By knocking the pulp out of Virginia Tech, Miami moved into the
national title chase
Miami's Butch Davis decorates his office with a coach's typical
accoutrements: pictures of his wife and son (to show visitors
he's a family man), keepsakes from his playing and coaching
careers (to show he has a proper football pedigree), a row of
motivational books (to show he wants all the latest know-how on
leading young men) and various Hurricanes trinkets (to show he
bleeds orange and green). His suite overlooking the on-campus
practice fields in Coral Gables is also filled with empty moving
boxes, as Davis waits for construction to begin on Miami's $8
million weight room and football offices and he's asked to
temporarily relocate. "I'll start packing when I see bulldozers
outside my window," Davis says. "That's when I'll believe it's
going to happen."
This attitude is nothing new for Davis. While restoring the
Hurricanes to greatness since taking over Dennis Erickson's
probation-burdened mess in 1995, Davis has encouraged a sort of
glass-half-empty cult of sympathy. Pity Miami for the talent
vacuum created by the loss of 31 scholarships over three years as
a result of the NCAA sanctions. Pity Miami for its meeting,
practice and training facilities, a Division I-A ghetto compared
with the palaces at places like Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.
Pity Davis for turning down the bigger money offered by NFL teams
and other college programs--"Twice my salary here," he says--to
stay at Miami.
In the week leading to last Saturday's game against Virginia
Tech, Davis aimed his frustration at the ground that hadn't been
broken for the weight room and football facility. (Athletic
director Paul Dee says that the city of Coral Gables, which has
strict construction codes, is delaying the project.) "The money's
been raised, a lot of it from former players," Davis said.
"Edgerrin James [now of the Indianapolis Colts] wrote a check for
Last week Davis also repledged his allegiance to Miami, though he
said his salary (at least $700,000, according to sources) "isn't
even in the top 30 among college coaches." Dee blanched at that
assertion. "At the start of this season, he was clearly in the
top 10," said Dee. "I'm afraid Butch is a little bit given to
Davis doesn't speak like a coach who has brought a program back
from embarrassment but like a man who has become accustomed to
complaining. It's a habit he must break, because the crying game
is over. Miami is mighty Miami again.
Though the rebuilt Hurricanes proved their mettle in a 27-24
upset of then No. 1 Florida State on Oct. 7, their 41-21
throttling of Virginia Tech, which was 8-0 and ranked second in
the nation, was just as significant. In that game Miami
rediscovered its identity. The Hurricanes scored five touchdowns
from at least 42 yards out; smacked around the Hokies, who had
spent the week whining about Miami's dirty play in the teams'
1999 game; and in general partied with an Orange Bowl crowd of
more than 77,000 as if it were '89. "I've been coming to this
place my whole life," said senior free safety Al Blades, whose
brothers Bennie and Brian starred for rough and raucous
Hurricanes teams in the '80s. "Today was the way it's supposed to
be. Crowd going crazy, us playing hard-nosed football."
Beating Virginia Tech was cathartic for Miami, whose long
afternoon of intimidation included two personal fouls and one
unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. As the Hurricanes stammered
through probation and its aftermath, the Hokies blossomed into
the premier program in the Big East. They beat Miami five
consecutive times, including a 43-10 thrashing in Blacksburg a
year ago. This season the Hurricanes had a theme. "Enough is
enough," said senior cornerback Leonard Myers after Saturday's
game. "That's what the seniors kept telling the young guys on the
One of those seniors, wideout Santana Moss, was at the center of
the victory. He caught four passes for 154 yards, including two
of Ken Dorsey's three touchdown throws. The first came from 42
yards, when Moss crossed through the middle of a blown coverage
and gave the Hurricanes a 7-0 lead. Early in the fourth quarter
Moss ran a deep route and scored on an 80-yard play, stretching
Miami's lead to 35-7.
Few careers have begun less auspiciously than Moss's did in the
fall of 1997. He had won two state triple-jump championships
while at Carol City High in North Miami and came to Coral Gables
on a track and field scholarship, though he intended to play
football too. After the second game of his freshman year, a 28-17
loss to West Virginia at the Orange Bowl, Moss was arrested after
a fight at a nightclub and charged with battery on a police
officer, a felony. Moss says he simply put his arm on a
policeman's shoulder, trying to help a friend, but that
explanation didn't keep him from having to spend a night in jail.
His parents visited him, as did Davis. Frightened and
embarrassed, Santana wept openly.
He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, served no jail time and
returned to the Hurricanes late in the fall. "It was
humiliating," Moss says, "but it taught me that there are things
you just can't do and places you shouldn't be."
Moss has grown from a wiry, 160-pound freshman to a wiry,
180-pound senior. After making 14 receptions for a team-leading
19.2 yards per catch in his first season, he caught 30 balls and
scored eight times as a sophomore and had 54 catches and eight
touchdowns (six receiving, two returning punts) as a junior. This
year he has scored twice on reverses, three times on pass
receptions and three times on punt returns. His eight touchdowns
average more than 65 yards. It is no coincidence that in Miami's
only defeat, at Washington on Sept. 9, Moss was limping with an
In the complex computer voodoo of the Bowl Championship Series
rankings, the Hurricanes are ranked third, one spot behind
Florida State, whom Miami beat. (Likewise, the Hurricanes are
ranked three spots in front of Washington, which beat Miami. Go
figure.) The Hurricanes must run the table with impressive wins
over Pitt, Syracuse and Boston College and then hope. There are
plausible scenarios in which Miami is ranked No. 1 in at least
one poll and doesn't play in the national title game in the
Nothing is guaranteed, except the restoration of a team's image.
Midway through the fourth quarter on Saturday, with the outcome
long decided, Miami junior strong safety Edward Reed turned to
Blades in the huddle and told him, "I'm going to get a pick here,
and if I do, I'm going to house it."
Reed intercepted quarterback Dave Meyer's next throw at the Tech
44 and ran it in for the Hurricanes' final touchdown. His score
came in the same end zone where Miami players ripped off their
helmets and leaped into the stands, before the NCAA legislated
such behavior into oblivion, at least theoretically. Reed
snapped off his helmet two steps across the goal line and was
mobbed by teammates. The obligatory 15-yard penalty was assessed
for excessive celebration, with another 15 tacked on when fans
littered the field with oranges. It was vintage Miami. --Tim
Firing at Alabama
Forget the Bear, Hire a Winner
The name never came up. When Alabama athletic director Mal Moore
announced on Nov. 1 that coach Mike DuBose had been dismissed
effective at season's end, Moore made a brief statement and then
took 17 questions. Bear Bryant never was mentioned. Nearly 18
years after the legendary Bryant's retirement and death, the
Crimson Tide and its fans understand that the time has come to
ease their fixation on Bryant's legacy.
That realization comes none too soon. For one thing, there's only
one Bryant protege left among major-college head coaches. Jackie
Sherrill, 56, works at Mississippi State, and he said last week
that he wants to finish his career there. For another, the
coaching performance of DuBose, who played on the defensive line
for Bryant from 1972 to '74, proved that having a connection to
the Bear doesn't guarantee success. DuBose was long considered
one of the best defensive line coaches in the game, and the
decision to promote him from defensive coordinator to replace
Gene Stallings in December 1996 met with acclaim among the 'Bama
faithful. (DuBose was the Crimson Tide's fourth coach since
Bryant; three of the four had played for the Bear.) However, as
Leon Ashford, DuBose's lawyer and an Alabama graduate, said last
week of the school, "It's no place to learn to be a head coach."
After the Tide's 30-28 loss at LSU last Saturday, DuBose has a
24-21 record. He never figured out how to quell dissension among
his assistants, and he lacked an offensive philosophy. Last
season was his best. Alabama finished 10-3 and won the SEC
championship. With 18 returning starters, the Tide was ranked No.
3 in the preseason. Then Alabama fell to UCLA in the season
opener and never recovered. "If you had told me in August that we
would be 6-3, I would have laughed at you," senior tackle Griff
Redmill said on Saturday night, "and we're 3-6."
When Alabama lost 21-0 in Birmingham to Southern Miss on Sept.
16, Moore began to consider making a coaching change. The Crimson
Tide was 1-2, and Moore didn't think that DuBose could pull the
team out of what he describes as a "downward spiral." Moore
wanted to wait before making a move but felt the need to take
action after an embarrassing 40-38 homecoming loss to Central
Florida on Oct. 28. "There comes a point when a coach loses
confidence in himself, and a sense of that goes from the coach to
the players," he says.
Though Moore is soft-spoken and cautious, he made one decisive
move after another last week. With younger players talking of
transferring after DuBose's dismissal, Moore called a team
meeting last Thursday to reassure them. "Remember why you came
here," he said, alluding to the players' desire to revive the
Tide's tradition of success. Moore also vowed to hire the right
coach, which by his definition is an experienced winner.
If Alabama needs to pay a coach seven figures, Moore says, so be
it. That's yet another sign of the changing times. 'Bama has used
its tradition as a substitute for money. DuBose's remuneration of
$381,000 this season ranks 11th among the 12 SEC coaches. (His
original contract called for him to earn $525,000--which also
would have ranked 11th in the conference--but his package was
reduced in 1999 to settle a sexual harassment complaint filed
against DuBose.) Moore has approval from university president
Andrew Sorensen to dip into an additional $2 million of athletic
department revenues to hire a top coach. Of candidates mentioned
prominently in Tuscaloosa last week, Virginia Tech coach Frank
Beamer said he isn't interested and Clemson's Tommy Bowden, who's
already under contract through 2004, is poised to sign a new deal
with the Tigers that will reportedly pay him $1.2 million per
Maybe Moore's job isn't as tough as it looks: Simply hire a coach
with a winning record. Alabama hasn't done that since it brought
in Bryant 43 years ago.
Northwestern Does It Again
Gutsy Wildcats Refuse to Quit
After Northwestern beat Michigan in a manner that tested
credulity, not to mention defense, it was difficult to find
anyone in the Chicago area who hadn't gone gaga over the
Wildcats. One guy, however, remained unimpressed. "I never get
too excited about things," Northwestern quarterback Zak Kustok
said on Sunday, as if he were discussing a term paper, not the
improbable 54-51 win that propelled the Wildcats atop the Big Ten
One week after beating Minnesota 41-35 on a 45-yard Hail Mary on
the final play and six weeks after a 47-44 double-overtime defeat
of Wisconsin, Northwestern provided another Hollywood ending. The
Wildcats had blown two late chances to go ahead and trailed 51-46
when cornerback Raheem Covington recovered a fumble at the
Wolverine 30 with 46 seconds to play. "I thought we were going to
get the ball back--I just had that faith," said Kustok, who threw
an 11-yard scoring pass to Sam Simmons with 20 seconds left.
Tailback Damien Anderson also concluded that a higher power was
at work. "I guess the Big Guy is a Northwestern fan," he said.
Anderson and Kustok are the linchpins of the no-huddle spread
offense that the Wildcats run with uncanny precision, which coach
Randy Walker says is attributable in part to his players'
intelligence. "You can teach pretty complex concepts to these
guys," he says. Too complex, in fact, for Michigan. The
Wolverines had shut out their previous two opponents and had two
weeks to prepare for the spread, yet they yielded 654 yards of
offense, including 268 rushing yards by Anderson, 67 more yards
than anyone had ever run for against Michigan.
Unlike the Northwestern team of 1995, which embraced the
storybook component of its run to the Rose Bowl, these Wildcats
have had enough of people being surprised at their success. They
mimic the attitude of Walker, 46, a former Miami of Ohio
fullback. "I'm a big believer in evidence," he says. "Don't tell
me how good you want to be. Give me evidence."
So here's the evidence--a team that went 3-8 a year ago is 7-2 and
ranked No. 12 after thrice pulling out victories in most dramatic
fashion. "If you don't think like a winner, you're not going to
be a winner," Kustok says. "We expected to contend for the Big
Ten. We expect to go to a bowl."
Florida State's Defense
Seminoles More Than Offense
While Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke was surrounded by
television cameras in the locker room after last Saturday's 54-7
rout of Clemson, senior linebackers Tommy Polley and Brian Allen
dressed alone. Given the way Weinke & Co. steamrolled the Tigers
for 771 yards, it was easy to overlook the play of the Florida
State defense, which held an offense that had been gaining 476.7
yards per game to 260.
Polley and Allen are the heart of the nation's sixth-ranked
defense, but they might have spent the game against Clemson in
street clothes were they not made of "some unusually hard
stuff," as Seminoles trainer Randy Oravetz put it. Allen, who
pulled his right calf in practice four days before the game,
made three tackles from his strong side position, while Polley,
who tore the ACL in his left knee while chasing down Michael
Vick in last year's Sugar Bowl and was questionable for this
season, contributed 4 1/2 tackles from the weak side. Allen and
Polley rank first and third on the team, with 79 and 69 tackles,
respectively, and are two of the 11 semifinalists for the Butkus
Award. "If fair was fair they'd split that trophy down the
middle," says freshman linebacker Kendyll Pope.
Told that it might take a year for his knee to heal after
surgery last February, Polley, who at a sinewy 6'5", 233 pounds
moves like a basketball player, returned in 7 1/2 months, thanks
to rigorous rehabilitation. Though Polley isn't yet 100%, his
favorite line is, "Injury? What injury?"
The 6'2", 225-pound Allen, who didn't practice after his injury
and was listed as doubtful for the Clemson game, made a
remarkable recovery of his own. "I walked into the locker room
before the game," says coach Bobby Bowden, "and there was Brian
in full uniform. He was fixing to play. I couldn't believe it."
The day before the game, linebackers coach Joe Kines worried
about the ability of his defense--especially without Allen--to keep
up with the Tigers' mobile, no-huddle offense. But the Seminoles
neutralized the passing of quarterbacks Woodrow Dantzler and
Willie Simmons and limited Clemson to 95 yards on the ground.
"I'd say we dominated," said Polley. --Kelley King
For complete scores, schedules and stats, plus more news from
Ivan Maisel and B.J. Schecter, go to cnnsi.com/football/college.
--Oklahoma (8-0) at Texas A&M (7-2)
The Sooners' offense is averaging 471.4 yards per game, but
Oklahoma hired second-year coach Bob Stoops for his defensive
expertise. It should come in handy against the Aggies' one-two
punch of quarterback Mark Farris and 275-pound fullback Ja'Mar
Toombs in a game that will go a long way toward deciding the Big
12 South title. Toombs and Sooners linebacker Rocky Calmus will
crack helmets, but the Sooners won't break.
--Nebraska (8-1) at Kansas State (8-2)
Two teams that were thrashed by Oklahoma earlier this year play
for the Big 12 North championship. At least the Wildcats fought
back in the fourth quarter against the Sooners, which is more
than can be said about the Cornhuskers. Kansas State quarterback
Jonathan Beasley has yet to prove that he can win a big game.
Nebraska will avenge its 1998 loss in Manhattan.
--South Carolina (7-2) at Florida (8-1)
The Gamecocks are the steady, conservative type of team that
could cause trouble for the mistake-prone Gators. Florida forces
more mistakes than it makes, however, and is tied for the lead in
the nation with 33 takeaways. The Gators will get at least one
more when they spoil South Carolina's dream season by clinching
the SEC East crown.
--UCLA (6-3) at Washington (8-1)
Last year the Bruins upset the Huskies in overtime and knocked
them out of the Rose Bowl. For that to happen again, UCLA would
have to be a lot healthier on defense than it is now. It's
payback time for Washington.
Stanford, 3-6 after its 37-35 loss to UCLA, is the fourth
defending Pac-10 champion in the last five years to fall below
.500 the following season....
Preseason All-America linebacker Jamie Winborn of Vanderbilt
could not get untracked after being suspended for the first two
games for receiving improper benefits. Winborn didn't have a
sack going into last week's game against Florida. Then he nailed
Gators quarterback Rex Grossman in the backfield on Florida's
third and fourth snaps of the game and finished with 12 tackles,
including three sacks. Defense kept the Commodores in the game
until the third quarter, when the Gators pulled away for a 43-20
When the NFL awarded the 2005 Super Bowl to Jacksonville, the
city took a big step toward renewing its contract for the
Georgia-Florida game, too. Georgia athletic director Vince
Dooley says the schools want the temporary bleachers in the
south end zone of Alltel Stadium replaced. The city agreed to do
that for the 2005 Super Bowl....
Three of the top eight teams in scoring defense going into last
weekend--No. 2 TCU, No. 3 Southern Mississippi and No. 8
Clemson--lost and gave up at least 27 points in doing so. The
Tigers surrendered double that amount....
Alabama-Birmingham coach Watson Brown has gone 13 consecutive
years without a winning season: one with Cincinnati, two with
Rice, five with Vanderbilt and the last five with the Blazers.
That streak will end. Alabama-Birmingham is 6-3 with two games
With star fullback Adrian Peterson sidelined with a
hyperextended left elbow, Georgia Southern, the top-ranked team
in Division I-AA, was routed 45-10 by No. 11 Furman. Peterson,
who has rushed for at least 100 yards in 39 consecutive games,
is expected to play on Saturday against Elon.
Ya Gotta Love This Guy
West Virginia senior Wes Ours puts the full into fullback. He's
6'1" and weighs 290 pounds. To tackle him, says defensive end
Duke Pettijohn of Syracuse, which edged the Mountaineers 31-27
last Saturday, "you just grab him low, hold on and wait for the
Ours was recruited as a fullback after rushing for 1,423 yards as
a senior at Westmar High in Rawlings, Md., in 1995. He saw
limited action during his freshman year. As a sophomore he
started three games at fullback but also played on the offensive
line, and last season injuries to other players forced him to
fill in on both the offensive and defensive lines. Before this
year he persuaded coach Don Nehlen to use him exclusively at
Ours, an overpowering blocker, doesn't have the speed or
durability to carry the ball often, but every time he gets his
hands on it, he leaves an indelible impression on opposing
tacklers. He has rushed 17 times for 56 yards and two touchdowns
and has caught seven passes for 82 yards. On Saturday, Nehlen
announced that he would retire after this, his 30th season. Why
not? When you've seen a 290-pound fullback, you've seen it all.
Utah State junior Emmett White (right) obliterated the NCAA
single-game record for all-purpose yards last Saturday by gaining
578 in a 44-37 victory over New Mexico State. The previous mark,
set in 1994 by Brian Pruitt of Central Michigan, was 435 yards.
Of the players this season with gains in each of the four
categories used to measure all-purpose yardage, here are the 10
most productive. (A player must have appeared in 75% of his
POSITION, PUNT KICKOFF TOTAL YARDS/
SCHOOL RUSHING RECEIVING RETURNING RETURNING YARDS GAME
RB, Utah State 1,190 530 163 411 2,294 254.89
WR, Arkansas State 25 922 69 687 1,703 189.22
Justin McCareins, WR,
Northern Illinois 59 1,016 150 358 1,583 175.89
WR, N.C. State 54 769 145 374 1,342 167.75
WR, Purdue 52 783 141 330 1,306 163.25
RB, Minnesota 1,025 299 287 8 1,619 161.90
WR, Utah 14 643 302 336 1,295 161.88
RB, South Carolina 881 163 3 397 1,444 160.44
Dicenzo Miller, RB,
Mississippi State 765 251 99 35 1,150 143.75
WR, East Carolina 66 420 165 332 983 140.43