NO TENNESSEE WALTZ
When the SEC decided to add two teams, split into two six-team divisions and hold a postseason playoff to determine the conference champion and Sugar Bowl representative, Tennessee coach Johnny Majors wasn't overjoyed. "One more game a year in a tough conference, and an additional game after that for the teams that go to the playoff?" said Majors. "Aw, it's a waste of time for me to argue about it. The athletic directors and the presidents have made that decision." Majors may now wish he took the time to argue. The way the season is unfolding, the SEC's new system might ruin an unbeaten season for the Vols and cause them to miss out on the Sugar Bowl.
After its 31-14 victory over defending league champion and preseason favorite Florida, Tennessee is 3-0 and poised for what could be one of its greatest seasons, even though Majors is just now returning to the team after undergoing heart surgery in August; offensive coordinator Phillip Fulmer has been in charge. Of the Vols' remaining eight games, they figure to be favored in seven (Cincinnati, LSU, Arkansas, South Carolina, Memphis State, Kentucky and Vanderbilt). The big one will be on Oct. 17 against SEC West favorite Alabama, which extended its winning streak to 13 games with a 38-11 thumping of Arkansas. That showdown will be in Knoxville, but even if the Vols beat the Tide there, they'll probably have to play Alabama again in the SEC playoff—and that game will be held on Dec. 5 at Birmingham's Legion Field, where the Tide is 137-48-11.
September 27, 1992
When a Florida A&M linebacker slammed into Miami quarterback Gino Torretta in the second quarter of the Hurricanes' 38-0 victory, Miami coach Dennis Erickson was shaken up too. Torretta left the game with a slight shoulder sprain, and Erickson moaned later, "He went down, and it was my worst fear." Had the Hurricanes been playing Florida State or Penn State, two future opponents, they would have been in deep trouble without Torretta because backup Frank Costa, a redshirt sophomore, is woefully short on experience.
Coaches are finally seeing the wisdom of having a strong backup as insurance in case the top gun is cither injured or firing blanks. At Georgia Tech, coach Bill Lewis rests senior quarterback Shawn Jones, one of the nation's best signal-callers, early in every game so that Jones will be fresh for the fourth quarter. That also gives backups Jeff Howard and Donnie Davis valuable experience. Although Lewis's policy was not exactly given a ringing endorsement by Tech's 55-24 loss to Virginia, its basic soundness was on display elsewhere last Saturday.
•When freshman Koy Detmer enrolled at Colorado instead of trying to fill brother Ty's Heisman-sized shoes at Brigham Young, he told Buffalo coach Bill McCartney that he would like to be redshirted, but "I'd be willing to play if you need me." The need arose after first-stringer Kordell Stewart was injured against Baylor on Sept. 12 and his backup, Duke Tobin, struggled for a half against Minnesota on Saturday. Detmer responded wonderfully, connecting on 11 of 18 throws for 184 yards and two TDs, to lift Colorado to a 21-20 victory.
•BYU could have used Ty's little brother in a 17-10 loss to UCLA. With the Cougars on the Bruin 10-yard line with 1:13 to go, No. 2 quarterback Steve Clements, who was forced into action when starter John Walsh went down with a shoulder injury early in the fourth quarter, threw a pass that was picked off in the end zone. And who led UCLA? Redshirt freshman Rob Walker, who started in place of injured sophomore Wayne Cook. Walker completed 18 of 26 passes for 198 yards.
•Then there was Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who went with his No. 2 quarterback against Eastern Michigan. The No. 1 quarterback, freshman Wally Richardson, led the Nittany Lions to two consecutive wins, but, says Paterno, "I just don't want to rush Wally." Junior John Sacca responded by leading the Lions to four touchdowns in the first 11 minutes of a 52-7 win. Going into the season, both Sacca and Richardson were scheduled to back up sophomore Kerry Collins, who broke a finger in preseason practice. "You're never sure when someone's going to get hurt," says Penn State linebacker coach Tom Bradley. "If you don't have a guy to step in, you could be in trouble."
Ohio State fans' unhappiness over their team's performance in its first two games, shaky wins at home over Louisville and Bowling Green, had reached such astounding proportions that the Buckeyes seemed downright happy to say goodbye, Columbus, and head for the relative serenity of Syracuse's Carrier Dome. "I'm not criticizing our fans in any way," said quarterback Kirk Herbstreit, "but it's nice to be on the road, the way our crowd's been down on us."
The fans' demeanor should improve this week, when the Buckeyes return home to face Illinois, thanks to Ohio State's 35-12 upset of Syracuse. The victory should also, at least temporarily, help coach John Cooper off what has been one of the game's hottest seats. After the Buckeyes defeated the Orangemen, Cooper, whose sins since taking over in Columbus in 1988 include no wins over Michigan and no Rose Bowl trips, said, "This is a big victory after hearing all the crap we've been hearing from our fans."
Indiana University of Pennsylvania, ranked No. 2 in Division II, took a major step toward the national championship with a 31-12 victory over cross-state rival East Stroudsburg. The win was the 23rd in a row at home for Indiana, a streak dating back to a loss to Millersville in the 1988 playoffs.
Indiana is now 3-0, and each of its victories—the first two victims were North Dakota and Grand Valley State—has come against teams that were ranked in the Top 20 for much of last season. The Indians were No. 1 at the end of the '91 regular season, but they lost 27-20 to Jacksonville State in the semifinals of the playoffs after quarterback Tony Aliucci, who has since graduated, was knocked out of the game with a concussion.
Under Frank Cignetti, who's in his 11th year as coach, Indiana has emerged as a consistent Division II power. Cignetti's record with the Indians is 82-39, and his last three teams have gone at least as far as the playoff semifinals, though Indiana is still looking for its first national title. This might be the Indians' year. Their toughest remaining game comes on Oct. 17 against another intrastate rival: California.
Although Baylor quarterback J.J. Joe completed only 12 of 30 passes in the Bears' last two games, he made them count. He converted six for 262 yards against Colorado two weeks ago, and last Saturday he completed six for 175 yards in a 45-10 win over Utah State. Joe is averaging 36.4 yards per completion....
When a thunderstorm caused a delay in the Rice-Duke game in Durham, players huddled in a stadium tunnel in which the lights had gone out because of a power failure. "It was like elephants in a circus," said Blue Devil coach Barry Wilson. "Our guys were holding each other's hands as we passed through so we wouldn't trip over the Rice players." When play resumed, Duke won 17-12 to snap its seven-game losing streak....
In its 42-28 win over Wyoming, Air Force got zero yards in the air....
Considering the lowly state to which the programs at Oregon and Oregon State have sunk, the schools should have been satisfied with Saturday's results—a win for the Ducks and a tie for the Beavers. Oregon, which had lost eight in a row, was leading Texas Tech 16-13 with 27 seconds left when Red Raider coach Spike Dykes eschewed a shot at the tying field goal on fourth-and-10 at the Oregon 25 to go for the first down. Dykes called a pass play, and the ball was knocked down inside the five. "We came here to win a ball game," said Dykes afterward. By contrast, you would have thought Oregon State, which has finished 1-10 each of the last two seasons, would have been pleased with a tie. But after tying their game against Arizona at 14 with 1:47 remaining, the Beavers attempted an onside kick. "We don't settle for ties," said Oregon State coach Jerry Pettibone, echoing Dykes. The Wildcats recovered but missed a 44-yard field goal attempt with 25 seconds to play....
Eastern Kentucky, which hadn't lost a home opener since 1962, needed a miracle to keep the string going against Northeast Louisiana. With six seconds remaining, the visitors had a 21-20 lead and needed only to get off a punt to kill the remaining time. But the snap sailed over the punter's head and wound up in the end zone, where Eastern's Sean Littles covered the ball to give the Colonels a 26-21 win. "You should all sneak out of bed early tomorrow," Eastern coach Roy Kidd told his team. "There are several churches around town."
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
OFFENSE: Toledo quarterback Kevin Meger, a senior, set school records for attempts (52) and completions (33) as he passed for 305 yards and a TD in the Rockets' 33-29 upset of Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind.
DEFENSE: Vanderbilt's Jeff Brothers, a junior safety, ran 71 yards with a blocked field goal, 24 yards with an interception and 51 yards on a punt return in a 31-9 win over Mississippi. None were for touchdowns.
SMALL COLLEGES: Senior quarterback Jeff Loots of Southwest State in Minnesota completed 34 of 57 throws for 514 yards and six touchdowns in a 69-7 victory over Lindenwood College of Missouri in an NAIA game.