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YOUNGSTOWN STATE RULES I-AA--BUNGLED HANDOFF AT USC--INJUDICIOUS JUREVICIUS--A BOWLFUL OF PREVIEWS

Dec. 29, 1997
Dec. 29, 1997

Table of Contents
Dec. 29, 1997

Pro Football [bonus Piece]

YOUNGSTOWN STATE RULES I-AA--BUNGLED HANDOFF AT USC--INJUDICIOUS JUREVICIUS--A BOWLFUL OF PREVIEWS

PENGUINS POWER

This is an article from the Dec. 29, 1997 issue Original Layout

The television was one of those jobs with an 80-inch screen, so
that everyone gathered in Schwebel Auditorium on the campus of
Youngstown State could witness the glory. "Oh, man, were we
excited," recalls Penguins senior wide receiver Willis Marshall.
"It was everything we'd been working for."

That was in November 1996, when players and fans of Youngstown
State, which had finished the regular season 8-3, assembled to
eat hoagies, down Cokes and watch the selection show for the
Division I-AA football playoffs, which would undoubtedly include
one of the nation's most storied programs. Or would it? One
team, two teams...16 teams selected, and not one of them
nicknamed the Penguins. "Do you know what it's like when you get
a phone call about a death in the family?" says Frank Page, a
senior offensive lineman. "This was worse."

Worse than death?

"A lot of strong men had tears in their eyes," he says, "but it
served as motivation."

Last Saturday in Chattanooga, Page and his teammates could smile
again after Youngstown State won a record-tying fourth I-AA
national title, having come from behind to defeat bigger,
stronger, faster McNeese State 10-9. "Take all those old
feelings and throw 'em away," Marshall yelled after the game.
"All of that makes all of this so much sweeter. This was our
revenge."

Though they had won national championships in 1991, '93 and '94,
the Penguins had suffered disappointments of late, going 3-8 two
years ago before last season's snub. But Youngstown State is
steeped in tradition. It's the sort of place where old champions
come back to cheer on their alma mater. Coach Jim Tressel, who
has led the Penguins to all four of their titles, doesn't mind
reminding his players of that history. "Poise and patience," he
said after last Saturday's victory. "I like to think our program
has been built on those foundations. That's exactly what we told
our players this morning: The winner would be the one with more
of both."

Translation: The winner would be the one that didn't screw up.

Tressel was right. After trailing for most of the
defense-dominated game--but making few mistakes--Youngstown
State caught a break early in the fourth quarter when, with the
Cowboys leading 9-3, McNeese State quarterback Blake Prejean
lofted a floater into the hands of linebacker Jeff Fackrell. The
Penguins, starting from their 34, pushed the ball up the field,
helped by a Cowboys face-mask penalty and shabby tackling.

Then, with eight minutes remaining, McNeese State committed the
decisive blunder. On third-and-goal from the Cowboys' nine-yard
line, Youngstown wideout Renauld Ray went in motion. When
quarterback Demond Tidwell took the snap, both of McNeese
State's cornerbacks followed Penguins receiver Randy Coates to
the right. Ray glided alone along the left sideline, snared a
perfect toss from Tidwell and jogged in for the game-clinching
score.

Poise. Patience.

"Demond was calm as could be," said Ray, a sophomore. "He just
kept telling us to relax and take our time, that good things
would happen. We're not your average team--we can handle things
very well."

The two teams finished the game virtually even in total offense
(201 yards for the Cowboys and 200 yards for the Penguins) and
time of possession (28:27 to 31:33). But feeding off last
season's bitter disappointment and with a coach who knows more
than most others about winning, Youngstown State again showed
how dynasties stay dynasties. --JEFF PEARLMAN

TROJAN HORSEPLAY

When Mike Garrett won the first of USC's four Heisman Trophies,
in 1965, he was known as Ten to Two for his splay-footed running
style that left defenders wondering which way he was going.
Garrett has retained that style in his five years as athletic
director at his alma mater, albeit without the success he
enjoyed as a player.

The awkward manner in which he fired coach John Robinson on Dec.
16 is a case in point. It's not so much that Garrett informed
Robinson of the dismissal by leaving a message on his home
answering machine--Robinson probably sniffed out what was in the
wind and knew better than to be home--but that Garrett left
Robinson and his staff hanging for 3 1/2 weeks after the
Trojans' last game while he tried to find someone he thought
better suited for the job.

Garrett's choice of a successor for Robinson was a surprise too:
Paul Hackett, who made a mess at Pittsburgh from 1990 to '92.
When Hackett was dismissed after going 13-20-1, he left the
Panthers with less talent than when he arrived. Hackett, who had
been an assistant with four NFL teams, returned to the pros as
offensive coordinator in Kansas City, where before this season
all anyone could talk about was the Chiefs' lackluster offense.

It's rare that a coach is forced out of one school for losing
and resurfaces later at a more prestigious program. Hackett,
like Garrett, has a unique way of doing things.

DROPPING THE BALL

Last summer, while sweating out whether senior wide receiver Joe
Jurevicius, a human development and family studies major, would
attain the grades necessary to be eligible for the 1997 season,
Penn State coach Joe Paterno said, "My problem with Joe is, he's
got to go to class. He's a good kid. You've basically got to
have a baseball bat and beat him on the head. I've tried to
impress upon him that he has an obligation to the whole team."
Obviously, Paterno failed. Or, more accurately, Jurevicius
failed. After bringing his grades up in summer school, he let
them slip again this fall, and last week Paterno decided not to
take Jurevicius to the Florida Citrus Bowl for the Nittany
Lions' matchup with Florida, even though Jurevicius had not yet
been declared ineligible. It's a big loss, especially to
quarterback Mike McQueary, who usually looked to Jurevicius (39
receptions for 817 yards and 10 touchdowns) in the clutch.

BOWL PREVIEWS

Here's our guide to the coming college football feast.

***: Worthy of your couch time.
**: Worthy of a glance.
*: You have our permission to watch college basketball.

--Humanitarian Bowl: Cincinnati (7-4) vs. Utah State (6-5)
Cincinnati has an excellent defense--linebackers Phillip Curry
and Brad Jackson are names you will hear come NFL draft
time--and on Dec. 29 that should be enough to overcome the
Aggies and the predominantly Utah State crowd. *

--Carquest Bowl: Georgia Tech (6-5) vs. West Virginia (7-4)
Injuries curtailed the Mountaineers' run at the Big East title,
but they're healthier, which doesn't bode well for Georgia Tech
on Dec. 29. After their devastating last-minute loss to Georgia,
what could motivate the Yellow Jackets here? *

--Holiday Bowl: Colorado State (10-2) vs. Missouri (7-4)
WAC champion Colorado State would love to prove itself against
the Big 12, and Missouri is too new to success not to be
oversatisfied with its regular season. Look for Rams quarterback
Moses Moreno to close his college career on Dec. 29 by
outplaying counterpart Corby Jones. ***

--Alamo Bowl: Purdue (8-3) vs. Oklahoma State (8-3)
The Cowboys are 0-3 against teams with winning records, and the
Boilermakers never had to prove themselves against Michigan or
Ohio State. Purdue, though, has a coolheaded senior quarterback
in Billy Dicken. The Cowboys are young and happy to be in San
Antonio for this Dec. 30 game. That feeling should end shortly
after the kickoff. **

--Sun Bowl: Iowa (7-4) vs. Arizona State (8-3)
The Sun Devils won't have quarterback Ryan Kealy, who blew out
his right knee in a regular-season-ending loss to Arizona, but
backup Steve Campbell will suffice. Iowa quarterback Matt
Sherman, on the other hand, has yet to recover from a broken
bone in his right hand, injured in October. The Hawkeyes are
making their fourth straight postseason trip to Texas, and on
New Year's Eve they may play as if they would rather be
elsewhere. **

--Liberty Bowl: Pittsburgh (6-5) vs. Southern Mississippi (8-3)
Pittsburgh held a press conference to announce they would accept
this bid before it was extended, thus foiling the Liberty Bowl's
hope of bringing in more attractive Ole Miss instead. The
Panthers have an exciting offense, and Peyton Manning showed
that the Golden Eagles are susceptible to the pass. But Panthers
quarterback Pete Gonzalez is no Peyton Manning. Southern
Mississippi should have a happy New Year's Eve. *

--Fiesta Bowl: Kansas State (10-1) vs. Syracuse (9-3)
This is a game worth staying home for, and Syracuse's fans will
do just that. The old saying that offense sells tickets won't
apply here: As exciting as quarterback Donovan McNabb is, the
Orangemen on the field may be the only people wearing that color
in Sun Devil Stadium on Dec. 31. The other half of the
saying--defense wins championships--will apply, to the benefit
of the Wildcats. ***

--Outback Bowl: Georgia (9-2) vs. Wisconsin (8-4)
The Bulldogs played well all season and had moments of
greatness. The Badgers played well all season and had moments of
disaster. Wisconsin tailback Ron Dayne will be as healthy as he
has been all year, but Georgia has an edge in tough-minded
offensive players. On Jan. 1 go with Dawgs quarterback Mike Bobo
and multiple threat Hines Ward. **

--Gator Bowl: North Carolina (10-1) vs. Virginia Tech (7-4)
Since the end of the season the Tar Heels have lost their coach
and several assistants and made headlines in a bar brawl. Not
that any of those things should have an impact on this game.
Injuries snuffed out Virginia Tech's bid to win the Big East,
and the Hokies' only chance on Jan. 1 is if ailing quarterback
Al Clark gets healthy by kickoff. *

--Citrus Bowl: Florida (9-2) vs. Penn State (9-2)
Since the Michigan game, the Nittany Lions have been
surrendering yards at an alarming pace. The Gators suffered
their slump at midseason and overcame it. Steve Spurrier has
more talented players than does Joe Paterno, and Florida will be
ready to play come New Year's Day. ***

--Cotton Bowl: UCLA (9-2) vs. Texas A&M (9-3)
The Bruins should be playing in an Alliance bowl, and you have
to wonder how interested they will be in beating the Aggies, who
lost their last game 54-15. Come Jan. 1 will UCLA have
maintained its focus through a six-week layoff? Yes--but pencil
in young Texas A&M as a team to watch next fall. **

--Rose Bowl: Michigan (11-0) vs. Washington State (10-1)
Wolverines cornerback Charles Woodson is about to discover how
hard it is to stop Cougars quarterback Ryan Leaf and his Fab
Five receiving corps. That said, it isn't wise to underestimate
Michigan quarterback Brian Griese. It'll be close, but on the
night of Jan. 1, the Wolverines will be singing "Hail to the
victors...." ***

--Sugar Bowl: Florida State (10-1) vs. Ohio State (10-2)
This Jan. 1 game should turn out to be a preview of the first
Super Alliance championship, the 1999 Fiesta Bowl. With a win
here the Seminoles would finish in the top four for the 11th
straight year. Their defense will do the job. ***

--Peach Bowl: Clemson (7-4) vs. Auburn (9-3)
Auburn ran for just 886 yards and had three games of negative
rushing yardage. Not even a passer like Dameyune Craig could
overcome that. Clemson improved as the year progressed and is
due to win a close game. This Jan. 2 matchup is it. *

--Orange Bowl: Nebraska (12-0) vs. Tennessee (11-1)
The Volunteers allowed only 93.3 rushing yards per game, but
don't believe the numbers. The teams that knew how to run got
their yards--and Nebraska knows how to run. If Peyton Manning is
healthy and sharp on Jan. 2, he'll take advantage of the young
Cornhuskers secondary, but he alone doesn't figure to make up
the difference between the teams. ***

COLOR PHOTO: PATRICK MURPHY-RACEY Jake Andreadis and Youngstown found the yards hard to come by but eventually broke through. [Jake Andreadis and others in game]COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS Jurevicius isn't making the grade, so he won't be making the trip to the Citrus Bowl. [Joe Jurevicius and opposing player in game]COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES Travis Minor's Seminoles are on track for their 11th straight top four finish. [Travis Minor and opposing player in game]