FINALLY, FLORIDA STATE
When Florida State signed high school kicking whiz Scott Bentley last February, it was assumed that the Seminoles—who have twice blown chances for the national title because of failed field goal attempts in the waning moments of games against Miami—wouldn't be haunted by the term wide right as long as he was on campus. Why, Bentley was such a phenom that a certain sports magazine even put him on the cover of its college football preview issue. Yet now, on the brink of another Florida State-Miami battle (in a rivalry that Hurricane linebacker Ray Lewis calls "the game of the century every year") kicking is once again the top concern of Seminole coach Bobby Bowden.
In Florida State's 51-0 rout of Georgia Tech last Saturday, Bentley missed a 33-yard field goal (he has missed two of eight attempts this year) and his fifth extra point of the season (not counting another two that have been blocked). Bowden toyed with the idea of replacing Bentley with Dan Mowrey, the kicker who was—all together now—wide right at the end of last year's 19-16 loss to Miami. "I started to make a change," Bowden said. "Then I thought, No, I'm not going into the Miami game with a change."
Saturday's game in Tallahassee will not be close enough for Bentley to be a factor. The Hurricanes cannot shut down Seminole quarterback Charlie Ward and a fast-break offense that has allowed Florida State to blitz its five opponents by a combined score of 228-14. And with shutouts of three of those foes, the defense has been just as dominant.
Here's another reason that the Seminoles will not lose to Miami for the seventh time in their last eight meetings: The Hurricanes are suspect at quarterback. Midway through the third quarter of Saturday's 30-7 win over Division I-AA Georgia Southern, Miami was leading 16-0 and struggling so badly on offense that the Orange Bowl crowd loudly voiced its displeasure with quarterback Frank Costa. The boos changed to cheers when coach Dennis Erickson replaced Costa with sophomore Ryan Collins, who threw two TD passes in the next 11 minutes. Still, Erickson insists that Costa will start against the Seminoles.
But it won't matter who's calling signals for the Hurricanes—or who's kicking for the Seminoles—because Florida State will win going away.
Richard Hoffer filed this report from Palo Alto, Calif.:
One of the pleasures of Notre Dame football is hearing coach Lou Holtz explain just how bad his team is. Take last week, when the Irish took on Stanford, which had been allowing more than four touchdowns and 516 yards a game. "How we will find the points, I don't know," Holtz said.
It's ridiculous, of course. Not even Holtz's players pay him any attention. Early last week Holtz grew disgusted with the way quarterback Kevin McDougal was running the option and promised to scrap it. On Saturday, though, after the McDougal-led option had accounted for three touchdowns in a 48-20 victory over the Cardinal (the Irish found the points), it was clear that the Notre Dame players are right not to take Holtz seriously. "I don't believe a lot of things Coach Holtz says," McDougal said.
The players don't even trust the things Holtz does. About the time he was scrapping his option attack, Holtz dropped senior wideout Clint Johnson from the kick-return team. This was after Johnson had ripped off a 53-yard return against Purdue the previous Saturday. That run reminded folks of the promise Johnson showed back in his freshman Blue and Gold game, in which he tore one off for 96 yards and—keep in mind that this was when the Irish were still giving out astrophysical nicknames like Rocket—they started calling him Cosmic.
Then, a few days before the Stanford game, Holtz started to emphasize a second kick-return play, a run to the outside to complement the usual charge up the middle. This seemed to suit Johnson, whose natural move to the sideline had cost him the job in the first place. With the sideline return in, and his penance paid, Johnson was approached by Holtz on Saturday. Holtz had decided to give Cosmic another chance. "You take things he says with a grain of salt," said Johnson.
Against Stanford, Johnson returned kicks (up the sidelines) for 79 yards to set up one touchdown and 100 to score another. Finally, the enlightened Cardinal began squibbing kicks.
All this action—a successful option, a potent return game—somehow conspired to plunge Holtz into a deep depression. Looking ahead to Pitt, USC and Florida State, he could barely enjoy the miserable moment. "We're not a good enough football team to play the people we have to play," he said.
It's maddening. Holtz is not capable of making an honest analysis, not one. Except that in the middle of last week, for some reason, he announced to his players that Johnson was going to have a great game. The prediction came out of the blue—before the option had been reinstalled, before Johnson had been reinstalled, before the Irish had any hope of finding points at Stanford. Lo and behold, Holtz had told the truth.
It's what makes him interesting.
The greatest comeback in Pac-10 history, Cal's 42-41 win over Oregon in Berkeley, was orchestrated by a Bear who had spent the last seven years as a Duck. Crazy? Yeah, well, so was what transpired in the wildest Cal game since the school band helped the Bears beat Stanford in 1982.
Going into the game, Oregon was worried that Bear offensive coordinator and former Duck defensive coordinator Denny Schiller's familiarity with Oregon's plays would give Cal an edge. Indeed, Schuler still talks with his successor at Oregon, Nick Aliotti, weekly. "There's some knowledge we'd rather he didn't have," said Duck coach Rich Brooks of Schuler before the game. "We'll have to throw a few curves at the old guy."
Curves? In the beginning everything broke perfectly for the Ducks, who jumped out to a 30-0 second-quarter lead. "We were down, beaten, hurting and not feeling good," said Cal quarterback Dave Barr.
What happened next should give Aliotti and Schuler something to talk about for the rest of their lives. Trailing 38-14 in the third quarter, Barr and the rest of Schuler's offense went berserk, ripping Aliotti's defense to the point that the Bears trailed only 41-40 after a Barr TD pass with 1:17 remaining.
Cal coach Keith Gilbertson, knowing that a tie would keep the Bears unbeaten and in the Pac-10 title chase, asked Schuler if he thought the team should go for two points and the win. "This is what you get paid for," Schuler told him. "AH right, let's go for two," said Gilbertson. "If we don't, I don't know how we'll explain it to the kids."
At the line of scrimmage Barr noticed Oregon's strong safety keying on fullback Marty Holly, who was supposed to get a handoff. So Barr called an audible and threw into the end zone to wideout Mike Caldwell, who barely got one foot down before falling out of bounds. Later, Barr, a sociology major, said, "I think I'm going to change my major to drama."
The comeback fell only one point short of tying the Division I-A record shared by Maryland and Ohio State, both of which won after overcoming 31-point deficits (the Terps against Miami in 1984, the Buckeyes against Minnesota in '89).
After the game Schuler was the only person in the stadium with mixed feelings. "I felt elated," he said, "until I got down on the field and I saw the look in the eyes of the Oregon players and coaches."
A crowd of almost 9,000—huge by Division III standards—turned up at Baldwin-Wallace's Finnie Stadium in Berea, Ohio, to see if the home team and its fine senior quarterback, John Koz, could upset Mount Union, the No. 1 team in the division, and its equally fine senior signal-caller, Jim Ballard. At stake too were bragging rights: The rival schools are only an hour apart. So Mount Union's 35-7 victory was something of a disappointment for fans of both schools, who had been looking forward to the Ballard-Koz showdown for months.
Truth be told, Ballard, who completed 18 of 26 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns, had better support than Koz, who hardly disgraced himself with 21 completions in 40 attempts for 232 yards and a TD. The Baldwin-Wallace offense was no match for Mount Union's defense, which held the Yellow Jackets to minus-36 yards rushing, sacked Koz seven times and picked off three passes. "There are holes in their defense," said Baldwin-Wallace coach Bob Packard, "but John didn't have enough time to find them."
Ballard, who was sacked four times and intercepted twice, had made it his preseason goal to win this game—the rubber match between the two quarterbacks—and outplay Koz. Afterward Ballard said, "I always find something to challenge me. Today it was John Koz and BW. I'll find a new challenge next week."
Koz and his teammates can take some consolation from the fact that they took part in the continuation of a terrific rivalry. "This stuff is great for the colleges and great for the kids," said Mount Union coach Larry Kehres. "You don't often see this in Division III."
Who cares whether we have a national championship game on New Year's Day. I he matchup we would really love to see is 0-5 Maryland versus 1-3 Temple—to determine who has absolutely, positively the most god-awful defense in the country. The loser would merit serious consideration for worst D of all time, right down there with the Cumberland team that Georgia Tech drilled 222-0 in 1916.
Look at the evidence. Maryland, which lost 55-28 to Virginia Tech two weeks ago and 70-7 to Penn State last Saturday, is giving up an average of 53.8 points and 605.8 yards per game. That puts the Terps on pace to surpass the records held by Texas-El Paso, which surrendered 49.5 points per game in 1973, and Kansas, which allowed 536 yards per game in '88.
Awful as they are, though, the Terps might be able to edge Temple, which got blown out 62-0 by Rutgers last week. After an opening win over Eastern Michigan, the Owls have given up 186 points in three games, pushing their average yield to 53.5 points.
Maryland and Temple will not play. But we can dream, can't we?
In a 45-15 win over Southern Illinois, Northern Illinois's LeShon Johnson ran 92 yards for a TD the first time he touched the ball. He went on to rack up 322 yards, the most by a Division I-A runner this year....
Ohio's 41-7 loss to Virginia extended the Bobcats' losing streak to 14, the longest in Division I-A but comfortably short of Northwestern's record of 34, set between 1979 and '82....
Nevada quarterback Chris Vargas threw for 538 yards and seven TDs in only three quarters in a 49-14 defeat of UNLV. He completed 30 of 39 passes with no interceptions....
In Howard's 32-13 win over Florida A&M, three players were ejected and 38 penalties were called, one short of the record for Division I-AA....
Marshall, the defending I-AA national champion and top-ranked this season after a 3-0 start, was upset by Tennessee-Chattanooga 33-31. Quarterback Kenyon Earl torched the Thundering Herd for 332 yards passing and four touchdowns.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Glenn Foley, a senior quarterback at Boston College, completed 22 of 29 passes for 423 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Eagles to a 33-29 upset of No. 13 Syracuse.
Senior cornerback Eric Jack of New Mexico recovered a fumble, blocked a punt, intercepted a pass and made 11 tackles in the Lobos' 41-14 win over Hawaii.
Mankato (Minn.) State quarterback Jamie Pass threw four TD passes in the last 18 minutes of a 28-27 defeat of North Dakota State, Division II's No. 1 team.