The winners of the What Have You Done For Us Lately Award are the Nebraska students who booed their Huskers as the team left the field at halftime in Lincoln, trailing 34-point underdog Missouri 6-0. Coach Tom Osborne was fuming about the ingrates after Nebraska's 26-18 victory. "A lot of class," sneered Osborne. "A bunch of baloney. I got no use for them."
The students were restless because the Cornhuskers weren't rolling up their usual zillion yards rushing on the way to their customary 83-7 victory. Instead, they were struggling mightily to solve the very same blitzing scheme Missouri had used to hold Nebraska to a 6-0 victory way back in 1981, when Turner Gill was the Nebraska quarterback.
On that day, Osborne remembered, "they knocked the tar out of Turner Gill." This time the tar was dislodged from senior quarterback Steve Taylor, who was forced into four fumbles (he lost three) by the three-man blitz and wound up with minus rushing yardage. After three quarters, the Huskers had run for eight yards.
Taylor found the air more hospitable, throwing an 82-yard TD pass to Todd Millikan and hitting Nate Turner with a 59-yarder to set up a field goal. And with Missouri (2-4 coming into the game) clinging to an 18-17 lead in the fourth quarter, Taylor finally read the defense well enough to call an audible that unleashed Bryan Carpenter on a 49-yard TD gallop, which sealed the victory.
Nevertheless, Tiger defensive coordinator Carl Reese's charges could be proud that they'd held Nebraska to only nine first downs, the Huskers' fewest since getting seven in a 47-0 loss to Oklahoma in 1968, and a meager 116 yards rushing.
"People will be upset with us because we didn't make the point spread," said Osborne, with all the wisdom of hindsight, "but that was the most ridiculous point spread I've ever seen in my life."
THE SEC'S BEST D
Asked about the fearsome Auburn defense, which made Florida its third straight shutout victim, 16-0, Gator offensive coordinator Lynn Amedee replied, "We got our dad-gummed fannies stuffed." And dad-gum if it didn't happen in front of a homecoming audience of 75,199 at Florida Field.
Without tailback Emmitt Smith, who is supposed to resume practice this week after missing 2½ games with a knee injury, the Gators gained a pathetic 116 yards of total offense—and only 13 on the ground—against the aptly named defensive tackle Tracy Rocker and his jarring pals. Florida was so hapless that it never got inside Auburn's 29. Meanwhile, Tiger tailback Stacy Danley was hammering the Gators for 131 yards on 29 carries, Danley's 10-yard touchdown jaunt in the fourth quarter broke open what had been a taut defensive struggle.
As dominant as they've been, the Auburn defenders should get a stiff test this week when surprising Southern Mississippi (8-1) visits Jordan-Hare Stadium. In red-hot quarterback Brett Favre, who has thrown for 1,900 yards and 15 TDs this season, the Golden Eagles may have a man who can hold his own against the Tigers, who have surrendered only one touchdown in their last 16 quarters. Against Memphis State last Saturday. Favre connected with Eugene Rowell on a 45-yard pass play with 39 seconds remaining to give Southern Mississippi a 34-27 win and wrap up the host spot in the Independence Bowl. And that, of course, made coach Curley Hallman happy. Dad-gum happy, as a matter of fact.
There's a running back out there who has the following numbers to show for little more than 31 games: 3,606 yards, a school-and conference-record 46 touchdowns, 278 points. His name is Elroy Harris, and the reason you won't find him on a Heisman Trophy ballot is that he plays for I-AA Eastern Kentucky.
"The only thing you don't get at a small school is recognition," says Harris, "but just look at Walter Payton [Jackson State] and what he did. Just look at Aaron Jones and what he did."
Jones, a defensive lineman on Eastern Kentucky's team last season, was the Pittsburgh Steelers" No. 1 draft pick in April. Although the 215-pound Harris is a junior, hell be eligible for the next NFL draft because he had to sit out a year to concentrate on his studies. But he says he won't make a decision about turning pro until after this season, in which the Colonels are 6-2 and bound for the I-AA playoffs for the third consecutive year.
Eastern coach Roy Kidd says the Colonels worked especially hard to recruit Harris out of Winter Park (Fla.) High, where he was considered the equal of Sammie Smith (now at Florida State) and was ranked among the nation's top 100 schoolboy prospects. Says Kidd, "I guarantee you one thing—there's not a football program in the country that wouldn't take him. He's that good."
After rushing for a career-high 244 yards on 39 carries and scoring three TDs in Eastern's 31-24 overtime win over Murray State last Saturday, Harris was gaining just a shade less than 150 yards a game on the ground. Of Division I backs, only Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders and Indiana's Anthony Thompson are averaging more.
Bet the grocery money that no matter how much the folks at the Fiesta Bowl are prepared to ante up, Notre Dame will not agree to a rematch with Miami. The attitude in South Bend is that having already defeated the Hurricanes 31-30, there's nothing to be gained by taking on Steve Walsh & Co. again.
You can also bet that the Irish won't cut a deal with any bowl until after their game with Perm State on Nov. 19, the day bowl invitations go out, and that they'll pick the game that "best enhances our chances to win the national championship," as associate athletic director Roger Valdiserri puts it.
Barring an upset by Penn State or (giggle) Rice this week, Notre Dame's choices probably will be 1) the Orange Bowl against the winner of Nebraska-Oklahoma; 2) the Sugar Bowl and either Auburn or LSU; or 3) the Fiesta and either West Virginia or Florida State. Forget a return trip to the Cotton Bowl, where host Arkansas is currently unbeaten but unlikely to stay that way, and therefore unlikely to be ranked high enough to whet the Irish appetite.
Oddly enough, Miami may have a hard time finding a bowl berth—and not because of its black-hat reputation. The Fiesta and Orange bowls may not court the Hurricanes because that could ruin their chances of getting Notre Dame. The Sugar would not want Miami if LSU wins the SEC, because that would set up a rematch barely a month after the Tigers and 'Canes played their regular-season game. And the Cotton certainly won't want Miami after they get through with Arkansas on Nov. 26 in what could be a replay of last season's 51-7 Hurricane win in Little Rock.
Rest assured, however, that the Hurricanes will adorn somebody's Jan. 2 game. By beating East Carolina 31-7 last week behind quarterback Steve Walsh's fourth straight game with four TD passes. Miami kept alive its hopes of successfully defending its national title. All the Hurricanes need, besides wins in their last three games and a bowl victory, is for USC to lose to UCLA on Nov. 19 and then beat Notre Dame the following week.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Oklahoma State tailback Barry Sanders, a senior, broke his school single-game rushing record, set three weeks ago, by gaining 320 yards—second-most in Big Eight history—and scored three TDs as the Cowboys beat Kansas State 45-27.
Linebacker Rob McGovern of Holy Cross, a senior, had 14 tackles—10 of them solo—a sack and a pair of interceptions, the first of which set up the game's only score, in a 7-0 Colonial League victory over Colgate.
Auburn's Brian Shulman, a senior, punted nine times for an average of 41.4 yards. He placed five of those kicks inside the Florida 15, and three inside the Gators' 10, as the Tigers ran off their third straight shutout, by a 16-0 score.
The unbeatens have dwindled to five now that UCLA has fallen from their ranks
NOTRE DAIVIE (8-0)
FLORIDA ST. (7-1)
W. VIRGINIA (8-0)
OKLAHOMA ST. (6-1)