Two troubled Gators teamed to beat Tennessee in the final seconds
The wattage of their smiles could have lit Neyland Stadium at
midnight. Florida senior quarterback Jesse Palmer stood a few
feet from redshirt freshman wide receiver Jabar Gaffney in an
overcrowded interview room minutes after the sixth-ranked Gators
had defeated No. 11 Tennessee 27-23 last Saturday. Their smiles
were powered by happiness, to be sure, but also by redemption.
Palmer has spent his Florida career being jerked in and out of
the lineup by coach Steve Spurrier. On Sept. 9, with the Gators
ahead 24-0 in the second quarter of a 55-0 rout of Middle
Tennessee State, Spurrier pulled Palmer, who had made one too
many poor decisions, in favor of freshman Rex Grossman. Gaffney
was kicked off the team by Spurrier last December after the
University of Florida police accused him of stealing $325 in cash
and jewelry from a locker room being used by Springfield
Rutherford High, which was playing in the state 5A playoffs at
Florida Field. Gaffney admitted to taking $40 and agreed to pay
$175 restitution; in return, no charges were filed. He was
stripped of his scholarship, but later was allowed to rejoin the
Gators as a walk-on.
Now Palmer and Gaffney stood talking about their moment of
triumph, the three-yard hitch pattern on which Gaffney walled off
defensive back Willie Miles at the goal line and caught the
winning touchdown pass from Palmer with 14 seconds to play. Miles
quickly stripped Gaffney but, according to line judge Al
Matthews, not quickly enough. "I had it for about two seconds,"
Gaffney says. "I knew the officials would call it complete. In
the back of his mind Miles knows I caught the ball."
The score concluded a 10-play, 91-yard drive that took precisely
two minutes. Palmer threw on every snap, completed six passes and
never looked rattled, not even when a five-yard scoring throw to
Reche Caldwell with 28 seconds remaining was called back because
Florida had an ineligible receiver downfield. "I'd never had a
two-minute drill in a game," said Palmer, who completed 20 of 43
passes for 290 yards. "I've dreamed about it a lot. I've been in
that situation five million times on PlayStation and John Madden
Football, but I'd never done it in real life before."
Despite Spurrier's public comments, Palmer says his coach has
kept him confident with private praise. "Jesse wasn't that bad,"
said Spurrier after the win on Saturday, referring to Palmer's
earlier performances. "We're not going to switch our quarterbacks
Jabar is the scion of a famous Gators family. His father,
Derrick, and three of his uncles were standouts for Florida.
Derrick went on to an eight-year NFL career. After being booted
last December, Jabar had no interest in playing anywhere else, so
Derrick appealed to Spurrier and athletic director Jeremy Foley
to reinstate his son. Convinced that Jabar had learned his
lesson, Spurrier told him in June that he could rejoin the
Gators--but without a scholarship.
As he walked through the deserted Florida locker room after last
Saturday's press conference, Gaffney, whose 15 receptions lead
the 3-0 Gators, said softly, "Once something is done, something
is done. You've got to live with your mistakes and keep going."
His goal is to prove that he learned his lesson and regain his
scholarship. "Jabar wouldn't go away," says Spurrier. "He
suffered, we thought, enough. Thank goodness, he wouldn't go
Tomlinson for Heisman?
TCU Back Makes His Case
TCU's LaDainian Tomlinson may have led the nation in rushing last
fall, with 168.8 yards per game, but he was held to 94 yards in a
17-7 loss to Northwestern. Last Saturday's rematch in Fort Worth
gave Tomlinson a chance for revenge and an opportunity to
validate his Heisman Trophy candidacy against a Big Ten team.
Horned Frogs coach Dennis Franchione said before the game that
Northwestern had stopped Tomlinson last year by shifting its
secondary to the wide side of the field. TCU's game plan on
Saturday was to run a lot of option plays to the tight end's
side, thereby gaining an extra blocker. Franchione also
instructed his running backs and offensive linemen to do their
utmost to fall forward, to help the Horned Frogs' rushers gain
extra yards. "We want to grind out drives," said Franchione.
The game plan worked better than Franchione had hoped. Tomlinson
blasted through the Wildcats, rushing 39 times for 243 yards and
two touchdowns in TCU's 41-14 rout. Though 6.2 yards per carry is
hardly grinding it out, Tomlinson's numbers would have been even
gaudier if touchdown runs of 34 and 74 yards hadn't been
nullified by holding penalties. Said Franchione, "If they hadn't
brought Big Ten officials, we would have had 500 yards."
In the Godseys They Trust
Together quarterbacks Gary Godsey, a freshman at Notre Dame, and
George Godsey, a junior at Georgia Tech, accounted for 324 yards
last Saturday. That was nothing compared to the distances covered
by their parents last weekend. In what has become a weekly ritual
during the football season, John and Barbara Godsey parted ways
at their Tampa home last Friday so that each of their boys had a
Godsey watching over them. "We've bought 29 plane tickets for the
season," says John. "It's important that the boys know someone
they can count on is in the stands."
This became an even more important priority when Notre Dame coach
Bob Davie announced that 6'7", 240-pound Gary would replace the
injured Arnaz Battle for last Saturday's game against Purdue. "I
got to see George's first game as a starter [against Central
Florida on Sept. 2]," says Barbara. "It was only fair that John
went to Gary's first."
After traveling the 969 miles to South Bend, John got an eyeful.
Gary, playing with a veteran's aplomb, passed for 166 yards and
ran nine yards for a touchdown in the Irish's 23-21, last-second
upset of the Boilermakers. Barbara, who had only a 416-mile trip
to Atlanta, watched 6'2", 209-pound George throw for a
career-high three touchdowns in the Yellow Jackets' 40-13 rout
of Navy. "The other day the two boys talked on the telephone,"
said John last Friday. "George said, 'You don't worry about
Purdue, and I won't worry about Navy.'"
Then again, John, who played defensive end under Bear Bryant at
Alabama in the late 1960s, had more than casual football
expertise to draw on in guiding his sons through backyard games
when they were kids. His oldest boy, Greg, 28, an Atlanta lawyer
who can still bench 500 pounds, became a 220-pound offensive
lineman at Air Force. George and Gary became quarterbacks under
the tutelage of Jesuit High coach Dominick Ciao. George was a
Yellow Jackets understudy until Joe Hamilton graduated after last
season. Gary was recruited to play tight end at Notre Dame--until
the highly touted C.J. Leak unexpectedly jilted the Irish for
Wake Forest on signing day in February 1999. Suddenly Gary was a
"The kids all decided where to go, and we supported them," says
John. "But having grown up in Alabama, I didn't much care for
Georgia Tech after it broke from the SEC [in 1964]."
Old rivalries aside, John sneaked up to South Bend a little early
so he could watch the Irish's Friday-night pep rally. Gary,
thinking Barbara was coming, greeted John with a basketful of
dirty laundry. This week, with George scheduled to play at North
Carolina State on Thursday and Gary at Michigan State on
Saturday, Barbara, who is a manager at a Gap store, and John, who
owns a cable-TV installation company, were planning on enjoying
the rare treat of traveling together. --Kelley King
Cyclones No. 1 in Hawkeye State
After losing to Iowa for 15 consecutive years, Iowa State has won
three in a row, and the Hawkeye State might as well be called the
Cyclone State. With its 24-14 victory over its intrastate rival
last Saturday, Iowa State is off to a 3-0 start for the second
straight year. The Cyclones lost seven of their final eight last
fall, but this team looks better on both sides of the ball and
especially on special teams.
Last spring coach Dan McCarney hired former Iowa assistant Bob
Elliott and put him in charge of special teams. Elliott has
employed many of the tactics popularized by Virginia Tech, which
has long made a big deal of special teams, such as getting
McCarney to take a hands-on role with the kicking and receiving
units and using a lot of frontline players on those units.
The results have been dramatic. Iowa State, which blocked no
kicks or punts last season, blocked five in its opening victories
over Ohio and UNLV. Elliott uses a scheme that frees the
Cyclones' best leaper, 6'5" starting defensive end Reggie
Hayward, who has two blocks, in the middle of the line. "When
your best player is also your hardest worker on special teams,"
Elliott says, "it sure makes it easier. Our starters are fighting
to get on the team as opposed to trying to get off."
Elliott's schemes have also opened holes for J.J. Moses, who's
averaging 14.0 yards running back punts. Last year Iowa State
finished 100th in punt returns (6.8 yards per return); now it's
Alabama's Passing Woes
The Tide May Be Washed Up
After Southern Mississippi beat Alabama 21-0, Golden Eagles coach
Jeff Bower said, "We concentrated on stopping the run."
Translation: 'Bama is 1-2 because its passing game has fallen
apart. The Tide hasn't passed for a touchdown yet, not even to
preseason All-America wideout Freddie Milons, who's a Porsche
with lost keys. He has caught just 13 passes for 91 yards.
After the West Coast offense sputtered in a 35-24 loss to UCLA
on Sept. 2, coach Mike DuBose shelved it and tried to spread the
defense with an option attack. All he did was spread his offense
too thin. The West Coast and option demand precision. The Tide
is proficient at neither.
Senior quarterback Andrew Zow struggled to hit receivers in the
first two games, going 11 for 32 and losing his job. New starter
Tyler Watts, whose quick feet helped persuade DuBose to use the
option, has an average arm. He completed 11 of 16 against the
Eagles, but for only 57 yards, and he was relieved by Zow in the
When Zow killed a drive by throwing an interception in the end
zone, he heard fewer boos than one might have expected at Legion
Field, which began the night with a crowd of 83,091. That's
because many of the fans had already left.
Ya Gotta Love This Guy
Four years ago, when Chad Cacchio failed to get a single
scholarship offer from a Division I school, he thought he would
try Division III Denison in Granville, Ohio. But Ohio State
asked Cacchio, a wide receiver from Upper Arlington, Ohio, to
walk on, and he couldn't resist a chance to play for the
Buckeyes. Until this season, his career had consisted almost
entirely of work on the scout team. In three years he had played
a total of 58 minutes and made five catches. But Cacchio didn't
quit. An Academic All-Big Ten selection last year, Cacchio, a
finance major, applied his off-field study habits to the game,
spending time watching film and practicing against
first-stringers such as future NFL cornerbacks Ahmed Plummer and
Antoine Winfield. Though Cacchio still doesn't start,
quarterback Steve Bellisari knows where to find him when he
comes into a game. In Ohio State's 3-0 start Cacchio has four
catches, three for touchdowns.
One year after losing to Texas 69-17, Stanford upset the
Longhorns 27-24. The Cardinal did so with second-stringer Chris
Lewis, a redshirt freshman, at quarterback. Lewis, who was forced
into duty after senior starter Randy Fasani suffered a knee
injury seven minutes into the first quarter, threw for 214 yards
and three touchdowns, including the 15-yarder to DeRonnie Pitts
that won the game with 1:12 left....
Navy coach Charlie Weatherbie opened the game at Georgia Tech by
having David Hills try an onside kick. The Middies' linebacker
Mike Chiesle recovered, and Navy wound up with a field goal. So
much for momentum: The Yellow Jackets won 40-13....
North Carolina allowed a total of 21 rushing yards in its
opening two victories, over Tulsa and Wake Forest, and coach
Carl Torbush pointed out last week that nearly half the Tar
Heels' opponents' rushing attempts had been for no gain or a
loss. Then Carolina met Florida State, and the Seminoles put up
a 29-yard touchdown run by Jeff Chaney, 112 yards by Travis
Minor and, in all, 194 yards and three touchdowns on the ground
in a 63-14 victory. Of Florida State's 41 carries, 30 gained
The NCAA denied certification to a 27th and a 28th bowl, partly
out of concern that in 2002, when schedules expand to 12 games,
there won't be enough teams with winning records to qualify for
the additional bowls....
On Aug. 30 Vanderbilt suspended All-SEC linebacker Jamie Winborn
for its first two games for receiving improper financial advice.
Last week coach Woody Widenhofer stripped Winborn of his team
captaincy after Winborn missed curfew and received a ticket for
a traffic violation. When Winborn finally got onto the field
last Saturday, he made 15 tackles in the Commodores' 12-7 loss
to Ole Miss.
--UCLA (3-0) at Oregon (2-1)
The Bruins finally play a game outside the Rose Bowl (i.e., the
stadium) and a loss to the Ducks may keep them out of the Rose
Bowl (i.e., the game). Autzen Stadium is always noisy, and
playing there is especially tough for a young quarterback, like
UCLA sophomore Ryan McCann. With the Bruins coming off a taxing
victory over Michigan, Oregon wins.
--Mississippi State (2-0) at South Carolina (3-0)
Gamecocks coach Lou Holtz loves physical football, but he will
get more than he likes from the Bulldogs' chaos-inducing
defense. The soaring expectations in Columbia will fly a little
closer to reality after this one.
--Toledo (3-0) at Western Michigan (2-1)
Two Big Ten killers face off in a Mid-American Conference game
that will determine the front-runner of the West Division. The
Broncos' Waldo Stadium rocks when it's sold out, but it won't
rock the Rockets, who have a punishing running back in Chester
Taylor as well as a suffocating defense.
--Michigan (2-1) at Illinois (3-0)
An MRI of Illini quarterback Kurt Kittner's right knee on Sunday
revealed that he'd sustained only a sprain while scrambling
during the Illini's defeat of Cal. He'll play against the
Wolverines, who won't lose on the road for a second straight
week. The difference? Emotion. Michigan owes Illinois for last
season's 35-29 upset at the Big House.