Steele, who gained 126 yards and scored on a 16-yard gallop.
With Jerome Heavens running for 101 yards and Vagas Ferguson for 96, and with Joe Montana passing for 213, Notre Dame was an easy 38-15 winner at Air Force. Dave Ziebart and Jim Aaron of the Falcons hit on 26 of their 42 passes for 236 yards, but the Irish rolled up 491 yards in total offense as Montana scored on two short runs and passed for two other touchdowns.
Texas-El Paso Coach Bill Michael, noting that the teams that had done well against Brigham Young were those that had taken away the pass, adopted the same strategy. What he did not know was that BYU Coach LaVell Edwards was disenchanted with his team's passing and that he was going to put more emphasis on running. Given running room, the Cougars, who had been averaging 128 yards a game on the ground, rushed for 202 as they beat the Miners 44-0. That kept BYU in first place in the WAC with a 3-0 mark. Wyoming (2-1) beat Utah 34-21. San Diego State and New Mexico won, the Aztecs topping Pacific 31-28 and the Lobos trimming New Mexico State 35-20 as Mike Williams ran for 173 yards.
Undefeated Montana State moved half a game ahead of Northern Arizona in the Big Sky. The Bobcats beat Idaho 57-21 while the Lumberjacks were shocked 33-6 in an out-of-conference game at Northern Colorado.
1. UCLA (6-1)
2. ARIZONA STATE (5-1)
3. USC (5-1)
Offense not only is opening up but moving up in total yardage to 647 a game so far, a rise of 24 yards over the same point last season. Three Big Eight squads did their bit toward that boost last week, Nebraska gaining 641 yards, Oklahoma 510 and Missouri 474. A length-of-the-field kickoff return by Howard Ballage helped Colorado go in at half-time with a 14-14 tie with Nebraska. From there on, though, the Huskers were almost unstoppable, piling up 425 yards in the second half and winning 52-14. Although nursing a sore ankle, Billy Sims ran for 178 yards in the first half and for 231 in all as top-ranked Oklahoma walloped Iowa State 34-6. Led by Phil Bradley's two touchdown passes to Kellen Winslow, and Earl Gant's scoring runs of nine and 71 yards, Missouri knocked off Kansas State 56-14. In another Big Eight game, Oklahoma State topped Kansas 21-7.
A record Wisconsin crowd of 80,024 showed up to see if the Badgers were for real and if they could continue to challenge for the Big Ten lead. They were not and they did not. The previously unbeaten Badgers fumbled twice in the first seven minutes and Michigan recovered both on the way to a 42-0 romp. The Wolverines piled up 477 yards in total offense, with Rick Leach scoring twice and connecting with Ralph Clayton on a 65-yard touchdown pass.
Michigan State indicated that it might be for real, following up the previous week's upset of Michigan by stinging Indiana 49-14. The Spartans rolled up 644 yards, 369 of them (a Big Ten record) coming as Ed Smith completed 20 of 30 passes.
Ohio State scored all its points in the first half, Iowa all of its in the second half at Columbus. It was no contest, though, as the Buckeyes got a 78-yard Art Schlichter-to-Doug Donley scoring pass while breezing 31-7. Holding first place was Purdue (3-0), which featured its running attack rather than the usual barrage of passes while flattening Illinois 13-0. John Macon ran 126 yards and Russell Pope 118 for the Boilermakers, and Mark Herrmann kept the Illini guessing by hitting on 15 of 24 passes for 116 yards. Northwestern remained winless, losing at home to Minnesota 38-14.
Western Michigan kept its Mid-American hopes aglow, whomping Eastern Michigan 32-0 as Jerome Persell ran for 107 yards and went over 1,000 yards for the third consecutive season. That kept the Broncos (5-1 in the conference) right on the heels of Ball State (4-0). The Cardinals hung a 14-7 loss on independent Illinois State, which is 0-7 this season and has been outscored 223-61. Bowling Green, which was leading the nation with an average total offense of 497 yards a game, had its title aspirations jarred at Miami of Ohio, where the Falcons were held to 232 yards and lost 18-7.
Joe Williams put the final touch on Wichita State's 33-7 conquest of Southern Illinois, booting a 67-yard field goal. That tied the record held by Steve Little of Arkansas and Russell Erxleben of Texas for the longest field goal in NCAA history. The Shockers' win tied them with Drake and New Mexico State for the Missouri Valley lead. Indiana State missed a chance to join the deadlock, losing 36-7 to West Texas State, which got 171 yards rushing from David Johnson and 113 from Larry Thompson. Tulsa hung on to defeat outsider Cincinnati 27-26.
1. OKLAHOMA (7-0)
2. NEBRASKA (6-1)
3. MICHIGAN (5-1)
While Texas was handing Arkansas its first setback and Houston was beating Southern Methodist (page 32), Baylor and Texas Tech savored other Southwest Conference triumphs. Victory was particularly sweet for the Bears, who had dropped their first five games by a total of 21 points. They beat Texas A&M largely because of a bomb, the powerful running of freshman Walter Abercrombie and the punting of Luke Prestridge.
The bomb came on the second play of the game, a no-huddle maneuver in which the Bears caught the Aggies flat-footed. Robert Holt got wide open on the play, latched on to a pass from Steve Smith and turned it into a 78-yard scoring play. A pair of Aggie field goals left Baylor ahead 7-6 at halftime.
Shortly before the intermission, Abercrombie, who started the season as a fourth-team fullback, made his debut for the Bears and gained 23 yards. That was merely a teaser for what he was going to do. During an 80-yard, third-period touchdown drive, Abercrombie ran 11 times for 65 yards. Then in the fourth quarter he got off a 42-yard run to set up a field goal and finally broke loose for a 64-yard scamper to line up Baylor's final touchdown in its 24-6 win at College Station. When done, Abercrombie had established a team record by gaining 207 yards in 19 carries. Prestridge kept the Aggies in the hole by averaging 54.8 yards on six punts, including two that traveled 70 and 77 yards.
Texas Tech also won its first SWC game, zapping Rice 42-28 in Houston. The Owls poured across 22 points in the final period, but could not catch the Red Raiders. Two touchdown runs and a scoring pass reception by James Hadnot, and Alan Swann's 82-yard interception return for another six-pointer kept Tech comfortably in front.
Grambling moved into first place in the Southwestern Conference by knocking Jackson State off the unbeaten list, 13-7. Starting the Tigers on their way to victory was a 95-yard kickoff return by Greg Wilson.
1. TEXAS (5-1)
2. ARKANSAS (4-1)
3. HOUSTON (5-1)
"I was embarrassed to throw the ball as much as we did in the second half," said Penn State Coach Joe Paterno after a 45-15 rout of Syracuse. "But the way they were stacking and plugging, there was no way we could run. Syracuse had to make up its mind whether to stop the run or the pass and they decided on the run."
The Orangemen did an effective job of bottling up the Nittany Lion running game, yielding 152 yards in 48 cracks, but they could not stop Matt Bahr or Chuck Fusina. Bahr, the nation's No. 1 field-goal kicker, made good on his 15th three-pointer in 19 attempts this season when he booted one from 50 yards out. Fusina completed 15 of 27 passes for 293 yards and four touchdowns. Two of his scoring throws were hauled in by Scott Fitzkee, who switched from his normal split-end position to tight end and caught four passes for 112 yards. With Bill Hurley injured and unable to quarterback the team, the Orangemen had to rely on Dave Jacobs for much of their scoring. Jacobs kicked three field goals (of 29, 25 and 33 yards) to bring his career total to 46.
It was a defensive struggle when Florida State squared off against Pittsburgh. The Seminoles pounced on a Panther fumble at the Pitt 27 in the first quarter but were unable to move the ball, and then missed a 21-yard field goal. A 50-yard drive, the longest of the game by either team, was climaxed when Pitt's Freddie Jacobs dashed 13 yards for a touchdown. Pitt made its 7-3 advantage stand up as its defense repeatedly held, including twice in the fourth quarter when the Seminoles had first downs inside the Panther 25-yard line.
Two touchdown passes by Mark Whipple led Brown to a 21-13 victory at Cornell and put the Bears (3-1) in first place in the Ivy League. Three second-half touchdowns gave Harvard its first Ivy win and Dartmouth (2-1) its first league loss by a score of 24-19. Columbia (2-1-1 overall) continued to prove it is no longer a doormat with a 3-3 standoff at the Yale Bowl. Both nonleague contests were one-point affairs, Princeton defeating Colgate 13-12 and Penn losing to Lafayette 20-19.
Temple rallied for a 28-27 win over West Virginia. The Owls, who had been down 21-14, went in front with two touchdowns in the fourth period and then had to stop the Mountaineers' two-point conversion try in the last minute to stay on top.
1. PENN STATE (7-0)
2. PITTSBURGH (5-1)
3. NAVY (6-0)
Every Friday night during Homecoming Week, Florida holds a Gator Growl, a mixture of skits and buffoonery along with a traditional pep rally. Last Friday the butt of much of the humor was the Gators' own coach, Doug Dickey, who was so perturbed by it all that he refused to introduce his team to the crowd when it came time to do so. The Growl left Dickey and his players snarling, but they had the last laugh as they throttled Army 31-7. "It [the Growl] made us mad," said John Brantley, who uncorked scoring passes of 18, 44 and 18 yards to Cris Collinsworth.
Auburn's Tigers were angry, too, still seething over what they felt were Georgia Tech Coach Pepper Rodgers' efforts to run up the score against them last year when the Yellow Jackets won 38-21. "They were mad, but getting mad doesn't win ball games," Rodgers said. "If it did, I would be undefeated." As it turned out, Rodgers' squad notched its fifth straight win, 24-10, since dropping its first two. Eddie Lee Ivery gave Auburn fits, rushing 26 times for 127 yards and throwing a 17-yard touchdown pass. Split End Drew Hill added to the Tigers' frustration with a 97-yard kickoff return for six points and by scoring on a 32-yard pass from freshman Mike Kelley.
Georgia and Alabama remained tied for the Southeastern Conference lead, the Bulldogs battering Vanderbilt 31-10 and the Tide winning 30-17 at Tennessee. For the sixth game in a row, Willie McClendon of Georgia rushed for more than 100 yards, this time ripping off 155 yards and scoring twice. Alabama, which had outscored its opponents 41-7 in the third quarter this season, kept up the pace. This time the Tide scored 17 points in the third period while blanking the Vols. Tight End Tim Travis scored on runs of four and nine yards after going wide to take pitchouts, and for the first time this year the Tide did not have to come from behind.
Louisiana State stayed a game behind the leaders with a 21-0 win at Kentucky. The Wildcats limited Charles Alexander to 64 yards in 23 carries, but he caught them off guard when he grabbed a pass from David Woodley and went down the sideline on a 44-yard scoring play. Kentucky lost two of seven fumbles and was intercepted four times.
Like LSU, Maryland took advantage of turnovers, seven of them, while registering a shutout. The Terrapins' 39-0 drubbing of Wake Forest kept them in the Atlantic Coast Conference's No. 1 spot and as one of the four NCAA Division 1-A unbeatens. Despite being held to minus three yards on his first eight rushes, Steve Atkins of the Terps wound up over the 100-yard mark for the seventh straight time, finishing with 104 yards and two touchdowns.
North Carolina State's Ted Brown became the sixth NCAA player to rush for 4,000 career yards, joining Tony Dorsett, Archie Griffin, Ed Marinaro, Terry Miller and Earl Campbell. Playing at Chapel Hill, where State dispatched North Carolina with surprising ease, 34-7, Brown ran for 189 yards in 36 tries. The 199-pound senior tore through the Tar Heels on touchdown runs of one, 33 and 10 yards while bringing his rushing yardage up to 4,135.
In another ACC confrontation, Clemson scored in every period while downing Duke 28-8. "I'm really unaccustomed to this," said Coach Dick Bestwick after his fifth victory in three seasons at Virginia. His Cavaliers scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to overcome Virginia Tech 17-7 in a non-conference skirmish.
In another surprise, Joe Adams, who is nicknamed "747 Come Fly With Me," propelled Tennessee State to a 24-21 upset at Florida A&M. With Adams hitting on 13 consecutive passes, the Tigers soared to a 17-0 halftime lead and then hung on as the Rattlers roared back to break major-college football's longest winning streak at 17.
South Carolina beat Mississippi 18-17. Garry Harper and Horace Smith combined on an 80-yard scoring pass for the Gamecocks with nine seconds left, and then Harper passed to Zion McKinney for a game-deciding two-point conversion. Another independent, Miami, was also a winner. Gene Coleman's interception of a two-point conversion pass enabled the Hurricanes to edge Utah State 17-16. Ottis Anderson broke loose on two spectacular scoring runs for the Hurricanes, returning a kickoff 100 yards and later zipping 53 yards on a running play. Louisville stopped Boston University, 35-7, at home, but three visiting teams were winners, Texas Christian 13-7 at Tulane, Southern Mississippi 13-10 at Memphis State and Lehigh 14-10 at VMI. The Engineers, down 10-0 in the second period, pulled the game out when Steve Kreider made a pair of dazzling touchdown catches on passes from Rich Andres, the second of those receptions being an over-the-shoulder, one-handed grab in the corner of the end zone.
In a scramble for the Ohio Valley lead, Kavin McGrath of Western Kentucky missed a 32-yard field goal with 11 seconds to go, leaving Eastern Kentucky narrowly, but seemingly safely, ahead, 16-14. Eastern, though, was penalized for roughing the kicker. That gave McGrath another chance with four seconds left on the clock and this time his 25-yarder went between the uprights. McGrath's boot dumped Eastern into second place and put the Hilltoppers, who were 17-16 winners in first. Jeff Komlo did the passing and Pete Ravettine most of the catching as visiting Delaware crunched Middle Tennessee 55-3. A 14-for-19 passing effort by Komlo netted 281 yards, a school-record 205 of which were picked up by Ravettine, who made nine receptions.
Undefeated Tennessee-Chattanooga upped its Southern Conference record to 3-0 by defeating Furman 13-9.
At the Oyster Bowl game in Norfolk, Va., it was Quarterback Leander Green of East Carolina who turned out to be a pearl. Green, who had run nine yards for a touchdown earlier in the game, concluded a 77-yard drive by going five yards into the end zone with one minute left to finish off Richmond 21-14.
South Carolina State, a 1-AA school which had outscored its opponents 199-24 while building a 6-0-1 record, was jolted 14-0 by Newberry, an SAC-8 squad.
There was no stopping Winston-Salem, however, the Rams taking their Central Intercollegiate AA game from Elizabeth City 28-6 for their 20th regular season victory. Shaw met Johnson C. Smith in a battle of winless CIAA teams from North Carolina, which were outscored by a combined total of 347 to 125. Smith earned the victory 29-20, while Shaw lost its 14th game in a row.
1. ALABAMA (6-1)
2. MARYLAND (7-0)
3. GEORGIA (5-1)
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
OFFENSE: Steve Dils, a senior quarterback at Stanford, completed 32 of 51 passes for a Pac-10-record 430 yards and tied a conference mark with five touchdown throws as the Cardinals defeated Washington State 43-27.
DEFENSE: Mike Singletary, a 6'1", 222-pound sophomore middle linebacker for Baylor, made 13 tackles and took part in another nine (he has been in on 144 in six games) to help the Bears surprise Texas A&M 24-6.