LOW AND HIGH TIDE
Even after a big win, up-and-down Alabama was awash in
One of the toughest weeks of Alabama coach Mike DuBose's
professional life ended the way the previous one had, with the
Crimson Tide nursing a lead and its opponent throwing a
desperate last-second pass into the end zone. This time--unlike
on Sept. 18, when Louisiana Tech connected on a 28-yard throw
with two seconds left for a shocking 29-28 upset--Alabama
survived. Free safety Tony Dixon knocked down Arkansas
quarterback Clint Stoerner's 31-yard heave as time expired, and
the Tide beat the SEC West rival Hogs 35-28. "You play as one,
with a singleness of purpose, one common heartbeat, one common
goal," DuBose said after the game, referring to how the team
stuck together through a tumultuous week.
Oh, if only that lesson could be learned by the dysfunctional
Alabama family. A look at last week:
At DuBose's press conference on the morning of Monday, Sept. 20,
the second question to him was, Would he consider resigning
immediately if he knew he wouldn't be retained at the end of the
season? "If I were 100 percent convinced that it was the best
thing for this university, sure I'd consider it," DuBose
replied, "but I haven't considered it."
On Tuesday, Alabama athletic director Bob Bockrath resigned
under pressure. Since Bear Bryant's death in 1983, 'Bama has had
seven athletic directors. Bockrath, a bureaucrat with ties to
Arizona, Cal and Texas Tech, had few people skills and fit in at
Alabama like a jar of mayo in a barbecue joint. He lost the
support of the university's board of trustees when he didn't
fire DuBose in August, after DuBose admitted that he had lied
last spring when he said he hadn't had an affair with his former
On Wednesday, according to a source close to him, DuBose said,
"If we don't win the game [against Arkansas], I may not have a
job next week."
On Thursday morning assistant coach Ronnie Cottrell received a
call from a friend. According to Cottrell, the caller said, "I
don't even know how to tell you this, but they've already
contacted Butch Davis at Miami. He accepted, and all of y'all
are gone." As Cottrell mulled that over, he heard from another
friend, who also told him a deal was done. "I know," Cottrell
said, "and the new coach is--" "Frank Beamer," the friend said,
naming the Virginia Tech coach. Within the hour, a third friend
called to tell Cottrell the deal was done, and the new coach
would be Mississippi State's Jackie Sherrill.
On Friday morning another Alabama coach saw a fortune-telling 8
ball in the sports information office, picked it up and asked,
"Is Mike still going to be head coach?" The 8 ball read,
"Without a doubt."
Saturday's game was a microcosm of DuBose's three seasons at
Alabama. He has raised the level of talent on the Crimson Tide
almost to where it was under coach Gene Stallings before the
NCAA imposed scholarship restrictions in 1996. But 'Bama is
young--nine starters are in their first or second years--and
mistake-prone. Against the Razorbacks the Tide committed six
turnovers, which Arkansas converted into 25 points. In other
words, the Alabama defense limited Arkansas to a field goal, the
Tide offense racked up five touchdowns, and the game still came
down to the last play.
"I played real poorly," says Alabama quarterback Andrew Zow, who
threw for 225 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. "If
I play a little better, if [tailback] Shaun [Alexander] plays a
little better [165 yards, one touchdown and two fumbles, one
returned by Arkansas for a touchdown], we open it up."
Patience is needed but is nonexistent at Alabama, which has won
seven national championships since 1936. The Crimson
Tide--talent, inexperience and all--is 3-1 as it prepares for
Florida. The defeat of Arkansas has put Alabama in position to
win the SEC West. If the Tide does it, DuBose might even remain
FLORIDA STATE'S BIG FOOT
As North Carolina coach Carl Torbush prepared his Tar Heels to
face No. 1 Florida State last week, he noted that Seminoles
junior Sebastian Janikowski had kicked off 26 times in three
games this season and that 20 of the kicks had resulted in
touchbacks. "Everybody will think this is funny," Torbush said,
"but there's not a whole lot of use in working on kickoff
returns this week, unless another storm is coming in." Sure
enough, Janikowski kicked off seven times in Florida State's
42-10 victory. North Carolina didn't return one kick.
EAST CAROLINA IS 4-0
Nomad Pirates Upset Miami
At the Tar River Estates apartment complex near the East
Carolina campus in Greenville, N.C., floodwaters wrought by
Hurricane Floyd rose waist-deep on the morning of Sept. 17.
Eighteen Pirates, including starting quarterback David Garrard
and starting split end Arnie Powell, were driven from their
apartments in the complex. Roads were flooded, the campus shut
down, and the team, which had traveled to Columbia, S.C., for
what it thought would be a one-day trip, was forced to stay put
for six more.
Amid that turmoil, coach Steve Logan tried to prepare East
Carolina last week to play No. 9 Miami. What would have been a
home game for the Pirates was moved to Carter-Finley Stadium at
North Carolina State, some 85 miles away in Raleigh. Because
none of the Pirates' coaches or players had packed for more than
an overnight trip before going to Columbia, Logan jocularly
advised his players last week, "Real men don't wear underwear."
Somewhere among practices at someone else's indoor facility in
jerseys donated by the Carolina Panthers, workouts at the Gold's
Gym in Columbia and nightly excursions to the movies, the mall
or the bowling lanes, Logan told the Pirates, "As of right now,
we have the possibility of going 3-8. Or we have the possibility
of going 11-0. You can give up and give in to the emotional
situation. We've got to be focused week to week."
East Carolina spotted the Hurricanes a 23-3 lead and roared back
behind the passing of Garrard and the running of Jamie Wilson to
win 27-23. Pirates fans tore down the goalposts, yet another
unplanned expense for East Carolina. The week in Columbia, where
the Pirates stayed in a Ramada Plaza hotel, ate up a healthy
chunk of the $250,000 check East Carolina received for playing
SOUTHERN MISS'S ROAD WARS
Not Worth the Money
The most significant thing about Southern Mississippi's grueling
back-to-back road games against then No. 4 Nebraska on Sept. 18
and No. 5 Texas A&M last Saturday isn't that the Golden Eagles
played the games, or even that they played the first one close.
Rather, it's that they don't plan to do anything similar anytime
The Southern Mississippi program survived for years, as did
those of most independent teams, by playing anywhere for a
check. Unlike most independents, however, the Golden Eagles
usually acquitted themselves well against bigger schools and
occasionally won. When Brett Favre quarterbacked them in 1989
and '90, they beat Florida State, Alabama and Auburn.
Now that the four-year-old Conference USA is growing stronger,
founding member Southern Mississippi will cut back on playing
Football for Dollars. "It's not as important as it used to be,"
says athletic director Richard Giannini, whose school received
$500,000 from Nebraska and $200,000 from Texas A&M for this
season's games. Conference USA has tie-ins with the Liberty,
Humanitarian and Mobile, Alabama, bowls. More important to
Southern Miss's bottom line, the conference schedule guarantees
the Golden Eagles four home games each season. (They play five
at home this year, a number they reached only once before
between 1988 and '98.)
While Giannini will continue to schedule two-for-ones (two road
games if the bigger school comes once to Hattiesburg), he's
proud of the home-and-home deal the Golden Eagles set up with
Illinois for 1997 and 2002. "It used to be we didn't get anybody
to come in and play us," says Southern Miss coach Jeff Bower.
"We're getting more exposure. Now it's O.K. to go down to
TEXAS A&M KICKER
Kitchens Is Cooking
Terence Kitchens, a junior walk-on at Texas A&M who had nailed
all five of his field goal attempts in the Aggies' two
season-opening victories, was summoned to coach R.C. Slocum's
office last Thursday and awarded a scholarship. "Now don't go in
the tank on me," Slocum told Kitchens, who had won the kicker's
job in the spring after last season's starter, Russell Brynam,
failed a random drug test and was ruled ineligible.
Kitchens apparently didn't find the heat in Slocum's kitchen too
hot. He kicked three field goals in a 23-6 victory over Southern
Mississippi, including a 62-yarder that tied the second longest
in a college game since the NCAA outlawed the tee in 1989.
MICHIGAN STUFFS WISCONSIN
Disdain For Dayne
If Wisconsin tailback Ron Dayne feels inclined to E-mail Purdue
quarterback Drew Brees this week, he could summarize the
Michigan defense in a single sentence: It's 1997 all over again.
The fourth-ranked Wolverines (4-0), who play Brees and the
unbeaten Boilermakers on Saturday in Ann Arbor, beat Wisconsin
21-16 last weekend and put a big hurt on Dayne's Heisman Trophy
campaign with a swarming defense that recalled the '97 unit that
carried Michigan to a 12-0 record and a share of the national
Two years ago the Wolverines, led by Heisman-winning cornerback
Charles Woodson, stuffed the run with eight defenders in the box
and attacked the pass with complex zone blitzes in front of
aggressive man-to-man coverage. Michigan held opponents to 9.5
points and 222.8 yards per game. Last year, despite having lost
only two starters (Woodson and defensive end Glen Steele) from
1997, the Wolverines' defense was mediocre, giving up almost
twice as many points and 80 more yards per game than the season
The difference between the 1997 and '98 units was partly
physical: Woodson was one of the best college corners ever, and
Steele was a relentless lineman. It was also partly emotional.
"Those guys were leaders, and we didn't adjust to losing them,"
said senior linebacker Ian Gold.
On Saturday the Wolverines held Dayne to 88 yards on 22 carries,
including zero yards in the second half. Michigan had four sacks
and knocked out Wisconsin's starting quarterback, Scott
Kavanaugh, in the third quarter.
Purdue will be a different test. The Boilermakers feature a
one-back, four-wideout attack. Brees threw for 405 yards against
Northwestern, including a 99-yard touchdown pass to Vinny
Sutherland to seal the win. "It's tough to make the adjustment
from Wisconsin's offense to Purdue's," says Michigan coach Lloyd
Carr. "We don't often see people who play the way Purdue does."
The last such opponent was Washington State in the 1998 Rose
Bowl. Ryan Leaf threw for 331 yards in that game, but Michigan
held the Cougars to 16 points.
Brees is every bit as dangerous as Leaf was and every bit the
Heisman candidate that Dayne was entering last Saturday's game.
Whether the Wolverines drop eight defenders into coverage (not
likely) or blitz the quarterback mercilessly (bet on it), this
will be the biggest test of Brees's career and of the
Boilermakers' newfound success. --Tim Layden
Nittany Lions Are Going Deep
Here's why Penn State is 5-0 and ranked second. Last season the
Nittany Lions threw four passes of 47 yards or more. This
season, thanks to the emergence of senior wideout Chafie Fields
as a deep threat, Penn State already has seven passing plays of
at least 47 yards, five for touchdowns.... After Syracuse
quarterback Troy Nunes got slammed to the turf by West Virginia
tackle Greg Robinette during the Orangemen's 30-7 win last
Saturday, Nunes rose and jawed at the 6'2", 285-pound Robinette,
who outweighs him by 122 pounds. Asked later what he had said,
Nunes replied, "I was asking him if he knew who won the Ryder
--Virginia (3-1) at Virginia Tech (3-0)
The Hokies defense has scored 16 points, five less than the 21
it has allowed (and seven of those 21 came on a fake field
goal). If Cavaliers tailback Thomas Jones finds some holes
against this bunch, he'll leap into the Heisman race. We'll bet
that Heisman front-runners Peter Warrick, Drew Brees and Joe
Hamilton aren't losing sleep. Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer
shouldn't either. His Hokies will remain unbeaten for another
--Texas A&M (3-0) at Texas Tech (1-2)
Based on talent alone, the Aggies should romp, but funny things
happen to Texas A&M at Texas Tech. The Aggies last won there in
1993 and have lost four of their last six games at Jones Stadium.
Times change. Last season Texas A&M beat a Top 10 team for the
first time since 1989. This week the Aggies should slay a demon
closer to home.
--Marshall (4-0) at Miami of Ohio (3-1)
The power of the MAC, like that of the Ming Dynasty and the SEC,
is located in the East. That's where the Thundering Herd and the
RedHawks reside. Marshall fell 45-21 at Yager Stadium two years
ago, in Randy Moss's sophomore season; Miami's Travis Prentice,
then a sophomore, rushed for 203 yards and four touchdowns. It
will take that kind of RedHawks effort for a repeat upset, but
don't count on it.
For complete scores and stats, plus more news from Ivan Maisel,
go to cnnsi.com/football/college.