"Judging by the scores, we weren't the only team to have trouble Saturday," Maryland Coach Jerry Claiborne said yesterday.
There were 15 undefeated (major college football) teams when the whistle blew. There're only six now and two of them didn't play. So nine of the 13 most. We were almost one of the victims."
Actually the 10th-ranked Terrapins and No. 8 Nebraska were the only top 10 schools to win with relative ease. Meanwhile Navy, one of the six remaining unbeatens, turned what was supposed to be its toughest test into an easy 31-8 conquest of Duke that should keep the Mids No. 1 nationally in team defense.
Maryland downed Syracuse, 24-9, but Claiborne was far from satisfied because of turnovers and a ragged kicking game that left the Terps in arrears, 6-3, at halftime in rain-drenched Syracuse.
Nevertheless, after watching the films, Claiborne was able to rattle off a host of individually outstanding performances among the team's inconsistencies. He especially like the blocking of offensive linemen Kervin Wyatt, Phil Livingston and Eric Sievers lauded the play of nearly all his interior defensive linemen.
Inevitan by, the questioning got around to comparing this 6-0 team to the 1976 squad that went 11-0 before losing to Houston I the Cotton Bowl. And inevitably, Claiborne would not tackle the issue head-on, as tailback Steve Atkins did against Syracuse in surpassing 100 yards for the sixth time this season (102 yards in 29 carries).
"We've got to play 11 games to find out how good they are," Claiborne said. "The Cotton Bowl team, at this point, had more talent. But this team is giving us as much effort as the Cotton Bowl team."
The Terps suffered one known injury of consequence. Wingback Don Dotter scored his first collegiate touchdown against the Orangemen, but also suffered a sprained knee and is unlikely to face Wake Forest Saturday.
Navy intercepted four Duke passes and held the Blue Devils to 122 total yards. The Mids' fifth straight victory was their first at home, where they play William and Mary this week and Pittsburgh next week.
Against Duke, quarterback Bob Leszczynsji connected on 10 of 12 passes for 128 yards and three touchdowns, including 13- and 29-yard scoring tosses to split end Phil McConkey. Steve Callahan contributed 98 of Navy's 214 rushing yards and scored the Mids' second touchdown on a five-yard reception in the second quarter.
Nebraska, chief Big Eight rival of Oklahoma, won its fifth game in six starts with a 48-14 rout of Kansas State.
Top-ranked Oklahoma, with injuries to quarterback Thomas Lott, fullback Kenny King and halfback Jimmie Rodgers depleting three-quarters of the starting backfield, struggled past unheralded Kansas, 17-16. Jayhawk quarterback Harry Sydney overthrew freshman Kevin Murphy on an attempt two-point conversion with 15 seconds left to allow unbeaten Oklahoma to escape and win its sixth straight.
Second-ranked Southern California was not as fortunate, dropping a 20-7 conference decision to unranked Arizona State, the Pacific-10 newcomer.
The Sun Devil defense held Trojan tailback Charles White to 59 yards, nearly 100 blow his average. A State defensive end Bob Kohrs recovered three Trojan fumbles. A 33-yard touchdown pass to Dan Garcia from Paul McDonald with 33 seconds left allowed Southern Cal to avoid its first shutout in 11 years.
Ed Smith passed for two touchdowns and 248 yards to lead Michigan State to a 24-15 upset over fourth-ranked Michigan. The Spartans picked off three Rick Leach passes on the way to their first victory over the Wolvernes in nine meetings. The loss was Michigan's first in five games this season.
No. 16 Houston held Curtis Dickey to 25 yards - he was averaging 148 a game - and shut out high-scoring Texas A&M (42.5 points per game), 33-0. The sixth-ranked Aggies are now 4-1. Houston scored on five of its first seven possessions against a defense that had allowed just one touchdown in four games.
Willie McClendon scored two touchdowns as he rushed for 142 yards to carry unranked Georgia to a 24-17 upset of 11th-ranked Louisiana State and Oklahoma State, a 24-20 winner over No. 13 Colorado, led a surge of suprises to other top-20 squads.
Other upsets included Mississippi State's 55-27 throttling of No. 15 Florida State; Purdue's 27-16 trimming of No. 16 Ohio State and Washington's 34-31 triumph over 18th-ranked Stanford.
In area action, Howard got by host Virginia State, 27-20; unbeaten Georgetwon (4-0) trouncee Galludet, 42-12; UDC blitzed Virginia Seminary, 73-6; Catholic defeated Duquesne, 17-6, and Bowie State edged Elizabeth City State, 9-7.