Georgia Southern's Tim Stowers would like nothing more than to be placed alongside George Seifert and Dennis Erickson, two coaches who, in their rookie seasons, kept dynasties alive. Seifert took the reins from Bill Walsh and guided the San Francisco 49ers back to the Super Bowl. Erickson continued Jimmy Johnson's winning ways at Miami. Now the 32-year-old Stowers is laboring in the long shadow of Erk Russell, whose Georgia Southern teams won three I-AA championships in the last five years. Last season, the Eagles defeated Stephen F. Austin 37-34 in the title game. Stowers has had to replace four offensive linemen on a team that led the division in rushing (329.2 yards per game). Fullback Joe Ross accumulated 1,354 of those yards in '89 but had surgery in the off-season on his right knee. Three All-Americas have departed the defense, but Giff Smith, with 24 career sacks, and Steve Bussoletti are back to form the best defensive end tandem in I-AA.
The best bet to spoil Stowers's rookie season is Furman, where Frankie DeBusk, the best passer in I-AA, will be shredding Southern Conference secondaries for the third year. Last season, his 156.8 quarterback rating was fourth best in the nation for all divisions. Furman's toughest foe in the Southern Conference should be Appalachian State, but by the time the two teams meet in mid-October, the Mountaineers will have faced three ACC teams, including Clemson and North Carolina State. If the Mountaineers have scheduled themselves out of contention, look for Tennessee-Chattanooga to challenge Furman. The Moccasins have running back James Roberts and the best punter in all of I-AA, Pumpy Tudors, who averaged 43.3 yards per kick in '89 and is a consensus All-Name selection.
Ever since Mark Duffner took over as coach at Holy Cross in 1986, nothing short of an army has been able to stop the Crusaders—the U.S. Army, to be exact. Under Duffner, Holy Cross is 40-4, and only the Cadets of West Point have beaten them more than once. The backfield has fullback Joe Segreti, who will be going for a hat trick of 1,000-yard seasons, and quarterback Tom Ciaccio, who completed 63% of his passes last year.
The Ohio Valley Conference is a dogfight between Eastern Kentucky and Middle Tennessee State. The Colonels boast tailback Markus Thomas, whose 1,620 yards was second in I-AA in '89. Thomas will run close behind the rear bumper of 6'5", 305-pound All-America tackle Al Jacevicius. Blue Raider coach Boots Donnelly has 19 starters returning, including linebacker Anthony Coleman, the top defensive player in the Valley.
September 2, 1990
After three years of Idaho permafrost, the Big Sky is experiencing a thaw. John (Deep) Friesz left with the spring runoff, and the Vandals will not repeat as league champions. Montana, behind quarterback Grady Bennett, who threw for 3,091 yards last fall (second among returning I-AA passers), is the likely successor. The Nevada athletic department wants to drop the "Reno" from its team name, but Treamelle Taylor (64 catches in '89) won't drop many passes. And could the right name have been part of the job description for the new coach at Northern Arizona? The Lumberjacks hired Steve Axman.
Wishbone quarterback DeAndre Smith of Southwest Missouri State is small (5'8", 180 pounds) but tough. In last year's division quarterfinal loss to Stephen F. Austin, Smith threw for 292 yards only six days after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. In the Southwestern Athletic Conference, Grambling coach Eddie Robinson should successfully defend the crown if 6'6", 400-pound tackle World Smith leads fullback Walter Dean to another 1,138-yard rushing season.
Maine's Carl Smith may retain his I-AA rushing crown (1,680 yards), but the Black Bears won't hold off Connecticut for the Yankee Conference title. The Huskies have quarterback Matt DeGennaro (17 touchdown passes), split end Mark Didio (62 catches) and tailback Kevin Wesley (1,162 yards rushing) returning to a team that lost only three games in '89—two of them on the last play.
Yale's Carm Cozza knows that you can teach an old dog new tricks. The Bulldog coach of 25 seasons abandoned the I for the wishbone last year in deference to quarterback Darin Kehler. Kehler responded with 903 yards on the ground behind identical-twin peak guards Chris and Rob Michalik. Yale tied Princeton for the Ivy crown, and with the return also of All-Ivy linebacker Chris Gaughan, this time the Elis are in no mood to share.