The Cotton Club
When the Southwest Conference became a lame-duck outfit last February—the league will disband in 1996—it appeared that the conference abbreviation would come to stand for So Who Cares? Well, as it turns out, lots of people.
With Texas Tech's upset of Texas and Texas Christian's upset of Rice (that's right, Rice was favored) last Saturday, the eight-team SWC finds itself with a five-way tie in the battle for its berth in the Cotton Bowl. Texas Tech, Texas, TCU, Rice and Baylor each have two conference losses. "I think it's kind of neat," says Baylor coach Chuck Reedy. "Here the league is about to fold, and we're putting on our wildest conference finish ever."
In 1996, four SWC teams are off to join the Big Eight, three others are bound for the WAC, and Houston is headed for a new conference with five other teams that are now independents. So who will be the league's penultimate representative in the Cotton Bowl? Rice and Tech, which have already met (the Owls won 24-21), are the current favorites; but as lowly SMU proved by tying seventh-ranked and bowl-ineligible Texas A&M 21-21 on Saturday, just about anything can happen.
Rice has not played in the Cotton Bowl since 1958, and a reappearance would be sweet for coach Ken Hatfield, who was-fired by Clemson last year. Texas Tech, on the other hand, has never been to the Cotton Bowl. Of the race to the finish, Tech coach Spike Dykes says, "It's gonna be a dustup. We're playing a bunch of little ol' pups on offense, but they're really starting to come along."
Led by redshirt freshman Zebbie Lethridge at quarterback, Spike's tykes are averaging 29 points per game in the SWC. And for those in need of a portent of the final standings, Lethridge grew up in Lubbock on a street named First Place. "It's a real flat mesa we live on up here," says Dykes of Lubbock's topography. "There's nothing beautiful about dirt, but it's rich farmland. Too rich for growing vegetables. Perfect for growing cotton."
And dreams of Cotton.
Who has rushed for more yards in a game than any other back in North America this fall? Chris Lewis of the University of Calgary, which plays Canadian-rules football. Last Friday night the sophomore tailback carried 31 times for 395 yards in the Dinosaurs' 36-36 tie with British Columbia.
Pride of Lions
Anyone in State College, Pa., engaged in one of those ubiquitous Heisman Trophy Watches has an immediate problem: candidate overload. As shell-shocked Ohio State coach John Cooper said after Saturday's 63-14 loss to 7-0 Penn State, the Buckeyes' worst defeat in 48 years, "They've got everything—a great quarterback, great wide receivers, a great running back." Which is why the Heisman, which has been won only once by a Penn State player (John Cappelletti in 1973), is unlikely to end up in Happy Valley.
Just too many stars to choose from:
•The quarterback. Fifth-year senior Kerry Collins completed 19 of 23 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions, against Ohio State. "Today, it was pretty cool out there the way things were clicking," Collins said after the game. "I had people open all over the place and so much time to throw." His efficiency rating is now a ridiculous 194.75, the nation's best by 28.5 points.
Collins's proficiency is costing him—literally. Earlier this season he rewarded his offensive linemen for their contribution to his success by taking them to the State College Veterans Club, the local VFW, for $3.00 cheese steaks. "Of course, being offensive linemen, every one of them ordered two or three," Collins says. "The bill was, like, 40 bucks. Now I'm going to have to take them again."
•The wide receivers. Junior Bobby En-gram caught six passes for 102 yards and one touchdown on Saturday; sophomore Freddie Scott had five catches for 80 yards. Said Engram afterward, "You could say we were on today." Between them they now have 60 catches and are averaging 21.5 yards per reception.
Scott is continuing a career that was once pointed toward the more genteel ranks of New England Division III schools. His father, Fred Sr., played 11 years as a wide receiver in the NFL and USFL after coming out of Amherst in 1974. "I groomed my son for Amherst," says Fred Sr. The grooming included strict academic standards and schooling at Detroit Country Day. "But in his junior year in high school," says Fred Sr., "something just happened." Junior became too good at football for Amherst.
His son's blossoming skills left Fred Scott Sr. chatting early Saturday evening with Penn State alum Lydell Mitchell, a former Baltimore Colt teammate. Which brings us to...
•The running back. Junior tailback KiJana Carter rushed for 137 yards on 19 carries and scored four touchdowns. After the game Mitchell, one of the best ballcarriers in Penn State history, waited outside the locker room to meet Carter. "I just wanted to shake hands with somebody who reminds me a little bit of myself. It's my pleasure," Mitchell said to Carter.
Carter stood before Mitchell, pumping his hand and beaming. "No," he said, "it's my pleasure."
Mitchell played at Penn State from 1969 to '71. His teammates included Franco Harris, John Hufnagel and Jack Ham. None of them won the Heisman either.
A Good Read
Since writing The Complete Passing Game in 1967, Don Read has made several stops around the Northwest: Portland, Eugene, Klamath Falls and now Missoula. You might say he has been on a long book tour.
In evaluating his book's popularity, Read, who has been Montana's coach since 1986, says, "It wasn't a Gone with the Wind deal." Maybe not, but the subject matter still seems to hold fans' interest.
Last Saturday, before a packed house of 15,466 and an additional 400 who had purchased lawn seating behind one of the end zones at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, Montana's junior quarterback, Dave Dickenson, threw for 510 yards and three touchdowns as the Grizzlies, the top-ranked team in Division I-AA, threw the book at third-ranked Idaho 45-21. "It's a fun offense to watch, and even more fun to play," says Dickenson, who last year led all I-AA players (including a certain quarterback from Alcorn State) in total offense, averaging 361.6 yards per game.
Read, 59, has used his book to tutor Dickenson and each of the quarterbacks who have played under him in his one-back, motion offense. After coaching stints at Portland State, Oregon and Oregon Tech, Read has had winning records in all nine of his seasons at Montana. It was while in Eugene as an assistant in 1972 that Read schooled future NFL Hall of Famer Dan Fouts in the good book.
Though not blessed with Fouts's physical gifts, the 5'11", 175-pound Dickenson, who had a 3.86 GPA in molecular biology last year, is a lionhearted competitor and a quick study. "Dave wears thick glasses, and he looks like a nerdy guy, like he belongs in a chemistry lab," says Read. "But when he talks, all of our coaches listen. Dave doesn't do one thing better than everybody else, he just does everything a little better than any one guy."
Winning is one of those things. Since his junior year at C.M. Russell High in Great Falls, Mont., Dickenson has been 41-1 as a starter. In the one loss, a 49-48 heartbreaker against Delaware in last November's playoffs, he was 37 of 44 for 409 yards. Says Dickenson, who has thrown 23 touchdown passes and only five interceptions this season, "Nobody ever expected much of me—not even my parents."
Meanwhile, Read is writing again. "I've been working off and on for six years on my second book," he says. "It's called Making of a Quarterback."
Players of the Week
Auburn's Stephen Davis, a junior, accounted for 57.5% of his team's offense as he rushed for 246 yards and three touchdowns in the Tigers' 31-14 victory over Arkansas.
West Virginia defensive back Vann Washington, a sophomore, had three interceptions, returning one for a 97-yard TD and another for a 67-yard TD, in a 52-16 rout of Louisiana Tech.
Albert Bland of Missouri Southern set a Division II record by running for 223 yards in the first half of a 38-16 victory over Washburn. He finished with 321 yards on 32 carries.