While Miami was having its national championship hopes doused by Notre Dame in South Bend (page 32), Howard Schnellenberger, who coached the Hurricanes to their first national title in 1983, was in Pittsburgh, where he picked up the most important victory of his six-year tenure at Louisville. The day before the game, Schnellenberger was so upset with the way his team was practicing that he bit the stem off his trademark pipe. However, on a bright and breezy Saturday afternoon in Pitt Stadium, the Cardinals put together a sharp, balanced effort, jumping out to a 27-6 lead in the third quarter before surrendering a couple of late touchdowns for a 27-20 victory that gave them a 6-1-1 record. "We almost let the Panther out of the cage," said Schnellenberger, puffing happily on the inch or so of pipe stem that remained.
The knock on Louisville is that Schnellenberger's smoke is infinitely stronger than the team's schedule. These are the same Cardinals, after all, who opened the season with a 10-10 tie at San Jose State and lost 25-13 to Southern Mississippi. But Louisville's road wins over Pitt and West Virginia are impressive, even though both schools are having subpar seasons.
Interestingly, considering Schnellenberger's reputation for producing quarterbacks during his years at Miami (Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar, Vinnie Testaverde), this Louisville team has relied mainly on its outstanding defense. Against Pitt, for example, the key play of the game came when senior cornerback John Gainey intercepted an Alex Van Pelt pass in the third quarter and returned it 43 yards for a score to give the Cards a 17-6 lead.
Schnellenberger's current quarterback, senior Browning Nagle, has the size (6'2", 221 pounds) and arm strength that the coach likes, but the Cardinals lack the big-play receivers and breakaway runners who have characterized Schnellenberger's teams in the past. Against Pitt, Nagle directed methodical touchdown drives of 99 and 79 yards while completing 13 of 22 passes for 177 yards, despite some early hits that gave him a sprained right ankle, strained ligaments in his right knee and a separated left shoulder. "I was in pain," said Nagle. "It hurt like the dickens for a while, but very few injuries can keep me down."
Louisville's final three games are against 2-4 Western Kentucky, 1-6 Cincinnati and 3-3 Boston College, and the Cardinals can now envision a 9-1-1 regular-season finish and their first bowl appearance since 1977. "The stage is set for us to do something very dramatic," said Schnellenberger.
Well, maybe. Just how dramatic will depend on whether the poll voters and the bowl scouts are convinced that Louisville can compete with the nation's top teams. As proof that it can, Schnellenberger points out that the Virginia Cavaliers, currently the nation's top-ranked team, were lucky to get away with a 16-15 victory over the Cardinals last season in Charlottesville. "I'd give my left ear to play them again this year," Schnellenberger said. "We would have a legitimate chance to win."
RUN FOR THE ROSE BOWL
Iowa celebrated its big victory over Michigan by singing that old song The Hokey Pokey ("You put your right foot in, you put your right foot out..."), which made about as much sense as anything else that's happening these days in the zany Big Ten. The league race isn't even at the halfway point, and already Michigan, the preseason favorite, is an also-ran with a 1-2 conference record. The new leaders, each 3-0 in the conference, are Illinois, Minnesota, and, yes, those dancing fools from Iowa. And please don't spoil the fun by wondering how a team that lost 48-21 to Miami, as Iowa did on Sept. 29, or a team that got clobbered 56-0 by Nebraska, which happened to Minnesota on Sept. 22, can be anywhere near the top of the proud Big Ten.
Thank heavens for Illinois, which has won five games in a row after an opening 28-16 upset loss at Arizona. Last Saturday at Champaign, the Illini got five field goals from Doug Higgins and thus a 15-13 victory over a Michigan State team that was apparently still giddy from its upset of Michigan a week earlier. The game-winner, a 48-yarder with 42 seconds remaining, was set up by a 26-yard pass from Jason Verduzco to wide receiver Steve Mueller. The gritty Verduzco, playing despite an injury to his left knee, connected on 24 of 42 passes for 238 yards.
At Minneapolis, the Gophers, who haven't been to the Rose Bowl since 1962, stunned previously unbeaten Indiana 12-0 by shutting down the high-scoring attack that had the Hoosiers off to a 4-0-1 start. Indiana quarterback Trent Green completed only seven of 24 passes for 103 yards and the team's leading rusher, Vaughn Dunbar, had only 11 yards on seven carries.
Another shocker came in Ann Arbor, where Iowa quarterback Matt Rodgers, son of former Boston Celtics coach Jimmy Rodgers, directed an 85-yard drive in the closing minutes of the Hawkeyes' 24-23 win over Michigan, giving the Wolverines back-to-back conference losses for the first time since 1979. "This just does not happen at Michigan," said offensive tackle Dean Dingman, obviously stunned by what has transpired in Gary Moeller's first season as successor to Bo Schembechler.
After the Wolverines took a 20-10 lead, Moeller went to a more conservative attack, which sputtered and opened the way for Iowa to get back in the game. Naturally, the Hawkeyes' victory meant that they got to whoop it up by doing The Hokey Pokey. Said senior linebacker Melvin Foster, "The song symbolizes that we're making doubters into believers."
O.K., Melvin, whatever you say. But couldn't you guys at least come up with a rap version?
A LONG TIME COMING
It might seem reasonable for California to have a defeatist's attitude when it faces UCLA, considering that the Bruins had beaten the Bears 18 straight times going into last Saturday's game. (UCLA's victory in 1977 was forfeited because of an ineligible player.) But someone on the Cal football staff was brimming with confidence because right after the Bears' 38-31 win, Cal coach Bruce Snyder was spotted with a T-shirt that read: THE STREAK ENDS HERE, OCT. 20, 1990.
The Bears, now 5-2 and off to their best start since 1978, won the old-fashioned way, grinding out 311 yards on the ground. Tailbacks Anthony Wallace and Russell White each gained more than 100 yards and scored a touchdown. Many of the yards came behind the blocking of Troy Auzenne, a 6'7", 275-pound junior tackle. Said Auzenne, "I kind of wish there were a fifth quarter so we could run it down their throats a little more."
The game really wasn't as close as the score might indicate. Cal led 38-17 in the fourth quarter. To its credit, UCLA, which now faces its second consecutive losing season, put together two scoring drives to close the gap to 38-31 with 6:54 remaining, and the Bruins even had a chance to tie when UCLA outside linebacker Roman Phifer recovered a Wallace fumble. Four plays later, however, Cal safety Michael Davis recovered a fumble by UCLA quarterback Tommy Maddox to put the Bears back in control.
The victory gave the Bears a 3-1 record in the Pac-10, and, coupled with Arizona's 35-26 upset of Southern Cal, left them in sole possession of second place in the league, a game behind Washington. "There's a belief around here that this team is going to find some way to win," said Snyder.
THE TIDE FINALLY RISES
The understatement of the week came from beleaguered Alabama coach Gene Stallings. He said his team's amazing 9-6 win over Tennessee in Knoxville "ranked right up there" with his biggest victories. Come on, Coach. There's not even a close second. After the Tide got off to an 0-3 start, even the most loyal 'Bama fans were questioning his ability. The Tide finally got off the schneid with wins against Vanderbilt and Southwest Louisiana but showed nothing to indicate it had a chance against a Tennessee team with a 12-game unbeaten streak and dreams of a national championship.
Instead of the expected rout, however, the Vols fell to 4-1-2 and practically handed the SEC title to Auburn, which beat Florida State 20-17. Missing in action was the Vols offense, which had been averaging 42 points a game. Tennessee gained only 124 yards on the ground, about half its average, and a skimpy 51 in the air. Even Tennessee coach Johnny Majors was at a loss to explain why. "It was a strange and unusual ball game," he said.
Mississippi State backup quarterback William (Sleepy) Robinson was in his team's 38-17 win over Tulane for only five plays last Saturday, but he passed for two TDs and ran for another....
As Baylor coach Grant Teaff was leaving the field after his team's 20-20 tie with Texas A&M, he was accosted by a fan who apparently was irate because Teaff had settled for a tying field goal instead of going for a touchdown in the final minutes. The fan, wearing a Baylor cap, grabbed Teaff, and the two scuffled before three Baylor players and some onlookers intervened....
Last Saturday was the only day Colorado linebacker Scott DeGoler could take the Graduate Management Admissions Test but the Buffaloes had a road game at Kansas. DeGoler arranged to take the test at Kansas Saturday morning. After he completed the exam, DeGoler went to the stadium, suited up and played on special teams in the second half....
Akron backfield coach Mike Woodford won $15 million in the Ohio State Lottery in January 1989, but has continued to work even though he doesn't need the money. "I can't say enough about his work," said Akron coach Gerry Faust. "He even told me last year not to worry about his raise. He said to give it to the other coaches who need it."
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Bob Christian, a senior running back for Northwestern, carried the ball 42 times for 220 yards and a touchdown, and caught six passes for 99 yards and two touchdowns in a 44-34 victory over Wisconsin.
Robert Jones, a junior East Carolina, had 13 tackles, six of them solos, and returned an interception 15 yards for a touchdown in the Pirates' 56-32 win over Cincinnati.
Senior quarterback William Snyder of Carnegie Mellon set a Division III record for consecutive completions in a game by connecting on 17 of 17 passes for 211 yards in a 47-22 victory over Wooster.