Oklahoma's Josh Heupel engineered a stunning rout of the
You had to admire their restraint. Oklahoma fans waited until
four minutes remained in the Sooners' 63-14 slaughter of
11th-ranked Texas in Dallas before filling the Cotton Bowl with
the chant, "Over-rated! Over-rated!!" That much had been obvious
since the first half, when Oklahoma scored touchdowns on its
first six possessions en route to the second-most lopsided
victory in the 95-game history of the Red River Shootout. The
result dropped the Longhorns to No. 25 and boosted 5-0 Oklahoma
two places to No. 8. It also raised the question, When is a
shootout not a shootout?
When one side isn't armed. Texas entered the game with an
embarrassment of riches at quarterback--junior Major Applewhite,
the 1999 Big 12 co-offensive player of the year, and sophomore
prodigy Chris Simms, son of former New York Giants star
Phil--and left with just embarrassment. Applewhite and Simms
took turns directing an offense that gained 161 yards in the air.
The best quarterback in the stadium was Oklahoma senior Josh
Heupel (pronounced HYPE-uhl), who came into the game with a
slacker's stubble and a savant's grasp of a wide-open Sooners
attack that had more thrills than most of the rides at the Texas
State Fair going on outside the stadium. "He's smart, he's
savvy, he's the perfect triggerman for this offense," says
Oklahoma offensive coordinator Mark Mangino. Heupel's
numbers--17 completions in 27 attempts for 275 yards and a
touchdown--only hint at the extent to which he toyed with the
Ask him how he ended up in Norman, and Heupel will respond, "Got
a minute?" After starring at Aberdeen (S.Dak.) Central High, he
was the backup at Weber State in 1997. When a new coaching staff
brought with it a conservative offense the next season, Heupel
transferred to Snow Junior College in Ephraim, Utah, where he
was an All-America. Meanwhile, Bob Stoops had taken over as
coach at Oklahoma, and his offensive coordinator, Mike Leach
(now the coach at Texas Tech), wanted to install a wide-open
spread offense. The problem was, no one on campus was capable of
running it. Leach watched 15 minutes of Heupel on tape, called
the kid and left a message that he had a scholarship at Oklahoma
if he wanted it.
A week later Heupel made an official visit to Norman, and the
son of a football coach spent most of the time holed up in
Leach's office, watching video of Tim Couch, whom Leach had
coached at Kentucky in 1998. Heupel became the Sooners' starter
the moment he signed his letter of intent, and the Oklahoma
staff scrambled to land other important recruits as well. Stoops
hired former Longhorns assistant Bobby Jack Wright to work the
state of Texas, but Wright got a late start. By the time he came
on the job, in December 1998, most of the state's blue-chip
talent was spoken for. When Wright asked Burnis Simon, the coach
at Houston's Aldine-Nimitz High, if he had anyone worth
pursuing, Simon told him about Quentin Griffin, a 5'6" running
back who had been overlooked because of his size. Simon assured
Wright that Griffin could play, and Oklahoma took a chance on him.
Last Saturday there was Griffin in his home state's most storied
stadium, playing against a team that did not recruit him and
rushing for a Sooners-record six touchdowns. "I didn't expect to
score this many times," said Griffin, a sophomore, after
finishing with 87 yards on 23 carries, "but I won't argue about
it." After racking his brain, he thought he recalled once getting
five touchdowns in a Pop Warner game. His small-fry opponent that
day probably provided sterner resistance than the Longhorns did.
That, at least, was the harsh judgment of the mortified Brown,
who said that facing his defense on this sad day was like
"playing against air."
Brown devoted much of his postgame remarks to apologizing to the
Texas fans, alumni, students, players and assistant coaches.
(He's believed to have left out two custodians and a secretary
in the registrar's office.) He was so intent on offering mea
culpas that he failed to give Oklahoma enough credit. The Sooners
are a fast, young team on the rise. Might they take out
second-ranked Kansas State this weekend? Our advice to the
WWildcats: Believe the Hype. --Austin Murphy
Wildcats Thrive As Underdogs
We should have known Arizona would be around the top of the
Pac-10, if only because the Wildcats were a consensus preseason
pick to finish in the bottom half of the league. Two years ago
hard-to-figure Arizona came out of nowhere to finish 12-1. In
1999 the Wildcats were favored to win the Pac-10 and started the
season as the fourth-ranked team in the nation, but ended up 6-6.
After soundly beating USC 31-15 last Saturday, Arizona is 4-1 and
2-0 in the Pac-10. The Wildcats' success can be attributed in
part to the play of a pair of freshmen from Houston. Cornerback
Michael Jolivette intercepted two passes against the Trojans and
has four for the season, one fewer than Arizona had a year ago.
Tailback Clarence Farmer, whom coach Dick Tomey started relying
on heavily in the third game, responded with 95 yards against San
Diego State, 116 against Stanford and 134 against Southern Cal.
Arizona has never gone to a Rose Bowl, and getting there this
year still looks to be an uphill battle. On the one hand, the
Wildcats have only two road games remaining. On the other, they
are at Oregon (2-0, 4-1 overall) and at Washington (1-1, 4-1).
But lowered expectations seem to be just what Arizona needs.
Ohio State Rebounds
Last Season Was a Mirage
You didn't expect Ohio State to be down for long, did you? After
averaging 10 wins per year from 1993 through '98, the Buckeyes
last season showed the effects of losing eight starters to the
NFL: They went 6-6 and missed going to a bowl for the first time
This season the Buckeyes are back to playing like their old
selves. After an impressive 23-7 victory at Wisconsin, Ohio State
(5-0, 2-0) remained, with Northwestern (5-1, 3-0), one of only
two unbeaten teams in Big Ten play and jumped to No. 6 in the AP
poll. Two principal reasons for the Buckeyes' resurgence are the
improved play of junior quarterback Steve Bellisari and a staunch
Bellisari, who completed only 45% of his passes last fall, has
learned to be more patient in the pocket. In five games he has
thrown for 875 yards and six touchdowns while lifting his
completion rate to 54%. After finishing sixth in the Big Ten in
total defense last year, Ohio State leads the conference in that
category. The Buckeyes sacked Badgers quarterback Brooks
Bollinger nine times, giving them 24 this year compared with 29
for all of '99.
Ohio State and Northwestern don't play each other this fall, and
should both teams win the rest of their games, the Buckeyes would
get the bid to the Rose Bowl--unless they go to the Orange Bowl to
play for the national championship--because they would have the
better overall record. Before that happens Ohio State has to play
Purdue and Illinois on the road and finish with Michigan at home.
(Northwestern plays those three teams at home.) Whether or not
they make that journey unscathed, the Buckeyes have shown that
last season was a mere bump in the road. --B.J. Schecter
Mississippi State Delivers
Defense Clamps Down on Auburn
Mississippi State lost eight starters from the defense that
allowed only 66.9 rushing yards per game last season, best in the
nation. Good riddance, if the Bulldogs' performance in their
17-10 defeat of Auburn is any measure. After limiting Rudi
Johnson, the SEC's top ground gainer, to 26 yards on 18 carries,
Mississippi State is giving up only 24.4 rushing yards per game,
again best in the nation. The previously undefeated Tigers didn't
make a first down in the opening half and finished with 164 total
yards. "It looked like we got a little intimidated early in the
game," said Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville.
For instance, on the first play of the second quarter, when
Auburn faced third-and-two at the Mississippi State 49-yard line,
all 11 defenders crowded the line of scrimmage--and Johnson was
stuffed for a two-yard loss. "Their heads weren't in the game,"
linebacker Mario Haggan said of the Tigers. "They were watching
for the blitz when we weren't blitzing. They didn't see it when
we were. You have to wonder what they were looking at."
Or what offensive signals, if any, Auburn heard. Scott Field, the
11th biggest stadium in the 12-team SEC, held a record 43,917
fans on Saturday, and it's one of the toughest venues in the
conference, thanks to the cowbells that Bulldogs fans ring at
every opportunity. Those same cowbells were banned by the SEC
in 1973, but news must travel slowly to northeast Mississippi.
"They confiscate a bunch of cowbells," says SEC associate
commissioner Jim McCullough, "but people sit on the highway and
sell them out of their trucks. If you search people for them, you
get sued." Bulldogs coach Jackie Sherrill says, "Our students and
our fans know the game. They know how to help."
With Auburn's defeat, five of the six teams in the SEC West have
one loss. Yet there's no question who the division favorite is.
The Bulldogs, whose only setback is a 23-19 loss to South
Carolina, are already looking beyond the league championship
game. "With all the top 10 teams that have lost," says cornerback
Fred Smoot, "we're not out of the national championship race."
For complete scores, schedules and stats, plus more news from
Ivan Maisel and B.J. Schecter, go to cnnsi.com/football/college.
Oklahoma (5-0) at Kansas State (6-0)
What do the Sooners do for an encore after routing Texas? Meet
reality. Oklahoma hasn't played a defense as tough as the
Wildcats'. Kansas State will extend the second-longest home
winning streak in the nation to 26 games.
Purdue (4-2) at Northwestern (5-1)
Warning: Losing to the Wildcats is hazardous to your Big Ten
season. Ask Wisconsin (0-3 in the league) and Michigan State
(0-2), two preseason Top 25 teams that opened their conference
seasons with losses to Northwestern. In a battle of spread
offenses, go with the Wildcats. They run the ball better and do
more little things well.
Auburn (5-1) at Florida (5-1)
Forget how Mississippi State shut down Tigers junior tailback
Rudi Johnson; the Gators are vulnerable to a first-rate running
back. The buzz among SEC coaches is how far the Florida defense
has fallen. Auburn, with Johnson and quarterback Ben Leard, will
provide another example of how dry the Swamp has become.
UNLV (3-2) at Colorado State (4-1)
After a slow start the Rebels scored a combined 72 points in
consecutive wins over Air Force and Nevada. Sophomore
quarterback Jason Thomas, who had 556 yards of total offense in
those two games, has a hot hand and will be too much for the
Rams to handle.
Ya Gotta Love This Guy
If a good offensive lineman is a quarterback's best friend, it's
no wonder that Georgia senior tackle Jonas Jennings once shared
an apartment with junior signal-caller Quincy Carter. Jennings
was the first recruit Jim Donnan got a commitment from after
taking over as the Bulldogs' coach in December 1995. The 6'5",
320-pound Jennings's versatility and durability have made him a
valued member of the offense in the last two seasons. As a
sophomore he started eight games at guard and two at center,
despite a midseason ankle sprain that never had time to heal.
Since shifting to left tackle in the spring before the following
season, he has played more than 1,000 snaps without giving up a
sack. Last Saturday night Jennings played his best game of the
season as Georgia broke an 11-year losing streak to Tennessee
with a 21-10 victory. Jennings would tell you he's just covering
his best friend's back. Except when he says it, it's more than
St. Louis High in Honolulu has produced three quarterbacks now
starting at major colleges: Darnell Arceneaux of Utah, Timmy
Chang of Hawaii and Jason Gesser of Washington State. That's
rare for a high school, but the Crusaders are a perennial power
on the Islands and have won 14 consecutive Interscholastic
League of Honolulu championships under coach Cal
Alabama-Birmingham coach Watson Brown thought he would never
lose a player to a weirder injury after junior safety Wes Foss
broke his ankle last spring while fishing. Even more bizarre:
Sophomore scout team quarterback Tommy Babakitis tore a ligament
in his right knee last Thursday while playing with his dog.
Since the season began, the Blazers have lost 11 players to
injury on offense and one on defense....
Syracuse quarterbacks coach Jim Hofher describes sophomore
starter Troy Nunes as a "hardhead scrambler." Nunes demonstrated
the best and worst of that trait on his final two snaps in the
Orangemen's 24-17 double-overtime defeat of previously unbeaten
Pittsburgh. On second-and-goal at the 6, Nunes tried to run away
from trouble and took a 17-yard sack. On the next play he
scrambled as far back as the Panthers' 45 before circling to his
left and finding David Tyree in the back corner of the end zone
for the winning touchdown. Nunes has completed 30 of 40 passes
for 507 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions over the
last two games, including a 42-14 defeat of BYU....
The Syracuse-Pittsburgh game had no business going into
overtime. Kickers Nick Lotz of Pittsburgh and Mike Shafer of
Syracuse combined to miss six field goals and an extra point.
The wind must have been blowing hard in the Carrier Dome.