With time on its side, Michigan State knocked off Michigan on the
After junior running back T.J. Duckett had ripped through the
nation's top rushing defense for 211 yards and caught the
winning, two-yard touchdown pass with zeroes on the clock to give
Michigan State a 26-24 victory over No. 6 Michigan, he said his
mantra on the decisive drive was "Got to score. Got to score. Got
to score by any means necessary." Little did Duckett know.
Two plays before Duckett's clutch catch, Spartans quarterback
Jeff Smoker was tackled at the two-yard line with 12 seconds left
and Michigan State out of timeouts. The referee hurriedly got the
ball ready for play, and Smoker lined up the Spartans and spiked
the ball with :01 showing on the scoreboard. That single tick
remained apparently because of the quick finger of the Michigan
State employee manning the clock in a booth upstairs. Replays
seem to show that the clock was stopped prematurely--before the
ref waved the spike play dead--giving Michigan State an
unwarranted shot at victory.
When Duckett caught the TD pass, the Spartans erupted in
celebration. "I was at the bottom of the pile. You never want to
be at the bottom," said the 6'1", 249-pound Duckett. He paused.
"Actually, if you're at the bottom, that means you did something
November 12, 2001
Entering the game, the Wolverines' defense had allowed an average
of 54.4 rushing yards in its previous six games, but Duckett was
coming off a 186-yard, two-touchdown effort against Wisconsin, in
which he'd begun to show his patient, punishing style at its
best. Duckett, a native of Kalamazoo, Mich., doesn't hurry in
choosing where to run. Once he chooses, he's pretty good at
hurrying. His performances against the Badgers and Wolverines
have been of the dominant sort he was expected to produce when
Michigan State signed him after Notre Dame had decided Duckett
wasn't academically worthy (SI, May 1, 2000).
Against Michigan, Duckett drew inspiration from the memory of his
mother, Jacqulyn Barham, who would have turned 59 two days before
the game had she not died of cancer in March 2000. "I didn't say
anything this week. I didn't want sympathy," Duckett said. "I
tried to play for her. It meant a lot to me."
While Michigan, which had been rated No. 4 in the BCS standings,
couldn't stop Duckett, it did get to Smoker for a school-record
12 sacks. Nevertheless, the Wolverines played themselves out of
the national championship race by committing two penalties on the
Spartans' game-winning drive. The first, a personal foul (face
mask) after Michigan State had failed to convert on
fourth-and-16, gave the Spartans new life at the Michigan 35. The
second, an 11-yarder for having 12 defenders on the field, gave
the Spartans a second-and-three at the 11, and they scored seven
After the game Duckett remarked on how Michigan State had played
hard for 60 minutes. That it did--and a little more.
Few Firings Expected
The Coaching Carousel Begins
An early frost doesn't necessarily portend a cold winter. So it
is that the firing of Terry Allen by Kansas, the firing of
Charlie Weatherbie by Navy and the resignation of Cal's Tom
Holmoe, all within an eight-day period ending on Sunday,
shouldn't be seen as a sign of wholesale coaching changes to
come. In fact, so little turnover is expected this year that it
could rival 1987 and '95, when nine coaching changes occurred
each year, the lowest turnover since the NCAA started tracking
coaching moves in '46. Only four other coaches--Cam Cameron of
Indiana, Ted Tollner of San Diego State, Mike Cavan of SMU and
Woody Widenhofer of Vanderbilt--are in deep trouble. Notre Dame's
Bob Davie is also vulnerable.
Because one firing can set off a chain of hirings--for example, in
1999 Washington hired Rick Neuheisel from Colorado, which hired
Gary Barnett from Northwestern, which hired Randy Walker from
Miami of Ohio--a lack of firings can keep the total number of
changes down. With 25 bowl games scheduled this season, 50
coaches can boast of reaching the postseason. As long as a
school's fans have hope of going bowling in the near future,
they'll buy tickets. When they stop buying tickets, the coach is
Last Saturday night, the Memorial Stadium crowd of 50,750 at
Kansas was a sea of Nebraska red. In the third quarter, with the
visitors well on their way to a 51-7 victory, the fans began
chanting, "Let's go Huskers!" The next day, Terry Allen lost his
Huskies Beat Cardinal Again
Flawless in Seattle
When a Stanford defender drove him into the turf on the second
play of the second half last Saturday, Washington's righthanded
quarterback, Cody Pickett, landed on his throwing shoulder--the
same one he'd separated on Oct. 6. While shaking off the pain, he
avoided looking to the Huskies' sideline, "just in case they were
trying to send somebody in for me," Pickett said after the 42-28
win over the Cardinal at Husky Stadium.
Replacing Pickett, a sophomore, is the last thing the Huskies'
staff wants to do. Combining pinpoint passing and remarkable
toughness, he has helped lead Washington to a surprising 7-1
record and No. 8 ranking. While Stanford also entered the game
with one loss, Washington's defeat had been more humbling--a 35-13
setback on Oct. 13 to UCLA, a team that the Cardinal defeated
38-28 two weeks later for its second win over a top five team in
as many weeks. Still, Stanford hadn't won in Husky Stadium in 25
Make it 26. Pickett, who sat out the UCLA game because of his
separated shoulder, looked superb leading the Huskies to
touchdowns on three of their first four possessions. He picked
apart the Cardinal's zone defense, completing 15 of 28 passes for
291 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions. He also
rattled Stanford by running the option half a dozen times, an
unexpected wrinkle that Huskies offensive coordinator Keith
Gilbertson unveiled against the Cardinal, who entered the game
with the Pac-10's best rushing defense.
The downside of the option is that it exposes the quarterback to
ferocious hits. With Pickett under center, at least one Husky
isn't overly worried. "He's a tough cowboy kid from Caldwell,
Idaho," says sophomore strong safety Greg Carothers. Pickett grew
up around rodeos, specializing in team-roping as a teenager. His
father, Dee, was world champion cowboy in 1984 and made his
living on the pro circuit for 20 years.
Washington was one of only two teams in the Pac-10 that didn't
have a starting quarterback returning this season. Pickett's play
has made that a nonissue. "I knew he was going to be good, but
damn!" said senior tailback Willie Hurst, after rushing for 108
yards and three touchdowns against Stanford. "Some of the plays
he's made, I was like, Are you kidding me?"
"He looks green," says senior center Kyle Benn of Pickett, "but
he's a leader. He's got mettle."
Washington wasn't expected to win the league title this season;
nevertheless, the Huskies are in a three-way tie for the Pac-10
lead, along with Oregon and Washington State (all 5-1 in the
conference). That means, in addition to playing for the Apple Cup
on Nov. 17, Washington and Washington State could be playing for
the league championship. --Austin Murphy
Texas Tech on the Upswing
Proof Is in The Defense
Ever since Texas Tech defensive coordinator Greg McMackin
increased from one to three the number of graduates of Coronado
High, which is only three miles from the Red Raiders' stadium in
Lubbock, in his starting lineup, four games ago, Tech has been a
power in the Big 12 South. Its 12-0 shutout of Texas A&M, the
Aggies' fourth consecutive loss in Lubbock, raised the Red
Raiders' record to 3-3 in league play, 5-3 overall, and proved
there's more to Texas Tech than the throw-at-will philosophy of
coach Mike Leach.
After his defense gave up 30 points per game in its first four
outings, McMackin moved starting senior strong safety Kevin
Curtis (Coronado 1998) to free safety, put sophomore Ryan Aycock
(Coronado '99) in Curtis's old spot and made freshman strongside
linebacker Mike Smith (Coronado '00) a first-teamer. Another
freshman, defensive tackle Clayton Harmon of Stephenville, Texas,
also became a starter. "There's eagerness and emotion," McMackin
says. "I like the way they're not hesitating. They just go play."
In the four games since the changes, which include a 41-31 loss
to No. 2 Nebraska, the Red Raiders have allowed an average of
19.8 points, and Aycock and Curtis have combined to make seven
interceptions. Last Saturday, the Aggies crossed midfield six
times and failed to score. "When we stopped the fake field goal
on their first possession," Curtis said on Sunday, "we took their
best shot." The Red Raiders thwarted all five of Texas A&M's
fourth-down conversion attempts and 10 of 13 on third down.
"West Texas kids are tough, hard, competitive kids," says
McMackin, who worked for Dennis Erickson for six seasons, first
with the Miami Hurricanes and then with the Seattle Seahawks.
"They are well-coached in high school. That has to help."
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
When a back averages 24 carries a game, he knows how to take a
lick, but Georgia Tech junior tailback Joe Burns had never felt
anything like the sting of the criticism he received from his
coach and the fans after a 20-17 overtime loss to Maryland on
Oct. 11. With Georgia Tech leading 17-14 and 1:26 remaining,
Burns thoughtlessly ran out-of-bounds on third down--a mistake
because it gave the Terrapins, who had no timeouts left, extra
time to drive for the game-tying field goal. Last Thursday the
5'10", 205-pound Burns rushed for a career-high 198 yards on 34
carries in a 28-21 defeat of North Carolina. More important, he
put away the game with a 51-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown run
during which he avoided two defenders who tried to knock him
out-of-bounds, and he carried cornerback Michael Waddell across
the goal line. Consider Burns's debt paid in full.
An NFL scout assesses Napoleon Harris, a 6'3", 250-pound
defensive end at Northwestern who has made 62 tackles this
season, including 38 solo and nine for losses.
"He played strongside linebacker in 1999 and 2000, but he's
playing end this season, so the Wildcats can get their best 11 on
the field. That will probably hurt him a little bit in the draft.
He would be excellent in a 3-4 front. He can play on the tight
end. He can play on his feet on first and second down, and he can
rush on third down. He has a lot of potential. He's fast and
aggressive. He'll go in the first round, probably in the 20s."
"We faced the toughest teams we'll face--South Carolina and
Washington State--so we're basically cruising from now on."
A comment by Boise State linebacker LaGary Mitchell that appeared
in The Idaho Statesman last week and was tacked on the Louisiana
Tech bulletin board. Last Saturday the Bulldogs went through
Mitchell and his teammates for 516 yards in a 48-42 victory that
gave Louisiana Tech sole possession of first place in the WAC, a
game ahead of the Broncos.
Florida wideouts Jabar Gaffney and Reche Caldwell vs. South
Carolina cornerbacks Sheldon Brown and Andre Goodman
The SEC's best pair of receivers matches up against its best pair
of cornerbacks. Gaffney (50 catches, 915 yards, nine touchdowns)
has the quickness to get open and good hands when the ball
arrives. Caldwell (44 catches, 807 yards, nine touchdowns) would
be the receiving star on any offense that didn't include Gaffney.
Brown's statistics aren't imposing--10 pass breakups and no
interceptions--because few teams throw to his side of the field,
which has made for rush-hour traffic in Goodman's territory. A
strong coverage guy, he has withstood the extra workload well,
breaking up eight passes and intercepting three. The Gamecocks
(7-2) have given up only six touchdowns through the air.
Lackluster in Laramie
Wyoming's standing as the Western cradle of coaches is in danger.
Second-year coach Vic Koenning, whose Cowboys lost 47-26 to UNLV
last Saturday, is 2-6 this season following a 1-10 record in
2000. His predecessor, Dana Dimel, now at Houston, is 0-8 this
year and 3-16 overall since leaving Laramie. Compare the records
of these two men with those of some others who stopped at Wyoming
on their way up.
COACH RECORD RECORD TITLES
(YEARS AT WYOMING) AT WYOMING AFTER WYOMING AFTER WYOMING
Bowden Wyatt 39-17-1 60-39-4 One SWC at Arkansas,
(1947-52) one SEC at Tennessee
Bob Devaney 35-10-5 101-20-2 Eight Big Eight and
(1957-61) two national at
Fred Akers 10-13-0 97-60-3 Two SWC at Texas
Pat Dye 6-5-0 99-39-4 Four SEC at Auburn
Dennis Erickson 6-6-0 96-30-1 Two national at Miami,
(1986) one Pac-10 at Oregon
Joe Tiller 39-30-1 38-18-0 One Big Ten at Purdue