While Tennessee fumbled and stumbled in the rain, Florida swamped
its SEC rival and revived Gator Nation
Ron Zook accepted the job as Florida coach last January. Only
after the Gators' 30-13 humiliation of fourth-ranked Tennessee
before 108,722 in a sodden Neyland Stadium last Saturday did the
Gator Nation accept him. "To come in here and win says a lot,"
Zook said. "But it's one win."
Coachspeak aside, Florida's victory over its SEC East rival means
the Gators have returned to the national elite only two weeks
after a 41-16 home loss to No. 1 Miami that made the Steve
Spurrier era seem like a distant memory. "We needed this game as
a program," said junior quarterback Rex Grossman, who completed
20 of 34 passes for 324 yards and three touchdowns. "We needed
this game for a lot of different reasons. It was extremely
After the loss to the Hurricanes, Florida fans wondered aloud
whether Zook was the right person for the job and some doubted
that Grossman would master the complex one-back offense new
coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher had installed. "[Early on] we were
doing dumb stuff," says Zaunbrecher.
September 29, 2002
Grossman, never a scrambler under Spurrier, constantly created
room for himself to make throws against a blitzing Volunteers
defense. Sometimes he rolled out. Other times he simply
sidestepped the onrushing defenders, who couldn't change
direction on the wet grass. Grossman said he hadn't run that much
since his days at Bloomington (Ind.) South High. "I'm not exactly
Michael Vick," Grossman said, "but I can move."
Though the rain seemed like it would favor Tennessee's powerful
ground game on Saturday, the Vols tied a school record by
fumbling eight times, including seven times in the second
quarter, when a squall seemed to settle right over the stadium.
At one point Tennessee fumbled on four consecutive plays. On two
of those, quarterback Casey Clausen dropped the exchange from the
center. "If I can't get the snap," says Clausen, "we can't run
The Gators didn't have a problem running--and making--plays against
the Vols. It was a far cry from their offensive performance
against Miami. Before Saturday's game, Florida athletic director
Jeremy Foley reflected on the Gators' loss to the Hurricanes.
"The bottom line is that Miami is a pretty good football team,"
Foley said. "Of course, if Ron wins today, he's a genius."
Zook's genius in the eyes of Gators fans may be short-lived.
Florida's next five opponents are a combined 15-3.
Rushing Leader Tears ACL
End of the Run For Hollings
Until late in Georgia Tech's 28-19 victory over BYU last
Saturday, there had been no better story in college football
outside South Bend than Yellow Jackets junior tailback Tony
Hollings. The former defensive back, who last winter asked for a
chance to play tailback, leads the nation in rushing (158.3 yards
per game) and scoring (11 touchdowns). However, on his 36th carry
against the Cougars, Hollings tore his right ACL and is likely
out for the season.
Hollings, an option quarterback at Twiggs County (Ga.) High,
moved to safety as a freshman at Tech to "get on the field
faster" and ended up playing in 29 games over the next two
seasons. When coach Chan Gailey replaced George O'Leary last
winter, Gailey told the players he wanted them to play where they
were most comfortable. Hollings moved to the offensive backfield.
He stunned coaches by running a 4.39 40 but struggled with
fumbling throughout spring practice. Hollings corrected the
problem by carrying a ball wherever he went on campus. Sure
enough, he didn't fumble in 92 carries this season.
K-State's USC Win
More Filling than Cream Puffs
During the week preceding Kansas State's game against No. 11
Southern Cal, Wildcats coach Bill Snyder, who has a reputation
for scheduling soft nonconference opponents, was asked what made
him decide to play the Trojans. "Somebody caught me in a weak
moment," he said.
Kansas State's performance on Saturday was anything but weak. The
Wildcats rolled up 347 yards of total offense and beat USC 27-20
for their first-ever home victory over a ranked nonconference
opponent. (K-State hadn't played such a team in Manhattan since
1988.) Though Kansas State entered the game 3-0, having outscored
Western Kentucky, Louisiana-Monroe and Eastern Illinois 179-16,
nobody knew how good the Wildcats were. Snyder has never taken
seriously the criticism he receives for K-State's weak
nonconference schedule, but the lack of big-game experience
seemed to catch up with senior quarterback Marc Dunn, who had
thrown only 20 passes in the first three games, in part because
those games had so quickly gotten out of hand. Dunn completed
three of seven passes on Kansas State's first four drives, which
netted only 43 yards. Snyder replaced Dunn with sophomore Ell
Roberson, last year's starter, and he completed 10 of 15 passes
for 134 yards and a touchdown and rushed 23 times for 70 yards
and a score.
That the Trojans came into the game 2-0 and fresh off a 40-3
thrashing of Colorado made the Wildcats' victory especially
satisfying. Said junior guard Nick Leckey afterward, "We wanted
to prove to USC that we weren't just playing these pansy teams.
We can hang with good teams."
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Head to Head
Iowa State QB Seneca Wallace versus Nebraska DE Chris Kelsay
Wallace may become the Cyclones' first all-conference quarterback
in 21 years, because of his scrambling ability. Just ask Florida
State and Iowa, whose defenses the 5'10", 193-pound senior
shredded for a combined 67 points and 674 passing yards. The
Huskers showed in a 40-7 loss to Penn State that they are
vulnerable to a mobile quarterback. How well Nebraska contains
Wallace will depend upon Kelsay, the 6'5", 260-pound senior end
who leads the Huskers with 4 1/2 sacks.
"We're going to take a big bite out of the MAC," Central Florida
coach Mike Kruczek said at an alumni function in June, a
reference to the Knights' entrance into the Mid-American
Conference this season. "Our major concern is our
out-of-conference opponents." Marshall coaches pasted copies of
a newspaper clipping containing Kruczek's comments outside the
Thundering Herd's locker room this summer. (Kruczek later
claimed he was misquoted.) Last Friday night, Marshall showed
Central Florida that the Herd still rules the MAC, beating the
Knights 26-21 to drop them to 0-3.... Illinois, 1-3 after a
38-35 loss at home to San Jose State, has an equal opportunity
defense. Two weeks after allowing Southern Mississippi tailback
Derrick Nix to rush for 201 yards in a 23-20 Golden Eagles
victory, the Illini gave up 408 passing yards to the Spartans.
"We can still finish 9-3, win the Big Ten championship and go to
the Rose Bowl," Illinois linebacker Joe Bevis said. Unless the
Illini defense improves dramatically, that's highly unlikely..
.. Penn State coach Joe Paterno suspended cornerback Richard
Gardner and punter David Royer for the first half of the
Louisiana Tech game because they were late for a team bus last
Friday night. However, after Bulldogs quarterback Luke McCown
completed a 59-yard pass against Gardner's replacement, Alan
Zemaitis, in the first 10 minutes, Nittany Lions defensive
coordinator Tom Bradley put Gardner into the game, unbeknownst
to Paterno. "I looked in, and I saw number 25 [Gardner] in
there," Paterno said. "I was about to chew out Bradley, but he
had his hands full at that time." Gardner went on to break up
two key passes, saving potential touchdowns, and Penn State won