Judging by the way Notre Dame's new four horsemen—quarterback Tony Rice, tailback Ricky Watters, wing-back-flanker Raghib Ismail and fullback Anthony Johnson—galloped in the wind and cold of State College, Pa., last Saturday, it looks as if only a violent allergic reaction to sunshine and orange juice can keep the Irish from beating Miami in the Orange Bowl this weekend to complete a second consecutive unbeaten season. A victory would also set up a winner-take-all national championship game with Colorado, the 11-0 Big Eight champion, in the Orange Bowl on New Year's Day.
Oh, sure, the Hurricanes pride themselves on their No. 1-ranked defense, but they showed some weaknesses in a 24-10 loss to Florida State on Oct. 28. Penn State, which had allowed only 104 yards per game on the ground going into the Notre Dame game, thought it had a pretty strong defense too. But with Rice making all the right option moves behind a huge offensive line, the Trish became the first team ever to gain more than 400 yards rushing against the Nittany Lions (the total was 425).
"Those four kids in the backfield," said Penn State coach Joe Paterno, "that's an awful lot of people in there that can really run." In addition to a career-high 141 yards rushing, Rice set up big days for Ismail, who had 84 yards on nine carries, and Watters, who gained 128 on 16 attempts. Johnson, whom Paterno called "the best fullback in the country," got 45 yards—mostly tough ones up the middle—on 15 rushes.
Rice threw only 10 passes, completing five for 47 yards. The conditions in Miami should be better, but the Irish will go to the air more frequently only if the Hurricanes do a much better job against the run than Penn State did.
TO LIVE AND TIE IN LA.
Southern Cal goes into the Rose Bowl concerned about what happened in its last regular-season game, a 10-10 tie with struggling UCLA that could easily have been a defeat. The game figured to be one of the biggest mismatches in the series' 60-year history. Southern Cal was 8-2 and had already locked up the Rose Bowl berth. UCLA, with a 3-7 record, was headed nowhere.
So what happened? Well, USC shot itself in the foot. Despite getting twice as many first downs as the Bruins (20 to 10) and almost twice as much yardage (387 to 202), Southern Cal suffered six turnovers. Fortunately for the Trojans, they got a lot of breaks. On their touchdown, which came on their first possession, the officials didn't notice that flanker Gary Wellman's knee seemed to hit out of bounds before his foot landed in the end zone. And on Quin Rodriguez' 40-yard field goal, the ball hit the right upright before going through.
USC got its final break on the game's last play, a 54-yard field goal attempt by UCLA's Alfredo Velasco. "I hit it as well as I could," said Velasco. "I was jumping up and down because I thought I made it. It was absolute disbelief when it hit the crossbar."
The outcome left UCLA coach Terry Donahue to ponder a season in which tying USC was the major cause for celebration. "We start on Monday to rebuild the program," he said. "The best thing about this game is that the team fought. It's something to go into '90 with."
HOLD THAT TIGER
If Grambling State has seemed more like Grumbling State lately, it's because some followers of the football team believe the time has come for coaching legend Eddie Robinson—now 70 and nearing the end of his 47th season guiding the Tigers—to call it quits. So Robinson had to be satisfied when Grambling whipped cross-state rival Southern U 44-30 last Saturday in the Louisiana Superdome before the biggest crowd (59,774) to see a Division I-AA game this season. The win gave the Tigers a 9-2 record, the Southwestern Athletic Conference title and an at-large bid to the 16-team I-AA playoffs.
Showing he's strictly up-to-date, Robinson used a wide-open attack this season that enabled quarterback Clemente Gordon to throw for 2,717 yards—the most since Doug Williams passed for 3,286 in 1977—and fullback Walter Dean to rush for 1,138 yards, the most by a Tiger back in 30 years.
The victory extended Robinson's NCAA career victory record to 358, and he used the opportunity to answer his critics: "I hear people say, 'Well, the guy is 70 years old; he needs to step aside.' Step aside for what? I'm not against retiring, because I got a whole lot of things I can do [outside of football]. But, man, I want to see if we can have a better team. I would like to go on as long as I can."
That will be as long as he wants, according to Grambling president Joseph Johnson, who played basketball for Robinson as a Tiger undergraduate in the 1950s. "His mind is very sharp, and his kids still respect him," says Johnson. "He means so much to me and the university that we will continue to have him at Grambling State."
After Fresno State won its first 10 games, Bulldog supporters began making a lot of noise about the team not getting the ranking it deserved. Well, the yapping from Fresno came to a halt last Saturday afternoon, after New Mexico handed the Bulldogs a shocking 45-22 defeat to end their winning streak at 17 and ruin their hopes for a perfect season. No one was chastened more by the loss than Fresno coach Jim Sweeney.
A year ago, the Bulldogs put a 68-21 whipping on the Lobos, and Sweeney later said New Mexico's program was "pathetic." While it's true that New Mexico, which finished with a 2-10 record, had only one winning season this decade, Sweeney seems to have stirred up whatever pride was lying dormant in Albuquerque. "I've said so many things over 40 years," he said. "If it helped New Mexico that much, I must be a tremendous motivator." Rest assured that by the time Fresno State takes on Ball State in the California Raisin Bowl on Dec. 9, Sweeney will have said enough nice things about the Cardinals that people will think they are as good as that other team from Indiana—you know, the one from South Bend.
Statisticians from Northern Arizona and Idaho are undoubtedly poring over play-by-play sheets to find another yard or two for their respective quarterbacks, Greg Wyatt and John Friesz. After dueling four years for passing supremacy in the Big Sky Conference, they completed their careers last Saturday with exactly 10,697 passing yards each.... Florida, which has been rocked by a gambling and drug scandal and an NCAA investigation, beat Kentucky 38-28 at home. During the game a plane circled Griffin Stadium, trailing banners with comments about Gator athletic director Bill Arnsparger: BILL: DON SHULA NEEDS YOU, WE DON'T; WILL ROGERS NEVER MET BILL ARNSPARGER; and FIRE ARNSPARGER.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
In a 57-20 win over Memphis State, Florida State senior Peter Tom Willis, playing less than three quarters, completed 23 of 31 passes for 482 yards, with no interceptions and a school-record six touchdowns, five in the second quarter.
Senior Mike Babb, a safety at Weber State, made four interceptions—one short of the national record—and returned the last one 25 yards for a touchdown in a 45-35 victory over Idaho State. Babb also had four solo tackles and five assists.
Ricky Gales, a senior at Division III Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, ran for an NCAA all-division record of 389 yards on 51 carries and scored touchdowns on runs of 32, 40, 16 and 69 yards in a 42-35 loss to Minnesota 's St. John's.
NOTRE DAME (11-0)
FLORIDA STATE (8-2)
TEXAS A & M (7-2)
BRIGHAM YOUNG (9-2)
TEXAS TECH (8-2)
OHIO STATE (8-2)