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HOW HOLTZ MEASURES UP THE HURRYING HUSKY SIGNAL CALLING AT AIR FORCE AND 'BAMA POKEY ALLEN'S RETURN

Nov. 25, 1996
Nov. 25, 1996

Table of Contents
Nov. 25, 1996

Faces In The Crowd

HOW HOLTZ MEASURES UP THE HURRYING HUSKY SIGNAL CALLING AT AIR FORCE AND 'BAMA POKEY ALLEN'S RETURN

A MIXED LEGACY

This is an article from the Nov. 25, 1996 issue Original Layout

It wasn't surprising that Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz spent most
of his press conference following the Irish's 60-6 demolition of
Pittsburgh last Saturday dancing around reports that he would
soon resign. After all, Holtz's 11-year tenure at Notre Dame has
been a tease of sorts, a dalliance with greatness that has
ultimately fallen short.

If this is Holtz's final season with the Irish--as SI went to
press on Monday night he was expected to announce his
resignation on Tuesday--he will have coached the same number of
years at Notre Dame as Frank Leahy (1941-43, 1946-53) and Ara
Parseghian (1964-74), and two fewer than Knute Rockne
(1918-1930). Holtz is 99-29-2 (7-2 so far this year), with games
against Rutgers, USC and an undetermined bowl opponent left. He
is six wins shy of Rockne's school record (105-12-5) but last
among the four coaches in winning percentage and national
titles: Leahy four, Rockne won three and Parseghian two.

In one sense, any comparison with Rockne, Leahy or Parseghian is
unfair to Holtz. His predecessors coached in eras in which there
were few powerful programs, and the scholarship limitations and
widespread TV exposure that have leveled the college playing
field were yet to come. Notre Dame was in a class by itself.

But even in the on-any-given-Saturday world of '90s college
football, Notre Dame is the most fertile ground for sowing a
dynasty. In December 1985 Holtz inherited a program left in
disarray by Gerry Faust (30-26-1 in five seasons). In 1988 Holtz
took the Irish to a 12-0 record and the national title. His
swift rebuilding seemed to promise many championships to follow.
But while Notre Dame has contended four times since then, it has
not won another title.

Holtz coached two of the most cherished games in Notre Dame
history, a 31-30 victory over Miami in 1988 and a 31-24 win over
Florida State in '93, both emotional upsets of No. 1-ranked
teams at Notre Dame Stadium. Those games underscored Holtz's
biggest strength: his ability to prepare for a key game. At
this, few coaches at any level are better.

However, his ledger also shows stunning home field failures, the
most galling of which was a 41-39 upset by Boston College one
week after the '93 win over Florida State. That loss probably
cost Holtz a second national title, and it started a slide that
culminated in a 6-5-1 record in 1994. There have been plenty of
other sour defeats. In '90 Holtz's team was No. 1 when it
suffered an inexplicable 36-31 home loss to unranked Stanford.
Two years later the Irish lost again at home to the Cardinal,
33-16. Last season began with a home defeat by Northwestern;
five weeks ago, Air Force upset the Irish in South Bend.

Holtz's recruiting, too, has been marked by great promise
followed by disappointment. The coach lured prized quarterback
Ron Powlus from Berwick, Pa., in 1993, but in his three years as
a starter, Powlus has developed glacially in Holtz's
ground-based offense, and the Irish have never been in national
championship contention.

Yet the resilient Holtz has survived criticism, which peaked in
1993 with the publication of Under the Tarnished Dome, a book
that detailed widespread use of anabolic steroids by Irish
players and various other wrongdoings in Holtz's program. It is
odd that he would resign now. Notre Dame's recruiting, poor in
the early '90s, has rebounded. Notre Dame's most recent
recruiting efforts show signs of bearing fruit. Holtz is not
running from a disaster, nor is he being pushed out by school
officials.

More likely he has been used up by the job, as Leahy and
Parseghian were. It is the nature of Notre Dame that even its
most successful coaches flame out early. Irish coaches often
leave as failures or legends. Unique to the end, Holtz will
leave as neither.

--TIM LAYDEN

DILLON'S A DILLY

Saturday's most arresting performance was turned in by
Washington junior tailback Corey Dillon. In the Huskies' 53-10
thrashing of lowly San Jose State, Dillon rushed for 222 yards
and amassed 305 all-purpose yards before being pulled from the
rout by coach Jim Lambright after the first quarter. With a game
remaining against Washington State this Saturday, Dillon's 1,400
rushing yards and 2,030 all-purpose yards this fall have already
broken Napoleon Kaufman's school records (1,851 all-purpose
yards in 1993, 1,390 rushing yards in 1994).

Dillon's path to success has been long and uneven. Three years
ago, after being drafted but not signed by the San Diego Padres,
he began working the night shift cleaning office buildings in
downtown Seattle. Last fall Dillon rushed for 1,899 yards at
Dixie College in St. George, Utah, and then signed with the
Huskies last summer. With junior tailback Rashaan Shehee
returning to Washington after rushing for 957 yards and a
school-record 15 TDs in '95, Huskies coaches talked about
switching Dillon to the defensive backfield. It didn't happen,
and midway through this season, with Shehee hampered by a
right-heel injury, Dillon became the starting tailback. In a
33-14 win over Oregon on Oct. 26, he had his breakthrough game,
a 259-yard rushing effort.

"He's the total package," says Washington quarterback Brock
Huard. "He's headed for the NFL sometime. We're just hoping it's
not next year."

A FORCE TO RECKON WITH

Air Force senior quarterback Beau Morgan is generously listed at
5'11" and 195 pounds, has a mouthful of braces, and will Yessir
and Nosir you to death. He is so polite that he has been known
to congratulate an opponent after receiving an especially good
wallop. "There's a part of me that has always wanted to be a
linebacker," he says. "I appreciate a good lick, even if it's me
taking it."

It should be noted that Morgan has dealt a lick or two himself,
perhaps none more dramatic than the one he delivered to Fresno
State on Saturday. Despite suffering from a strained right
hamstring, Morgan rallied Air Force from a 31-3 halftime deficit
to a 44-38 overtime victory. In the second half and overtime, he
rushed for 163 of his 217 yards and had a hand in five of Air
Force's six touchdowns, three by land, two by air. Morgan's
first TD throw, a 14-yarder in the fourth quarter, lifted him
past 1,000 yards passing for the season and made him the first
player in NCAA history to both pass and run for 1,000 yards in
consecutive years. (His 1,408 yards on the ground this season
make him the nation's fourth-leading rusher; in the Falcons'
season finale against San Diego State on Thanksgiving Day, he
most likely will break the quarterback rushing record of 1,443
yards set in 1989 by Northern Illinois's Stacey Robinson.) "He
may be as good a wishbone quarterback as I've seen," says Lou
Holtz, who watched Morgan rush for 183 yards in the Falcons'
20-17 upset of the Irish on Oct. 19. "And that goes all the way
back to when Texas, Alabama and Oklahoma ran the wishbone."

Morgan's devotion to the game is fanatical. During the spring of
Beau's eighth-grade year, his father, Barry Morgan, accepted the
football coaching job at Trinity Christian Academy in Addison,
Texas, some 120 miles northwest of the family's home in Liberty
City, Texas. Because Barry didn't want to uproot his family
before selling the house in Liberty City, and because Beau, with
an eye toward making the Trinity varsity the following season,
was determined not to miss spring football practice at Trinity,
father and son made the two-hour drive to Addison each Monday
morning for six weeks, staying in Addison during the school week
and driving back to Liberty City on Friday evening. In Addison
they often slept on the floor of the film room in Trinity's
athletic facility.

During Beau's freshman year at Trinity, the Morgans visited the
Air Force Academy. That December, Beau watched the Falcons'
spritelike quarterback, 5'9", 155-pound Dee Dowis, play in the
Liberty Bowl on TV, and he realized there was still a place for
a relatively diminutive wishbone quarterback. Sadly, such
quarterbacks come with an early expiration date. "The NFL?"
Morgan says, laughing incredulously. "I'm not counting on it."

EBB TIDE

Alabama might well be unbeaten and a contender for the national
championship if only it had enjoyed better play at quarterback
this season. In a stunning 17-16 loss to Mississippi State last
Saturday night, the Tide's Freddie Kitchens completed 9 of 18
passes for only 93 yards and was benched for five series in the
second half. His replacement, Warren Foust, completed 1 of 6 for
12 yards and was yanked after being intercepted. In Alabama's
only other loss this season--to Tennessee, 20-13, on Oct.
26--Kitchens was 8 for 21 with three interceptions, and he
overthrew a wide-open receiver in the end zone from 11 yards out
on the game's final series.

Alabama has finished in the top 10 in total defense four of the
past five years and is ranked fifth this season. However, since
the departure of Jay Barker two years ago, the quarterback
position has been the bane of the Tide's attack. Coach Gene
Stallings has stuck with his conservative power offense, but
with even lower-rung SEC programs like Kentucky (with Tim Couch)
and South Carolina (with Anthony Wright) having gobbled up some
of the South's top schoolboy quarterbacks, he may have to take
dramatic action to turn the Tide: Open up the attack so 'Bama
will be more attractive to blue-chip passers.

BACK IN THE SADDLE

Last Saturday, Boise State's Pokey Allen finally coached his
first Division I-A football game, something people in Idaho
feared he might never be healthy enough to do.

Allen took over at Boise State in 1993 and the next season led
the Broncos to the Division I-AA national championship game, and
a 13-2 record. Three days after Boise State's 28-14 loss to
Youngstown State in the title game, Allen learned that a lump in
his right triceps was malignant. He underwent surgery, followed
that with radiation treatment and had a stem-cell transplant. By
Christmas the cancer was in remission.

In August, however, as Boise State was preparing for its first
season as a Division I-A school, Allen learned that he had an
egg-sized malignant tumor on his chest and several cancerous
lesions on his lungs. He took a medical leave of absence on the
first day of practice, underwent surgery to remove the tumor and
lesions, then moved to Vancouver for alternative treatment not
available in the U.S. His days consisted of five-hour
intravenous hydrogen peroxide treatments, injections, massive
doses of pills and strictly vegetarian meals.

Allen was sorely missed in Boise, where he had been an
inspiration, often urging his players to "stud up." Dig deep. He
kept in touch with his team through daily phone calls to interim
coach Tom Mason and by viewing videotapes of the Broncos' games.
In his absence the players erected a wooden sign that read STUD
UP POKEY ALLEN '96 over a door of the Varsity Center. Every day
they would touch the sign on their way to the practice field.

On Nov. 8, after learning that the tumor on his chest was free
of cancer cells and the spot on his lung was stable, Allen
called Boise State officials and told them he was coming home.
Two days later he flew into town. He attended his first practice
the next day and on Saturday guided his 1-9 team to a thrilling
33-32 victory at New Mexico State on the strength of a 22-yard
touchdown pass with 14 seconds to play. "I was a little
emotional when I walked on the field," Allen said after the
game. "Then I felt like I was never gone."

The team celebrated its victory against the Aggies but stopped
short of dousing the coach with Gatorade. "We were kind of
afraid to touch him," explained senior quarterback Tony Hilde.
"He's a little fragile."

--CHERYL ROSENBERG

COLOR PHOTO: JOE RAYMOND Holtz has come up big in key games only to suffer galling losses to lesser teams. [Lou Holtz talking to University of Notre Dame football players]COLOR PHOTO: PATRICK MURPHY-RACEY [Damon Jones]COLOR PHOTO: PAUL JASIENSKI Warm greetings and victory welcomed Allen back. [Pokey Allen]

SMALL SCHOOLS, BIG DREAMS

When Damon Jones transferred from Michigan to Southern Illinois
after his freshman season in 1993, he wondered if NFL scouts
"had maps good enough" to find the remote campus, located 100
miles southeast of St. Louis. They do, indeed. The senior tight
end is one of several players from non-Division I-A schools
expected to be taken in next April's NFL draft. Here is a list
of the 10 most coveted players from smaller schools.

PLAYER, POSITION SCHOOL

1 Damon Jones, (6'6", 280) TE Southern Illinois

COMMENT

Excellent run blocker, soft hands (32 catches, 431 yards); at
least two NFL teams--Oilers and Saints--project him as a
first-round pick

[PLAYER,] [POSITION] [SCHOOL]

2 Myron Elzy,(6'6", 300) DT Central (Ohio) State

[COMMENT]

Could become Leon Lett-type impact player; inconsistent play,
though, has spawned fears he could be a bust, a la Daryl
Gardener, a first-round pick of the Dolphins last April

[PLAYER,] [POSITION] [SCHOOL]

3 Tony McCombs, (6'2", 240) LB Eastern Kentucky

[COMMENT]

Can play outside or middle linebacker; excellent range reminds
some scouts of '96 rookie star Zach Thomas

[PLAYER,] [POSITION] [SCHOOL]

4 Sean Woodson, (6'2", 210) S Jackson State

[COMMENT]

Has good size for a college safety, but scouts would like to
see him become a harder hitter

[PLAYER,] [POSITION] [SCHOOL]

5 Pratt Lyons, (6'4", 280) DE Troy State

[COMMENT]

Rare combination of quickness and size for an end; might be
better suited as a defensive tackle in the NFL

[PLAYER,] [POSITION] [SCHOOL]

6 Mike Cherry, (6'4", 220) QB Murray State

[COMMENT]

Former Arkansas Razorback has thrown for 2,238 yards and 17 TDs
this fall; is more polished than Marshall's Eric Kresser (below)

[PLAYER,] [POSITION] [SCHOOL]

7 Macey Brooks, (6'5", 210) WR James Madison

[COMMENT]

A little stringy, but if he puts on 10 to 15 pounds, he could be
the big, Jake Reed-type target NFL teams covet

[PLAYER,] [POSITION] [SCHOOL]

8 Raleigh Roundtree, (6'5", 305) T South Carolina State

[COMMENT]

School better known for defensive alums (Deacon Jones, Donnie
Shell, Harry Carson), but Roundtree will help alter that
perception

[PLAYER,] [POSITION] [SCHOOL]

9 Ray Nealy, (6 feet, 210) TB Arkansas-Pine Bluff

[COMMENT]

Has rushed for 828 yards this fall, but his potential as a
blocking back is what most interests NFL scouts

[PLAYER,] [POSITION] [SCHOOL]

10 Eric Kresser, (6'2", 209) QB Marshall

[COMMENT]

Has passed for 2,341 yards and 24 TDs; does have benefit of
throwing to freshman wideout sensation Randy Moss, a likely
NFLer of the future