SEE YA, SOONERS
Mount Union broke Oklahoma's record with its 48th straight win
For a team that likes to keep the ball in the air, Mount Union's
Purple Raiders are equally determined to keep their feet on the
ground. Last Saturday none of the players exulted, no coach
shook his fist in the air, few fans did more than clap politely.
It was business as usual after the Purple Raiders defeated
Otterbein 44-20 for their 48th straight victory, breaking
Oklahoma's 42-year-old record for the longest winning streak in
college football. In a postgame scene of remarkable calm, Mount
Union's players passed by Otterbein's, shaking hands one at a
time, Little League style, and then, among lengthening shadows
at the end of a beautiful autumn day, walked quietly into
Elsewhere the record will get more attention because, Division
III or not, Mount Union's dynasty is undeniable. Oklahoma may
have played better football--most Division I teams play (or
should play) better football than even the best of Division
III--but nobody else can lay claim to this sort of excellence.
Mount Union's achievement may be doubly distinctive because, of
its 48 victories, 12 have come in playoff or title games held to
determine the Division III champion. Oklahoma's string of
victories included two in the postseason, both in the Orange Bowl.
At Mount Union, a United Methodist school of some 2,000 students
in northeastern Ohio, the streak is almost a forbidden topic.
Coach Larry Kehres, a former Purple Raiders quarterback who has
crafted a high-powered passing attack that makes stars out of
average athletes, wanted it known immediately after the game
that he didn't want to be confused with Oklahoma's Bud
Wilkinson. "They played on hallowed ground," he said of the
Sooners. "Believe me, Division I is not Division III."
October 24, 1999
No, it's not. In Division III the players do not receive
athletic scholarships, cars or much else besides shoulder pads.
Indeed, football at Mount Union is the inverse of everything
we've come to expect of big-time sports. The athletes aren't
paid but instead must pony up nearly $19,000 for the chance to
play (though most have campus jobs and/or academic or need-based
scholarships). The school doesn't sell its TV rights but rather
buys its own airtime. In addition, as a member of the Ohio
Athletic Conference, Mount Union coaches also are restricted
from going into any player's home to recruit.
A very quaint idea of athletics is practiced here. A modesty
that is born when Division I coaches don't recruit a kid is
reinforced when the Division III coach sees to it that the
quarterback and the other marquee players pick up the team's
laundry after practices and games. Gary Smeck, who passed for
282 yards and three touchdowns in Saturday's victory, wasn't
permitted an extravagant opinion of himself afterward. "When I'm
done talking to you," he said at the postgame press conference,
"I've got two piles of laundry--game jerseys and pants--to wash.
Although we might wait until Sunday to throw them in the dryer."
This kind of ego leveling doesn't reduce the caliber of play or
the entertainment value of small-college football. It may work
the other way. Kids who come to this program with no
pretense--about 95% are from Ohio, a lot of them from small-town
Ohio--fall easily under Kehres's sway and adjust magnificently
to his wide-open and high-scoring system. The result is that a
lot of no-name athletes achieve astonishing results. Although he
says he really doesn't want to be confused with Knute Rockne, in
14 years Kehres has had a winning percentage of .890, second to
none at any level among those who've coached at least 10 seasons
at four-year colleges. He has also led the Purple Raiders to
three straight national titles and four in the last six years.
But enough of these gaudy superlatives. "Hey, Gary," said Adam
Marino, the receiver who'd just caught nine passes for 209
yards, "we doing laundry tonight?" Smeck, the star of the team
that had just broken Oklahoma's record, said they were, and they
had better get started. --Richard Hoffer
Kentucky's Special Teams
SIMON SAYS, FAKE A PUNT
Kentucky fullback A.J. Simon has his finger on the trigger of
one of the most exciting plays in football, and he isn't afraid
to squeeze. Simon, the blocking back in the Wildcats' punt
formation, has carte blanche from coach Hal Mumme to call a
fake, with the ball going to him. Five times over three seasons
Simon has called the play, and five times he has made a first
down, most recently in Kentucky's 31-5 defeat of LSU last week.
Faced with a fourth-and-22 on the Wildcats' 42, Simon took the
snap and threw a short pass to tight end Derek Smith for a
23-yard gain. In Mumme's three seasons with the Wildcats, his
upbacks are 9 for 9 in converting fakes.
"It's basically a judgment call," Simon says. "I'm trustworthy.
I show up on time. I've never made a mistake to disappoint
Coach. As far as I know, I haven't made any mental errors in
three seasons." Simon once pulled off a fake from his own
14-yard line. "Coach obviously has a lot of trust in me," Simon
says. "He looks at it this way: If I'm willing to take the
chance, he would do the same."
Bowden vs. Bowden
BOBBY'S 300TH OR TOMMY'S 22ND?
If it were up to Ann Bowden, whose husband, Bobby, takes Florida
State to Death Valley this weekend to play Clemson, which is
coached by their son Tommy, she would find a seat in the top row
of an end zone at Memorial Stadium "and let my emotions hang
out." Instead, she will be sitting in the Florida State section.
Nearly the entire Bowden family will be on hand to watch the
first father-son coaching face-off in Division I-A history--and,
not incidentally, Bobby's bid to become the fifth major-college
coach to win 300 games. It will be quite a reunion. Jeff, the
youngest of the Bowdens' four boys, is his father's receivers
coach. Jeff's two sisters will sit on opposite sides of the
stadium, Ginger in FSU seats and Robyn, who is married to
Clemson defensive backs coach Jack Hines, with Tigers fans.
Steve, the only son who isn't in football, will be on the
Clemson sideline with Tommy. "He needs all the support he can
get," says Steve, a Birmingham businessman. "I'm going to stand
close by and prop him up." Actually, Steve believes that Tommy
will challenge their father in time. "He's so much like Dad is,
the way the game plays out in his mind," Steve says. "If he can
get players like Dad has before Dad leaves, it will be a real
Ann refers to Clemson as they and to Florida State as we. She
decided it would be uncomfortable for her to sit with Tommy's
wife, Linda. "I don't want to put a damper on her enthusiasm,"
says Ann. But she also says, "I want to be able to cheer for
Tommy." How much? "Let them make a first down," she says. "Let
them score. That's deep down in a mother's heart."
There is a limit. She recalls the Bear Bryant Coach of the Year
Award banquet after the 1993 regular season, when Bobby, whose
team would finish No. 1, and their son Terry, who had gone 11-0
in his first year at Auburn, were among the finalists. "Did you
know Bobby has never won that?" Ann says. "When they called
Terry's name, my stomach did a flip-flop. I thought, Gee whiz,
Terry's got time to do that. We're in the twilight of our
career." Now Terry is out of coaching--he's the ABC Sports
college football studio analyst and won't be at the game--and
Bobby will try to reach a milestone at his second-oldest son's
expense. "I'm really proud," Ann says, "that we're the first
family to go through this."
Schizophrenic Texas Tech
THE RED RAIDERS ARE HOT AND COLD
After an embarrassing 21-14 loss to North Texas on Sept. 18,
Texas Tech rebounded to beat fifth-ranked Texas A&M 21-19. The
Red Raiders then lost to unheralded Oklahoma State 41-21 before
bouncing back last Saturday to humiliate Colorado 31-10. Texas
Tech coach Spike Dykes won't draw any roller-coaster analogies.
"I may be dead wrong," he said on Sunday. "I don't think we're
that fragile emotionally."
The Red Raiders have been fragile physically. After going
through two-a-days without losing a player to injury, Tech lost
11 starters in the first three weeks. Some of them have just
begun to trickle back. With guard Jason May back on the
offensive line against Colorado, quarterback Rob Peters wasn't
sacked in a game for the first time this season. Peters
completed 15 of 23 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns.
Still, there may be more to Texas Tech's ups and downs than
Dykes cares to admit. As evidence, consider how the Red Raiders,
who always point to their game against longtime rival Texas A&M,
have fared in the aftermath of that annual showdown. In the last
13 years, Tech has gone 3-10 in the game after Texas A&M but has
bounced back to go 12-1 in the game after that. Playing the
Aggies is bruising physically, but it's safe to say that the big
game also takes something out of the Red Raiders emotionally.
Penn State's D
A SLEEPING GIANT AWAKENS
So much for concern over Penn State's defense, which in the
first six games of the year looked rather ordinary, yielding
325.8 yards per game, 32nd best in the nation. Last Saturday, in
a 23-10 victory over Ohio State, the Nittany Lions held the
Buckeyes to 143 total yards, their lowest output since 1987, and
sacked quarterback Steve Bellisari eight times. All-America
linebacker LaVar Arrington, who entered the game tied for fifth
on the team with 27 tackles, lived up to his preseason billing
as one of the nation's best defenders by making seven tackles
and 2 1/2 sacks. One of the sacks was a highlight-reel play on
which he hurdled a would-be blocker and drilled Bellisari for a
"Coming into this year there were all kinds of hype and
expectations of our defense," said Penn State senior defensive
end Courtney Brown of a unit that was ranked 12th in total
defense last season and has nine starters back, including four
All-Big Ten players and two preseason All-Americas. "But we
weren't living up to it. We weren't focusing and doing all the
little things that made us so good last year. We had to take a
step back and reestablish ourselves."
Ohio State's offense produced only a field goal and was
otherwise overwhelmed by Penn State's front seven. Of the
Buckeyes' 14 possessions, just three lasted more than six plays.
Still, Penn State players weren't satisfied. "We're just
starting to show how we can play," says linebacker Brandon
Short. "It's taken us a while to get into a groove. As well as
we played at times, I know we can play a lot better than this."
Washington State has eight sets of brothers on its roster,
including three pairs of identical twins. Of the 16 players,
only defensive end Austin Matson, right tackle Reed Raymond and
linebackers Fred Shavies and Raonall Smith are starters, and
just one other brother plays significant minutes. Says Cougars
coach Mike Price, "Part of our budget cuts is that we're just
recruiting brothers."... The play that saved Georgia's season:
With his team trailing Vanderbilt 17-3 in the third quarter,
Bulldogs junior defensive tackle Richard Seymour intercepted a
pass by Commodores quarterback Greg Zolman at the Georgia
eight-yard line. The play awakened the Dawgs, who scored 24
points in the fourth quarter to win 27-17.
For complete scores and stats, plus more news from Ivan Maisel,
go to cnnsi.com/football/college.
--Tennessee (4-1) at Alabama (5-1)
The Volunteers may not be as fortunate this season as they were
a year ago, but they couldn't have asked for a better week not
to play than last week. Already this season quarterback Tee
Martin has sustained a bruised clavicle, a sprained right hand
and a concussion. The rest did him some good. Without Martin,
Tennessee would be just another team. Meanwhile, Alabama would
be just another team without tailback Shaun Alexander, the
nation's leading scorer. The one constant with the Crimson Tide
this season has been that none of its games have been dull.
Imagine the excitement Alabama will create after it beats
Tennessee for the first time in five years.
--Penn State (7-0) at Purdue (5-2)
--Ohio State (4-3) at Minnesota (5-1)
--Michigan State (6-1) at Wisconsin (5-2)
Weed-out week in the Big Ten. Goodbye, Spoilermakers. Like
Michigan State last week, Purdue will come off an emotional high
and fall flat. See you, Buckeyes. The Golden Gophers' defense
will confuse sophomore quarterback Steve Bellisari and keep
Minnesota in the hunt for its first league championship in 32
seasons. Later, Badgers. The Spartans will bounce back.
--Nebraska (6-0) at Texas (5-2)
Nebraska's Blackshirts defense just needed the team's offense to
play adequately. Now that quarterback Eric Crouch has the unit
doing better than that, watch out.