Whenever something in college football seems too good to be true, it probably is. On Saturday, the University of Texas-El Paso, those hapless Miners who have finished last in the Western Athletic Conference 13 of the last 16 years, swaggered into the Air Force Academy's Falcon Stadium with an unbelievable 3-0 conference record and an even more unbelievable 5-1 mark overall. At which time reality intruded, and UTEP was roundly thumped by the unimpressed Falcons, 35-7.
What brought the Miners back to earth was a near-flawless performance by Air Force, which wasn't expected to be 6-2, as it was after Saturday's triumph, mostly because it had lost nine of last year's 11 defensive starters. But the Falcons didn't lose defensive tackle Chad Hennings, who sacked UTEP quarterback Pat Hegarty three times, had another tackle for a loss and caused UTEP to draw four holding penalties.
Until its comeuppance against the Falcons, UTEP was ranked seventh in the nation in scoring with 33.5 points per game. Afterward, Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry said, "We gave up a lot of yards  but our first team didn't let them in the end zone, and that's the only statistic that makes any sense."
The Falcon offense, meanwhile, was gaining yards the only way it knows how—on the ground. Behind wishbone quarterback Dee Dowis, Air Force rushed for 449 yards and 21 first downs. Dowis, a sophomore who had completed only 31 passes coming into the game, added only one more against UTEP, but it was a big one—17 yards to tight end Frank Martini for a touchdown. He also carried 17 times for 111 yards.
In the gloom of defeat, UTEP coach Bob Stull said, "I told our team before the game that we had to do two things to win. We had to control Chad Hennings and Dee Dowis. We did neither one."
—DOUGLAS S. LOONEY
South Carolina quarterback Todd Ellis. Ellis, a sophomore, threw for a school-record 425 yards in a 34-12 win over East Carolina. He's already the Gamecocks' career leader in passing yardage (5,201) and completions (363).
Pitt tailback Craig Heyward. Heyward rushed for 140 yards and scored Pitt's only touchdown in a 10-6 victory over Navy. It was the seventh 100-yard game of the season for Hey ward.
Idaho State kick returner Frank Selto. Selto, a senior, took a kickoff at his own four-yard line with 1:48 remaining and ran it back for a touchdown as the Bengals stunned Boise State 35-32.
Washington State quarterback Timm Rosenbach. Rosenbach, a sophomore, completed 25 of 31 passes for 324 yards and one touchdown as the Cougars beat Arizona 45-28.
...AND SATURDAYS GOATS
Oregon and its coach, Rich Brooks. In a 13-10 loss at Stanford, Oregon lost two fumbles inside the Cardinal 20. The Ducks also messed up when Terry Obee decided to field an end zone-bound punt on his own four, retreated and was tackled for a safety. But it was Brooks who committed the worst blunder. With seven seconds left in the game, Oregon had the ball on the Stanford 21, and Brooks thought his offense could somehow squeeze two downs into those scant seconds. "I decided we'd go for it, and if we had time left and we didn't get the touchdown, we'd go ahead and kick for the tie," Brooks said. A pass by Duck quarterback Bill Musgrave fell incomplete as time ran out.
BENDING IN SOUTH BEND?
Notre Dame has always refused to redshirt players unless they're injured. To hold a kid out of competition for a season, and thereby extend his college years to five, just so he can gain in size and football knowledge has been considered contrary to the school's educational purposes. But Notre Dame's unwritten policy on the subject is now being reassessed. "Sometime before the fall is over, we hope to put together something to better define where we are concerning redshirting," says associate sports information director John Heisler.
For many years Notre Dame has been at a disadvantage with its no-redshirt policy. Schools like Oklahoma, USC and Penn State routinely play fifth-year seniors, who benefit from having had an extra year of college football training. Some Irish players and fans would welcome a change in the same direction. For example, Terry Andrysiak, Notre Dame's starting quarterback until he suffered a broken collarbone three weeks ago in a 30-22 loss to Pitt, is a senior who saw virtually no action as a freshman. He says he would like to return next season, and Heisler says there is a possibility of a redshirt year being declared for Andrysiak retroactively. However, he also says that coach Lou Holtz is not actively campaigning for it.
Our question: Might it not be better for others to emulate Notre Dame than for Notre Dame to join the pack?
Maybe you read that before USC played at Washington two weeks ago, Trojan coach Larry Smith had his offense work with a sopping wet football to prepare for the soggy Northwest weather. And maybe you thought, Hey, this guy is all wet. But Smith happens to be a master at offbeat preparation, as he further demonstrated before the game with the Huskies when he ordered each of his players to bounce a tennis ball around campus all week. A reflex drill? No, Smith wanted the Trojans to concentrate on bouncing back after their 34-27 loss at Oregon the week before. Says Smith, "The bouncing-ball theory is simply this: When you're down, you can't do anything but come up." Don't laugh...well, go ahead and laugh, but tennis balls have worked for Smith before. After his Arizona team lost a big one in 1983, he ordered 100 tennis balls dropped from a helicopter onto the practice field. The Wildcats rebounded the next week—and so did USC against Washington, 37-23.
Many coaches also take measures to acclimate their players to hostile crowd noise. Before playing at Tennessee this season, Auburn coach Pat Dye had players stand behind the practice huddle and scream while the quarterback called plays. In anticipation of their game against Texas A & M two weeks ago, Baylor coaches played the Aggie War Hymn during practice. And before Western Carolina hits the road, loudspeakers often blast players during practice with a tape of fight songs and stadium clamor. "Then I throw in rock," says Catamount sports information director Steve White. "I've also played a Prince album—it was a racket."
Clemson coach Danny Ford finally found a way to silence all those folks who made fun of the Tigers' cream-puff schedule: He lost to North Carolina State 30-28. The Wolfpack (now 3-4) led 30-0 at the half, and a ferocious Clemson rally—Tiger quarterback Rodney Williams set an NCAA record by throwing 46 passes in the second half—came up just short.... You have to be a realist to coach in the Big Eight. Before Colorado's game against Oklahoma, Buffalo coach Bill McCartney said, "If we get into field goal range, we're going to call a timeout and savor the moment." Three times Colorado reached the promised land and twice booted field goals, but the Sooners rolled to a 24-6 win. After a 42-28 win over Kansas, Iowa State coach Jim Walden said, "When poor plays poor, you see a lot of scoring. It's exciting football, and I wish our fans would understand that. We're certainly two teams going nowhere, though."
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
UCLA running back Gaston Green, the Bruins' top career rusher, gained 220 yards on 28 carries in a 42-18 win over Cal. Green, a senior, ran for two touchdowns, including a 79-yarder, and caught one of Troy Aikman's three TD passes.
Notre Dame linebacker Ned Bolcar made 13 tackles, nine of them unassisted, in a 26-15 win over USC. Bolcar, a junior, also halted Trojan drives by intercepting a pass on the Irish 19-yard line and recovering a fumble on the eight.
Alcorn State placekicker Kevin Coburn, a sophomore, had never had more than one field goal in a game. On Saturday he booted four, the last from 39 yards with 1:39 remaining in the game, as the Braves narrowly defeated Southern 19-17.
The first three are fixtures, Syracuse is also unbeaten and Wyoming debuts.
FLORIDA STATE (6-1)
NOTRE DAME (5-1)
PENN STATE (5-2)
ARIZONA STATE (5-2)
MICHIGAN STATE (4-2-1)
OHIO STATE (5-1-1)
AIR FORCE (6-2)