Dec. 02, 1996
Dec. 02, 1996

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Dec. 2, 1996

College Basketball 96-97 Preview



This is an article from the Dec. 2, 1996 issue

Iowa State junior tailback Troy Davis is rarely given to
self-promotion, but as he stood in the end zone after a fourth-
quarter touchdown run last Saturday against Kansas State, he
brashly struck the Heisman pose. Although it cost Iowa State a
15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, Davis, who earlier
in the game had become the first NCAA player to twice gain more
than 2,000 rushing yards in a season, was unapologetic. "Rushing
for 2,000 yards twice was worth the penalty," he says. "It's
unbelievable that I did it. All those good players out there,
and nobody ever did it before? It must be hard."

Before this season, in which Texas Tech junior Byron Hanspard
also reached the milestone, only four other Division I-A players
had rushed for more than 2,000 yards in one season, and each won
the Heisman Trophy. Nonetheless, Davis, who rushed for 2,185
yards after gaining 2,010 last year, is likely to get another
stiff-arm from Heisman voters, who ranked him fifth a year ago.
Granted, the Cyclones lose often: Their 35-20 defeat by Kansas
State dropped them to 2-9. Yet Davis's standing with Heisman
voters is hurt by several false assumptions.

Too many of his yards come against bad teams or with the game
out of reach. The Cyclones' schedule was recently rated by The
NCAA News as the second-toughest in the country. Four of Iowa
State's nine losses were decided by a combined 10 points, and
Davis averaged 171 yards in those games. "He would get my vote,"
said Kansas State's All-America cornerback, Chris Canty, after
Davis rushed for 225 yards on 48 carries against the Wildcats.
"Did you see what he did to us out there?" Says Colorado
linebacker Matt Russell, "You have to grab hold of his jersey or
anything you can find, then wait for your friends to get there.
He's the Heisman guy." It should be noted that Colorado, which
gave up 228 yards to Davis, and Kansas State are a combined 18-3.

Davis is too one-dimensional. True, he is not much of a pass
catcher--which, along with his diminutive stature (5'8", 185
pounds), makes NFL people fidgety about his future. But Davis is
a solid blocker, an exceptional attribute given that he
averaged 37 carries a game this fall.

His high number of carries per game is a shameless ploy to cop
the Heisman. A month ago Virginia standout tailback Tiki Barber
was asked who he thought deserved the Heisman. Without
hesitating, he mentioned Davis. "I don't think people understand
the beating you take if you run the ball 25 or 30 times, let
alone 40 or 50," Barber said. "But he wants the ball every time,
and I admire him for that."

"People don't know how much I've put into this," Davis said,
almost sadly, after Saturday's game. "They don't know how much
I've worked. They don't understand."


After Northwestern coach Gary Barnett withdrew last Thursday as
a candidate to replace Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz--for "personal
and private" reasons, Barnett said--the Irish could have
redoubled their efforts to hire a coach with an off-the-charts Q
rating. Instead, school officials were prudent. They stayed
in-house and promoted Bob Davie, Holtz's defensive coordinator
for the past three seasons.

The hiring of Davie, 42, was not without irony. Holtz has gone
through defensive coordinators as if they were Bics, having had
five of them in his 11 years in South Bend. Certainly Davie has
not been immune to Holtz's frequent fits of pique, but Holtz has
been relatively hands-off in dealing with him. At times, in
fact, Holtz has seemed downright deferential toward Davie. Says
one former Notre Dame assistant, "It's clear that Lou is very
fond of Bob. He might almost view Bob as an equal. And that's no
small thing for Lou."

Indeed, when Holtz was hospitalized last season for surgery on a
bulging disk in his neck, he named Davie interim head coach.
Davie won his one game as the acting boss, a 41-0 rout of
Vanderbilt. In five subsequent games during Holtz's recovery,
all Notre Dame victories, Davie was the sideline coach while
Holtz oversaw the team from the press box. Those games, says
Davie, "whetted my appetite. They made me feel I could coach at
a place of Notre Dame's magnitude."

But because he had never been a full-time head coach at any
level, Davie couldn't count on being promoted to that position
by a school that is still haunted by the legacy of Gerry Faust,
the former Cincinnati high school coach whose career went up in
flames after five turbulent years leading Notre Dame. The first
question Davie asked the university's three-man search committee
during his four-hour interview regarded the school's willingness
to hire an assistant--because, he says, "it's been said so often
that Notre Dame would never hire an assistant."

Yet after Barnett withdrew, it was clear to Notre Dame that few
potential candidates were better qualified than Davie. "Davie
has 20 years' coaching experience," says Irish athletic director
Mike Wadsworth. "He's spent most of those 20 years working with
very successful head coaches: Jackie Sherrill, R.C. Slocum and
Lou Holtz. And under each of those coaches he bore a lot of

As a graduate assistant at Pitt in the late 1970s, Davie worked
under Jimmy Johnson, then the Panthers' defensive coordinator
and now the Miami Dolphins' coach. "When Bob was coaching at
Pitt, I could tell by his enthusiasm and commitment that he was
going to be an outstanding coach," says Johnson. But it was
during a nine-year stint as a Texas A&M assistant that Davie
forged his reputation as a defensive whiz. He was a linebackers
coach under Sherrill from 1985 to '88, and under Slocum
beginning in '89 he had the added title of defensive
coordinator. In that position Davie helped install the Aggies'
famed Wrecking Crew defense. The Aggies finished first
nationally in total defense in '91 and third in '93, Davie's
last season in College Station.

In 1992 Davie was a serious candidate for the Baylor and TCU
head coaching jobs but withdrew his name in hopes of being hired
by a school with a better program someday. Last December he took
his name out of consideration for the opening at California. "It
was almost a done deal," he says. "But with the amount of
authority Lou delegated to me, I felt like I had a better job
than 90 percent of the head coaches out there." Now that the
most glamorous college football program in the nation is his to
run, he can say, "I feel I have a better job than 100 percent of
the coaches out there."


The nastiest rivalry west of the Pecos has grown even nastier.
During Arizona State's 56-14 score-settling victory over Arizona
last Saturday in Tucson--the Sun Devils were 2-11-1 against the
Wildcats since 1982--five players were ejected, three for the
winners, two for the losers. The lowest of many low points was a
brawl involving dozens of players in the fourth quarter touched
off by a cheap shot by an Arizona State player that knocked an
opponent out of the game.

"We had to rub it in their faces," said Arizona State running
back Terry Battle, engaging in flagrant understatement. Battle,
who ran for 143 yards and three touchdowns for the 11-0, Rose
Bowl-bound Sun Devils, said, "We most definitely wanted to run
the score up. It could have been more than that if the fights
and stuff hadn't broken out."

Arizona State guard Pat Thompson was the first player to get the
heave-ho--for punching an opponent barely four minutes into the
game. But matters turned truly ugly in the fourth quarter when
Arizona State quarterback Jake (the Snake) Plummer was throwing
for blood at the Arizona goal line with the Sun Devils already
ahead 42-7. Wildcats safety Mikal Smith intercepted Plummer's
pass and ran 98 yards for a touchdown. Trailing Smith by 40
yards, Arizona State guard Glen Gable was apparently so
frustrated by his team's minor reversal of fortune that he
blindsided Arizona lineman Daniel Greer. As a medical cart
arrived to haul Greer away--he suffered a badly sprained
ankle--Arizona running back Kelvin Eafon charged through a
gaggle of officials and rammed into Gable. Players from both
teams poured onto the field, shoving and shouting. Gable and
Eafon were ejected, as were Arizona State end Derrick Ford and
Arizona tackle Frank Middleton for personal fouls minutes later.

The game was marred by 21 penalties all told, one of them an
unsportsmanlike- conduct call against Arizona State safety
Thomas Simmons for celebrating a tackle too exuberantly. When
coach Bruce Snyder promptly yanked Simmons from the game,
Arizona sports information director Tom Duddleston felt
compelled to announce in the press box, "He was not ejected-- he
was voluntarily withdrawn." The only laughter was wry.


COLOR PHOTO: RODNEY WHITE/AP Despite his 2,185 yards on the ground, Davis may get stiffed by Heisman voters. [Troy Davis]COLOR PHOTO: PETER READ MILLER Marcus Soward and the Sun Devils made it an in-your-face day.