Foliage and Fireworks
The week's best game may have taken place in Division III as Trinity ended Williams's 23-game winning streak, the longest at any college in the country. John Walters reports:
Early last week Trinity coach Don Miller attempted to downplay the dramatic fashion in which his Bantams had lost to Williams the last two seasons. In 1989, the Ephmen recovered an onside kick and scored on a pass with 0:13 left to defeat Trinity 26-21. Last year, the Ephs intercepted Bantam quarterback James Lane five times to recover from a 14-point deficit and win 24-21. In that game, the winning pass was tipped by a Trinity defensive lineman and fell into the arms of an unintended Williams receiver with two minutes remaining. "I don't necessarily think that the last play of the game is the deciding factor," said Miller. "You can't prepare for that."
But last Saturday in Williamstown, Mass., Trinity used a play it" had installed four days earlier to defeat the Ephs 30-27 with 0:00 showing on the clock. "We put that play in this week just in case we needed something like, well, a touchdown with no time on the clock," said a jubilant Lane of his five-yard rollout pass to halfback John Mullaney. "This makes up for all that other stuff."
No one could have faulted Williams for entering the game with a superiority complex. During their winning streak, which began a week after they lost to Trinity in 1988, the Ephmen had eight shutouts and outscored their opponents 496 to 99. And besides, U.S. News& World Report had recently named Williams the No. 1 liberal arts college in the nation. "We do get kind of spoiled around here," said senior linebacker Brian Taptich.
On a day brilliant with the colors of New England autumn foliage, both teams spoiled those in attendance. The lead changed hands five times in the final 7:06. With 0:51 remaining, Bantam halfback Mike Wallace jumped, tipped the ball and tumbled with it into the end zone for a spectacular 39-yard catch to give Trinity a 23-20 lead, whereupon he was drowned in a sea of teammates and students.
But anyone named Mike Wallace should know the show lasts 60 minutes. Nine seconds after the extra-point conversion made the score 24-20, the Ephs struck back on a 46-yard bomb from quarterback Dan Dwyer to Andre Burrell.
But there was more. Trinity took the ensuing kickoff to its 48-yard line, and from there Lane completed three straight passes, the third of which put the Bantams at the five-yard line with no time left. Or was there?
"When Trinity motioned for a timeout and I looked up at the clock, it showed one second," said referee Kevin McGurk after the game. "Then it shifted to zero." Although McGurk left the clock as it was, he still allowed one final play.
That set the stage for "flanker bend-out double-slant," a play that Miller said he had not used in "two or three years." Afterward, Ephs coach Dick Farley was magnanimous. "We've had our luck for three years," he said. "It ran out today."
Sack of the Vandals
On the way to the No. 1 ranking in Division I-AA, Nevada (formerly Nevada-Reno) outscored its four victims 221-34 but still didn't generate much respect because of the bakery-goods quality of its opposition. The snide comments about his Wolf Pack's soft schedule angered coach Chris Ault, but he didn't try to use them to psych up his players for their first important road test, a Big Sky matchup last Saturday against Idaho, the preseason conference favorite. "There was enough stuff said in the papers and we didn't have to say much," said Ault after Nevada certified its ranking with a 31-23 victory.
Idaho came into the season with national-title hopes, but the Vandals stumbled against Northern Iowa, 36-14 on Sept. 28, to sink from No. 2 to No. 14 in the I-AA poll. If anything, of course, that made them put even more emphasis on the Wolf Pack's visit. But after leading 23-10 at halftime, Idaho came unglued. After that, the Vandals could neither stop Nevada freshman tailback Dedric Holmes, who gained 166 of his 178 yards rushing after the intermission, nor solve the Wolf Pack's defense, which didn't allow Idaho, ranked fourth nationally in total offense, a first down in the half. "I don't know if we've ever held a team down like that in my 16 years here," Ault said. "Not a quality team like Idaho."
Last season Nevada went to the final game of the I-AA playoffs before being hammered by Georgia Southern 36-13 on the Eagles' home field. But because Southern dropped to 2-3 with a 10-6 loss at Eastern Kentucky on Saturday, the way looks clear for the Wolf Pack to win its first national title in its last year in the Big Sky; Nevada moves to the Big West Conference in Division I-A next season.
"Nevada deserves to be Number One," said Idaho coach John L. Smith. It also deserves a moratorium on cracks about cupcake opponents.
Getting Their Irish Up
Pittsburgh moved to 5-0 last Saturday by hanging on to beat Maryland 24-20 in Pitt Stadium, but, uh-oh, here comes a familiar reality check—Notre Dame. Saturday's game in South Bend will be the third time in the last 10 seasons that the Panthers have been unbeaten when they faced Notre Dame. In 1982, Dan Marino's senior year, Pittsburgh was 5-0 and ranked No. 1 when it entertained the Irish in Pitt Stadium. Final score: Notre Dame 31, Pitt 16. It was even worse in 1989, when a 5-0-1 Panther team went to South Bend and got its title hopes derailed 45-7.
Pitt did nothing in the game against Maryland to indicate that things will be any different this time. With the Panthers clinging to a 24-14 lead late in the fourth quarter, thanks mainly to Alex Van Pelt's passing (24 of 45 for 353 yards and two TDs), the Pitt defense gave up a 58-yard touchdown pass from Jim Sandwisch to Marcus Badgett. The Terps, hoping to set up a situation in which a subsequent field goal would win the game, tried for a two-point conversion but missed. So, on their next possession, they had to go for a TD. Maryland's hopes finally ended when Pitt's Doug Whaley intercepted a Sandwisch pass at the Panther one with 23 seconds to go. "We didn't want a tie," explained Maryland coach Joe Krivak when asked about his decision to go for two.
Although the Panthers haven't beaten anybody in the Top 20, senior linebacker Ricardo McDonald, whose twin brother Devon plays the same position for the Irish, says the Panthers will have a psychological edge against Notre Dame this time. "The pressure is on them," Ricardo said. "They got that loss to Michigan. Deep down, that affects their mind." Sorry, Ricardo, but that sounds like the wishful thinking of a man who's tired of hearing his twin remind him that Notre Dame is 3-0 against Pitt during their careers.
On Oct. 1, President Bush paid a surprise visit to the Louisville football team during a speechmaking visit to the city. Four days later the Cardinals received another surprise when their homecoming was ruined by a 30-7 loss to lowly Cincinnati. It was only the Bearcats' second win in 24 games, and it inspired Louisville coach Howard Schnellenberger, whom Bush had jokingly called a "slave driver," to call a practice for 6 a.m. Sunday....
Whatever excuses Michigan State coach George Perles might give for his team's horrible start—the Spartans dropped to 0-4 with a 31-0 thrashing at Indiana—he can't plead lack of talent. The team's preseason media guide touts flanker Courtney Hawkins and tailback Tico Duckett as possible Heisman Trophy contenders. It also lists linebacker Bill Johnson as a candidate for the Lombardi Award, offensive lineman Jim Johnson for the Outland Trophy and defensive back Alan Haller for the Thorpe Award....
Auburn coach Pat Dye, frequently criticized for playing for ties in big games, went for a win against underdog Southern Mississippi. With the Tigers behind 10-9 with 1:33 remaining, Dye decided to go for two, only to have Southern Miss safety Brian Wood make a diving knockdown of a pass in the end zone....
The Versatility Award: To Wooster placekicker Mphatso Namwali, who gave new dimension to being a two-sport athlete. First, Namwali, a left-footed sophomore from Malawi, kicked two extra points and a 30-yard field goal for Wooster's football team against Case Reserve. Then, with about 10 minutes remaining in the Scots' 23-20 victory, he departed to fulfill a commitment to Wooster's soccer team, which he led to a 3-1 win over Earlham by scoring two goals....
After his team's 94-17 win over New Mexico, Fresno State coach Jim Sweeney said, with a straight face, "Our defense deserves most of the credit." Yeah, and all you malingerers on the offense will get extra work this week.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
OFFENSE: Ryan Benjamin, a junior running back at Pacific, ran for 150 yards on 15 carries, caught seven passes for 99 yards and returned two kicks for 139 more in a 56-28 victory over Cal State-Fullerton.
DEFENSE: Baylor's Santana Dotson, a senior defensive tackle, forced two fumbles, recovering one, and had two tackles, including a sack, for losses totaling 16 yards as the Bears beat Houston 38-21.
SMALL SCHOOL: Percy Gault, a sophomore running back, broke O.J. Simpson's single-game yardage record at the City College of San Francisco, with 306 yards on 15 rushes, and scored five TDs in a 70-34 win over Shasta.