Georgia Tech's swarming defense took the sting out of No. 5
Last season the Georgia Tech defense ended the Heisman trophy
candidacy of Yellow Jackets quarterback Joe Hamilton when Tech
lost games 41-35 and 45-38. Starting three to four freshmen on
defense, the Yellow Jackets forced only 12 turnovers and had just
16 sacks. Painful as it was to watch, coach George O'Leary didn't
panic and never wavered from his decision to have his young
defenders learn on the job. "You understand they're going to make
mistakes," he says, "just as long as they're full-speed mistakes.
We tell them, 'Take a picture and get to the ball. Don't run
blind. See the field.'"
Last Saturday, O'Leary got his Kodak moment as Georgia Tech upset
fifth-ranked and unbeaten Clemson 31-28. The Tigers gained a
season-low 354 yards and scored fewer than 30 points for the
first time this fall. That was partly because the Yellow Jackets,
led by quarterback George Godsey, who threw for three touchdowns
and a career-high 454 yards, controlled the ball for 38:15. But
when Clemson did have the ball, it was often stopped by the sort
of big plays Georgia Tech is starting to make with consistency.
Yellow Jackets defensive coordinator Ted Roof shied away from
using a lot of pressure at the start of the season, and Georgia
Tech had a total of seven sacks in the first three weeks. "When I
went back and looked at things," Roof says, "I saw we were better
on the move." He turned the defense loose, and it has produced 27
sacks in the last five games, including four on Saturday. Last
year's weakness is now a strength; Georgia Tech allowed 30.3
points per game in 1999, but has given up 30 points just once
In particular, ends Nick Rogers and Greg Gathers and linebacker
Recardo Wimbush have excelled. Rogers and Gathers have combined
for 19 sacks. Wimbush, who led Georgia Tech in tackles as
freshman a year ago, is looking like a star. "I understand the
defense much better," he says. "The [opposing] offense will give
you a jump start on what you're going to do if you focus."
In the second half against Clemson, the Yellow Jackets' defenders
found someone younger to pick on: Tigers freshman quarterback
Willie Simmons, the third-quarter replacement for starter Woody
Dantzler, who had aggravated a bruised ankle. Simmons completed 1
of 6 third-down passes and finished with 131 yards in the air,
including 65 on one completion.
O'Leary speaks like a man who has come through a storm and is now
enjoying the sun. "They've come a long way," he says of his
defenders. "They're tackling better, and they're young. Only
three seniors are in the two-deep."
Arizona State's Gamble
Going for Two Doesn't Add Up
With his Sun Devils a PAT kick away from forcing a third overtime
against Pac-10-leading Oregon last Saturday, Arizona State coach
Bruce Snyder says he acted out of prudence, not hubris, when he
called for a fake kick that his team had practiced "hundreds of
times." Junior tight end Todd Heap wasn't able to make a
one-handed catch of a pass thrown to the back of the end zone,
though, giving Oregon a wild 56-55 road victory and leaving
Snyder to spend a sleepless night pondering a missed opportunity.
"With [kicker Mike Barth] in pain [with a stiff back] and our
defense on its heels, that play seemed like our best shot to win
the game," Snyder said on Sunday. "I believe that Todd's right
hand was being held by a defender, but no interference penalty
The Sun Devils had blown a golden chance to win the game in
regulation. With Arizona State leading 49-42 and 1:22 to play,
Sun Devils safety Willie Daniel stopped Ducks tight end Justin
Peelle a yard short of the end zone on fourth-and-goal. However,
Arizona State freshman tailback Mike Williams fumbled three plays
later, and Oregon had new life at the Sun Devils' 17 with 33
seconds left. On the next play Ducks quarterback Joey Harrington,
who would throw for 434 yards and six touchdowns, hit Peelle in
stride with a 17-yard scoring pass, sending the game into
Neither team produced any points on its first extra possession,
but Oregon scored on a one-yard run by tailback Allan Amundson to
start the second overtime. Arizona State freshman quarterback
Jeff Krohn then fired his fifth scoring pass of the game, a
21-yarder to wideout Richard Williams that set the stage for the
Krohn, who took the snap instead of the usual holder, back-up
quarterback Griffin Goodman, arose from his squat, rolled right
and lofted a pass to Heap, who was covered closely by Oregon free
safety Rasuli Webster. Heap couldn't reel it in. Snyder still has
no doubt that his young team will pull out games like this one
soon enough. "We've lost three games to three magnificent teams
by a total of 14 points," he says. "Things will start to go our
way." --Kelley King
Florida's Leon Hires
Putting a Leash On a Big Bulldog
College football is full of players like Florida senior right
guard Leon Hires, who realize soon enough that they'll never play
in the NFL. They go to class, practice hard and wait for their
turn to play, sometimes even cracking the starting lineup. Then
they're finished with the game. If they're lucky, they have a day
such as the one Hires had last Saturday against Georgia's 6'6",
300-pound defensive tackle Marcus Stroud, who's expected to be
among the first defensive tackles taken in the 2001 NFL draft.
In the Gators' 34-23 victory, Hires didn't completely shut down
Stroud, who had four quarterback pressures and batted down one
pass, but Stroud didn't make a tackle. Hires was satisfied that
he had held his own against a guy he'll be watching in the pros
next year. "Stroud is the biggest person I've ever seen in pads,"
said Hires after the game. "I did the best I could against him. I
just tried to stay in front of him. He's strong and real
Stroud and fellow tackle Richard Seymour, a 6'6", 300-pound
senior who is a probable first-round draft pick, are such a
presence that Florida all but abandoned its inside running game.
"It's amazing to see a guy that big move that way," Hires said of
Stroud, a Georgia native who nearly signed with the Gators in
1996. Stroud believed he had played well and refused to
acknowledge that Hires had neutralized him. "I was in their
backfield all day," he said. "I hit the quarterbacks a whole lot
of times. They just get rid of the ball so quick." Hires and the
rest of the Florida blockers limited Georgia to two sacks, both
by blitzing outside linebackers.
Hires's college career has been a long, sometimes harrowing trip.
After being named first-team all-state as a senior at Manatee
High in Bradenton, Fla., he signed with Notre Dame in 1996. In
February of his freshman year, his father, also named Leon, who
suffered from clinical depression, committed suicide. Seven
months later Hires was fighting depression himself and left South
Bend. He transferred to Florida in January 1998 and as a junior
last season played only 84 snaps. This season Hires leads the
Gators' offense with 535 snaps.
When he left the locker room on Saturday, he left with a game
Homeless Texas Southern
Tigers Turned Road Warriors
In Houston, the only city besides Los Angeles that is home to two
Division I-A football teams and one Division I-AA program,
quantity doesn't translate into quality. It's been 19 years since
the University of Houston won a bowl game, 38 since Rice even
appeared in one and six since Texas Southern played on its home
field in 17-year-old Durley Stadium. "It's not safe to play
there," says Texas Southern coach Bill Thomas, referring to
Durley's threadbare artificial turf. "Plus, the eye-level seating
isn't what you might call fan-friendly. We practice at the old
Houston Oilers practice facility, which is five miles away."
Since the Tigers abandoned their stadium in 1994, the year Thomas
arrived from Tennessee State, they've played their home games at
local high school fields, the Astrodome, Rice Stadium and
Houston's Robertson Stadium. "We try not to concern ourselves
with things we can't control," says Thomas, whose Tigers are 7-1
following last Saturday's 26-17 loss to Grambling--a "home game"
played 190 miles away at the Alamodome in San Antonio. "We've
learned to worry about our opponent, not the site, and in that
way we're kind of blessed. Stadium or no stadium, we've built a
fine program here."
Before Thomas took over, Texas Southern hadn't had a winning
season since 1977. This year's Tigers might be his best, thanks
in large part to a defense that has allowed 240.6 yards per game,
sixth fewest in Division I-AA. Recently, Thomas and school
president Priscilla Slade have spearheaded an effort to raise
funds for a new on-campus football facility.
With Texas Southern in contention for its first Southwestern
Athletic Conference championship since sharing the title with
Alcorn State and Grambling 32 years ago, there may be no better
time for Thomas and Slade to make their pitch. --K.K.
Grove City's R.J. Bowers
A Yard Short Of 7,000
With a dive for a one-yard gain in the second quarter of last
Saturday's 20-14 overtime victory over Bethany (W.Va.) College,
R.J. Bowers of Division III Grove City (Pa.) College entered the
NCAA record book as the career rushing leader for all divisions.
He finished with 128 yards on 26 carries to raise his four-year
total to 6,999 yards, breaking the previous record of 6,958 set
by Brian Shay of Division II Emporia (Kans.) State in 1998. (Last
year's Heisman Trophy winner, Ron Dayne of Wisconsin, holds the
Division I-A record with 6,397 yards.)
"There's a lot more I want to accomplish, hopefully in the NFL,"
says the 6'1", 238-pound Bowers, who was selected as an
outfielder by the Houston Astros out of West Middlesex (Pa.) Area
High in the 11th round of the 1992 baseball draft. He spent
five-plus years in the Astros' system without making it past
Class A and one season with the Madison Black Wolf of the
independent Northern League before enrolling at Grove City in
1997, at age 23.
After setting the record, Bowers tried not to get overly excited
about his accomplishment. He rode back to campus with family and
friends who had made the 90-mile drive from West Middlesex to
Bethany. "We ate some pizza and kind of relished the moment,"
says Bowers, who looks forward to surpassing 7,000 yards next
Saturday, against Carnegie Mellon University of Pittsburgh. "I'm
glad it's finally over. We broke the record, now we can
concentrate on winning." --K.K.
For complete scores, schedules and stats, plus more news from
Ivan Maisel and B.J. Schecter, go to cnnsi.com/football/college.
USC is 0-5 in conference play for the first time, putting coach
Paul Hackett's job in jeopardy. Of the 14 coaches who were hired
heading into the 1998 season, only Dave Arslanian of Utah State
has been fired. Of the remaining 13, no other has seen his
winning percentage fall off as abruptly in Year 3 as Hackett
has. --David Sabino
COACH, SCHOOL 1998-99 2000 DIFFERENCE
Paul Hackett, USC 14-11 (.560) 3-5 (.375) -.185
Houston Nutt, Arkansas 17-7 (.708) 4-3 (.571) -.137
Carl Torbush, North Carolina 10-13 (.435) 3-5 (.375) -.060
Dean Pees, Kent 2-20 (.091) 1-8 (.111) +.020
Darrell Dickey, North Texas 5-17 (.227) 2-6 (.250) +.023
Mack Brown, Texas 18-8 (.692) 6-2 (.750) +.058
Frank Solich, Nebraska 21-5 (.808) 7-1 (.875) +.067
Mike Kruczek, Central Florida 13-9 (.591) 6-3 (.667) +.076
Dirk Koetter, Boise State 16-8 (.667) 6-2 (.750) +.083
John L. Smith, Louisville 14-10 (.583) 6-2 (.750) +.167
Rocky Long, New Mexico 7-16 (.304) 5-4 (.556) +.252
Bobby Wallace, Temple 4-18 (.182) 4-4 (.500) +.318
Dennis Franchione, TCU 15-9 (.625) 7-0 (1.000) +.375
Virginia Tech (8-0) at Miami (6-1)
The second-ranked Hokies had to come from behind in their last
three victories and went deeper into the game each week to do so.
They needed a 27-yard field goal with 16 seconds to play last
Saturday to beat Pitt 37-34. Spotting the Hurricanes a lead is
one of the many luxuries Virginia Tech can't afford. Quarterback
Michael Vick sprained his right ankle against the Panthers, and
if he plays, he will have his hands full against a blitzing
Hurricanes defense. The Hokies' 19-game regular-season winning
Clemson (8-1) at Florida State (8-1)
Bowden Bowl II won't have the circuslike atmosphere of last
year's 17-14 Florida State win, in which the Seminoles' Bobby
Bowden got his 300th victory, against his son Tommy's Tigers.
Clemson is coming off its first loss, and Florida State has
improved every week since falling to Miami on Oct. 7. Father
beats son again.
Louisville (6-2) at Southern Miss (6-1)
If the Golden Eagles win, they'll be two games up in the
Conference USA race with three to play. The Cardinals' Dave
Ragone has thrown for 20 touchdowns; Southern Miss has allowed
four. Defense wins titles.
Duke (0-8) at Wake Forest (0-7)
This is the Blue Devils' only chance for a victory. The Demon
Deacons have another shot on Nov. 18, against Navy. Wake will
Ya Gotta Love This Guy
When Toledo junior tailback William Bratton went to a hospital
four times last summer to get relief from the painful effects of
sickle-cell anemia--back pain and sore joints--his doctors had a
hard time believing he still played football.
As late as August, Bratton, who discovered he had sickle cell at
age eight, participated in full workouts, and his bench press
topped out at 370 pounds. However, he worked too hard, and the
physical stress triggered four episodes of intense pain in his
joints, the last during preseason two-a-days.
Because of his condition Bratton, who rushed for 486 yards last
season, has seen limited action in six games for the 7-1 Rockets
this year. He has carried 24 times for 95 yards and a touchdown,
but he can't play more than four snaps in a row before tiring.
He describes finishing practice as an achievement. You would be
hard-pressed to find another Rocket who has achieved more.
Oklahoma, beware: Texas A&M, after defeating No. 10 Kansas State
26-10, is 11-4 against ranked teams at home in coach R.C.
Slocum's 12 seasons. With the crowd of 80,659 roaring, the
Wildcats suffered four false-start penalties and one delay of
game as the Aggies jumped to a 19-0 lead in the second quarter.
The Sooners visit College Station on Nov. 11.... The Pac-10
presidents last week rescinded a 15-year-old rule that allowed
schools to serve a daily training-table meal only during the
season. They may adopt the NCAA regimen, which permits one
training-table meal per day throughout the academic year. Pac-10
coaches believe schools from other conferences used the old rule
against them in recruiting by telling mothers of prospects that
they would feed their boys better....
Washington beat Stanford 31-28 when Marques Tuiasosopo threw a
22-yard touchdown pass to Justin Robbins with 17 seconds to
play. The Huskies have come from behind in the fourth quarter in
four of their seven wins this season, outscoring opponents
108-54 in the final period....
Kansas senior tailback David Winbush put his 4.41 speed to good
use last Thursday morning. When the Wal-Mart near campus opened
at 6 a.m., Winbush sprinted ahead of some 75 patrons to grab one
of the few PlayStation 2 machines the store had received. Thus
inspired, Winbush rushed for a season-high 120 yards in the
Jayhawks' 45-39 loss to Texas Tech two days later....
At the end of practice every Thursday, Northwestern runs a Hail
Mary tip play called Victory Right. With the score tied at 35
and three seconds remaining at Minnesota, the Wildcats used the
play to bring home a thrilling 41-35 victory. Senior quarterback
Zak Kustok threw a 45-yard pass into the end zone, and the ball
was tipped by wideout Kunle Patrick into the hands of wide
receiver Sam Simmons for the touchdown. "It's routine to me,"
said Patrick. "We do it in practice all the time."
TOP 10 Defensive Players
PLAYER, POSITION, SCHOOL TACKLES (FOR LOSS) SACKS INT.
Keith Adams, LB, Clemson 106 (15) 6 1
"He's a great player with a great motor," says Colorado coach
Gary Barnett. "You watch him, and you say, 'Wow, that's the way
you're supposed to play the game.'"
Andre Carter, DE, Cal 50 (15) 10 0
"There are a lot of big, fast kids; Andre takes it to another
level," says Cal coach Tom Holmoe. "I can't say he does
everything perfectly, but he has no weaknesses."
Levar Fisher, LB, N.C. State 102 (9) 3 1
"His motor runs and runs and never stalls," says Wolfpack coach
Chuck Amato. "If a team had 85 people with his mentality, it
probably wouldn't lose a game."
Casey Hampton, DT, Texas 57 (14) 3.5 0
"He's a huge guy, and it takes two or three players to handle
him," says Baylor coach Kevin Steele. "He's also quick and can
make plays from sideline to sideline."
Dan Morgan (above), LB, Miami 82 (8) 3 2
"He's way ahead of where I was as a senior, and he's going to be
a great pro," says Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas. "The NFL is
about speed. He has speed."
Jamal Reynolds, DE, Florida State 44 (14) 11 0
"He has the ability to come around the corner or slip inside,"
says Maryland coach Ron Vanderlinden. "You try to avoid him, but
he's so fast, he makes it difficult."
Karon Riley, DE, Minnesota 41 (15) 8 1
"With his agility, size, strength and speed, I see him having a
good career in the NFL," says Vikings scout Jeff Robinson. "The
talent is there."
Justin Smith, DE, Missouri 72 (12) 6 0
"He's as good a defensive player as there is in America," says
Texas coach Mack Brown. "I've heard all the hype, and he's the
Fred Smoot, CB, Mississippi State 33 (2) 0 3
"He's an excellent cover corner with great makeup speed," says
Auburn offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone. "What sets him apart
is that he's very physical."
Roy Williams, CB, Oklahoma 52 (6) 2 2
"He's intelligent and reads schemes very well," says Texas-El
Paso offensive coordinator Patrick Higgins. "He's one of the
best bump-and-run coverage guys."