Multidimensional Ohio State looked Ginsu-sharp in dicing up
This is an article from the Sept. 28, 1998 issue
Number 1 Ohio State unveiled its Swiss Army knife offense in its
35-14 victory over Missouri, which came into the game ranked
21st. Name the tool--speed, strength, running, passing,
depth--and the Buckeyes flipped it out.
In the early going at Ohio Stadium last Saturday, with Tigers
cornerbacks sitting back in a soft zone, Buckeyes quarterback
Joe Germaine threw flare passes to wideouts David Boston and Dee
Miller. "We wanted to make the defense run and hopefully tire it
out," Ohio State offensive coordinator Mike Jacobs said after
the game. "It was a hot, humid day." The tactic didn't produce
much scoring--the Buckeyes trailed 14-13 at halftime--but it did
wear down Missouri's D, enabling Ohio State to start cramming
the ball down the Tigers' throats in the second half. "In the
third quarter I saw them in the huddle," said Buckeyes guard Rob
Murphy. "They were down on one knee, real winded." Ohio State
scored the go-ahead touchdown in that quarter on a six-yard
sweep. Tailback Joe Montgomery cruised into the end zone behind
blocks by pulling guard Tam Hopkins and fullback Jamar Martin.
All three are second-teamers. That's depth.
Starting tailback Michael Wiley rushed for two touchdowns and a
career-high 209 yards, the first 200-yard performance by an Ohio
State back since Eddie George gained 207 yards against Notre
Dame in 1995. Germaine completed 19 of 25 passes for 211 yards.
The Buckeyes punted once and finished with 531 yards of total
offense. What can't Ohio State do? Hold on to the ball. The
Buckeyes have fumbled 10 times in three games. They have lost
just three of those fumbles, but Missouri converted two of them
into its 14 points.
Still, let's not quibble. While so many teams ranked high in the
preseason have struggled, Ohio State has shown it has all the
tools. With a week off before opening Big Ten play against No. 7
Penn State, the Buckeyes can work on their ball handling. And
perhaps on controlling their hubris. "The only thing that can
stop us is ourselves," Montgomery says. "It would be stupid for
me to sit here and say other teams can stop us."
SPURRIER MISSING THE POINT
Florida coach Steve Spurrier has cracked wise about preferring
to kick extra points instead of field goals. His Gators usually
score touchdowns often enough that few of their wins depend on
three-pointers. Like many coaches, Spurrier has left kicking to
walk-ons. He discovered an All-America that way in Judd Davis,
whose career ended in 1994. Since then, however, the Gators'
placekicking has been no better than mediocre: 23 of 43 on field
goals, including a dismal 2 of 10 from 40 yards or longer. Last
Saturday night, Collins Cooper, a former walk-on now on
scholarship, missed a 32-yard attempt in overtime, giving
Tennessee a 20-17 win.
Spurrier has signed a kicker in each of the last three years,
none of whom has panned out. He has not had the change in
fortune enjoyed by his archrival, Florida State coach Bobby
Bowden. Bowden's lack of interest in kicking twice cost the
Seminoles a chance to finish No. 1 when walk-ons missed field
goals that would have beaten (Wide Right I, 1991) and tied (Wide
Right II, '92) Miami. Since then Bowden has signed three
excellent kickers: Scott Bentley, whose late-game field goal
beat Nebraska 18-16 for the '93 national championship; Bill
Gramatica; and current sophomore Sebastian Janikowski, whose
arrival last season resulted in Gramatica's transferring to
South Florida, for whom he booted a 44-yard field goal with five
seconds left last Saturday to beat Liberty 24-21.
Travel in the WAC
WATCH OUT FOR THOSE WARTHOGS
With 16 schools spread across four time zones, as far east as
Houston and as far west as Honolulu, the WAC finds air travel a
necessity. Last Saturday it almost became a tragedy.
About 7,800 above Boise, Idaho, the charter 727 airliner
carrying the Brigham Young football team from Provo, Utah, to
Seattle for a game against Washington nose-dived 500 feet to
avoid a collision with an Air Force A-10 Warthog. The Cougars'
plane passed within 700 feet of the Air Force jet.
The 727 took off without a full tank to compensate for the
excess weight in the form of football equipment and players it
was carrying. It needed to land in Boise to refuel. "I know how
close cars can be," said BYU defensive end Daren Yancey, "but
this is the closest I've ever seen two airplanes." The FAA is
investigating the incident.
Air travel always seems to exact a price, monetary or otherwise,
on WAC teams. Hawaii, which must fly commercially because
charter flights to the mainland would be prohibitively expensive
(at least $300,000 each), was delayed by mechanical problems for
four hours last Friday in San Francisco while en route to play
Utah. The Rainbows arrived in Salt Lake City at 3 a.m. Eleven
hours later they were headed to a 30-21 loss to the Utes,
Hawaii's 21st straight conference road defeat.
Two weeks ago Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick blasted his own
school for the Rams' no-frills flight to a game at Nevada. The
trip from Fort Collins to Reno, which took eight hours, included
a refueling stop and just one sandwich per player for
sustenance. "If you want to write anything," Lubick later told
reporters, "you can write about the trip and how Mickey Mouse
that was." At least Colorado State beat Nevada, 26-14. BYU made
as many touchdowns between Provo and Seattle as it did against
the Huskies in a 20-10 loss.
So far this season WAC teams are 4-14 in nonconference games to
which they have flown. That's a major reason only one conference
school is ranked in the Top 25. Which school would that be? Air
Force. --John Walters
New Mexico State Rising?
During the final minute of New Mexico State's 28-27 comeback win
over New Mexico last Saturday, the Aggies' first victory of the
season, coach Tony Samuel felt as if he were back at Nebraska.
Samuel, who spent 18 years in Lincoln as a player and assistant
coach before taking over the dormant New Mexico State program
last season, hired eight assistants who had Husker ties,
installed the Nebraska smashmouth offense and tried to bring some
bravado to his new team.
The Aggies were 2-11 under Samuel entering Saturday's game and
had dropped 25 of their last 29 to the Lobos. But Samuel kept
New Mexico State's confidence up, even after Dion Martin scored
on an 88-yard kickoff return to give New Mexico a 27-21 lead
with 57 seconds remaining. "When that guy brought that kickoff
back, it was like someone had crushed a home run," said Samuel
on Sunday. "Still, not for one second did I think the game was
over. We only had a minute, but with three timeouts I knew we
could do it."
Five plays later two former walk-ons, quarterback Ty Houghtaling
and wideout Ryan Shaw, hooked up on a 50-yard touchdown pass to
tie the score. Aware that the Lobos had been penalized 15 yards
for excessive celebration after Martin's touchdown and had
missed a 35-yard PAT, Samuel sprinted up and down the sideline
making sure New Mexico State didn't draw a flag for the same
reason. After Andy Kohl made the extra point, Samuel didn't mind
that Aggies fans stormed the field and ripped down the goalposts.
"I felt like I did at Nebraska when we beat Miami to win the
national championship in 1994," he said. "This was a huge win for
our program and something we can build on. At Nebraska we never
thought we were going to lose, and that's the type of confidence
I'm trying to establish here." --B.J. Schecter
The Third Bowden
TOMMY WORKING MAGIC AT TULANE
When the Green Wave went 7-4 last season, the powers that be at
Tulane were thrilled, a reaction second-year coach Tommy Bowden
finds funny. "Most places I've coached, 7-4 will get you fired,"
he says. "Here it got me a raise."
With the Green Wave 2-0 this year--its best start since
1975--Bowden has plenty more to smile about. Tommy, the
44-year-old son of Florida State coach Bobby and older brother
of renowned Auburn coach Terry, has earned temporary family
bragging rights: He's the only Bowden who's undefeated this
While Terry has been constantly compared with Bobby since taking
over as Tigers coach in 1993, at age 37, Tommy is the Bowden son
most like his folksy father in temperament. When Tommy heard the
Seminoles had suffered a stunning 24-7 loss to North Carolina
State two weeks ago, he whipped out his cellular phone and
called his father. "Fat man!" he teased. "What happened?"
The three Bowdens phone each other every Saturday night during
the season. On Monday morning they send their game videotapes to
each other. On Tuesday morning they watch those tapes, critique
the games and pilfer ideas from them. "After our Virginia game,
Dad was calling with answers," Terry said last Thursday of
Auburn's 19-0 shutout loss to the Cavaliers on Sept. 3. "After
the North Carolina State loss, he was calling with questions."
Tommy is looking for answers, too, but to questions any coach
would love to have. On Sept. 5 Tulane jumped to a 52-14 lead
against Cincinnati and held on for a 52-34 victory. A week later
the Green Wave led SMU 31-0 before sweating out a 31-21 win. "You
know what, Terry?" Tommy said to his brother last week. "I'm
having a problem learning what to do when I'm way ahead."
Under Tommy's predecessor, Buddy Teevens, Tulane won 11 games in
five seasons. The Green Wave's fast rise is a result of Bowden's
offensive scheme, which spreads the field and allows undermanned
Tulane to be effective both in the air and on the ground. Last
season the Green Wave finished 33rd in the nation in passing
(2,598 yards) and 30th in rushing (2,012 yards).
Tulane is winning with players passed over by powers like Auburn
and Florida State. Before getting the job in New Orleans, Tommy
had been tutored by two of the best passing minds of the last 30
years: his father, for whom he was an assistant for three
seasons at Florida State, and Homer Smith, with whom he worked
at Alabama a decade ago, when Smith was the Crimson Tide's
offensive coordinator. "This spring I brought Homer in," Tommy
says. "He looked at our guys work out and said, 'You really
don't have a very good-looking team.'"
In this era of 260-pound tailbacks and 300-pound linemen, many
of Tulane's players sound as if they belong on a 1968 roster.
"I've got a wideout [senior P.J. Franklin] who's 5'10", 164,"
Tommy says. "I've got a wide receiver [sophomore John Wilson]
who's 5'5", 170. I start a 250-pound true freshman [Corey
Sewell] at offensive tackle. Who is he going to knock off the
ball? So we take that 5'5" guy and get him the ball out in the
open and let a linebacker try to tackle him."
There's more to it, of course. At quarterback Bowden has Shaun
King, a four-year starter who's smart, mobile and accurate. Last
season King threw for 2,567 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushed
for 511 yards and five touchdowns. This year he's first in the
nation in passing efficiency (37-58, 630 yards, six touchdowns,
no interceptions). "Everybody thinks we rear back and throw it
55 or 60 times a game," King says. "We run the ball as often as
we throw it."
Tulane strikes quickly. The Green Wave shocked the Bearcats and
the Mustangs with what Tommy has labeled his Indy (as in 500)
offense, in which the Green Wave doesn't huddle. "When the
referee steps away from the ball," Bowden says, "there's going
to be a hike." At least once against Cincinnati, King snapped
the ball before the Bearcats were lined up. The pace leaves
defenses little chance to make situational substitutions and to
change schemes. Against SMU, King was 12 of 17 for 259 yards and
one touchdown--in the first quarter.
Like his father and brother, Tommy is a ferocious competitor.
When Tommy coached wide receivers at Auburn under Terry, several
SEC coaches complained that Tigers wideouts took cheap shots at
their players. Houston coach Kim Helton and Syracuse coach Paul
Pasqualoni made similar complaints after playing Tulane last
year. Tommy says that he likes the chop block, or cut block, in
which a player hits a defender below the knees, and that the
Green Wave will continue to use it. "Some people perceive the
chop block as dirty," he says. "Our philosophy is to play on the
edge. We tell our guys to hit through the whistle. If the guys
I've got don't play hard, we'll get killed."
Tommy's success and high-profile name make him a hot prospect to
move up the coaching ranks. Arkansas made repeated offers to him
last December, but Bowden turned the Hogs down because he likes
his situation at Tulane. The late-blooming Tommy doesn't mind
that it took him 20 years to become a head coach. "The objective
isn't to become the youngest head coach," he says. "It's to
become the oldest."
Read more from Ivan Maisel and cast your vote in our Top 25 fans
poll at www.cnnsi.com.
TOP 10 EARLY SEASON DISAPPOINTMENTS
The Sun Devils talked of playing in their home stadium when the
Bowl Championship Series matches No. 1 versus No. 2 in the
Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 4. After a 1-2 start, the only way they'll
get in is with tickets.
These paper Tigers have lost their first two home games for the
first time since 1978. With a rushing attack that is averaging
only 48.3 yards per game, Auburn is in danger of enduring its
first losing season in seven years.
Cecil (the Diesel) Collins
In four games for Louisiana State last season, Collins rushed
for 600 yards before breaking his right leg. He was kicked off
the LSU team in June after an arrest for battery. He transferred
to McNeese State, where last week his tank hit empty after the
Cowboys booted him for failing a drug test.
The Rams followed an impressive comeback win over Michigan State
in their season opener with two losses in their next three
games, proving they don't know how to handle a little success.
A consensus pick to win the Ivy League, the Crimson was shut out
by Columbia for the first time since 1953, 24-0.
The defending national champions began the season 0-2 for the
first time since 1988. Beating up 59-20 on lowly Eastern
Michigan didn't repair the Wolverines' image.
On the heels of the Tar Heels' losses to Miami of Ohio and
Stanford (above), fans in Chapel Hill are asking when basketball
It's no disgrace that the two-time defending Conference USA
champs lost to Penn State and Texas A&M, but the Golden Eagles
were outscored by a combined 58-12 and didn't get a point
against the Aggies until the final minute.
Last season the Commodores finished first in the SEC and sixth
in the nation in total defense. This fall, with six starters
back, they've surrendered 1,207 yards and 104 points in three
A preseason dark horse to win the ACC, the Demon Deacons had
many flaws exposed in a 42-0 loss to Air Force and could be
headed to 5-6 again.
USC (3-0) at Florida State (2-1)
UCLA (2-0) at Miami (2-1)
L.A. versus (F)LA. Left coast versus right. California is second
in the nation in producing Division I-A players. Florida is
third. So why is it that Florida State, Miami and Florida have
won four national titles in the last nine years, while Southern
Cal has gone 20 years without a title and UCLA has gone 44? The
Trojans and Bruins haven't been near the top of the rankings
simultaneously since 1988, when No. 2 USC beat No. 6 UCLA 31-22.
The Bruins are flying high these days, having won a
school-record 12 straight. They will meet up with Hurricanes
trying to rebound from a 27-20 overtime defeat by Virginia Tech.
One advantage for Miami: The game is being played at noon, or 9
a.m. PDT, so don't be surprised if UCLA waits until the second
half to pull away. The Trojans, who struggled to defeat Oregon
State 40-20, will play Seminoles who are still smarting from a
24-7 loss two weeks ago to North Carolina State. The most
enjoyable man-on-man matchup will be Florida State wideout Peter
Warrick against USC corner Daylon McCutcheon. That's speed
versus speed. Alas, the rest of the Trojans won't be able to
keep up with the Seminoles.
Washington (2-0) at Nebraska (3-0)
The Huskers spent last week healing the wounds that have cost
them five starters. Four of those players are likely to be back
in the lineup on Saturday. The Huskies, the last visitors to win
at Nebraska's Memorial Stadium--44 games and seven seasons
ago--beat Arizona State 42-38 solely by throwing and beat BYU
20-10 by overpowering the Cougars with better athletes. Neither
method will be effective in Lincoln.
Michigan State (1-2) at Michigan (1-2)
Those records look funny, don't they? The Wolverines will be
doing most of the laughing in this matchup as they take a step
back toward respectability.
Purdue (2-1) at Notre Dame (1-1)
Last season the Boilermakers snapped an 11-game losing streak to
the Irish with a convincing 28-17 win. Purdue quarterback Drew
Brees and wideout Gabe Cox will expose Notre Dame's shaky