BIG O, LITTLE D
High-scoring Florida State was a defensive wreck against Georgia
You think The Sixth Sense is scary? Imagine designing a defense
against Florida State. In last Saturday night's 41-35 victory
over Georgia Tech in Tallahassee, the top-ranked Seminoles used
three quarterbacks in the first quarter without bringing anybody
in from the bench. All-world senior wideout Peter Warrick took
two snaps and accounted for 37 yards and a touchdown, and
255-pound starting fullback Dan Kendra, a former Florida State
quarterback, lined up under center and sneaked for a first down
on third-and-one. Oh, yeah, regular quarterback Chris Weinke
completed five of nine passes for 90 yards in the first quarter.
For the game Weinke threw for 267 yards, Warrick caught eight
passes for 142 yards, and junior tailback Travis Minor rushed
for 122 yards. Choose your poison.
"They're fast, they use a whole bunch of formations and plays,
and they've got Peter Warrick," said Yellow Jackets senior safety
Travares Tillman after last Saturday's defeat. "That's why
they're the best team in the country."
That must be it, because the Seminoles' defense certainly can't
take any credit after failing to show up against Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets rang up 501 yards, 387 of them on a
breathtaking 22-for-25, four-touchdown passing performance by
senior quarterback Joe Hamilton. "We stunk," said Seminoles
senior defensive tackle Corey Simon afterward. Added defensive
coordinator Mickey Andrews, "Thank goodness the offense was
there to bail us out."
This is news. A year ago Florida State was ranked No. 1 in the
nation in total defense, the culmination of a decade-long rise
in which the Seminoles had redefined defensive end play and
established their D as among the most consistently intimidating
in the country. Georgia Tech showed no respect for this legacy.
The Yellow Jackets scored quickly from long distance (Hamilton
threw touchdown passes of 80 and 56 yards) and twice drove 80
yards in 10 plays. "It's safe to say we didn't play like we're
used to playing," said Florida State senior cornerback Mario
Edwards, who was burned on the game's final touchdown, a 22-yard
pass from Hamilton to sophomore flanker Kelly Campbell, who made
a spectacular one-handed grab to bring Georgia Tech within six
points with 1:35 to play.
More to the point, the Yellow Jackets weren't surprised by the
Seminoles' fallibility. "We watched tape, and we saw that we
would score on them," said Tech senior center Noah King. One tape
the Yellow Jackets watched was of Florida State's 23-16 loss to
Tennessee in last season's Fiesta Bowl national championship
game. The Vols didn't roll up tons of offense (392 yards) on the
Seminoles but consistently moved the ball on bootleg passes and
deep balls. The objective of both Tennessee and Georgia Tech was
to use Florida State's speed and aggression against it, catching
the Seminoles out of position. Like Vols quarterback Tee Martin,
Hamilton can run and pass, only better.
Florida State's front four of Simon, senior tackle Jerry Johnson
and junior ends Roland Seymour and Jamal Reynolds were largely
effective, holding Tech to 114 yards on the ground and sacking
Hamilton three times. However, the Seminoles' deep seven were
terrible, getting outhustled on two catch-and-run touchdowns and
overpursuing all night on Hamilton.
The tape of Saturday's game will soon be a must-see in viewing
rooms in Miami and Gainesville. (Florida State hosts Miami on
Oct. 9 and plays at Florida on Nov. 20.) One thing is certain:
The Seminoles will not win the national championship with 10
more defensive efforts like Saturday's, regardless of how
spectacularly their offense plays.
CAN'T RUN, CAN'T STOP THE RUN
The Pacific-10, once the home of USC's student body left, can't
run the ball anymore--or stop most nonconference opponents that
do. The league hasn't produced a running back who finished in
the top five of the Heisman Trophy voting since the Trojans'
Marcus Allen won the award in 1981 or a consensus All-America
running back since Russell White of California in '91. On the
other side of the ball, the Pac-10 has lost six of the last
seven Rose Bowls to more balanced, more physical opponents from
the Big Ten.
Which raises a question: What hath Bill Walsh wrought? The West
Coast offense, which Walsh used in winning three Super Bowl
titles with the San Francisco 49ers and a conference title at
Stanford, has over the last decade influenced the hiring
decisions of many Pac-10 athletic directors bent on selling
tickets. As a result, most Pac-10 teams play an exciting breed
of pass-oriented football but generally get manhandled between
the tackles when they play an opponent from outside the Pacific
time zone. To wit:
--Arizona at Penn State, Aug. 28: On nine rushes on which the
Wildcats needed three yards or less for a first down or
touchdown, they netted minus-six yards. Final score: Nittany
Lions (who ran for 262 yards) 41, Wildcats 7.
--Washington at BYU, Sept. 9: Early in the second quarter the
Huskies faced the classic manhood-check--a third-and-one at
their own 29--and ran a reverse. The Cougars stopped flanker Joe
Jarzynka for no gain. For the game, Washington rushed for 86
yards. Final: Cougars 35, Huskies 28.
--UCLA at Ohio State, Sept. 11: The Bruins seem to be picking up
where they left off last fall, when they turned Edgerrin James
of Miami into a first-round draft choice (299 yards, three
touchdowns). On Saturday, UCLA gained 112 yards on the ground in
a 42-20 loss to Ohio State while giving up more than twice that
amount to the Buckeyes.
The good news for the Pac-10 is that Cal, which came into the
season with perhaps the league's best defense, held Nebraska to
114 yards on 48 carries last Saturday. The bad news is that the
Cornhuskers still routed the Bears 45-0. Arizona State's Phil
Snow, the coordinator of the only other Pac-10 defense that's
regularly able to stop the run--the Sun Devils held Texas Tech
to 107 yards on the ground in a 31-13 win last week--concedes
that the Pac-10 is simply too pass-oriented to develop
consistently strong rushing D's. "Whatever you practice against,
you're going to be better at stopping," he says. "Our teams
don't get hit in the mouth every day." They do, however, take it
on the chin on Saturdays.
NOTRE DAME GETS CLOCKED
Notre Dame coach Bob Davie spent a sleepless Saturday night, and
if he looked at the clock by his bedside more than once, peeved
Fighting Irish fans would say he deserved his fate. In both the
26-22 loss at Michigan on Sept. 4 and last week's 28-23 defeat
at Purdue, the clock ran out on Notre Dame as quarterback
Jarious Jackson frantically tried to line up the Irish for one
more play deep in opponent territory.
"When we had the ball at the [Purdue] one-yard line [on
second-and-goal] with 16 seconds left, I was feeling pretty good
about our clock management," Davie said on Sunday. "We didn't
execute." Following a timeout, during which the Irish decided on
their next two plays, Jackson went to the line and, as instructed
by his coaches, called a fake audible to confuse the defense. The
only player fooled was fullback Joey Goodspeed, who turned and
told halfbacks Tony Fisher and Tony Driver that Jackson had
checked to another play. Eight players ran one play while the
three backs ran another. Jackson lost 10 yards, and Notre Dame
couldn't get another snap off.
The Irish had botched a similar situation at the end of the
first half and failed to get off a field goal attempt. "We've
made poor decisions as a staff," said Davie, whose team won four
games last season by either scoring or making a goal line stand
in the final 90 seconds. That's now ancient history.
Last-Second Blunders (Cont.)
BAYLOR CRAPS OUT AGAINST UNLV
To those Notre Dame fans ready to pillory Davie for his team's
1-2 start, things could be worse. You could be a Baylor fan. The
football gods have a way of punishing those who defy them. All
the Bears had to do was snap the ball and put a knee down, and
they would have defeated UNLV 24-21 last Saturday, giving new
coach Kevin Steele his first victory. But no. "I know what the
textbook says," Steele told SI on Sunday night. "We have
preached to our players about being aggressive and attacking.
They came to me on the sideline and said, 'Coach, let us score.'
I let my emotions do something and I shouldn't have." With less
than 20 seconds left and the ball on the Rebels' eight-yard
line, quarterback Jermaine Allred handed off to tailback Darrell
Bush, who reached the one and then tried to stretch the ball
over the goal line. UNLV linebacker Tyler Brickell swatted the
ball out of Bush's hands, and it bounced right to cornerback
Kevin Thomas, who returned it 99 yards for the winning touchdown.
Having suffered a 30-29 overtime loss at Boston College a week
earlier in which Baylor kicker Kyle Atteberry shanked an extra
point that would have forced a second OT, the Bears hope they
have filled their quota of hard lessons for this season.
ARRINGTON WAS DOING HIS JOB
When Miami played Penn State in the epic 1987 Fiesta Bowl
national championship game, the Hurricanes defined bad-boy cool,
from their pregame military fatigues to their spectacular trash
talking. When the teams, both unbeaten, meet this Saturday in a
crucial early-season matchup in the Orange Bowl, the roles will
be reversed. Miami is being praised for cleaning up its program,
while the Nittany Lions will be led into South Florida by Public
Enemy No. 1, sensational junior linebacker LaVar Arrington.
Arrington's reputation took a turn for the notorious in Penn
State's 20-17 victory over Pittsburgh when he was assessed two
15-yard penalties on the same play in the first quarter. First
he was called for unnecessary roughness after flattening and
holding down Panthers punter Greg DeBolt, and then he was hit
with a personal foul for shoving safety D.J. Dinkins, who had
pushed him off DeBolt following the first flag.
Penn State coach Joe Paterno and his staff said little to
Arrington immediately after the penalties, except to warn him to
keep his cool, and in his postgame press conference Paterno
said--quite rightly--that he didn't plan to discipline Arrington.
"It's my job to take the punter out," Arrington told SI on
Sunday. "That's what my coaches tell me to do. I'm a defensive
player, I'm going to get him on the ground as quickly as
possible. The fact that he's a punter doesn't change anything.
He's out there playing. You'll notice he kicked a 24-yarder
after that, so I guess I did something right. Plus we've got
guys who can run back punts, and we don't want the punter back
there saving a touchdown."
When Arrington wasn't drawing flags on Saturday, he was, by far,
the best player on the field. He intercepted one pass and nearly
picked off two more during Pittsburgh's fourth-quarter drive
that tied the score 17-17. He put an exclamation mark on his
epic performance by slapping down Pitt's 52-yard field goal
attempt on the second-to-last play of the game.
None of that, however, will linger as long as the image of him
drilling a punter. "People are going to act like I'm a bad guy
now," Arrington said. "That's fine. I can't concern myself with
it. I'm doing my job, and we're winning games."
For complete scores and stats, plus more news from Ivan Maisel,
go to cnnsi.com/football/college.
--Penn State (3-0) at Miami (2-0)
Hurricane Floyd is lurking in the Atlantic. Will there be a
repeat of last year, when Hurricane Georges forced the
postponement of UCLA's visit to South Florida? Doesn't Miami
wish. Don't expect a repeat of the last meeting between these
teams, in 1992, when the Hurricanes denied Joe Paterno his 245th
victory by a score of 17-14. On Saturday, JoePa gets No. 311.
--Tennessee (1-0) at Florida (2-0)
The Gators rank 95th in the nation in passing efficiency
defense, having allowed an average of 318.5 yards in victories
over Western Michigan and Central Florida. Is Florida's new
defensive coordinator, Jon Hoke, playing possum? More likely,
the Gators will be Vols quarterback Tee Martin's roadkill.
--Michigan (2-0) at Syracuse (2-0)
Retribution Game I: The Wolverines fell behind 38-7 against the
Orangemen last season before losing 38-28 at home. But Syracuse
has lost Donovan McNabb to the NFL, and the Wolverines have too
much experience to fall again.
--North Carolina State (3-0) at Florida State (2-0)
Retribution Game II: The Wolfpack thrashed the Seminoles 24-7
last season and scored 35 points in a losing effort in 1997. It's
a good bet Chris Weinke won't throw six interceptions against
N.C. State this time. Look for Florida State to outscore another
top ACC opponent.