Emotion-charged foes felled Florida State, Michigan and Notre
This is an article from the Sept. 21, 1998 issue
John Cooper is a skittish sort anyway. Cooper, the coach of No. 1
Ohio State, complained last week that his Buckeyes had no
business playing Toledo, an in-state opponent that would get more
revved up to face Ohio State than would the Utahs, who were also
out there dying for a paycheck. The Buckeyes struggled past the
Rockets 49-0, but don't think Cooper is sleeping any better this
week knowing that Ohio State won while several other powerhouses
didn't. The day after Florida State suffered just its second ACC
loss in seven seasons, a 24-7 whipping by North Carolina State,
Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden said, "It was a hungry team playing
a prosperous team."
College football is a dynastic sport, and in sizing up the
dynasties, fans and pundits often succumb to circular logic: This
is mighty Florida State, therefore whomever Bowden chooses as the
starting quarterback will lead the Seminoles to victory because
this is mighty Florida State. Then sophomore Chris Weinke goes to
North Carolina State and is intercepted six times, and the
Seminoles lose 24-7. In making his first start before a hostile
crowd, Weinke fared miserably, which is normal for a first-year
starter but not one from Florida State, possessor of 11
consecutive Top 10 finishes.
With its two straight losses Michigan has settled the argument
over who should have been last season's Heisman Trophy winner.
Wolverines cornerback Charles Woodson, not Tennessee quarterback
Peyton Manning, really was the most outstanding player and
deserved the Heisman, which, of course, he won. Without
Woodson--one of only two starters who didn't return to the
Michigan defense--the Wolverines reverted to the form they showed
before 1997, when they lost four games a year for four straight
years. If you offered the Wolverines the guarantee of an 8-4
season right now, they would snatch it in a heartbeat. Two weeks
ago, Michigan and Arizona State, which lost 26-6 to BYU last
Saturday and fell to 0-2, were candidates to play in the Fiesta
Bowl (No. 1 versus No. 2 nationally). Now they're hoping for the
Sun (Pac-10's No. 3 versus Big Ten's No. 5).
The upsets of Michigan, Florida State and Notre Dame--a 45-23
loser to Michigan State on Saturday--each could be blamed to some
extent on an inexperienced quarterback. What those losses also
speak to, however, is the power of emotion in college football.
Ask Iowa State about the importance of emotion. Archrival Iowa
played last Saturday merely to win the intrastate matchup for the
16th consecutive season. The Cyclones played to save coach Dan
McCarney's job. They won 27-9. Michigan State, which had
sleepwalked to two embarrassing losses, played for senior
cornerback Amp Campbell, who narrowly escaped paralysis after
breaking two vertebrae in his neck while trying to make a tackle
during a 48-14 loss at Oregon on Sept. 5. He underwent surgery in
Eugene that night to fuse the vertebrae, and doctors believe he
may be able to play football again. Standing in the Spartans'
locker room before Saturday's game, he wanted to address his
teammates but broke down crying. They wept with him. Michigan
State then stormed to a 42-3 halftime lead.
Emotion makes college football interesting, even when the same
teams win year after year. Imagine how much fun it's going to be
this year on when some of them don't win. "We underestimated
North Carolina State," Bowden said on Sunday, "and so did y'all."
HOLT OF LIGHTNING AT WIDEOUT
After North Carolina State's 24-7 upset of Florida State, in
which Wolfpack wideout Torry Holt scored on a 63-yard pass and a
68-yard punt return, his sixth and seventh touchdowns against the
Seminoles in the last two seasons, losing coach Bobby Bowden had
seen enough. "That Holt kid has killed us," said Bowden on
Sunday. "I hope we don't see another player that good."
Throughout his career, Holt has made big plays. He caught five TD
passes in the Wolfpack's 48-35 loss to Florida State last year
and finished the season as the ACC's leader in receiving yards
(1,099) and scoring (8.9 points per game). His punt return last
Saturday gave N.C. State a 13-7 lead and his fourth-quarter
touchdown reception on a deep post over the middle was the
insurance the Wolfpack needed. "All along we believed we could
beat them," says Holt, a 6'1", 193-pound senior. "We were pretty
successful running slants, and when the cornerbacks started
coming up, we went deep."
The past nine months haven't been easy for Holt. His mother,
Ojetta Holt Shoffner, died last December after a long bout with
cancer. She was the backbone of the family and remains Torry's
inspiration. Before every game he puts on one of the two T-shirts
he made in her memory, and he writes her name on the tape he
applies to both wrists. "I keep her with me, and I know she's up
there watching," says Holt. "After we won, I thought of how my
mom would be going bananas." --B.J.S.
NO ROUT, BUT NO DOUBT
Texas fired coach John Mackovic last year largely because of a
Sept. 13th 66-3 loss to UCLA, a Longhorns lie-down that proved
you can't spell quit without a U and a T. In Mackovic's place
Texas installed Mack Brown, who had been successful at North
Carolina, but what good did it do? Last season the Longhorns
trailed the Bruins 38-0 at the half. This year they narrowed the
margin to 35-3.
But during halftime, Brown showed why Texas leaped at the chance
to pay him $750,000 annually while eating the $1.8 million it
owes Mackovic over the next three years. Brown laid it out plain
and simple to his players. "I wasn't going to put up with it,"
Brown said later. "I said, 'If any of you are going to put up
with it, you can do something else. Sixty-five hundred people
came from Texas to watch us play, and they missed the first
The Longhorns scored four second-half touchdowns. Despite losing
49-31, they quashed the Rout 66 jokes they had heard for a year.
"I saw a lot of life, a lot of energy," Texas middle linebacker
Dusty Renfro said of his teammates. "I'm really proud of them.
They fought to the last second."
Almost everyone left the refurbished Rose Bowl (pink chairback
seats: a comfort do, a fashion don't) happy. Longhorns tailback
Ricky Williams had rushed for 160 yards and three touchdowns,
keeping his name alive in the Heisman Trophy talk with that of
UCLA quarterback Cade McNown, who had completed 20 of 30 passes
for 339 yards and three touchdowns. Bruins fans reveled in UCLA's
11th consecutive victory, a school record, and had found a new
star in redshirt freshman flanker Freddie Mitchell, a Lakeland,
Fla., native who turned aside interest from Florida and Florida
State because he wanted to go to school in a big city. On a pass
off of a reverse, Mitchell fired a 34-yard scoring strike to
Brian Poli-Dixon to start the deluge and caught a 79-yard
touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. He also rushed once for 30
yards. Said Mitchell, who had been hearing skeptics say he hadn't
proved himself in a college game, "I stomped that right into the
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TOP 10 UPSETS IN THE 1990S
1. Unranked N.C. State 24, No. 2 Florida State 7 (1998)--Had it
not been for a blocked punt that led to a touchdown, the
Wolfpack would have lost its opener to Ohio, a team that was
drilled 45-0 by Wisconsin last Saturday. Yet an opportunistic
defense helped North Carolina State hand the Seminoles their
most embarrassing loss since 1977.
2. No. 16 Brigham Young University 28, No. 1 Miami 21
(1990)--Fresh off their second national title in three years,
the arrogant Hurricanes were humbled by a Cougars team hungry
3. No. 17 Boston College 41, No. 1 Notre Dame 39 (1993)--The
Irish had yanked the top ranking from Florida State the week
before. No one thought the 14 1/2-point-underdog Eagles had a
4. Unranked LSU 17, No. 5 Alabama 13 (1993)--The Tigers were
floundering at 3-5 when they halted the Crimson Tide's 31-game
unbeaten streak--in Tuscaloosa.
5. Unranked Iowa State 19, No. 7 Nebraska 10 (1992)--The
Cyclones had lost to the Huskers for 14 consecutive seasons and
entered the game 3-6.
6. Unranked Stanford 36, No. 1 Notre Dame 31 (1990)--The
Cardinal had dropped three of its first four games but stunned
the Irish at South Bend, where Notre Dame hadn't been beaten in
7. No. 17 Arizona State 19, No. 1 Nebraska 0 (1996)--The Sun
Devils didn't merely defeat the two-time-defending-national-
champion Cornhuskers--they dominated them. It was the beginning
of Arizona State's near perfect season.
8. Unranked Northwestern 17, No. 9 Notre Dame 15 (1995)--A week
before losing 30-28 to Miami of Ohio, the Wildcats began their
Cinderella season with this shocker in South Bend.
9. Unranked Wisconsin 17, No. 6 Penn State 9 (1995)--The
mediocre Badgers toppled the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley,
snapping a 20-game Penn State winning streak.
10. Unranked Memphis 21, No. 6 Tennessee 17 (1996)--The 3-6
Tigers denied the 6-1, Peyton Manning-led Vols an Alliance bowl
bid and ended a 15-game losing streak against them.
Florida (2-0) at Tennessee (1-0)
The Gators are vulnerable. The throw-and-catch part of the Fun
'n' Gun offense is suspect, at least until sophomore quarterback
Jesse Palmer starts finding his young receivers. But we're not
going to pick against Florida, which has a five-game winning
streak in this SEC East rivalry. The Gators' defense is better
than ever, and it won't yield to a quarterback as unproved as the
Vols' first-year starter, Tee Martin. Look at the signal-callers
who have beaten Florida in the last three seasons: Mike Bobo of
Georgia, Herb Tyler of LSU, Thad Busby of Florida State and
Tommie Frazier of Nebraska. Only Busby was a first-year starter,
and he had started 10 games in 1996 before beating the Gators
that year. Martin made a few big plays to beat Syracuse, but he
has never been chased by anyone as fast as Florida linebackers
Jevon Kearse and Johnny Rutledge.
Virginia Tech (2-0) at Miami (2-0)
If the Hurricanes win this one, they can revive their swagger.
The Hokies have won three straight in this Big East rivalry, all
with big fourth-quarter plays. Miami has the receivers to prey on
Tech's secondary. Get ready for the swagger.
Oregon State (2-0) over USC (2-0)
Second-year coach Mike Riley, a former Trojans assistant, had the
Beavers competitive last season before injuries turned them into
just another 3-8 team. They're healthy and playing a young USC
team that won't take them seriously.
They're making a JoePa Beanie Baby. Roary the Lion, get ready
Last season: pickaxes as motivational tool. This season: no sharp
Why 14 Vols cramped up against Syracuse, says Tennessee. What
about chasing Donovan McNabb?
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder
Short field goal: chip shot. Call timeout for a 65-yard field
goal with a 56-7 lead: cheap shot.
Florida coach Steve Spurrier says they get in the way of his
quarterback's audibles. That and their concussions.
Survives Tennessee-Michigan start with a 1-1 record that should
be 2-0. Gets Rutgers as a reward.
Tulsa coach Dave Rader
Rader, whose job was hanging in the balance, gets room to
breathe with Golden Hurricane's 35-20 victory over Oklahoma
WAC Championship Game
Latest snub to lame-duck conference: Host city Las Vegas cuts $1
million purse to $250,000.
Members are 1-10 in nonconference play versus Division I-A
schools. Can the country please have its name back?
Marshall quarterback Chad Pennington
Throws for career-high 437 yards in 42-12 defeat of Troy State.
So that's why Randy Moss looked so good.