Georgia coach Mark Richt pulled a play out of a familiar book to
The Florida State offense is alive and well--and wearing the red
and black of Georgia. The Bulldogs, after giving up a go-ahead
touchdown to No. 6 Tennessee with 44 seconds to play last
Saturday, drove 59 yards in five plays for a touchdown with five
seconds to spare and won 26-24.
The winning drive looked familiar to anyone who had seen
first-year Georgia coach and former Seminoles offensive
coordinator Mark Richt call Florida State's plays for the last
seven years. On first-and-10 from the Bulldogs 41, lefthanded
freshman quarterback David Greene completed a 13-yard pass to
Damien Gary, which took the ball to the Volunteers' 46. Gary, a
sophomore, had started Georgia's first three games at flanker but
opened at tailback against Tennessee because, Richt said, "I want
a back who can make the first guy miss, who can do things that
[former Seminoles star] Warrick Dunn did."
After an incompletion Greene threw passes of 26 and 14 yards to
junior tight end Randy McMichael. On first-and-goal at the six
with 10 seconds to play, the Bulldogs used their last timeout.
When Greene came to the sideline, Richt had to yell instructions
into the earhole of Greene's helmet to be heard above the roar of
the Tennessee fans. Richt called for a play-action pass to senior
fullback Verron Haynes. The Bulldogs hadn't run this play in a
game this year. Richt, though, had employed it twice in critical
moments during the Seminoles' 1999 national championship season.
(Chris Weinke had used it to throw a second-quarter touchdown to
fullback Dan Kendra in Florida State's 41-35 defeat of Georgia
Tech and a two-point conversion to Kendra late in the third
quarter of a 17-14 victory at Clemson.) "If it's against the
right coverage, it's almost impossible to stop," Richt says.
"It's hard for a middle linebacker to see a fullback coming at
him like it's an isolation play and not step up. That's what
Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis didn't think it
should have been so hard to resist falling for the play-action.
"Ninety-nine-point-five percent of the time, they're not going to
run the ball in that situation," Chavis said. With the
Volunteers' safeties in double coverage on the Georgia receivers,
Haynes blew past the linebackers and had no one within five yards
of him. Greene flipped him the ball, and the Bulldogs won in
Knoxville for the first time since 1980.
"I told Greeny, if it was any other coverage, throw it out of the
end zone," Richt said. "I was trying to think of what to do next
while the play was going on. Then I quit and just watched."
Debate over Halo Rule
Punt Returners At Risk?
The debate over the so-called halo rule, which requires defenders
to remain at least two yards from a punt returner until he has
caught the ball, has gained intensity in the wake of a 1997 rules
revision that states, "A player who violates this two-yard
restriction may tackle the runner but may not rough him [that is,
make contact with him before he touches the ball or while he's
first touching it]. Roughing the runner or receiver is enforced
as a [15-yard] contact foul." In other words, a player who
tackles a returner inside the halo could receive the same
five-yard penalty as a coverage man who violates the two-yard
halo but does not tackle the returner. Some coaches believe that
a five-yard penalty is an acceptable price to pay to ensure that
a team doesn't break off a long return. Moreover, a five-yard
penalty may not be enough of a deterrent to keep a lead coverage
man, or gunner, from trying to knock a punt returner out of the
game. SI recently asked Clemson punt returner Brian Mance and his
roommate, gunner Toure Francis, to discuss the rule and the
nuances of the punt return.
MANCE: During our game with Georgia Tech on September 29, people
in the stands were yelling, "Just go ahead and hit him! The
penalty is only five yards!" That's the mentality people have. It
would hurt the coverage team a whole lot more if the player who
violated the halo rule was ejected or had to sit out.
FRANCIS: So much emphasis is placed on the big hit, the big
tackle, to switch momentum. That's what the gunner is looking at:
Maybe I can change the game. Maybe I can get on SportsCenter.
Maybe I can get this big hit. So a stiffer penalty might be a
good idea, because we gunners are thinking of hitting the
returner dead in the mouth. It's like a slam dunk. Everybody
wants to get that slam dunk and get on television, just like
everybody wants to get that big hit.
SI: How difficult is it for the gunner to honor that halo when he
isn't sure where the ball is and he's fighting to elude a
FRANCIS: It's quite difficult. You are trying to get that guy off
you, and you are trying to make sure you are in the right
position. So to be honest, the halo isn't even a concern. You are
supposed to break down in front of the returner and not lose
containment. That's what I'm worried about.
MANCE: As a returner, you get used to having the gunner coming at
you. Every time you look up, in the back of your mind you think,
This guy could lay me out. Usually it doesn't happen, so you gain
confidence. But once you get hit, it's time to get the backup off
the sideline because you are going to be gun-shy.
FRANCIS: As a gunner, I don't like it that they can throw a hand
up quickly for a fair catch, and all of a sudden we have to stop,
even if it's not clear whether the returner is waving his hand to
signal for the catch. Returners should have to define themselves
more clearly. It's a skill they have mastered to fake us out.
MANCE: As a punt returner, it's like living on the edge. You've
got to have that mentality. You can't look down, glance at a
gunner. You have to keep looking at the ball, because you will
misjudge it if you don't. You have to trust your guys blocking
for you. If you have good blockers, guys who are dedicated to
you, everything will go fine. If you don't feel comfortable
catching it, back away.
FRANCIS: We're roommates, so we're good friends. When I'm playing
with him on the punt return unit, he's like, "Hey, give me a good
block. I'm your friend. Don't let them kill me."
MANCE: Against Georgia Tech last year the coverage guys were
getting close, so I held my hand up like this [straight in the
air]. I didn't signal [waving hand]. They tell you that if you
want a fair catch, the signal has to be clear. So I held my hand
up, and the coverage guys stopped. I caught the ball. Then I took
FRANCIS: See what I'm saying?
MANCE: There are little things you can do to your advantage.
Getting a Grip
Radical Cures For Fumblitis
Phil Petty didn't need to be told. After coughing up the ball
during the second week of two-a-days, South Carolina's starting
quarterback knew his punishment. He jogged solemnly toward Fumble
Island, a small sandlot adjacent to the Gamecocks' practice field
replete with tiki torches, pink flamingo figurines and ankle-deep
sand. There, Petty scooped up a football and began the first of
five round-trip sprints through a hanging eight-tire course
designed to cut down on his errant ways.
"We wanted to create a place where players would never want to
visit," says offensive coordinator Skip Holtz, who helped map out
Fumble Island after the Gamecocks lost 12 fumbles while going 8-4
last year. Discovering the uncharted island has barely helped:
This year South Carolina has lost the ball four times in five
games, all victories.
The ninth-ranked Gamecocks aren't the only team to have gone to
extraordinary lengths in an attempt--often vain--to cure fumblitis.
After learning that Southern Cal led the Pac-10 with 18 fumbles
last season, new coach Pete Carroll instituted a preseason,
off-field procedure: Every freshman player carried a locked
backpack containing a football wherever he went. The
upperclassmen were instructed to try to wrestle away the packs
whenever they got a chance. "The idea is that taking care of the
ball should be as natural as waking up in the morning," says
running backs coach Wayne Moses. The Trojans have lost only three
fumbles, tied for third best in the Pac-10, during a 1-4 start.
Their crosstown rivals might want to take note. Although
undefeated and ranked seventh, UCLA is among the nation's leaders
in lost fumbles this season with eight. In daily ball-security
drills, Bruins coaches put a nylon sleeve on a ball to make it
slippery. (Other teams, like Florida, have used wet balls for the
same effect.) UCLA also has a device called a gauntlet sled with
a series of mechanical arms through which ballcarriers must pass
while holding onto the ball for dear life. After losing four of
seven fumbles in a Sept. 22 game against Ohio State (starting
tailback DeShaun Foster lost two of his four fumbles), "we lived
in the gauntlet," says Bruins offensive coordinator Kelly
The thing is, "that gauntlet is never going to compare to a
defensive line," says Fresno State running backs coach John
Settle, whose Bulldogs are the only team not to lose a fumble
this season. "And unless it's real wet out [during a game], the
ball isn't going to be slippery." In lieu of using gimmicks and
gadgets, Fresno State coaches tell their defensive players to try
to strip teammates of the ball during drills and even between
them. "That way, our whole practice is centered on ball
security," says Settle. "Whenever a player drops a ball, he must
immediately do 10 up-downs."
At Maryland, which has only two lost fumbles this fall, running
backs coach Mike Locksley commends his players by showing them
newspaper photos of themselves holding the ball high and tight.
When a player fumbles during a drill, he must fetch balls thrown
downfield by Locksley "until I'm tired," he says.
Some coaches simply exile frequent fumblers to a lonelier place
than Fumble Island. "Every team has a place for a guy who
fumbles," says Western Kentucky coach Jack Harbaugh, crediting
his former Bowling Green coach Doyt Perry. "And that place is
standing next to me, for 60 minutes." --Kelley King
Need a Room?
Knute Rockne Slept Here
Notre Dame Stadium is known as the House that Rockne Built, and
now you can stay in a house where legendary Irish coach Knute
Rockne lived. Chris Meehan, the current owner of the
three-bedroom white frame home at 1006 St. Vincent Street, two
blocks from the stadium in South Bend, turns his two spare
bedrooms into guest quarters on home football weekends. The basic
rate is $125 per night and includes continental breakfast.
According to Meehan, who graduated from Notre Dame in 1978,
Rockne moved into the house in the early 1920s. "I had a
101-year-old neighbor, Mrs. Eleanor Wack, who died recently,"
says Meehan, 45, who works in marketing for a textbook
distributor. "She remembered Rockne. She said that her dad and
Rockne often would catch the streetcar on Notre Dame Avenue and
ride to campus. Rockne and his players sometimes worked on the
Notre Dame shift in the backyard."
Rockne moved from St. Vincent Street to a larger home a few
blocks away a year or so before he died in a 1931 plane crash. In
a '53 profile of Rockne in Sport magazine, Tom Hickey, who had
lived next door on St. Vincent, recalled that Rockne had returned
to his old street on what turned out to be the last night the
coach would spend in South Bend. "He got down on the floor and
played with the kids," Hickey said in the article, "and we had a
lot of laughs."
For complete scores, schedules and stats, plus Ivan Maisel's
exclusive weekly Heisman Watch, go to cnnsi.com/football/college.
YA GOTTA LOVE THIS GUY
UNLV freshman tailback Dominique Dorsey is listed in the Rebels'
media guide as being 5'8", 165 pounds, but even that's generous.
He's closer to 5'7", 153. Dorsey's first collegiate kickoff
return went for 87 yards against Northwestern, and he continues
to lead the nation with an average of 46.7 yards per return. Last
season, despite becoming the California high school career
rushing leader (7,761 yards, 118 touchdowns at Tulare Union
High), Dorsey listened to one recruiter after another tell him he
should be a cornerback. Only four schools offered him the chance
to remain at tailback: Arizona State, Fresno State, Pittsburgh
and UNLV. Dorsey picked Rebels coach John Robinson and his
running backs assistant, John Jackson, because they'd had Heisman
Trophy winners Charles White and Marcus Allen at USC. Robinson
uses Dorsey as a change of pace to 5'11", 190-pound junior Joe
Haro. Dorsey has come off the bench to rush for 301 yards and
three touchdowns, including 180 yards in last Saturday's 27-12
victory over Nevada, the Rebels' first win in five games.
Robinson praises Dorsey's ability to make tacklers miss. As
Rebels opponents are quickly learning, you can't hit what you
An NFL scout assesses 6'4", 220-pound Oregon senior quarterback
Joey Harrington (left), who threw three touchdown passes and ran
for three others in a 63-28 victory over Arizona last Saturday:
"He's almost Manning-like in his field presence. Excellent
decision-maker. Good touch. When he throws, he rarely puts his
team in danger because he gets the ball where only his guy can
catch it, not the defensive back. I don't see him as a top 10
pick because I don't think he has the hose to make all the
downfield throws, but I like the maturity he's shown with all the
hype around him this year. He's definitely a first-round player.
You can win with him."
HEAD TO HEAD
Boston College tailback William Green vs. Virginia Tech
rover Kevin McCadam
The 6'1", 217-pound Green, who rushed for 105.8 yards a game last
season while sharing the tailback job, has blossomed into a more
productive rusher as a junior. He's averaging 142.6 yards per
game, fifth in the nation, and has scored seven touchdowns, while
carrying the ball 28 times per game. The Eagles gained 213 yards
rushing in a 48-34 loss to Virginia Tech last year , but this
fall the Hokies lead the nation against the run, allowing 39.4
yards per game. Virginia Tech cornerbacks Ronyell Whitaker and
Larry Austin are so good that McCadam, a 6'1", 215-pound senior,
spends most of his time as the eighth man in the box. A stalwart
run-stopper, he's third on the team in tackles with 28.