Up And Dirty
Clemson is back among the elite, but did it get there by playing
There's a thin line between playing very aggressively and playing
dirty, and Clemson coach Tommy Bowden wants his Tigers to toe
right up to that line. "If the speed limit is 55," says Bowden,
"the police let you go 64 before they ticket you. I want us to
play at 64."
Clemson's spread offense works at a relentless pace, intent on
using the opponent's fatigue to its advantage. In the third
quarter of the Tigers' game at Virginia last Saturday, with the
Cavaliers' defense showing the first signs of weariness,
Clemson's junior quarterback Woody Dantzler broke loose for
touchdown runs of 75 and 45 yards that iced a 31-10 victory.
Dantzler finished with 220 yards rushing and 154 passing,
including a touchdown throw. In the 141 minutes he has played
this fall, the Tigers have scored 151 points.
Bowden, a former receivers coach at Alabama and Auburn, has
taught the Tigers' wideouts to cut-block. "When I'm downfield and
cutting a defensive back, they'll say, 'Let up. The play's
over,'" says sophomore wide receiver Jackie Robinson. "I like to
hear that. That lets us know we're getting to them."
On defense no one's motor runs at a higher RPM than that of
junior linebacker Keith Adams (SI, Sept. 11), who had six
tackles, including a sack, against Virginia. Clemson uses a 4-3
defense, frequently blitzing Adams and outside linebacker Braxton
Williams, and the Tigers' defensive backs are known for
surreptitiously holding opposing receivers.
In only his second season at Clemson, Bowden has taken a team
that was 3-8 in 1998 to 6-6 last year and 4-0 with a No. 7
ranking this season. It's the first time in nine years that the
Tigers have cracked the Top 10. However, the aggressive style of
play that he teaches is regarded by opponents as not toeing that
thin line but crossing it. "You know they're nasty," says
Virginia linebacker Donny Green. "You better have your head on a
swivel. When the whistle is about to blow, you better brace
yourself." Veteran Cavaliers defensive coordinator Rick Lantz
says he isn't surprised by Clemson's methods. After all, he says,
"it runs in the family."
Tommy's father, Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, famously said
four years ago that he wants his defense to hit "until the echo
of the whistle." Tommy has the same philosophy. "There's the
whistle blow when it starts and the whistle blow when it ends,"
he says. "You got that six tenths of a second you can get one
more shot in. It's still legit."
A few days before Clemson's 55-7 defeat of Wake Forest on Sept.
16, defensive tackle Jason Holloman says Bowden got on his
defense because it hadn't knocked a quarterback out of a game
yet. As it turned out, linebackers Rodney Thomas and Rodney
Feaster took out Deacons quarterback C.J. Leak as he released a
pass in the third quarter. Leak suffered a dislocated left knee
and also tore ligaments in that knee. According to doctors, the
injury is so severe that Leak, who is scheduled to undergo
surgery on Sept. 26, must drop out of school for the rest of this
semester to rehabilitate.
Both sides agree the tackle was clean, and Bowden says he never
told his team to take out the quarterback. "That was a
20-year-old's interpretation of what was said at a position
meeting," he says. "They're starting a sophomore quarterback. You
want to get to him often in order to confuse and demoralize him."
Bowden understands why opponents don't like Clemson's style, but
he doesn't apologize for it: "It's a game of emotion, intensity.
If you don't coach it that way, your team's got very little
chance of playing that way."
Smoker, Kimrey Unlikely Heroes
What was most amazing about the fourth-and-10, fourth-quarter,
come-from-behind touchdown pass that Michigan State freshman Jeff
Smoker threw to beat Notre Dame is that it wasn't even the best
fourth-and-10, fourth-quarter, come-from-behind touchdown pass
thrown last Saturday. That honor went to South Carolina junior
walk-on Erik Kimrey, who hadn't appeared in a college game before
this season. Kimrey's first name was even misspelled in the
Gamecocks' 1999 media guide, which listed him as Eric. But
Kimrey, who had called his own plays in the spread offense that
his dad coached at Dutch Fork High in Irmo, S.C., moved up to
second team last spring when South Carolina inserted some spread
Kimrey was called into action on Saturday after starter Phil
Petty sprained his right ankle with less than five minutes
remaining and the Gamecocks trailing Mississippi State 19-13.
Facing fourth-and-10 at the Bulldogs' 25, South Carolina coach
Lou Holtz asked Kimrey, "What do you think, Erik?" Replied
Kimrey, "The fade--let me throw the fade."
That's what offensive coordinator (and Lou's son) Skip Holtz had
called from the press box. Kimrey floated a perfect pass down the
left sideline that dropped into wideout Jermale Kelly's hands at
the one. Kelly took it in for the touchdown to give the Gamecocks
a 20-19 lead with 4:41 to go. South Carolina held on for a 23-19
win, improving to 4-0 and earning a spot in the Top 25, at No.
23, after finishing 0-11 last season.
"Every kid dreams about a situation like that," says Kimrey, who
had thrown eight passes as a collegian before hurling his
game-winner. "The bottom of the ninth, full count, bases loaded,
a couple of runs down, and you need a big hit. That's all I've
been thinking about my whole life."
Smoker, a freshman, has been Michigan State's quarterback since
starter Ryan Van Dyke bruised his right thumb in the first
quarter of the season opener. Against the Irish, Smoker turned
the ball over inside the Spartans' 20 on consecutive
fourth-quarter possessions, allowing Notre Dame to assume a
21-20 lead. Most freshmen would have been rattled by that, but
"We had a playoff game last year in which he threw an
interception early and we fell behind 7-0," says Manheim (Pa.)
Central High coach Mike Williams, whose team Smoker took to the
AAA state semifinals in 1998 and '99. "He came off the field and
said, 'My fault, Coach. But don't worry.' We won, 42-28. With
Jeff there were no highs and lows. I don't think I yelled at Jeff
in three years. There was no need to."
With 1:48 to play and facing fourth-and-10 at the Spartans' 32,
Smoker eluded a blitz long enough to throw a bullet to wideout
Herb Haygood at midfield, and Haygood raced untouched for a
68-yard touchdown. The No. 18 Spartans won 27-21 to improve to
3-0. Once again, Smoker's coaches had no need to worry.
Young Wideout Humbled
The Panthers Learn a Lesson
It has taken Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris four years to teach his
Panthers how to win. No sooner had he imparted that message than
Pittsburgh, which was 3-0 going into its game against Rutgers
last Saturday, got a lesson on how to handle its newfound
In the Panthers' locker room after an emotional 12-0 victory over
Penn State on Sept. 16, which was Pittsburgh's first defeat of
the Nittany Lions since 1988, sophomore wideout Antonio Bryant
got carried away and provided the Scarlet Knights with some
pregame bulletin board inspiration. Bryant, who has 23 catches
for 346 yards this season, said, "Now we're going to beat up on
Rutgers because I don't think they can stay with us."
Bryant's quote was read to the Scarlet Knights before every
practice last week. On Saturday, Rutgers collected seven
turnovers, including a fumble by Bryant at the Rutgers 31 with
Pittsburgh clinging to a 23-17 lead. (Bryant also had eight
receptions for 96 yards.) The Scarlet Knights remained within six
points before a late touchdown by running back Nick Goings sealed
the 29-17 win, which lifted Pitt to 4-0 for the first time since
"Antonio has been told that's not the way we do business," says
Harris. "He's a wonderful player. Hopefully by the time he
grows older, maybe by next week, he'll be smarter."
Former NFL Star's Son
Cal's Carter Is His Own Man
Cal senior defensive end Andre Carter understands why he's often
known as the son of Rubin Carter, the former Denver Broncos
All-Pro nosetackle, rather than as an outstanding player in his
own right. But he doesn't see the need for comparison with his
father, now the defensive line coach for the Washington Redskins.
"This is my chapter," says Andre, who last season had 20 tackles
for losses, including 10 sacks, and was All-Pac-10. "This is my
life. Some people say I'm just like my dad. I'm not. He was a
nosetackle. I'm a defensive end. He was quicker against blockers.
I'm more of a guy who uses his speed on the outside."
In his matchup against preseason All-America tackle Marques
Sullivan of Illinois on Sept. 16, Carter dominated with nine
tackles in the Bears' 17-15 loss. Carter had two tackles in last
Saturday's 17-3 loss to Fresno State. At 6'4", 265 pounds, Andre
may be four inches taller and 10 pounds heavier than Rubin was
when he played for Denver, but the Carters are identical in one
way: Their motors are always running. "We used to have a term
around here that you need a Jerry Rice attitude," says Cal
defensive line coach Bill Dutton, referring to Rice's legendary
work ethic. "We don't say that anymore. We say you need an Andre
Before last April's draft several NFL scouts told Carter he might
be a first-round pick, but after talking over the matter with his
parents, he decided to return for his senior season. "College
only comes once," says Carter. "I'll finish school and try to
fulfill individual goals, like first team All-America and the
Outland Trophy. Why should I settle for less?"
Washington (3-0) at Oregon (3-1)
Every coach wants his team to be idle the week before a big game,
especially if the upcoming opponent had to play. Coach Rick
Neuheisel's Huskies have that edge going into this key Pac-10
matchup. The Ducks, meanwhile, were busy upsetting UCLA 29-10
The real question is, How did Washington switch its bye week from
Sept. 2 to Sept. 23? Here's what happened. The Pac-10 needed to
schedule a league game on Sept. 2 to fulfill its TV deal with Fox
Sports. The conference wanted to move the Stanford-Washington
State game into that slot, but the Cougars were scheduled to play
Idaho on Sept. 2. Because the Huskies were idle on Sept. 2 and
set to play Idaho on Sept. 23, the Pac-10 asked Washington and
Washington State to switch their dates with Idaho. The move was
good for the Huskies, bad for the Ducks.
Washington will take advantage of the week off and end Oregon's
17-game home winning streak.
Kansas State (4-0) at Colorado (0-3)
Colorado was also idle last Saturday, while rival Kansas State
played North Texas. But the Buffaloes hardly have an advantage.
Asked what he learned by watching the Wildcats beat up on Iowa,
Louisiana Tech and Ball State, which were a combined 1-14,
Colorado coach Gary Barnett says, "You don't glean much." The
Buffaloes, well rested or not, are too young on offense to beat
Ya Gotta Love This Guy
Fresno State senior linebacker Tim Skipper wears number 51, not
because Dick Butkus wore it but because Sam Mills did. The 5'9",
229-pound Mills ignored those who doubted he'd succeed in the NFL
because of his size by becoming an All-Pro with the New Orleans
Saints and the Carolina Panthers. If Mills, who played at
Montclair (N.J.) State, bent the rules on minimum dimensions for
linebackers, the 5'7", 200-pound Skipper broke them. Skipper made
the 34th start of his career last Saturday, against Cal, and his
12 tackles moved him into second place (329) on the Bulldogs'
alltime list. His knowledge of the game comes from his father,
Jim, a former NFL assistant and now coach of the San Francisco
franchise in the soon-to-debut XFL. Tim has designs on a pro
career, and if he doesn't follow in Mills's footsteps, he might
be the ideal candidate for the unconventional new league.
Two days after spraining his right knee in a Sept. 16 victory
over Cal, Illinois quarterback Kurt Kittner wore a T-shirt to a
press conference that read, DON'T ASK! THE KNEE IS FINE! The knee
was fine. Kittner threw for 352 yards and two touchdowns in the
Illini's 35-31 loss to Michigan...
Beginning with the fourth game last season, quarterbacks coach
Charlie Stubbs has called Alabama's plays. On Saturday against
Arkansas, in an effort to jump-start the Crimson Tide's anemic
offense, coach Mike DuBose, who has been unhappy with Stubbs's
play-calling this season, dispatched offensive coordinator Neil
Callaway to the press box to assist Stubbs in that role. The
Razorbacks, who won 28-21, have co-defensive coordinators who
have shared the job this season without incident. One of them,
John Thompson, says that he and his co-coordinator, Bobby Allen,
have two rules: "One, we don't make anything public. The other
is, we make sure we get along."...
After throwing 14 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions last
season, East Carolina junior David Garrard is maturing into a
top quarterback. Garrard, who's playing like a power pitcher who
suddenly found the strike zone, threw touchdown passes of 46 and
65 yards to Marcellus Harris and added a 33-yarder to Rashon
Burns in a 34-17 victory over Syracuse. This season the 6'3",
235-pound Garrard has thrown eight touchdown passes and two
Penn State suffered yet another embarrassing loss--this one,
45-6 at Ohio State--thus enabling Florida State coach Bobby
Bowden, who won his 308th game last Saturday, to pull within 10
victories of Joe Paterno on the alltime win list. Bowden has a
shot at reaching Bear Bryant's Division I-A record of 323
victories before Paterno does...
It may pain the basketball traditionalists on Tobacco Road to
hear it, but the ACC has become a football league. Florida State
and Clemson are in the Top 10, North Carolina State is 4-0, and
Virginia has increased attendance by 18% over last year. "Our
schools have spent $400 million on football facilities in six
years," says ACC associate commissioner Tom Mickle. "We've got
better marketing people. We're getting people interested."