A WIN FOR THE INFANTRY
This is an article from the Nov. 14, 1988 issue
Robert Sullivan reports from West Point: An Air Force B-52 bomber swooped down the Hudson River, banking low over West Point and the Army football team's afternoon practice last Thursday. "Man, it was low," said Army halfback Mike May weather. "You could throw a football and knock out one of its windows." All week long, F-4s, C-5s, A-10s and the huge B-52 had buzzed the campus. "We told ourselves we'd remember the planes," said Mayweather. "And we did."
Mayweather, a sophomore, was discussing the air raids shortly after he'd gained 192 yards on 30 carries to lead the surprising Cadets—now 7-1—to a 28-15 upset of Air Force on Saturday at Michie Stadium. "I know we have Navy down the road," he said, "but we wanted this game more."
There's some serious nastiness between the Cadets and the Falcons. Army grunts resent the fly-boys' sexy scarf-and-leather-jacket image; the jet jockeys consider the cadets, well, grimy. No one behaves like a gentleman when these future officers meet.
The weather Saturday was suitably raw: Rain fell in torrents. Army coach Jim Young loved it. "Cadets get rained on in foxholes all the time," he said. "What other people consider obstacles, they don't."
In the early going the weather looked as if it might help to slow Air Force, the nation's top rushing offense (399.3 yards per game). For 18 scoreless minutes the teams were mirror-images: From the wishbone, Air Force ran left-end, right-end, off-tackle; Army danced the same step. "We're very similar, and that's no accident," says Young. "We're modeled on them. When I came here in 1983, I used the same pro-type passing offense I had at Purdue. But it just didn't work."
After Army finished 2-9 that season, Young shopped for a new strategy. "I realized an option offense is perfect for the service academies," he says. "Our offensive linemen aren't that big, and in a wishbone with angle blocking, they don't have to be. We don't need great passing quarterbacks, and a wishbone fits an academy's philosophy. It requires discipline, execution of assignments, working as a unit."
Young has since led a no-nonsense, no-passing attack to a 33-18-1 record and two bowl victories. Today's Army ranks 104th in the country in passing, but it has lost only to Washington. Since 1984 the Cadets are 23-0 in games in which they've passed fewer than six times, 3-14-1 when they've attempted more than nine passes.
Not to be out-wishboned, Air Force ranks 100th in passing. So it was a huge surprise when, on the 42nd play from scrimmage in Saturday's game. Falcon quarterback Dee Dowis threw the day's first pass—for a 35-yard touchdown, no less—to halfback Albert Booker.
The Cadets resolutely stayed with their ground attack and scored on two consecutive possessions before the half. The first touchdown came on a five-yard run by quarterback Bryan McWilliams; the second was on a one-yard smash up the middle by fullback Ben Barnett. Air Force trailed 14-7 at the half.
In the third period the defenses dominated, which was doubly surprising: Army stopped the vaunted Falcon attack, and Air Force stopped...somebody. The Falcon defense, wracked by injuries, has allowed more than 30 points a game this season. The Cadet D hasn't been that bad, but it didn't figure to shut down the Falcons' Dee. Dowis, who hails from Ty Cobb's hometown of Royston, Ga., is quick-footed and quick-witted, able to flip the ball to a trailing halfback at the last split second. Last year, as a sophomore, he ran for 1,315 yards, establishing an NCAA season rushing record for quarterbacks. Air Force has four other horsemen for opposing defenses to contend with; before the season ends, the Falcons will almost surely have five active players with more than 1,000 career rushing yards apiece.
Nevertheless, against Army, Dowis gained only 31 yards in 10 carries, and Air Force rushed for a mere 176 yards. The Cadets also came up with a big turnover. On the first play of the final period, Dowis fumbled at his own 20, and Army linebacker Greg Gadson pounced on the ball. The Cadets scored three plays later—on a run, of course, by McWilliams—and went ahead 21-7. Then Mayweather took over: On Army's next possession—a 16-play, 77-yard drive—he carried eight times for three first downs and the touchdown. His 192 yards marked a career high and his fourth straight 100-yard game.
Mayweather, a 5'8", 180 pounder from St. Louis, is an atypical West Pointer. "We were impoverished." he says. "My mother raised 10 children on her own. We were in a rough neighborhood, and I went to an all-black grade school. I liked to be with the in crowd but knew when to go and study.
"St. Louis Country Day, which is very exclusive, came to my middle school looking for black students who could do well there. I got in. There were two blacks in my class, out of 69 kids. It was hard, but I was a B-plus student, and I was three times all-state in football."
Mayweather was recruited by Missouri, Stanford, Notre Dame and Michigan, but he realized that his size might be a handicap. "I was worried I might not make it in football," he said. "I decided on West Point because if the football didn't work out, I'd still have the education and I'd be an officer."
Mayweather, an unlikely star on an unlikely 7-1 team, added, "Maybe when I'm done with my Army commitment, I'll take a shot at pro ball. I've learned recently that dreams can come true."
TYING ONE ON
After its 19-18 defeat of Alabama last Saturday, LSU would seem to have the SEC's Sugar Bowl berth within its grasp, a fact that's not exactly leading the bowl officials down in the French Quarter to whoop it up. Nothing against the Tigers, understand, but the Sugar would be sweeter with either of the two other bowl berth possibilities, Auburn and Georgia, which play this Saturday.
For one thing, most of LSU's fans live near New Orleans, so they're unlikely to spend as much time or money in the city's hotels and nightspots as the Dawg or Auburn Tiger faithful would. But more important, the Tigers, who put together back-to-back losses against Ohio State and Florida earlier in the season, won't be ranked high enough to draw an attractive opponent to the Sugar Bowl.
Yet all LSU has to do to win a share of the SEC title is beat 1-7 Mississippi State in Starkville on Saturday. If Georgia defeats Auburn, the Bulldogs would wrap up a tie with LSU (the two teams don't meet this season). If Auburn wins, it would also have to beat Alabama on Nov. 25 to tie the Bayou Bengals.
In the event of cochampions, the Sugar has, in the past, taken the higher-ranked team. If Auburn and LSU tie, that would be Auburn, especially considering that LSU has a near-certain loss to Miami still ahead on Nov. 19.
But keep in mind that Auburn lost to LSU, 7-6, Auburn's only loss to date. If the Sugar Bowl committee were to pick Auburn and say 'bye, you Bengals, the folks in Baton Rouge would be tougher to handle than a hot bowl of gumbo.
At least LSU has a marquee-name quarterback in Tommy Hodson, who, despite a generally disappointing performance, engineered a late scoring drive against Alabama to set up David Browndyke's decisive 34-yard field goal. Meanwhile Auburn and Georgia got ready for each other with surprisingly easy wins over Southern Mississippi (38-8) and Florida (26-3), respectively. Even the return of tailback Emmitt Smith (68 yards rushing) couldn't help the slumping Gators, now 5-4 after a 5-0 start. Even so, the All-American Bowl is still interested in Florida.
THE COWBOYS' LAMENT
Since 1932, when the presidential candidates were named Roosevelt and Hoover, Oklahoma has lost only twice in Stillwater, the home of intrastate rival Oklahoma State. The Sooners got out of town with another win last Saturday, but only a step ahead of the posse.
Trailing 31-28, which would be the final score, the Cowboys found themselves with a third-and-two at the Sooner 19 late in the game. Quarterback Mike Gundy's handoff went to tailback Barry Sanders, the national rushing leader, who had already gained 214 yards and scored two touchdowns, but he got only a yard. Worse, a personal-foul call against Oklahoma State fullback Garrett Limbrick made it fourth-and-16 instead of fourth-and-one with 43 seconds to play.
It was unclear exactly what had happened, and the referees weren't talking after the game. One possibility was that side judge Michael Borgard thought Limbrick had cursed him. Limbrick said he was addressing his unsavory remarks to Sooner linebacker Richard Dillon, from whom he had just been separated by the official.
Whatever. The call meant that State's only chance was a pass into the end zone. Gundy put it right on the money to wide receiver Brent Parker, who got behind Oklahoma free safety Kevin Thompson. Parker dropped the ball.
The consolation was that bowl scouts won't take their eyes off the colorful Cowboys, who are 6-2 and almost certain to be 8-2 when the bids go out Nov. 19.
ARMED AND INJURED
While West Virginia's Major Harris and Michigan's Michael Taylor were the most famous quarterbacks to be injured last week—Harris suffered a minor hip pointer in a 51-13 win over Cincinnati, and Taylor broke his collarbone in a 22-7 defeat of Minnesota and may be out for the season—Northern Arizona was feeling the loss of the much less celebrated but no less talented Greg Wyatt.
Before going down with a knee injury in the second quarter of what turned out to be a 25-12 victory over Northern Iowa, Wyatt had completed eight of 10 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown. That gave the junior career totals of 701 completions for 8,014 yards. No nonsenior has ever joined the 700 club, and only three other passers have reached the 8,000 plateau before their senior years.
If that doesn't grab your attention, try this: Wyatt has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 18 straight games and in 27 of his 30 starts and has completed more than 50% of his passes in every game he has played. Wyatt's replacement, redshirt freshman walk-on Brad Scott, filled in well enough to get Northern Arizona in range for Micky Penaflor's field goals of 46, 23, 39, 44, 45 and 20 yards.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
OEFENS: New Hampshire quarterback Bob Jean, a senior, completed 27 of 45 passes for a school-record 486 yards and three touchdowns, of 64, 62 and 82 yards, as the Wildcats crushed heavily favored Villanova 58-7 in a Yankee Conference game.
DEFENSE: Tennessee sophomore Preston Warren, a former cornerback playing his first game at free safety, made 10 tackles, seven unassisted, and intercepted three passes. He returned one 31 yards for the Vols' only TD in a 10-7 win over Boston College.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Raghib Ismail, a Notre Dame freshman, equaled a 66-year-old Fighting Irish record by returning two kickoffs for touchdowns, a 78-yarder in the first quarter and an 83-yarder in the fourth quarter, in a 54-11 romp past win less Rice.
Houston hosts Wyoming on Saturday, and the scoring could reach triple digits
NOTRE DAME (9-0)
FLORIDA STATE (8-1)
W. VIRGINIA (9-0)
OKLAHOMA ST. (6-2)
ARIZONA ST. (6-3)