When perennial Big Ten doormat Northwestern opened its season by losing to Notre Dame by only 15 points in South Bend, it was natural to assume that the game was close because the Irish were looking ahead to Michigan the following week. Now, however, it appears that the time has come to take the Wildcats seriously. Just ask Boston College, which went to Evanston ranked No. 22 and left with a 22-21 loss that, more than anything else, proved that the Northwestern battery of quarterback Len Williams and wideout Lee Gissendaner deserves to be ranked among the best in the country.
With 4:28 to go, the Wildcats trailed 21-14. On third-and-goal from the Eagle nine, Williams found Gissendaner in the corner of the end zone to make the score BC 21, Northwestern 20. Wildcat coach Gary Barnett, heeding his motto of "Just win!" decided to go for two points.
Using Gissendaner as a decoy, Williams pitched out to tailback Dennis Lundy, who got the deuce. When BC kicker David Gordon missed a 40-yard field goal with 1:07 remaining, it snuffed out the Eagles' last chance for victory. As soon as the game was over, the crowd of 31,086 in Dyche Stadium erupted in celebration of Northwestern's second win over a ranked opponent since 1971—the Wildcats' last winning season.
The victory was especially sweet for Williams, a fifth-year senior who almost passed up his final season to try his luck in the pros, in part to help support his two-year-old daughter, Brittany. Williams decided to return to Evanston because, he says, "I felt I owed it to the other guys who were coming back."
A firm believer in himself, Williams said before the season that "I was the best quarterback in the league last season, better than Elvis [Grbac of Michigan] and Jason [Verduzco of Illinois], and I'm the best quarterback in the conference this year." Indeed, Williams led the Big Ten in total offense last year, averaging 227.8 yards per game. His 125 passing yards against BC pushed his career total to 5,803, tying him with Mike Greenfield (1984-87) for the school record. "Len Williams is the real thing," says Eagle coach Tom Coughlin.
So is Gissendaner, who in 1992 was named Big Ten Player of the Year and led the country in average yards per punt return (21.8). And so, perhaps, is Northwestern, which has plenty of reasons to look forward to—dare we say it?—its second bowl trip in the school's 110 years of football. In case you wondering, the Wildcats' other trip was to the 1949 Rose Bowl, in which they defeated Cal 20-14.
Although South Carolina and Clemson don't play until Nov. 22, the Gamecocks have already lost one to the Tigers. The group trying to bring an NFL expansion franchise to Charlotte, N.C., needed a home for the team's first season or two. South Carolina's Williams-Brice Stadium was the group's first choice, and Gamecock athletic director Mike McGee thought he had a deal. But then Mike McCormack, general manager of Charlotte's would-be team, reversed field and picked Clemson's Memorial Stadium, primarily because it has 9,000 more seats and 100 skyboxes (Williams-Brice has none, but South Carolina had promised to build 18). Considering that the move to Clemson could cost the city of Columbia as much as $40 million, many of the city's businessmen are furious with McGee, who was initially unenthusiastic about having an NFL franchise in nearby Charlotte.
THE CARDINAL RULE
Louisville's 35-17 thrashing of Arizona State did a lot of things for the Cardinals, who are coming off two straight losing seasons: It made them 3-0, their best start since 1972; it provided coach Howard Schnellenberger with his biggest home victory since arriving at Louisville in December 1984; and it avenged a 19-0 loss to the Sun Devils last season. In that game, Cardinal quarterback Jeff Brohm was sacked 10 times and the offense rushed for minus-78 yards. Last Saturday, however, Brohm, now a senior, threw for 331 yards and two TDs as Louisville dominated an Arizona State team that came into the game ranked No. 23. "We had something to prove," Brohm said.
A sunbaked crowd of 39,639, second largest in Louisville history, saw the Cardinals roar back from a 7-0 deficit to take a 21-10 halftime lead thanks largely to Brohm, who completed 18 of 22 passes for 244 yards before intermission. Moreover, the defense thwarted Mario Bates, the Sun Devils' outstanding tailback. After gaining 41 yards on eight carries, Bates was stunned on the last series of the first quarter by a ferocious tackle by defensive back Terry Quinn. Bates was sidelined for the team's next possession and gained only 23 yards on four carries after that. He became so frustrated that after a scuffle in the fourth quarter, he was ejected from the game.
So how good is Louisville? The three wins have come against decent opponents—San Jose State, Memphis State and Arizona State. If the Cardinals beat Texas this Saturday, they will need only to defeat Pitt, West Virginia, Southern Miss and Navy to be 8-0 going into their game at Tennessee on Nov. 6. Asked where the Cardinals should now be ranked, Brohm said, "About 20th." Schnellenberger disagreed: "Oh, I'd say 19th."
Louisville's impressive start can only help school fund-raisers in their campaign to build a $50 million stadium on campus. Since 1957 the Cardinals have played at the Kentucky State Fairgrounds, home of the Triple A Louisville Redbirds. Schnellenberger maintains that if Louisville, which is an independent, hopes to continue scheduling home games against teams from major conferences, it must have a new stadium. Now his problem may be that the Cardinals are too good to persuade those teams to play them anywhere.
Indiana's 24-8 victory over Kentucky gave the Wildcats a 1-15 road record under coach Bill Curry...
Kansas State's 30-25 win over Minnesota snapped the Wildcats' 18-game nonconference losing streak, which went back to 1979....
How about Army tailback Akili King for the Heisman? After two games King, who's a sophomore, is the nation's leading rusher, with 357 yards on 48 carries.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Northern Arizona's Terry Belden had field goals of 60, 54 and 50 yards in a 23-9 win over Cal State-North-ridge to tie the NCAA record for most 50-yard field goals in a game.
Linebacker Trev Alberts, a senior at Nebraska, made 12 tackles (including two sacks), caused a fumble and broke up a pass in the Cornhuskers' 14—13 victory over UCLA.
Perry Klein, a C.W. Post senior, completed 28 of 44 passes for 417 yards and five TDs in a 38-34 defeat of Rowan that snapped the Profs' regular-season winning streak at 12.