Five days isn't much time to get ready for a football game, especially a game against a team as perenially tough as Penn State. But then, Houston, the Nittany Lions' opponent Saturday, is not your average squad.
As Penn State coach Joe Paterno puts it: "They can handle it. They are some kind of football team."
Houston is coming off an impressive 17-13 victory over UCLA Monday night while Penn State has had a two-week layoff after dumping Rutgers, 45-7. Actually, Houston has had only two days to prepare for Penn State. The Cougars took Tuesday off and, after working out Wednesday and Thursday, used today to travel.
After searching for the right word, Paterno settled on "explosive" to describe Houston.
"There's no question they are fun to watch . . . (pause) . . for some people," Paterno said. "They play with such enthusiasm; if you turn the ball over six times and are behind, 13-3, at halftime, like they were against UCLA, and you still win, you have a good football team. They aren't only good on offense but they have the defense to go with it."
Houston, 10-2 last year, including a Cotton Bowl victory over Maryland, has two of the colleges game's most exciting offensive players in quarterback Danny Davis and tailback Alois Blackwell.
The Cougars, who run from the veer, come at an opponent from all angles and in all ways. Davis, exceptionally clever, is probably the fastest of all the top-flight quarterbacks this year. He ran for 68 yards on 16 carries against UCLA.
If Davis chooses to pitch the ball on the option, it is usually to Blackwell, the most valuable players in last year's Cotton Bowl. He has the speed and strength to drive most defenses crazy.
"Houston has a lot of people who makw you nervous," Paterno said. "They have such great speed at all their skill positions and they play varying wide-open football."
Davis is a major reason for that. He is not a great passer but because he runs so well and Houston's attack is so diversified, his tosses are very effective. He was 11 for 18 for 147 yards, without an interception, against UCLA.
How can an offense like Houston's be stopped.
"You don't.You can't stop them cold," Paterno said. "You have to make them earn everything. You have to cut down on their big plays. They are going to move the football, so you can't panic when they do it on you. You've got to stay calm."
One reason Paterno is so at ease these days is his own team. While he doesn't have the real speed-burners, nor the flair of Houston, his young Nittany Lions are as talented as any of his recent teams.
They barely had a workout against Rutgers, but fullback Matt Suhey rushed for 100 yards on 13 carries and scored twice. Quarterback Chuck Fusina was eight of 15 passing for 164 yards and a touchdown.