THE SOARING EAGLES
It would be easy to look at Boston College's 35-32 upset of Penn State in State College and figure that the Nittany Lions are lucky that they're headed for the Big Ten—a conference with more cream puffs than your neighborhood bakery. It also would be easy to look at the Eagles' victory and wonder how long it will take the 2-4 New York Giants to dial up BC coach Tom Coughlin, who was a Giant assistant from 1988 to '90, to request his services once again. But that's not how people should look at the Boston College-Penn State game. Everyone, even the Lions' crestfallen fans, should view the game as an advertisement for college football at its heart-stopping, gut-wrenching, emotion-tugging best.
You like to second-guess coaches? What about Joe Paterno's decision to have Penn State try to block an Eagle punt with the ball on the BC 35 and the Nittany Lions clinging to a 10-7 lead with 4:59 left in the first half? Instead of blocking the punt, Penn State roughed the kicker, and the ensuing 15-yard penalty opened the floodgates for BC.
You like two-minute drills? After the roughing penalty, Eagle quarterback Glenn Foley, who attended Penn State football camps as a youngster, threw three touchdown passes to shock the crowd of 96,130 and send BC to the locker room with a 28-10 lead.
You like controversy? On the morning of the game, Penn State's players and coaches held a meeting. The players were already down because of their loss to Miami the week before, and the confab did nothing to buck them up. "Some things were said to some people that hurt their feelings," says Lion cornerback Shelly Hammonds. "It got a little loud at times."
Happy Valley got very quiet when Foley's fourth TD pass put BC ahead 35-10 in the third period. In fact, some Penn State fans went home. The faint of heart missed a Nittany Lion comeback that was as electrifying as BC's first-half explosion.
After quarterback John Sacca took Penn State on an 80-yard TD drive that cut the gap to 35-24 midway in the fourth quarter, he injured his collarbone and left the game. In came Kerry Collins to direct a 90-yard scoring march that made the score, following a two-point conversion, 35-32 with 1:39 remaining.
The Lions recovered an onside kick, but when Collins tried to find the Lions' magnificent senior receiver, O.J. McDuffie, who finished with 11 catches for 212 yards (both school records), Eagle cornerback Joe Kamara picked off the pass, and BC had its first win in State College in its 10 trips there. The two teams are not scheduled to meet again.
After the game Kamara said of his interception, "Jay was definitely with me." He was referring to Jay McGillis, the Eagle defensive back who died of leukemia on July 3. Last Saturday would have been McGillis's 22nd birthday.
When a bench-clearing melee erupted in the final quarter of Memphis State's 37-7 victory over Arkansas State, officials broke it up swiftly, ejected three players from each team and informed Arkansas State coach Ray Perkins that the fight had begun when one of his players kicked a Tiger player who was on the ground. "It was embarrassing to me, and I told my players it should he embarrassing to them," Perkins said. "I'm going to review the films, and if what one of the officials told me is true, then one of my players will be in trouble."
Sadly, however, the officials at the Syracuse-West Virginia game didn't handle a fight with nearly as much competence or fairness. The fracas in Morgantown began with 3:39 remaining and the Orangemen trailing 17-13. After being run out of bounds by Mountaineer defensive back Tommy Orr, Syracuse quarterback Marvin Graves bounced up and threw the ball at the back of Orr's head. A few minutes later, after order had been restored, the Orangemen were penalized five yards, and the teams were assessed off-setting penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The officials also tossed out three West Virginia defenders—cornerback Leroy Axem, end Tom Briggs and safety Mike Collins—but let Graves, who had started the fight, remain in the game. The only Syracuse player banished was Ken Warren, a freshman offensive tackle. The Mountaineers' outrage was exacerbated when, with 51 seconds to play, Graves found tight end Chris Gedney with the game-winning pass. On the play Gedney beat safety John Harper, who was subbing for Collins.
"I don't think I've ever had one taken from me like that," said West Virginia coach Don Nehlen after the 20-17 loss. "It's a shame to see the guys in the striped shirts determine the outcome of the game. Our coaching staff" is in rebellion."
Although Nehlen is notorious for whining about officials, he's right this time. Let's hope that Big East football doesn't get the same reputation for brawling that Big East basketball has.
THE SILENCING HERD
As befits a military school, a couple of Civil War-era cannons are fired every time The Citadel scores on its home field, in Charleston, S.C. While the corps of cadets finds the display of firepower highly entertaining, opponents deem it mostly annoying, especially when the Bulldogs are putting up 30 points a game, as they did in their first three home games en route to a 6-0 start. Before last Saturday's game between The Citadel, which was ranked No. 4 in Division I-AA, and fifth-ranked Marshall, Thunderin' Herd defensive tackle Keenan Rhodes said, "I've been thinking about how to take out that cannon. I might stuff a ball down it."
Instead Rhodes and his teammates did other things with the ball to silence their hosts' cannon. Marshall held the Bulldogs' wishbone attack to only three salvos that found their mark (a TD and two field goals) in a 34-13 victory. One disadvantage of the wishbone—indeed, the reason that teams like Oklahoma have abandoned it—is that it's tough to come from behind using it. In its first six games, which included wins over Division I-A Arkansas and Army, The Citadel never trailed by more than eight points. Against Marshall, however, the Bulldogs were behind 17-3 late in the first half and 24-10 in the third quarter. They could not overcome such deficits, especially on an afternoon when their defense had no answer for a Herd offense that thundered for 280 yards on the ground and 227 in the air.
Senior quarterback Michael Payton, who directed Marshall to the I-AA title game last year, connected on 17 of 21 pass attempts and increased his career passing yardage to 7,123—a Southern Conference record. "If there's a better offensive team in I-AA, I haven't seen it," said Charlie Taaffe, The Citadel's shell-shocked coach.
Taaffe might want to take a look at top-ranked Northern Iowa, which beat Southern Illinois 30-25 to run its record to 6-0 and set up a showdown this week with No. 2 Idaho, which went to 6-0 by defeating Eastern Washington 38-21. No matter who wins that one, though, the road to the national championship leads to Marshall. The Herd's 28,000-seat stadium in Huntington, W.Va., is the site of this year's I-AA title game, on Dec. 19.
Four days after Memphis State's players boycotted a practice in protest of coach Chuck Stobart's play-calling and poor communication skills, the winless Tigers defeated Arkansas 22-6. And last Saturday, five days after South Carolina's players met to discuss whether they would ask for coach Sparky Woods's resignation, the Gamecocks ended their nine-game losing streak, the longest in Division I-A, with a 21-6 upset of Mississippi State in Columbia. Question of the week: Is this enough to start a trend?
Speaking of phenomena in the South, let's consider quarterback Steve Taneyhill, a true freshman, who led South Carolina to its defeat of the 15th-ranked Bulldogs. Afterward Taneyhill ran around the perimeter of the field, letting gleeful Gamecock fans hug him, high-five him and slap him on the back. Taneyhill is a skinny, 6'5" kid with as much confidence as energy. While watching South Carolina's spring game in April, Taneyhill predicted he would be starting by midseason. "His personality rubbed me the wrong way," says redshirt freshman Blake Williamson, which is understandable considering that Williamson is also a quarterback. "I think it rubbed everyone on the team the wrong way. But obviously, the guy's real talented."
Taneyhill says he's just your average Altoonan—i.e., someone from his hometown in Pennsylvania—who likes to keep his hair long and who can't understand all the fuss about wearing an earring. "Back home," says Taneyhill, "all the guys and girls have earrings." Gamecock wide receiver Asim Penny, for one, approves of Taneyhill's tonsorial and sartorial sense. "He can wear a dress if he keeps throwing the ball like this," says Penny.
Thrust into the starting lineup after Williamson's poor performance the game before against Alabama, Taneyhill completed seven of 14 passes against Mississippi State for 183 yards and two touchdowns. Under his guidance the Gamecocks piled up 505 yards in offense, their best effort of the season. It remains to be seen if Taneyhill can turn the Gamecocks around and save Woods's job.
"I'm just relieved," said Woods, who doffed his cap to the crowd after the big win. "This is like winning the Grammy—you want to thank everybody."
FIRST STATE FOOTBALL
The Delaware state senate passed a proclamation urging the University of Delaware, which has enjoyed a highly successful Division I-AA program for 27 years under coach Tubby Raymond, to schedule a series with Delaware State, a predominantly black school that has come a long way since it dropped a 105-0 decision to Portland State and quarterback Neil Lomax in 1980. In fact, the Hornets have come so far under coach Bill Collick that some fans in the state think that Raymond's Fightin' Blue Hens would lay a big egg if they had to play the state's other I-AA program.
Last Saturday, Delaware was a 21-20 winner over Villanova, which entered the game as the nation's second-ranked I-AA team, and Delaware State earned a 22-20 victory over Florida A&M, whose only defeat in its six previous games had been to Miami. Both teams are now 5-1. So why not Delaware versus Delaware State, who have never played each other? "We'd love to see it happen," says John Martin, Delaware State's athletic director. "It would probably be the greatest game in the country."
All right, so maybe it wouldn't be the greatest game in the country. It would be the greatest game in Delaware, though, which has no I-A teams. But the Blue Hens aren't interested. Delaware athletic director Edgar Johnson hides behind an old argument: The Blue Hens are scheduled through 2002. "I'm sure the game will come about someday," Johnson says, "but schedules are not easy to arrange."
Tell that to Florida State and Penn State, both of which found ways to alter their schedules practically overnight to allow them to enter conferences. Schools that want to play find a way. Truth is, the Blue Hens are—dare we say it?—chickens. Sure, we do. Cluck, cluck, Hens.
HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF
The 100th anniversary of black college football was celebrated last Saturday in Salisbury, N.C. On the snowy day of Dec. 27, 1892, players from Biddle College, now Johnson C. Smith University, and Livingstone College screwed cleats into their street shoes and squared off in a cow pasture in Salisbury. Biddle won 5-0. On Saturday the two schools played again, with Biddle—uh, Smith—once again prevailing, this time 14-6. How much difference does a century make? In 1892 only a handful of fans attended the game. For last week's game between the Division 11 schools, there were al least that many zealous hawkers, offering everything from hot dogs to Malcolm X T-shirts to the crowd of 10,217.
With 175 yards rushing, Livingstone's Rob Clodfelter was his team's MVP. The MVP for Smith was linebacker Travis Manigault, who had 16 tackles, two fumble recoveries and an interception. Yet this was not a game for individual honors. "This is an important historical event," said Livingstone president Bernard Franklin. "We want people to remember that the first game was played here."
But the milestone was bittersweet. Sweet because it gave everyone who loves college football a chance to remember the players and teams from historically black colleges who have made such enormous contributions to the sport. Bitter because of the discouraging fact that of the 107 universities now playing Division I-A football, not one has a black head coach. And only a few have black offensive or defensive coordinators. Sad to say, in one important respect, college football hasn't come all that far since the men from Biddle and Livingstone butted heads in that North Carolina cow pasture.
With a 30-0 romp over Oregon Tech, Linfield (Ore.) College, ranked No. 2 among NAIA Division II schools, assured itself of its 37th consecutive winning season, the longest current streak in the NCAA or the NAIA....
Iowa State scored 40 unanswered points and racked up 516 yards in offense against Kansas—and lost. The Cyclones blew a 26-point lead before falling 50-47. Afterward Iowa State middle linebacker Malcolm Goodwin made this vow about Saturday's game against Oklahoma State in Stillwater: "If it's a loss, I'm not coming back on the plane. I'm going to walk home." That would be 450 miles....
Pacific's Aaron Turner caught three touchdown passes in a 49-17 victory over New Mexico State to break the NCAA career record for TD receptions with 39—one more than Clarkston Hines had at Duke between 1986 and '89....
The what-goes-around-comes-around award goes to Washington fullback Matt Jones, a junior from Portland, Ore., who caught a 19-yard pass to set up the Huskies' first touchdown in their 24-3 defeat of Oregon. While he was still in high school, Jones, who was being recruited by both Oregon and Washington, took his mother to see his brother Mark play for the Huskies against the Ducks in Eugene. After Oregon fans threw popcorn at his mom, and somebody even stole her purse, Jones decided to follow his brother to Washington. Before last week's game Husky coach Don James, no dummy, let Jones tell his teammates about what had happened to his mother. "I just laid my guts out," said Jones. "Everybody knows my mom. Everybody likes my mom."
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Garrison Hearst, a junior running back at Georgia, rushed for 246 yards on 21 carries, including touchdown runs of 71 and 55 yards, to lead the Bulldogs to a 30-20 victory over Vanderbilt.
Utah State's Jermaine Younger, a junior linebacker, had two interceptions, one of which he returned 59 yards for a TD, in a 28-16 win over Kansas State. He also made 13 tackles, including one sack.
Running back Thelbert Withers, a junior at New Mexico Highlands, gained 333 yards on 34 carries and scored six TDs as the Cowboys defeated Colorado's Fort Lewis College 70-55 in a Division II game.