ANY OTHER QUESTIONS?
No matter how hard he tried, Oklahoma State coach Bob Simmons
couldn't dodge the question last week: Would he derive extra
satisfaction from beating Colorado, which had snubbed him for
its head-coaching job after Buffaloes coach Bill McCartney
resigned three years ago? "I moved past that a long time ago,"
Simmons kept saying to anybody who would listen. "I have a
strong inner peace."
It would have been understandable had Simmons not been so
forgiving. After all, he had been a Colorado assistant for seven
years at the time McCartney left. He was respected among his
peers as an able teacher and recruiter, and McCartney had
publicly supported his candidacy. Yet Bill Marolt, the Colorado
athletic director at the time, selected assistant coach Rick
Neuheisel, an offensive whiz who had been with the Buffaloes for
just one year.
The decision to bypass Simmons, who's black, stirred controversy
and even prompted protests by the Rainbow Coalition. The
commotion subsided when, two weeks after the Neuheisel
announcement, Simmons accepted the job at Oklahoma State. "He
made his peace and moved on," says Bob's son, Nathan, a junior
tailback who starts for the Cowboys. "He was elated about coming
Funny how things work out. Last Saturday, Bob stood on a
rain-dampened Lewis Field and watched his Cowboys, who entered
the game ranked 20th, improve to 6-0 with a 33-29
come-from-behind victory over the 24th-ranked Buffaloes. It was
the biggest win in Stillwater since Barry Sanders was carrying
the ball for Oklahoma State from 1986 to '88.
The victory pushed the Cowboys up to No. 16, their highest
ranking in the AP poll since Sanders's final season. Oklahoma
State has a talented core of playmakers with the speed to match
up against any team on its schedule. Junior defensive back-wide
receiver R.W. McQuarters is a threat on both sides of the ball.
Senior cornerback Kevin Williams returned an interception 40
yards for a TD to give the Cowboys their first lead against
Colorado, at 19-14. Senior tight end Alonzo Mayes, a preseason
All-America, hauled in the game-winning 19-yard touchdown pass
with 1:56 left. Redshirt freshman quarterback Tony Lindsay
killed the Buffaloes with 126 yards rushing and one touchdown on
When Simmons arrived in Stillwater in 1995, he inherited a team
that had won just 18 games over the previous six years and was
feeling the effects of a four-year NCAA probation for recruiting
violations. In Simmons's first year the school had 56 players on
scholarship (the NCAA maximum is 85), and he played 18 freshmen.
The Cowboys went 4-8. "We took our lumps, but we learned from
them," he says.
Sitting in his office overlooking Lewis Field last week, Simmons
described how he built the program from such a sorry state. The
first step, he said, was to recruit players who would have an
immediate impact. In his inaugural year he landed McQuarters, a
blue-chip star out of Tulsa, and last season he added Lindsay, a
Denver native who was barely recruited by his home-state
Simmons, moreover, showed a willingness to adjust his own
thinking. Dissatisfied with the Cowboys' defense last season, he
hired Rob Ryan--son of former NFL coach Buddy Ryan--to install a
version of his father's 46 defense. Although the scheme makes
Oklahoma State vulnerable to the big play, the defense has
limited opponents to 12.2 points per game, eighth best in the
Most important, Simmons transformed the negative atmosphere that
had surrounded the program: "We had to stop using the probation
as an excuse for why we couldn't do things." In August, Oklahoma
State lost 10 players for the season to academic
suspensions--including the leading returning rusher, Andre
Richardson, and leading tackler of last year, Raymond Cato--and
one other for disciplinary reasons. But the personnel losses
didn't faze the Cowboys. "When that happened, it didn't really
matter to us," Mayes says. "We knew it was a chance for some
other guys to step up and play."
After all, their coach has proved to be an expert in making the
most out of a disappointment. "People keep asking me about the
job," Simmons said last week in answer to yet one more query
about his feelings toward Colorado. "All I can say is, 'Hey, I
got the job. I got this job.'" --MARTY BURNS
THE LATEST PAPER TIGER
Two weeks ago Iowa took a 4-0 record and some amazing offensive
stats to Ohio State. But those numbers were built on the soft
ground of weak competition, and the Hawkeyes collapsed against
the Buckeyes, losing 23-7. Last week Georgia rode four
consecutive victories, all at home, and some impressive
defensive numbers into Tennessee and suffered a similar fate.
Final score: Tennessee 38, Georgia 13. It's obvious Jim Donnan,
the Bulldogs' second-year coach, still has much work ahead.
Donnan said last summer that his defense would have to prevent
the big play, especially on third down, if Georgia was to begin
its climb back to respectability. The Bulldogs arrived in
Knoxville having allowed only 212.5 yards and 6.3 points per
game, but at the first sign of adversity they reverted to the
mediocrity that has been their trademark in recent years.
"Tennessee manhandled us up front and controlled the game,"
In setting a school record of 35 first downs, Tennessee
converted seven of nine third downs. Vols freshman tailback
Jamal Lewis, an Atlanta native, rushed 22 times for 232
yards--12 more than Georgia had given up on the ground in its
first four games combined. Peyton Manning completed 31 of 40
passes for 343 yards and four touchdowns. He was sacked once.
A CUT ABOVE
Texas A&M offensive coordinator Steve Marshall walked into a
College Station barbershop on Oct. 7 and got a "Corps cut."
Marshall had promised his players that he would subject himself
to the crew 'do worn by the school's Cadet Corps if the Aggies
rushed for at least 250 yards at Colorado on Oct. 4. They
reached that figure with 10 yards to spare in their 16-10
victory over the Buffaloes. "I'm just happy I had the
opportunity to lose the bet," Marshall says. "My wife just shook
her head and kept on walking."
With a 56-17 rout of Iowa State last Saturday, the 5-0 Aggies
made it clear that they've rebounded from last year's 6-6
record. Coach R.C. Slocum gambled during the off-season by
replacing four assistants, including both coordinators. Nothing
disrupts a team like an overhaul of the coaching staff, yet
Slocum obviously made the right decision. Under new defensive
coordinator Mike Hankwitz, who won a national championship ring
in the same job at Colorado in 1990, Texas A&M has allowed only
four touchdowns and hasn't given up a play longer than 38 yards.
Last season it allowed 30 TDs, 12 of which covered at least 25
The Aggies' special teams have national leaders in nearly every
category. Placekicker Kyle Bryant, a College Station native who
is named for Texas A&M's stadium, Kyle Field, has made 8 of 11
field goals this season and 34 of his last 43. Punter Shane
Lechler is second in the nation (48.8-yard average), and Dante
Hall is 20th in punt returns (13.0). Junior Kyle Lednicky (no
relation to Kyle Field) has a string of 310 error-free snaps on
Other than Colorado, the Aggies have played no team that could
challenge them. That will change in the next two weeks. Trips to
Kansas State and Texas Tech will reveal if Texas A&M is a Big 12
contender. Should the Aggies win those two, Oklahoma State's
visit on Nov. 1 will likely be for the conference's South
Division championship. By then Marshall may need a trim.
LESSON FROM THE DEAN
Terminology doesn't always translate from one sport to the next,
but coaching techniques sometimes do. North Carolina football
coach Mack Brown, who has worked across campus from Dean Smith
for 10 seasons, remarked last week on Smith's "very high energy
on the boundary...bench...sidelines...whatever they call it,"
then added that he had learned some useful strategies by
watching Smith, who resigned as Tar Heels basketball coach last
week after 36 seasons in Chapel Hill. "He had his substitutions
so calculated because he'd determined how many minutes a young
player could compete effectively," Brown said. "We're doing that
now in football. If a [backup] can play 15 plays, he'll be
better for those 15 than the starter who plays 60."
Brown pointed to his defensive ends as an example. Seniors Greg
Ellis and Mike Pringley start, but junior Ebenezer Ekuban--who
regularly rotates into the lineup--is tied for the team lead
with four sacks. Freshman Stephon McQueen is one of those
Brown, whose fourth-ranked Tar Heels beat Wake Forest 30-12 last
Saturday to improve to 6-0, says there's a reason so few schools
are successful in both football and basketball. "Our coaches and
players get along well," he says of the harmony between the two
North Carolina programs. "That's unusual. At most schools
there's a fight over money, contracts or fans, or there's
jealousy. Coach Smith and Coach [Bill] Guthridge [Smith's
longtime assistant and now his successor] reached out to us.
They come to every game."
There are 13 unbeaten teams left, the least respected of which
is New Mexico. If the 6-0 Lobos figure out a way to stop Rice
this week, they'll have to be taken seriously. After their 27-14
upset of BYU, the 4-2 Owls are averaging 376.3 yards on the
ground, only 25.5 less than Nebraska. Rice's 1997 rushing
average would have led the country in seven of the last eight
seasons.... Kansas State junior Michael Bishop set a school
record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 196 in the
Wildcats' 41-11 whipping of Missouri, yet coach Bill Snyder
asked Bishop not to make himself available to the media for
interviews after the game. "This is not a team of individuals,"
Snyder said. So why does K-State put the players' names on the
backs of their jerseys?... There likely won't be an uglier play
this season than the opening kickoff at Auburn last week.
Louisiana Tech special-teamer Suaese Ta'ase leveled Auburn
kicker Jaret Holmes and then hit him again when Holmes was down.
Ta'ase received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and was
ejected. Fortunately, Holmes was not injured.... Clemson won the
first 29 games it played against Virginia, back when the
Cavaliers were the definitive homecoming opponent. Virginia
broke the streak in 1990, and in the last eight meetings between
the teams the Cavaliers lead the rivalry 4-3-1. Virginia's 21-7
victory last Saturday spoiled the Tigers' homecoming.
1. ORTEGE JENKINS The Arizona redshirt freshman quarterback, in
his second career start, threw for four touchdowns as the
Wildcats upset Stanford 28-22.
2. BILLY DICKEN The Purdue quarterback completed just 10 passes,
but they went for 333 yards and five touchdowns in a 59-43
Boilermakers win over Minnesota. Receiver Brian Alford had
scoring catches of 89 and 93 yards.
3. MICHIGAN'S DEFENSE Last year the Wolverines gave up 17
fourth-quarter points to Northwestern and lost 17-16. This year
5-0 Michigan has given up a total of six second-half points,
three of which came last Saturday in a 23-6 victory over the
1. PITTSBURGH'S SPECIAL TEAMS A year after Notre Dame ran back
three Panthers punts for touchdowns, the Irish's Allen Rossum
and Jarious Jackson scored on kickoff returns in a 45-21 win.
2. STANFORD'S BAND The musical kings of sophomoric humor have
been banned from performing on the field at the next three
Stanford-Notre Dame games after their Oct. 4 exhibition, in
which, amid other bits of very low comedy, they parodied the
Irish potato famine.
3. FRED GRUNINGER The Rutgers athletic director got $28 million
for new sports facilities but couldn't hire a football coach who
could win or fill his stadium's 41,500 seats. Gruninger
announced his retirement last Friday.
--FLORIDA (5-1) AT AUBURN (6-0)
The scent of Gator blood is in the air at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
So are the cries of "War Dam-eyune Eagle!" in honor of
quarterback Dameyune Craig. LSU got payback against Florida last
week, and Craig (7 for 28, 82 yards, two interceptions in last
year's 51-10 loss) plans to do the same. The Gators haven't lost
consecutive SEC games in five years, but history may be no match
for their injuries and another hostile crowd.
--TEXAS A&M (5-0) AT KANSAS STATE (4-1)
Two stylish records in search of substance. Can the Aggies win a
big game on the road? Yes, thanks to running backs Dante Hall
and Sirr Parker, who between them average 197.6 yards and two
touchdowns per game. What chance might they have in a Big 12
title game against Nebraska, which beat the Wildcats by 30? None.
--GEORGIA TECH (4-1) AT FLORIDA STATE (5-0)
The Yellow Jackets--tough in body and mind--can give the
Seminoles the sort of test that will steel them for upcoming
trips to Virginia and North Carolina. Best matchup: Tech wide
receiver Harvey Middleton (23 receptions, 421 yards) against the
Florida State secondary. We'll take corners Samari Rolle and Tay
--WISCONSIN (6-1) AT PURDUE (4-1)
The winner can pretend to contend for a Rose Bowl berth for the
rest of October. Pretend? Yes--though both teams have made great
progress since embarrassing opening losses, neither has beaten
anyone with more than two victories. But a healthy Ron Dayne
(947 yards) has changed Wisconsin's outlook on the postseason:
After they win this game, the Badgers qualify for a bowl.
The distance from No. 1 to No. 112 in Division I-A football
isn't far--about a four-hour drive east on I-80 from State
College, Pa., to New Brunswick, N.J. Rutgers is 0-6 this season
and 2-15 overall under coach Terry Shea, whose West Coast
offense looks as lost in the hands of the Scarlet Knights as its
name suggests. It's too bad the Rutgers offense doesn't get to
play the Rutgers defense.
1997 statistics Rutgers Opponents
Points per game 10.6 46.0
Third-quarter points 0 89
Completion percentage 43.8 59.9
Yards per pass attempt 4.8 10.8
Rushing yards per game 99 265
Yards per rush 2.8 5.0
Total yards per game 334.0 503.8
Punts 50 22
Minutes with the lead 37:08 322:52
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