When Illinois was upset by Arizona 28-16 in its season opener two weeks ago, it appeared that the Illini would take a while to adjust to the loss of quarterback Jeff George, who turned pro last spring after his junior year and became the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. George's replacement, sophomore Jason Verduzco, heard the nay-saying, and he got mad-mad enough to lead the Illini to a come-from-behind 23-22 upset of ninth-ranked Colorado in Urbana-Champaign, Ill.
The 5'9", 185-pound Verduzco completed 23 of 29 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns against the Buffaloes, who were expected to challenge again for the national title but now find themselves with a 1-1-1 record. "I got tired of hearing people say I don't have the ability to contribute to this team," said Verduzco, who outplayed Colorado quarterback Darian Hagan, considered a Heisman Trophy candidate when this season started. "I've always had the confidence I can do the job. Now I'm finally getting the opportunity to do it."
The Illini trailed 17-3 in the second quarter, tied it up in the third, then dropped behind 22-17 in the final quarter on a safety and a field goal. But with time running out, Verduzco completed five consecutive passes in a march capped by fullback Howard Griffith's one-yard scoring plunge with 1:18 to play. In that drive, said Illinois coach John Mackovic, Verduzco was "as good as you can get. He made the plays. He did what he needed to do. He was a gutty, gutty guy."
NOT HALF BAD
During the warmups before Saturday's game against Washington State in Provo, quarterback sensation Ty Detmer noticed that his Brigham Young teammates were "too loosey-goosey," a sign that they were still basking in the glow of the previous week's shocking win over Miami. So what? The visitors were 12-point underdogs, so BYU could come out flat and still win the game, right? Well, not exactly. The next thing anybody knew, Washington State had intercepted Detmer twice and was in the locker room with a 29-7 halftime lead.
BYU coach La Veil Edwards, a former Mormon bishop, delivered unto his men a stern lecture. "How you play the second half will set the tone for the rest of the season," said Edwards. If that turns out to be true, the NCAA should get ready to rewrite its record books. With Detmer leading the way, BYU blitzed Washington State for 36 points in the final quarter to win 50-36. The victory improved Brigham Young's record to 3-0 and enhanced Detmer's growing status as a folk hero.
He finished with five touchdown passes and 448 passing yards, increasing to 15 his NCAA record for consecutive games with at least 300 yards in the air. The winning rally may have been the most thrilling in the school's history, even surpassing the one against SMU in the 1980 Holiday Bowl, in which quarterback Jim McMahon led BYU to a 46-45 win after it had trailed 45-25. "We got fired up and got hot," said Detmer. "There are not many teams that can score 43 points in a half."
Right you are, Ty, but there also are not many teams—good ones, at least—who can fall 22 points behind Washington State.
When perennial loser Kansas State beat New Mexico State 52-7 (no, your eyes aren't deceiving you—that's the correct score) to go 2-0 for the first time since 1982, Wildcat fans didn't bother tearing down the goalposts. Their restraint pleased second-year head coach Bill Snyder. "I don't want our people to tear down goalposts for doing mediocre things," said Snyder. Never mind that mediocre is a giant step forward for a program that, until New Mexico State staggered in, hadn't beaten a Division I-A foe since 1986.
But for the really big news from Manhattan, Kans., listen to losing coach Jim Hess: "Kansas State is better than the two other teams we've played [New Mexico and Texas-El Paso, both of which also defeated the Aggies]. I think he [Snyder] has that team on the right track."
Poor Hess can look at Kansas State with a certain wistfulness. New Mexico State hasn't won since Oct. 1, 1988. The Aggies' 20-game losing streak is the longest in Division I-A and promises to get longer.
THOSE WERE THE DAYS
SI's Rich O'Brien reports on the kickoff of Army's centennial season.
Senior running back Mike Mayweather remembers his first football practice at West Point. "Coach [Jim] Young drilled us on the history of the place," says Mayweather, who has added to that history by becoming Army's alltime leading rusher. "He talked a lot about tradition."
Everybody talks about tradition at West Point, where the Long Gray Line marches past statues of MacArthur, Patton and Eisenhower, and where Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis, those other West Point heroes, carried Army to three straight national championships in 1944, '45 and '46. Tradition was all around West Point last Saturday, when 30,880 fans showed up at Michie Stadium to watch the Black Knights take on Holy Cross and to celebrate 100 years of Army football. The occasion also was a reminder of how things have changed. National championships are now a thing of the past at the Point. Thirty-two years have gone by since the Cadets finished in the Top 10. They have had only eight winning seasons in the last 20 years. Even the annual Army-Navy game, once one of college football's big showcase events, is now little more than a nationally televised...well, tradition.
"We can't compete with the big-time schools when it comes to recruiting," says Al Vanderbush, the academy's new athletic director, citing Army's rigorous academic demands and mandatory five-year postgraduate military commitment. "We have to take kids we think can develop."
The 5'8", 190-pound Mayweather, who finished 1989 with a school-record 1,177 yards—as well as a career total of 2,961, four more than Davis's longtime mark-is a perfect example. He grew up as the youngest of 10 children in a poor neighborhood in St. Louis, but attended the exclusive St. Louis Country Day School, where he was a B+ student and three-time all-state in football. Yet because of his size, Mayweather received only two scholarship offers. "I knew I had to look beyond football," he says. "So I chose West Point."
In his three years at the academy, he has learned some of its history. "You look at those highlight films of Blanchard and Davis," says Mayweather with a bright smile. "Those old guys were good."
So is Mayweather. In leading the Cadets to a 24-7 win over Holy Cross, he spun and slashed his way to 127 yards and scored twice. But it's a different world at the Point now.
Gannon, a Division III school in Erie, Pa., won its first game in 40 years by defeating Hobart 20-10. No, Gannon hasn't been that bad that long. The Knights dropped football following the 1950 season and went 0-7 last year after resuming the sport....
Another school that has revived football is NAIA Division II Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tenn. Last Saturday, the Bulldogs took a 38-0 beating from Campbellsville (Ky.) College in their first game since giving up the sport in 1949. Cumberland is still in the record books for being the loser in college football's biggest rout—222-0 in 1916 to a Georgia Tech team coached by John Heisman....
The early leader for hard-luck-team-of-the-year has to be 0-2 Stanford. Colorado beat the Cardinal 21-17 by scoring with 12 seconds remaining, and then UCLA squeaked by Stanford 32-31 on a 21-yard field goal by Brad Daluiso with a second to go....
In a 45-20 victory over Oregon State, Nevada-Las Vegas failed to convert after each of its six touchdowns, missing with three kicks, two runs and a pass. The botched conversion attempts didn't matter, because Oregon State lost six fumbles....
New Arkansas coach Jack Crowe had a strange feeling in his debut, a 28-3 win over Tulsa. "I kept wondering why everybody was looking at me," he said. "I figured that out. I was the head coach. So I got busy doing things."
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Craig Erickson, Miami's senior quarterback, completed 32 of 47 passes for 467 yards, threw for four touchdowns and ran for another to lead the Hurricanes to a 52-24 victory over California.
Will White, a junior safety at Florida, tied a school record with three interceptions, including one on the Gator goal line in the second half, to help rally his team to a 17-14 win over Alabama (page 47).
Andy Steckel, a junior wide receiver at Division III Western Maryland, made 12 catches for 292 yards, scoring on pass plays of nine, 29 and 75 yards as the Green Terrors lost to Gettysburg 28-25.