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Rusty Stevens, former All-American quarterback for the prestigious midwestern Clayton University football team, returns to the school thinking that he has been hired as their coach. He discovers, however, that he has been signed to coach at State College, the run-down public institution in the same town. Upon learning that the team has only one football and no other equipment because Governor Gabby Harrigan, who is running for U.S. Senator, has cut their budget as a campaign stunt, Rusty leads a group of students to the state capitol to protest. The governor's refusal to meet with the students leads to a brawl with police. Advisors to Harrigan's opponent, the meek Republic candidate, Major Hubert Breckenridge, encourage him to take advantage of the incident and in a forthcoming speech to proclaim himself an advocate for education. However, to beat his opponent to the punch, Harrigan promises to increase expenditures to make State the greatest college in the country. When his secretary, Marjorie Blake, who has become attracted to Rusty, suggests that Harrigan could take advantage of the large crowds attracted to football games, Harrigan calls for a stadium to be built that will hold 100,000, to be called the "Gabby Bowl," and intimidates local businessmen to arrange for their illustrious alma maters to play there. At the stadium's groundbreaking, after Harrigan is hit in the head by a football kicked by Lizzie Olsen, the daughter of a famous football coach, he insists, for publicity purposes, that Lizzie be allowed to play on the team and thus become the game's first woman player. Lizzie kicks the tying point in State's first game against a good team, Louisiana, but to insure victory in their next game, Harrigan demands that the team gets seasoned players. Lizzie takes Harrigan's assistant, Wilbur Peters, to whom she has taken a fancy, to meet wrestlers Steve and Mike Wurgerski, former students who quit because they were broke, and during their match, Wilbur offers them phony government jobs paying $500 a month to play for State. With the Wurgerskis, State tramples their opponents. After Breckenridge's advisors convince him to adopt similar tactics and support Clayton, the campaign receives nationwide attention as issues are forgotten. When Breckenridge refuses Harrigan's challenge to have Clayton play State, Harrigan, on a radio broadcast, calls Breckenridge "yellow" and offers to withdraw from the race if State loses to Clayton, providing Breckenridge will do the same if Clayton loses. After Breckenridge is forced to accept, Rusty learns that the Wurgerskis are being paid, and because professionals cannot play on college teams, they are fired. During the game, State struggles and sustains many injuries, and as it nears the end, the score is 7-6 in Clayton's favor. After Lizzie misses a field goal because of a fierce wind, and Rusty has no more players to replace those injured, Harrigan suggests that Lizzie be allowed to remain. On the last play of the game, Lizzie catches a ball batted down by an opponent and fights the now torrential wind to finally, with Wilbur's encouragement, fall over the goal line and win the game. Rusty kisses Marjorie, and Harrigan, after promising to perform their wedding ceremony, wonders, over the radio, what kind of team the president has.