The Old and the New
Here is an early appraisal of the three Southeastern Conference programs with new coaches: Lowly Vanderbilt is, as usual, running in place, now for Gerry DiNardo; once-proud LSU seems headed for the back of the pack despite the efforts of Curley Hallman; Mississippi State is thinking dynasty now that Jackie Sherrill has come to Starkville.
DiNardo knew what he was getting into when he accepted the mission impossible at Vandy (one winning season in the past nine years), so the Commodores' 37-10 defeat at Syracuse probably wasn't too hard for him to take. But Hallman is suddenly aware that his first LSU team might be lucky to duplicate last season's 5-6 record that earned Mike Archer his walking papers. After the Bayou Bengals lost to Georgia 31-10, Hallman moaned, "We made enough mistakes to lose 60-0.... Make that 70-0."
Georgia, coming off a most un-Dawglike 4-7 season, turned in its best performance under third-year coach Ray Goff. The Bulldogs piled up 305 yards passing—their first above-300 total since 1972—and forced five LSU turnovers. "LSU coming in was looking at last year's Georgia team," said Bulldog tailback Larry Ware, who gained 113 yards and caught a touchdown pass. "This is a whole new team."
Speaking of which, how 'bout them other Dawgs, the ones at Mississippi State? Playing host to Texas (last year's Southwest Conference champion and Cotton Bowl representative), State pulled out a 13-7 win to go 2-0. The Longhorns now have lost six in a row to Sherrill, who was out of coaching for two years after being forced to resign from Texas A&M when his program was found guilty of numerous NCAA violations.
The Bulldogs won with defense, confining Texas to 211 yards in total offense and saving the game twice in the last quarter—first by holding Texas to a field goal after the Longhorns had a first down on the State six, then by stopping Texas on downs at the Bulldog 19 when defensive end Rodney Stowers sacked quarterback Peter Gardere on fourth down.
"We're just going to get better and better," crowed Sherrill afterward. "We will have a very good football team at the end of the year." Which has to make Hallman and DiNardo feel even worse.
Skinning the 'Cats
We're hesitant to start the season by kicking a team when it's down—waaaaay down—but Cincinnati, not Penn State, deserves to be censured for that 81-0 debacle in State College. It wasn't a matter of Penn State running up the score, but a case of the Bare Cats—er, Bearcats—being so uncompetitive that the Nittany Lions couldn't help themselves.
Penn State coach Joe Paterno substituted early and often, but it made little difference. He pulled his starting quarterback, Tony Sacca, in the third quarter, but even Tony's younger brother, fourth-string quarterback John Sacca, turned a broken play into a 75-yard touchdown run in the last quarter. All told, Penn State amassed 706 yards—484 on the ground, 222 in the air—the most ever by a Nittany Lion team.
"Nobody ever wants to be in a game like that," said Paterno, who tried to console losing coach Tim Murphy by saying, "You'll have better days, Tim." Maybe so, but ahead for the Bearcats are dates with North Carolina, Louisville, Virginia Tech and Kentucky—none of them world-beaters but every one a likely big winner.
Not long ago, Cincinnati had a program that was at least respectable. But since a 5-6 record in 1986, Cincinnati has gone steadily downhill—4-7, 3-8, 1-9-1 and 1-10. Last season's team, which got clobbered by Iowa (63-10), Florida State (70-21) and Alabama (45-7), drew an average of only 13,310 for its three home games in 59,754-seat Riverfront Stadium.
Even though the Cincinnati area produces some of the nation's best high school players, the Bearcats have never been able to successfully recruit against Ohio State, Notre Dame and the other Midwest powers. Perhaps it's time for the university to reexamine its commitment to Division I-A; travesties such as the Penn State game are a waste of everyone's time, especially the players', and an insult to the ticket-buying public.
Since Michigan had lost four consecutive season openers to Notre Dame, it dawned on athletic director Jack Weidenbach and coach Gary Moeller that it might be a good idea if the Wolverines played somebody—anybody—before this Saturday's visit by the Irish to Ann Arbor. The solution was to move Michigan's trip to Boston College up by two weeks, from Sept. 21 to last Saturday. The Eagles were happy to oblige, maybe because they liked the idea of catching Michigan looking ahead, which is exactly what happened.
With only eight minutes left in the game, the Wolverines found themselves clinging to a 14-13 lead. Then wide receiver Desmond (Magic) Howard did a little hocus-pocus (box) and Michigan won 35-13, the icing on the cake being Lance Dottin's 50-yard runback of an interception for a TD with 55 seconds left.
Afterward, Michigan offensive tackle Greg Skrepenak was not pleased. "If we'd played Notre Dame today, we probably would have gotten our ass kicked," he said. Skrepenak may be interested to know that the Irish were almost as dissatisfied with their own performance in their 49-27 victory over Indiana in South Bend. "We played good football," said linebacker Demetrius DuBose, "but to beat Michigan, we'll have to play great football."
DuBose and quarterback Rick Mirer had been arrested at a raucous off-campus beer party on Aug. 30. Mirer wasn't charged, but the 20-year-old DuBose was cited for possession of alcohol by a minor. Both players rebounded with fine games against the Hoosiers, who had last met their in-state rivals in 1958. DuBose intercepted a pass and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown, and Mirer completed 11 of 17 passes for 209 yards and a touchdown and rushed for three more scores.
On Saturday Mirer will face a Michigan defense that remembers only too well Notre Dame's 28-24 come-from-behind win last year in South Bend. "We can't help but get fired up for Notre Dame," said fifth-year Wolverine linebacker Erick Anderson. "Nobody on this team has ever beaten them, and I was on the first team that got this started. It really hurts me."
Austin Peay entered the season with a 23-game losing streak, leading athletic director Tim Weiser to promise that anybody buying a $35 season ticket could get a refund if the Governors failed to win a game in '91. That could have cost the school $26,250, but the team took Weiser off the hook by upsetting Western Kentucky, 18-14....
Name of the week: Iowa State fullback Sundiata Patterson, who ran for four TDs in the Cyclones' 42-13 win over Eastern Illinois....
Fresno State could get a double dose of revenge for last season's 73-18 loss to Northern Illinois. Fresno punished the Huskies with a 55-7 rout last Saturday, and on Sept. 21 the Bulldogs visit Oregon State, whose new coach is Jerry Pettibone, recently arrived from Northern Illinois.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Michigan wide receiver Desmond Howard, a junior, caught seven passes for 86 yards, including TDs of 19, 8 and 19 yards, and scored on a 93-yard kickoff return in a 35-13 win over Boston College.
Utah's Sharrieff Shah, a sophomore defensive back, forced two fumbles and had six tackles for losses—which included five sacks—for a combined loss of 31 yards in a 22-10 victory over Oregon State.
Brian Grimes, a freshman at Hutchinson (Kans.) Community College, rushed 24 times for 267 yards, including TD runs of 13, 51, 79 and 32 yards, in a 25-21 win over Dodge City Community J.C.