THE CANES KEPT COOL
This is an article from the Sept. 26, 1988 issue
Everyone keeps waiting for a team that will force the Miami Hurricanes to lose their cool—and, in the process, a football game. But if last Saturday's performance against the Michigan Wolverines is any indication, that might not happen for some time. Before 105,834 spectators in Ann Arbor, Miami sustained its drive for a second straight national title with an 11th-hour explosion against hard-luck Michigan and won 31-30.
In the past two years, Miami has learned not only to steamroller Oklahoma, but also to outpoise everyone else. The Hurricanes did it last year in beating Florida State 26-25 after trailing 19-3 in the third quarter. And they did it against the Wolverines. With 7:16 to go, Miami trailed 30-14. That's when junior quarterback Steve Walsh took it upon himself to throw 18 straight passes in Miami's three remaining possessions, completing 11 of them, for 169 yards and two touchdowns.
Walsh was a study in poise in the huddle. "Guys are thinking, Oh, no. We're losing. What are we going to do?" said fullback Cleveland Gary, who rushed, caught passes and returned kicks for 206 yards. "And Steve's saying, 'Relax. Be patient. We can come back.' You think, Man, he's crazy. But then we come back."
Walsh hit tight end Rob Chudzinski with a seven-yard scoring pass with just over five minutes to play, and he found Dale Dawkins alone in the end zone for the two-point conversion. With 2:58 left, Walsh hit Gary over the middle for 48 yards to cut the lead to 30-28. But when Walsh's two-point pass was broken up, it was time for Carlos Huerta, a walk-on placekicker playing in only his second college game, to steal a little thunder from Reggie Ho of Notre Dame and destroy the Wolverines. First, Huerta's on-side kick got a perfect high third bounce and was recovered in the air by Hurricane Bobby Harden. Then, with 43 seconds left, Huerta kicked a 29-yard field goal that gave Miami its 14th consecutive win, 20th in a row on the road and 34th consecutive regular-season victory. The last team to beat a traveling Hurricanes squad? Michigan, by a score of 22-14 back in 1984.
Afterward, Michigan fans sat in silent disbelief. It didn't seem fair: The Wolverines, who have now lost two games by a total of three points and are 0-2 for the first time in 29 years, played without a turnover and kept the ball for 36:58. Miami committed four turnovers and had the ball for only 23:02.
But Miami was the master of the moment. "Young players will make mistakes," said coach Jimmy Johnson, "but young players will grow up and learn in games like this." The Hurricanes have had a lot to learn from, and Johnson has proved he has a lot to teach.
They played a 61-minute game in Corvallis, Ore., and it wasn't a case of overtime. California was leading Oregon State 16-6 in the final period when, instead of reading 10:00, the scoreboard clock suddenly flashed 10:99. The clock operator caught his error, but reset the numerals to 10:59 instead of 9:59. The back judge, whose responsibility it is to monitor the clock, didn't notice the extra minute, nor did either coach.
The Beavers went on to score 11 points in the final 1:53, winning 17-16 on Troy Bussanich's 23-yard field goal with only 16 seconds remaining. No one realized that the teams had replayed the game's 50th minute until well after the final gun, when an Oregon State staffer named Mike Corwin began scrutinizing the play-by-play printout. By then, of course, it was too late.
Cal has only itself to blame, though, for another untimely mistake. With 19 seconds left, Oregon State was out of timeouts and struggling to get organized for a second-and-goal from the six-yard line. But Cal inexplicably called a defensive timeout. "They did us a favor," said Bussanich. "I couldn't believe it. That gave me time to get out there and relax." Cal thus remained the only Pac-10 team not to have beaten the Beavers in the last five seasons.
SAFE NEAR HOME
What to make of West Virginia? After drilling Maryland 55-24 last Saturday in Morgantown, the Mountaineers are 3-0. Although they are ranked 14th in the SI poll, the jury has to remain out at least until Saturday and a meeting with 16th-ranked Pitt. The win over Maryland, combined with earlier blowouts of Bowling Green and Cal State-Fullerton, doesn't prove much. West Virginia's schedule gives cream puff a new, softer meaning: Future opponents include Virginia Tech, East Carolina and Cincinnati—teams that were a combined 11-22 in '87.
West Virginia is hardly alone in lining up patsies to improve its record, but eastern teams are always suspect and need to book dates with nonregional powers to gain some respect. Penn State plays Alabama and Notre Dame; Syracuse has taken on, and been pummeled by, Ohio State; and Boston College has played, and been beaten by, USC this year and last. While their neighbors are playing tough outsiders, the Mountaineers are still playing it safe.
Some suspect Alabama used Hurricane Gilbert as an excuse to blow off its scheduled meeting with Texas A & M last Saturday. On Friday, Crimson Tide coach Bill Curry pulled out of the game at College Station, saying that the risk of flying near the Texas coastline with Gilbert looming was too great.
Alabama will now play Texas A & M on Dec. 1, and Aggie fans aren't the only ones pondering Curry's real motives. Consider: By that late date the Crimson Tide will either have clinched the SEC crown and a Sugar Bowl berth and be making travel plans for one of the lesser bowls, or—not very likely—will be feeling sorry for themselves for not receiving a bid at all. In any case, a possible loss to the Aggies will affect Alabama's bowl prospects only if the Crimson finish the conference schedule in a tie with a team they did not play during the season. Consider: Starting quarterback David Smith, who injured his knee preparing for the Aggies, should be fit by Dec. 1.
Cynical, you say? Well, on Thursday, with the National Weather Service predicting that Gilbert would strike the Texas coast late Friday or early Saturday, Alabama gave no indication that it wanted the game postponed. On Friday the storm warnings had become less dire, but Curry decided to cancel. "I simply could not take our party toward that storm without the assurance that we were doing the safest thing for all concerned," he said.
According to Curry, a Delta Airlines official couldn't guarantee that the Tide would be able to fly out of Texas after the game. However, Delta did not cancel any flights into or out of Texas on Friday or Saturday.
On Friday, coach Jackie Sherrill, who is also the Texas A & M athletic director, called Steve Sloan, the Alabama AD and Sherrill's college roommate, to try to reinstate the game. He was informed that it was Curry's decision. "I have a real problem understanding why Alabama didn't at least fly here," Sherrill said.
"I'm sure it was a simple decision for Jackie Sherrill, who suddenly became an expert on hurricanes," Curry replied. "I made the decision not to go because, to tell you the truth, it wasn't a difficult decision to make."
On Saturday, College Station, which lies about 100 miles from the coast, was basking in temperatures in the low 90's, with sunny skies and gentle, 10-mph winds. "It's absolutely beautiful," reported Matt Schewe, golf pro at the Texas A & M course, which is half a mile from the stadium. "The course is packed." A few of those golfers might have been part of the 3,000 partisans from Alabama who had made the long trip—most of them by air—and were looking for something to do.
"I'll be back in December," said Ronald Hardy, a Tide rooter from Hueytown, Ala. "But I'm apprehensive about Bill Curry."
The latest flurry of zebra bashing revolves around the split-crew concept of refereeing, and there may be something to the complaints. In theory, nonconference games are manned by officials from two different associations to avoid any hint of favoritism. But many coaches seem less worried about getting homered than about the chaos that often ensues when strangers assemble to officiate at a football game.
Bobby Bowden and Danny Ford had to be shaking their heads after Florida State's thrilling 24-21 victory over Clemson. Seminole safety LeRoy Butler took a between-the-legs handoff on a fake punt and ran 78 yards to the Clemson one-yard line. The final 35 seconds of the game then became utter confusion. A combined crew of ACC and Southern Association officials simply froze when the 25-second clock expired before fullback Dayne Williams took a handoff from quarterback Chip Ferguson and ran for an apparent touchdown on second-and-goal from inside the three. On review, the touchdown was nullified even though no whistle was blown or flag thrown. Officials ordered the down replayed, but the line of scrimmage remained fixed. To settle the matter, Bowden sent in Richie Andrews to kick the winning 19-yard field goal.
In UCLA's win over Nebraska two weeks ago, a split crew of Big Eight and Pac-10 officials missed calling Corn-husker safety Mark Blazek down after his interception. The mistake allowed him to saunter 75 yards for a touchdown while everyone else stood around, certain that Blazek's knee had touched the ground, which it very clearly had. Bruin coach Terry Donahue tried to be diplomatic, categorizing the noncall as "maybe one of the alltime worst."
Upon reflection, Donahue said he would have preferred a complete Big Eight crew over a team from two different conferences, even if one of them was from his own. "One of the main concepts of an officiating crew is teamwork," said Donahue. "When we go to split crews, we lose that."
With its 56-3 pasting of Long Beach State, UCLA (3-0) has now outscored its opponents 56-0 in the first quarter and 111-13 in the first half. The Bruins have scored on 14 of 19 first-half offensive possessions. Quarterback Troy Aikman took the entire second half off against the 49ers but still completed 17 of 25 passes for 272 yards, with no interceptions....
On the other coast, Maine, which had 643 total yards two weeks ago against Massachusetts, passed and ran for 614 in beating Northeastern 43-20 on Saturday. Maine quarterback Mike Buck, a junior, passed for 364 yards, which made him the leading career passer in Maine history, and tied a school record with five touchdown throws....
Wesley Walls of Ole Miss, a 6'5", 250-pound senior, plays tight end on offense and outside linebacker on defense for the Rebels. Says coach Billy Brewer: "Last week I saw him playing tennis—and he was by himself."
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Tight end Alex Preuss caught five TD passes, of 69, 12, 14, 52 and 11 yards, to lead Division II Grand Valley (Mich.) State to a 45-26 victory over Winona (Minn.) State. Preuss broke the school's single-game records for TDs and points.
Tulane inside linebacker Richard Harvey, a senior, had 15 tackles (14 of them unassisted), recovered a fumble that set up a field goal, sacked Kansas State quarterback Carl Straw for seven yards and broke up a pass in the Wave's 20-16 win.
Sophomore tailback Carlos Snow provided Ohio State's only bright moment in a 42-10 loss at Pitt—the most points surrendered by Ohio State since 1980—by returning a fourth-quarter kickoff 100 yards for the Buckeyes' lone touchdown.
FLORIDA ST. (2-1)
NOTRE DAME (2-0)
PENN ST. (2-0)
S. CAROLINA (3-0)
W. VIRGINIA (3-0)
OKLAHOMA ST. (1-0)