Tinseltown has always been a place that embraces a good melodrama, and so it is fitting that the quarterback saga of Tennessee was played out last Saturday at the Rose Bowl during a 25-23 loss to UCLA. With the Vols' big star of recent years, Heath Shuler, gone to the NFL, the team came into its season opener intent on establishing once and for all who its new leading man was—but left with a handful of stand-ins chewing the scenery.
The plot thickened 3½ minutes into the game, when starting quarterback Jerry Colquitt tore ligaments in his left knee, putting him out for perhaps the rest of the season. Colquitt, a fifth-year senior, had served patiently as Shuler's understudy for the last two seasons and had won the starting job with a stellar preseason. With Colquitt down, junior Todd Helton came on in relief, a familiar role for the fireballing closer on the school's baseball team. Still, Helton said after the game, "being thrown in there like that was a little more than I bargained for." He looked ragged running three fruitless series and was replaced by ballyhooed freshman Peyton Manning late in the second quarter.
This was a bold casting choice by coach Phillip Fulmer, as he has taken great pains to lower expectations for Manning and for the Vols' other prized freshman quarterback, Branndon Stewart. After three handoffs and a punt, Manning was back on the bench, but his cameo was important to him nonetheless. "I was happy they put me in after Helton," Manning said. "That meant a lot to me, that they now consider me the Number 2 guy."
Well, just who the No. 2 guy is depends on which superfreshman you ask. "It's not when you play, it's how," said Stewart, who played well during his one stint, in the third quarter. He led a 13-play drive that featured a pair of laserlike throws for first downs, but the Vols came up empty when Todd Becksvoort missed a 48-yard field goal.
Helton returned to play the entire fourth quarter, displaying some true grit and athleticism in leading Tennessee to three touchdowns. Fulmer later declared that Helton would "absolutely" be the starter for this week's game against Georgia, hoping to stifle the swirling talk of a quarterback controversy. But in what sounds suspiciously like a scripted stab at suspense. Fulmer added, "There are a number of scenarios that can play themselves out this week. We'll just have to wait and see what happens."
Fashioned by Amani
Tyrone Wheatley squeezed out one broad smile as he walked off the field on Saturday at Michigan Stadium after the Wolverines' 34-26 victory over Boston College, his right arm strapped to his chest to aid the healing of his dislocated shoulder. "I'm glad someone else got the chance to play against that Boston College defense instead of me," said Wheatley.
The Eagles, sensing a weakness in Michigan's strong ground game with Wheatley absent, committed their defense to stuffing the run. For a half it worked, as they held the Wolverines to just 45 yards on 17 carries. But in taking away the run, BC gave up the pass. Twice, Michigan junior wideout Amani Toomer roamed into the zone vacated by the Eagles' run-conscious linebackers, caught short curls from quarterback Todd Collins and turned them into long touchdowns. On the day, Toomer caught seven passes for 179 yards. Said Toomer after the game, "The way they were trying to take away the run—our entire receiving corps took that as an insult."
No one can ever say that roomer, a high school All-America from Berkeley, Calif., doesn't understand how the game of football is to be played. His father, Donald, was a referee in the Pac-10 in the mid-'80s. Amani and his older brother, Donald Jr., now a cornerback at Utah State, used to go with him to games he was officiating. Says Amani, "We'd watch Dad instead of the players."
His father named him Amani Askari loonier, which in Swahili means Peace Warrior. While he showed the BC defense his warrior qualities, he gave them little peace.
"I love the place! Love it!" says Miami coach Dennis Erickson. "I mean, granted, other teams complain about the visitors' bathroom, but I never have to use it."
The Orange Bowl has been distressing to visitors for a while now. On Saturday it became the site of the longest home winning streak (58 games) in college football history as Miami routed Georgia Southern 56-0. Win number 58 resembled many of the preceding 57: The Hurricanes won a laugher (only eight victims have come within 10 points) by dominating on defense (on average, one of every four games has been a shutout).
More notes on the Streak:
•One member of the Hurricanes' record-setting team has been on the other side of the Streak too. Before transferring to Miami, cornerback Chad Wilson was on the Long Beach State team that Miami beat 55-0 in '91.
•Only 10 of the games have been sellouts.
•Georgia Southern knows a thing about home winning streaks itself: The Eagles hold the Division I-AA record of 38. set from 1985 to 1990.
This Saturday, Miami visits Arizona Stale, where the Hurricanes will be seeking to end a streak: They've lost their last three games at Sun Devil Stadium.
Players of the Week
Grumbling State junior Kendrick Nord completed 17 of 33 passes for 485 yards and seven TDs in a 62-56 win over Alcorn State. The teams had 1,318 yards in total offense.
Kentucky's Donte Key, a junior linebacker, caused a fumble that led to a touchdown, and intercepted a pass with 19 seconds left to clinch the Wildcats' 20-14 victory over Louisville.
Safety Chris Banks, a senior at Bowie (Md.) State, had three interceptions as the Bulldogs defeated Elizabeth City (N.C.) State 13-0 in a Division II game.