LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
After time ran out at Michigan Stadium last Saturday, ABC
broadcaster Keith Jackson and color commentator Bob Griese
removed their headsets, but then Griese suddenly jammed his back
on. He wanted to listen to the postgame interview of his son,
Brian, who had just quarterbacked the 14th-ranked Wolverines to
a resounding 27-3 victory over No. 8 Colorado.
One question on everybody's mind after Brian's performance was,
Why was there a quarterback controversy during fall drills?
Griese, a fifth-year senior, completed 21 of 28 passes for 258
yards and two touchdowns. His seven incompletions included two
dropped passes, one spike to stop the clock, an interception off
a pass tipped by a receiver and one throw to the sideline when
Griese saw no one open. In other words he threw two inaccurate
passes all afternoon. He also pooch-punted twice, once so deftly
that his teammates downed the ball on the one-yard line.
Griese's main rival for the starting quarterback's job, junior
Scott Dreisbach, didn't play a down.
"I was nervous to an extent, but I knew I was prepared," said
Griese, who was starting his first season opener. He was much
more in control than his Colorado counterpart, senior John
Hessler, who completed 15 of 40 passes for 141 yards and was
intercepted four times. Hessler threw into coverage, missed open
receivers and even chucked a swing pass to the left side of the
field when his line and intended receiver Herchell Troutman went
right. "It was frustrating," Hessler said. "I know I can throw
Unlike Hessler and nearly every other big-time quarterback,
Griese began his career as a walk-on, turning down scholarship
offers from Texas and Purdue (his father's alma mater) among
others in 1993 to try to play at Michigan. He started nine games
in '95 after Dreisbach severely injured his right thumb, but he
was on the bench for most of last season as Dreisbach guided the
Wolverines to seven wins in his first 10 starts. "Brian knew he
was the backup. He still prepared each week," says Bob, a pro
football Hall of Famer who quarterbacked the Dolphins between
'67 and '80 and won two Super Bowls. "You can do that for five
weeks. By the sixth week you start asking yourself, What the
hell? But it finally paid off against Ohio State."
Griese came off the bench last Nov. 23 to lead Michigan to a
13-9 upset of the Buckeyes and then had a solid outing (21 of
37, 287 yards, one touchdown, one interception) in a 17-14 loss
to Alabama in the Outback Bowl. That performance persuaded him
not to enter the job market after graduating with a B.S. in
environmental sciences in May--that and his desire to spend a
New Year's Day in Pasadena. "If you don't go back and Michigan
goes to the Rose Bowl," Bob says he told Brian, "you'll kick
yourself in the butt for the rest of your life."
Brian's play against Colorado, particularly his patience in the
pocket, impressed Bob. That quality, along with the improved
mechanics Brian displayed over the spring and in preseason
practices, helped him win the starting job. "When something
wasn't there, he gave other things time to develop," said Bob.
"He played like a very intelligent quarterback. That's his
strength. More than anything, he makes good decisions."
None better than the one that brought him back to Michigan this
ALL CROSSED UP
It isn't often that a coach thinks he's running a
third-and-short play when he's actually attempting a two-point
conversion. But that's what Arkansas coach Danny Ford thought in
the second quarter of the Razorbacks' game last Saturday against
Arkansas trailed 7-0 when flanker Anthony Lucas caught an
11-yard pass from Clint Stoerner and crossed the plane of the
goal line near the sideline. The covering official along the
sideline raised his arms over his head, referee Gerald Wright
went to the middle of the field and signaled touchdown, the guy
on the p.a. announced the TD, the scoreboard operator put a 6
under ARKANSAS and the Razorbacks coaches in the press box knew
they had hit pay dirt. But Ford and his assistants on the
sideline missed it. "We never saw a signal," Ford said later.
The crew of officials added to the confusion by putting the ball
on the right hash at the three-yard line instead of the spot in
the middle of the field, from where extra points are attempted.
Ford sent in a play for third-and-one. Imagine his surprise
when, after tailback Rod Stinson dropped a pass attempt in the
end zone, it came time for Arkansas to kick off, trailing, 7-6.
"We would never have gone for two if I had known we scored,"
Ford said. It was a decision he wouldn't have to worry about
again. The Razorbacks didn't score another touchdown, and
Southern Methodist pulled away to a 31-9 win.
NOT SO SPECIAL
Already this season many schools have won and lost games because
of wildly gyrating performances on kickoffs and punts that make
the stock market seem tame by comparison. For example, Syracuse
returned a kickoff or a punt for a touchdown in each of its
first three games, but on Sept. 6 the Orangemen had two punts
blocked and a last-play, 44-yard field goal attempt hit an
offensive lineman in the back in a 36-34 loss at Oklahoma.
Or consider North Carolina, which last Saturday blocked a punt
and returned it for a touchdown to break open a close game
against Stanford. The week before, the Tar Heels missed an extra
point and committed a penalty on a punt in a 23-6 defeat of
Tennessee has to be worried going into its showdown against
Florida this Saturday. After booting three punts for only a
31.7-yard average against Texas Tech, the Volunteers' David
Leaverton shanked two kicks (17 and 23 yards) against UCLA and
yielded a safety when he couldn't get his kick away from the end
zone after a high snap.
Through three weeks of the 1997 season, the 112 Division I-A
schools had returned 10 kickoffs for touchdowns, or a rate of
one score for every 91.1 kicks. That's an increase from a
1-to-231 ratio through the first three weeks of last season.
Punt returns for touchdowns were running slightly below figures
for last year. The NCAA doesn't keep track of other special
teams foul-ups, such as blocked kicks and improper
substitutions, but anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that
there have been more such miscues than normal.
No coach worth his cliches would admit to minimizing special
teams, but, says Penn State coach Joe Paterno, "coaches get so
wrapped up in installing their offense or their defense that
they don't make time for special teams work." That applies
particularly to schools putting in new schemes. With 24 new head
coaches in Division I-A and several teams with new coordinators,
Paterno's point carries extra weight this year.
One coach who concedes that he gave special teams short shrift
is Colorado's Rick Neuheisel, whose Buffaloes finished last in
the country in kickoff returns with a 16.2-yard average in 1996.
This year he moved special teams work from the end of practice
to the middle. "It's easy to overlook if you let yourself," he
says. "It has got to be part of your day's routine." Through
three games the Buffaloes are averaging 24.4 yards per kickoff
return, 26th in the nation.
At Northwestern, which has won or shared the last two Big Ten
championships in no small part because of its special teams
play, coach Gary Barnett says he has appealed to his players'
self-interest. "One of the things that helped is we had a guy
drafted [Darnell Autry, fourth round in 1997] because he had
shown up so well on special teams," he says. "That sort of thing
trickles down. I've got fifth-year guys coming to me and asking
to be on special teams. That's good when that starts happening."
THIRD TIME IS THE CHARM
Arizona State coach Bruce Snyder sounded proud after his
24th-ranked Sun Devils beat No. 13 Miami at the Orange Bowl,
whipping the Hurricanes more soundly than the 23-12 final score
indicated. "This is a big win, and that's with a capital B,"
Snyder said. "I've brought some teams into the Orange Bowl
before, and this is the first time I'm walking out of here with
a higher score than the other team."
Snyder visited Miami before the Hurricanes became a national
powerhouse (his Utah State team lost to Lou Saban's Miami team
17-16 in 1978) and during the Hurricanes' heyday (in '89 his
California team was victim number 27 in Miami's 58-game Orange
Bowl winning streak). Last Saturday he finally came calling with
the right team at the right time.
The Sun Devils, overlooked in the preseason polls after winning
the Pac-10 last year, rushed for 232 yards and passed for 239.
They held the ball for 36:29, so long that desert-based Arizona
State wore down humidity's darlings. In other words, the Sun
Devils dominated the fourth quarter, which Miami (1-1) used to
own. Hurricanes coach Butch Davis played 15 freshmen and sounded
ready to give his team over to them. "We're going to play the
guys who produce," he said.
An upset? Not really.
East Carolina overcame a 21-0 deficit to beat Wake Forest 25-24.
In their last 28 games the Pirates are 5-2 in games decided by a
field goal or less....As of late Monday morning, Longhorns coach
John Mackovic hadn't decided how much tape of Texas's 66-3 loss
to UCLA he would allow his players to see. His instinct to chuck
the tape into the waste bin was offset by the fact that the
Longhorns are idle until Sept. 27, when they play at Rice. The
coaches have two weeks to correct the multitude of mistakes. "My
wife [Arlene] reminded me that her very first game as a bride of
a young assistant at Army, we lost to Nebraska 77-7," Mackovic
said, recalling the 1972 season. "The very next week we went to
College Station and beat Texas A&M 24-14. I've been on both
sides."...Omari Walker of Boston College isn't the only
candidate in the Wally Pipp pageant (Winners & Losers, left).
Oft-injured tailback Robert Edwards of Georgia watched his
backup, junior Olandis Gary, rush for 96 yards and a touchdown
on 17 carries and catch three passes for 73 yards and another
score as the Bulldogs beat South Carolina 31-15.
AUBURN (2-0) AT LSU (2-0)
This rivalry has been overshadowed the past few years by
Florida-Tennessee, but it has been the more exciting of the two
matchups. Louisiana State has won back-to-back upsets, 12-6 and
19-15. The score shouldn't be close this year. Auburn had
trouble getting past Virginia and Mississippi, while LSU showed
little vulnerability against Texas-El Paso and Mississippi State.
NEBRASKA (2-0) AT WASHINGTON (2-0)
Huskers fans shouldn't worry about the difficulty their team had
in subduing Central Florida. No, the Nebraska faithful should
worry about the long trip to Seattle, a stadium full of barking
Huskies and Washington quarterback Brock Huard. The setting will
feel a lot like Tempe, Ariz., where the then two-time defending
national champion Huskers were upset by Arizona State a year ago.
FLORIDA STATE (2-0) AT CLEMSON (2-0)
Tigers senior quarterback Nealon Greene has started 31 games,
but it took new offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger to make
him look like a passer (40 of 63, 500 yards, two touchdowns, no
interceptions). However, pressure from defensive end Andre
Wadsworth and linebacker Sam Cowart figures to flatten Greene's
performance this week.
MICHIGAN STATE (2-0) AT NOTRE DAME (1-1)
Will the Spartans stretch their string of consecutive 42-0
halftime leads to three? They won't--but they should have their
way with the Irish. With Michigan on deck, Notre Dame could lose
three in 15 days to the Big Ten.
IOWA (2-0) AT IOWA STATE (0-3)
After his Hawkeyes beat Division I-AA Northern Iowa 66-0 on
Sept. 6, coach Hayden Fry may have wondered if Division III Coe
College, from nearby Cedar Rapids, might want to get on his
schedule. But there are only so many tomato cans Iowa can play
in one state without drawing negative attention. Against the
Cyclones, Iowa tailback Tavian Banks (258.5 yards per game,
including a school-record 314 in a 54-16 victory over Tulsa last
Saturday) should ring up more big numbers.
WINNERS & LOSERS
1. FLORIDA WOMEN'S ATHLETICS The program received a $50,000
donation from Gators coach Steve Spurrier. Impressive, even if
it is 2.5% of the roughly $2 million he'll make this season
after he agreed last week to a six-year, $11.8 million deal,
including numerous perks. Spurrier makes close to double the
income of Florida State's Bobby Bowden, who is believed to be
the second-highest-paid college football coach, with earnings of
slightly less than $1 million per year.
2. PAC-10 UCLA embarrassed Texas 66-3 in Austin. Arizona State
won 23-12 at Miami. Washington State won at Southern Cal for the
first time in 40 years, 28-21. Forget Washington's showdown
against Nebraska on Saturday. The Huskies play USC, Oregon, UCLA
and Washington State in November.
3. MIKE CLOUD Boston College's junior running back replaced
starter Omari Walker (sprained knee) and rushed for 209 yards in
the second half to lead the Eagles to a 31-24 upset of West
1. TEXAS When chastising teams for lining up nonconference
patsies at the beginning of the season, don't forget UCLA. The
Bruins' 66-3 stomping of Texas was the Longhorns' most lopsided
loss in 93 years. Eight turnovers in one game?
2. NOTRE DAME OFFENSE The Irish's upperclassmen looked like
freshmen under new coordinator--and former Purdue head
coach--Jim Colletto in a 28-17 loss at Purdue. Boilermakers
fullback Edwin Watson had predicted the Purdue win, saying,
"Coach Colletto is used to losing at Ross-Ade Stadium, so that
won't be anything new to him."
3. ORANGE BOWL It once produced the biggest home field advantage
in college football--a record 58-game winning streak there for
Miami. After Arizona State handed the Hurricanes their fourth
loss in their last five home games, Sun Devils redshirt freshman
quarterback Ryan Kealy called the stadium "homey."