SI Vault
Dan Jenkins
January 11, 1971
It began with a convulsion in Dallas as Notre Dame whipped No. 1 Texas, scorched on to Pasadena and Stanford's stunner over No. 2 Ohio State and climaxed in Miami, where No. 3 Nebraska became top dog
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January 11, 1971

The One-day Season

It began with a convulsion in Dallas as Notre Dame whipped No. 1 Texas, scorched on to Pasadena and Stanford's stunner over No. 2 Ohio State and climaxed in Miami, where No. 3 Nebraska became top dog

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It was, first of all, the day Darrell Royal either lost the meat on his Wishbone or found a Woo in his soup, a day when the Texas Longhorns, who had been No. 1, 1-a or 1-b since before the midi, bombarded Notre Dame with so many fumbles the Cotton Bowl looked like an Easter egg hunt for leprechauns. That was for all of you disaster fans.

It will also be remembered as the day Woody Hayes and his tank corps from Ohio State came down with a hard case of Plunkett's Disease, right there in the Pasadena birthplace of the great tankman himself, General George Patton, while the Nattering Nabobs of Novelty, as the Stanford band calls itself, made things even more embarrassing for the visitors from Middle America by cheekily serenading "the party school from Ohio" with an old jitterbug tune. That one was for all of you holocaust fans.

Ah, but finally the day will go down in college football history as certainly the greatest thing to happen to Nebraska since the Union Pacific started laying track out of Omaha. When it was all over last Friday night, when all of the funny hats, the whistles, the horns—and the remains of Steve Worster—had been scooped up off of the carpets, all that anyone from Texas or Ohio State could say was, well, here's to the New Year, all you good folks out there in Box Butte and Otoe and Gosper counties in Nebraska. Win streaks and Buckeye leaves are out. Corn husks are in.

And that one was for all of you starvation fans.

Naturally, this final explosion of the 1970 college season took a lot of doing by a lot of people. Not the least was Joe Theismann of Notre Dame, that quick-footed, whippet-armed piece of wire in a golden hat gliding across the cover of this magazine. He started it all. In fact, it can almost be said that if it hadn't been for Theismann, last weekend would have been just another chapter in the continuing saga of the pitch-out. Good for Texas, of course. But bad for plot lovers who needed distractions from their holiday headaches.

What Theismann did was this: he got a second chance against Texas in Dallas, having lost to the Longhorns last year, and before the attention of the Texans was fully directed to the rematch, Theismann's arm and dancing feet had practically ended it. With a big and angry Notre Dame defense giving him the ball every two seconds or so, Joe passed for one touchdown and ran for two more in the game's first 16 minutes. After that, not even LBJ, sitting up near midfield in his burnt-orange shirt and his maxi hair, nor Texas' own quarterback, Eddie Phillips, who was struggling to be himself and Worster and Jim Bertelsen and some sort of Theismann all at the same time, could do much about the Longhorns' situation. Not this day.

The irony was stinging. Phillips would be voted the offensive star of the game, setting a total offense record (164 yards rushing, 199 passing), just as Theismann was a year ago, but Phillips would lose—like Joe a year ago. Little by little, then, the day began taking its weird shape. And along the way that Texas "Hook 'em" gesture would begin to justify the definition the rest of the Southwest Conference has for it: a nearsighted carpenter ordering four beers.

So it sank in on the believers of Saint Darrell. Texas was finally going to lose a football game after winning 30 straight, and Royal was going to say, "I guess a defeat is good for you now and then, but 1 don't really recommend it."

Maybe everyone understood the lesson of Dallas and maybe not: Texas' loss to the bitterly eager and thoroughly deserving Irish was required if the day of the big bowls was to have any prolonged drama for the followers of Ohio State or Nebraska. The reason was that Texas had already captured 1½ regular-season No. 1s, those of the UPI (which the Longhorns won outright) and the Hall of Fame (for which the Longhorns tied Ohio State). Moreover, Texas held a big lead over Ohio State and Nebraska, in that order, for the remaining national championship awards, those of the AP and the Football Writers' Association. Thus there might never have been any suspense on Jan. 1, 1971 had Texas experienced about eight less fumbles and a little less Theismann.

Going in, Ohio State understood its problem: in Stanford and Jim Plunkett it seemed to have a less fierce opponent than anyone else—a team rated only No. 12 and with nothing to play for but fun, its hilarious band and the right arm of the Heisman Trophy. Another hohum Buckeye victory wouldn't mean much if Texas won again over so glamorous a foe as Notre Dame. And how could the Bucks get excited about Stanford? Especially since Woody wouldn't give them more than just a quick sniff of Disneyland, just like 1968. How?

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