From the Depths
After three seasons in the Pac-10 cellar, Washington State is
ranked and unbeaten
It sounded more like Lerner and Loewe than Jay-Z, but the
Washington State players loved the ditty that coach Mike Price
sang in the locker room after their 45-39 victory at Stanford
Bowling, bowling, bowling,
My Cougars and me."
By raising its record to 6-0, Washington State qualified for a
bowl for the first time since it was co-champion of the Pac-10
in 1997. Moreover, the Cougars firmly believe they can compete
with the two powers of the league, No. 4 UCLA (5-0) and No. 5
Oregon (6-0), both of whom still have to visit Pullman, on Nov.
3 and Oct. 27, respectively.
That optimism might be a stretch, given that 3-0 Stanford was
the first team with a winning record that Washington State has
beaten and given the way the Bruins dominated previously
undefeated Washington 35-13 last Saturday. UCLA tailback DeShaun
Foster rushed for 301 yards, a school single-game record, and
four touchdowns. In addition the Bruins' defensive front was
"the best we've played in a long time," according to Huskies
offensive coordinator Keith Gilbertson.
Speaking of defense, Washington State won by converting a
fumble, a blocked punt and an interception into first-half
touchdowns. The Cougars also outscored the Cardinal 10-0 in the
fourth quarter. "This team knows how to finish," strong safety
Billy Newman said after the game. Last year Washington State
didn't: Those 4-7 Cougars lost three games in overtime and tied
for last in the conference standings, their third straight
season at the bottom. Although some boosters had begun to
grumble about Price--"I'm an alum. I was pissed off too," he
says--he knew that success was within reach.
Over the spring and summer Price and his 12 fifth-year seniors,
the last remaining members of Washington State's Rose Bowl team,
performed an attitude adjustment on the rest of the Cougars.
Price ended each spring practice with a goofy drill. "Relay
races, home run derby, golf shots, linemen kicking field goals,
linemen catching punts," he says, "so the players would forget
about their poor record. For two years their heads had been down."
The veterans demanded more of their younger teammates. "I was
the bad cop," Newman says. "Shoving was involved. I had a lot of
guys ticked off at me. I wasn't going to allow us to be
mediocre." Voluntary workouts increased. So did film study.
Three days before facing Stanford, defensive back Erik Coleman
noticed on tape that whenever Cardinal quarterback Randy Fasani
touched his right shoulder pad at the line, a quick screen
followed. Coleman passed the tip to Newman. When Fasani gave the
signal in the second quarter, Newman left his receiver,
intercepted a pass intended for Ryan Wells and returned it 54
yards for a touchdown.
After the victory Price demanded that the Cougars be given their
due. "We deserve to be ranked, and we deserve to be ranked
high," he said, pounding the podium with his right index finger.
"This team is for real."
On Sunday, Washington State entered the AP poll at No. 19.
Auburn Kicker Damon Duval
Long off the Tee And on the Punt
The scene of ecstatic Auburn fans scaling the rain-slicked
goalpost at the south end of Jordan-Hare Stadium was hardly
surprising. Minutes earlier junior Damon Duval had hooked a
44-yard field goal through that upright to give the unranked
Tigers a 23-20 victory over No. 1 Florida. "I've got little
legs," the 6'1", 186-pound Duval says, "but I've got range."
That's about as cocky a statement as can be coaxed from Duval,
whose kick with 10 seconds remaining was his third field goal of
the night and his third game-winner in as many weeks. The run
started at Vanderbilt on Sept. 29, when Duval's 49-yarder with
2:58 left provided the margin in a 24-21 victory. A week later
his 47-yarder with 18 seconds on the clock secured a 16-14 win
over Mississippi State. Last Saturday's decisive boot, into a
gusting 20-mph wind, was his seventh consecutive field goal
conversion from 40 to 49 yards dating back to last season.
If clutch field goals were the extent of his repertoire, Duval
would already be the runaway MVP for 5-1 Auburn, but he's also
among a handful of specialists who handle all facets of their
team's kicking game (chart, below left). He has launched 14 of
29 kickoffs for touchbacks, converted 14 of 14 extra points and
averaged 44.7 yards per punt--tied for 10th best in the nation.
Duval, who runs the 40 in 4.5, has further distinguish himself
by gaining seven yards on two rushing attempts for the Tigers.
"You try to protect him from injuries, but Damon's a competitor,"
says Auburn special teams coach Eddie Gran. "Last year against
Alabama he messed up his thumb trying to bust somebody in the
mouth on a tackle. He kept on playing. What can you do?" Duval
scored all the Tigers' points in that 9-0 win over the Crimson
"Doing both placekicking and punting actually takes pressure
off," says Duval. "It keeps me focused, which kind of calms me
down." To prevent himself from overextending his right leg while
working on what he says are two "completely opposite" skills, he
sits down each Sunday during the season and plans his reps for
the coming week. During games he stops practicing punting and
starts kicking into the field goal practice net after Auburn's
offense passes its 45-yard line.
Duval's responsibilities have grown considerably since he was
signed, in 1998, as a punter from Chattanooga Central High,
where he set a career record for punting average (43.0 yards)
and served as a placekicker, receiver and defensive back. Auburn
redshirted him in '98 but made him its punter the following
year; three games into that season he took on field goal duties.
Two games later Duval was in new coach Tommy Tuberville's
doghouse after botching a fake punt in the first half of a 24-0
loss to Tennessee. The two got into a heated exchange on the
sideline after the play, and Duval was sent to the locker room
for the night.
The next winter Tuberville signed a USA Today All-America
placekicker, but Duval outperformed the newcomer in preseason
drills and went on to make 14 of 18 field goals in 2000 while
earning All-SEC punting honors with a 43.3 average. "The kid's
been ice," says Gran. "It's gotten to the point that Tuberville
will make decisions by turning around and asking, 'Damon? Can
you make it?'"
Heading into the Florida game, Duval told Tuberville, "Don't
worry about the wind. I'll make whatever kick we need." His
45-yarder in the first quarter tied the score at 3-3, and his
32-yarder in the fourth quarter gave Auburn a 20-13 advantage.
However, the Tigers' defense, which would hold the Gators to
minus-36 yards rushing and intercept quarterback Rex Grossman
four times, gave up a game-tying 80-yard touchdown pass with
12:09 to play. Auburn's next two drives ended with fumbles, but
when the Tigers set up at their 24 with 4:28 left, Duval told
Tuberville that if the offense got the ball to the Florida 35,
he could make a field goal from there.
Auburn advanced to the Gator 27, and Duval drove the kick into a
driving rain with distance to spare. "I tried to block
everything out," he said on Sunday morning. "Basically it was
just a matter of going through my usual routine."
If he keeps it up, Auburn may find that reinstalling uprights
becomes a routine, too.
Five in a Row By Buffaloes
Gary Barnett heard the snickers more than nine years ago when,
upon being hired to coach Northwestern, he promised Wildcats
fans that he would take their team to the Rose Bowl. Then he
shut up the skeptics by doing just that in 1996. Upon taking
over as Colorado's coach in '99, Barnett promised a "return to
dominance" but was mocked after the Buffaloes wound up 7-5 and
3-8 and lost this year's season opener to Fresno State. No one
in the Big 12 is laughing at him now. Consecutive victories over
Kansas State, 16-6, and Texas A&M, 31-21, have showed that
Colorado (5-1, 3-0 in the Big 12 North) can play Barnett's brand
of physical football and dominate both sides of the line of
Using a trio of tailbacks, including Fort Scott (Kans.)
Community College and Northwestern transfer Chris Brown, who
hasn't been stopped for a loss in 121 carries this season, the
Buffaloes are averaging 224.7 rushing yards per game, 13th best
in the country. The defense is allowing 91.8 rushing yards per
game, 15th in the nation, and already has 17 sacks. With about a
minute to go and Colorado leading 24-21, Texas A&M had the ball
at the Buffaloes' 35. Linebackers Kory Mossoni and Joey Johnson
blitzed quarterback Mark Farris. Mossoni sacked Farris, forcing
a fumble, and Johnson returned it 52 yards for the touchdown
that clinched the win.
Colorado's players are more mature, physically and emotionally,
than they were a year ago. The 2000 Buffaloes had only six
seniors; now they have 26. When Colorado started 0-4 last
season, Barnett says, the team didn't have the leadership needed
to turn the season around. "The guys played hard and didn't get
anything out of it," he says. "So it became too much to risk to
play hard and lose and have it hurt again."
This season the Buffaloes have not only leadership but also
heart. Take the case of senior cornerback Terrence Wood, a
starter twice last year who fell to third string during spring
drills and didn't complain. Last Saturday, after junior Roderick
Sneed tore a hamstring in the first quarter and with sophomore
Phil Jackson hampered by a broken right hand, Wood, the grandson
of Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive back Willie Wood,
returned to the lineup. Terrence intercepted two passes in the
With more performances like that one, the Buffaloes could
challenge Nebraska for the Big 12 North championship. The Nov.
23 matchup is in Boulder.
For complete scores, schedules and stats, plus Ivan Maisel's
exclusive weekly Heisman Watch, go to cnnsi.com/football/college.
Kicking Up a Storm
Of the 117 Division 1-A teams, only 10 have relied primarily on
one player to handle both punting and placekicking this season.
Here's a rundown of those doubly strong-legged guys, including
Damon Duval, whose 44-yarder with 10 seconds remaining (above)
gave Auburn its 23-20 upset of Florida.
Player, school Class FGm/FGA PAT Punt avg.
Jason Ball, North Texas Sr. 5/8 9/9 38.7
Javier Beorlegui, Central Florida Sr. 2/3 20/21 43.6
Vladimir Borombozin, New Mexico Sr. 9/9 12/12 38.7
Travis Dorsch, Purdue Sr. 10/13 10/11 50.4*
Damon Duval, Auburn Jr. 12/16 14/14 44.7
Hayden Epstein, Michigan Sr. 7/10 21/21 38.5
Curtis Head, Marshall Jr. 4/4 17/20 42.2
Jonathan Knott, Louisiana-Lafayette Jr. 6/9 8/11 37.9
Cody Scates, Texas A&M So. 5/12 17/18 40.9
Tony Yelk, Iowa State Fr. 6/11 19/19 44.8
*Leads the nation
YA GOTTA LOVE THIS GUY
Tulane sophomore tailback Mewelde Moore knows all about
perseverance. Lightly recruited as a senior at Baton Rouge's
Belaire High, he was offered a scholarship at Tulane only after
another recruit reneged on an oral commitment and signed with
Texas A&M. Two years later the 6'1", 198-pound Moore, who also
played outfield and hit .236 last season for the San Diego
Padres' Pioneer League team in Idaho Falls, leads the country in
all-purpose yardage (1,504 yards) and is one of the few bright
spots for the 2-5 Green Wave. In a 46-33 Conference USA loss to
Cincinnati on Oct. 6, Moore broke Tulane's single-game rushing
record with 249 yards on 28 carries and caught six passes for 87
yards. Last Saturday he ran for 88 yards in a 48-22 victory over
TCU to become the first Green Wave player in 52 years to rush
for more than 1,000 yards in a season. "He has great bursts of
speed and great vision, and he runs hard," says Horned Frogs
coach Gary Patterson. "He's probably the best back in the
An NFL scout assesses 6'4", 293-pound Wisconsin defensive tackle
Wendell Bryant, who had four tackles in last Saturday's 20-17
victory over Ohio State and leads the Big Ten in sacks with seven:
"He came in this season with a good reputation, and he has added
to it. He's more active and playing a little more violently.
He's good to very good at everything: playing the run, rushing
the passer, key and diagnose, and pursuit. He's also real smart.
He'll be in the top 15."
"Memphis needs to borrow a page from other Conference USA
schools and drop its football program because it--like
[Memphis's] favorite son, Elvis--is dead."
Excerpt from a column in the Houston Daily Cougar that was
posted on the Tigers' bulletin board. Memphis responded last
Saturday by stepping all over Houston's blue suede shoes 52-33.
HEAD TO HEAD
BYU coach Gary Crowton vs. Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry When
it comes to offensive philosophies, no two coaches are further
apart than Crowton, 43, in his first season at the helm of the
Cougars, and DeBerry, 63, in his 18th year with the Falcons.
Crowton has taken the wide-open passing offense of mentor and
predecessor LaVell Edwards and spread it even wider. Defenses
have been stretched so thin that BYU has rushed for 228.7 yards
a game. But don't misunderstand: The Cougars run so that they
may pass. Quarterback Brandon Doman has 16 touchdown passes in
an air game that averages 304.0 yards, 10th best in the nation.
The Falcons' option offense runs so that it may run more. Air
Force is fourth in rushing and 108th in passing. The winner in
Provo on Saturday becomes the favorite for the league title.