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Inside College Football
Posted: Wednesday November 25, 1998 12:15 PM
A Fractured Fairy Tale | The Freshman Is The Man
The Dicey State Of Connecticut | 10 Most Costly Injuries
Hot List | Fast Forward
In his biggest test Marcus Outzen stumped Florida State's archrival
By Ivan Maisel, B.J. Schecter and Alan Shipnuck
A redshirt sophomore, Outzen completed 13 of 22 passes for 167 yards and his first career touchdown. He ran twice for first downs on quarterback draws in the fourth quarter. He had three fumbles, including one in his own end zone that turned into a Gators safety. "I came to games here as a kid and watched the quarterbacks," Outzen said after Saturday's game. "I watched [Casey] Weldon, I watched [Charlie] Ward. I'm numb right now."
The steady breeze that blew through Doak Campbell Stadium may have been sighs of relief from Seminoles fans. Their attempts last week to buck up Outzen made the bright-red crew cut that had earned him the nickname Rooster all but stand on edge. "Everybody says, 'You can do it,'" Outzen said after last Thursday's practice. "I know they mean well. But when you hear it a hundred times a day, it gets repetitious. I know I can do it. You hear it so many times you wonder if they're so sure."
Bowden and quarterbacks coach Mark Richt handled Outzen gently. Every Friday, Richt gives his quarterbacks a written exam. Last week, he didn't bother to collect the answers. "I didn't care," Richt said. "I didn't want to do anything that would clutter his head." After the game the test answers sat on the floor of Outzen's locker. "I'm going to keep it," he said.
Outzen's success validated the hunch Bowden had when he signed him out of Fort Walton Beach High. Like Danny Wuerffel in 1991, Outzen had taken the Vikings to the Class 5A championship. "In Florida that's pretty big," Bowden says. "He wasn't a high recruit. We just liked him. We felt he would be a backup quarterback, an athlete."
He's likely to return to his backup role next year, when Weinke is expected to be healthy again. In the meantime Outzen and the rest of the fourth-ranked, 11-1 Seminoles wait and hope to play for the national championship in the Fiesta Bowl. As Outzen sat at his locker and peeled off his uniform after last Saturday's game, wide receiver Peter Warrick ambled by. "Good game, Rooster," said Warrick, who not only caught eight passes for 119 yards and a touchdown but also threw a 46-yard TD to Ron Dugans that put the Seminoles up by eight.
"Hey," Outzen said, as giddy as a 10-year-old who had just had his picture taken with Bobby Bowden, "I got my first TD."
"It's been a pleasure," Warrick said.
"It ain't over," Outzen replied.
How much might the outcome of the remaining games shake up the bowl picture? Here are the projected matchups in the four Bowl Championship Series games if Tennessee, UCLA and Kansas State stay unbeaten.
Sugar: Florida State-Kansas State.
But what would happen if the Vols, the Bruins and the Wildcats all lost? In this unlikely -- but hardly far-fetched -- scenario, Tennessee flops in the SEC title game, Texas A&M upsets Kansas State for the Big 12 championship and UCLA loses to Miami, in the Dec. 5 playing of their September game that was postponed by Hurricane Georges. That would probably allow Florida State and Texas A&M, who began the season in the Kickoff Classic, to end it in the Fiesta; put Pac-10 champ UCLA in the Rose Bowl; and leave the Orange Bowl with its choice of Tennessee, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Florida to face Syracuse. Tennessee is out: The Vols have already faced Syracuse this season. And while Notre Dame and Ohio State have large followings, the Orange Bowl would select the Gators, who haven't appeared in the game since 1967, when coach Steve Spurrier was Florida's star quarterback. All of which leaves this lineup.
Fiesta: Florida State-Texas A&M.
Sugar: Mississippi State-Kansas State.
By any standard, Tulane's Shaun King has had an extraordinary year. The nation's leader in passing efficiency, he has thrown for 2,902 yards and 33 touchdowns, while rushing for 440 yards and nine TDs. But considering that the 6-foot, 201-pound King broke his left (nonthrowing) wrist in the Green Wave's 42-24 win over Navy on Sept. 26 and has played the last seven games wearing a cast that makes it hard to take a snap, let alone throw, his performance is even more remarkable.
"When I learned the severity of Shaun's injury, I figured he'd have surgery and redshirt," says Tulane coach, Tommy Bowden. "But Shaun never thought about not playing. He has sent a message to the rest of the team about sacrifice and determination."
Behind King, 10-0 Tulane is ranked 11th in the country and probably bound for the Liberty Bowl. The Green Wave clinched the Conference USA title--the school's first league championship since 1949--with a 48-20 victory over Houston last Saturday thanks to King, a senior from St. Petersburg, Fla., who completed 26 of 33 passes for 319 yards and five touchdowns.
King still can't bend his left wrist, and every time he takes a hit on that arm, he feels excruciating pain. Nevertheless, he refuses to take painkillers or to complain. "I got down for a bit when I first found out it was broken, but when the doctors said I couldn't hurt it any more than it already is, I knew I was going to play through it," he says. "We've worked too hard to get to this point to let anything get in our way."
Last Saturday afternoon on the frenzied floor of the Rose Bowl, in the moments after No. 2 UCLA's 34-17 spanking of USC, Bruins tailback DeShaun Foster looked preoccupied. He didn't seem thrilled, as might be expected of a guy who had just become the first Bruins freshman to score four touchdowns in a game. Nor did Foster appear exhausted, which was strange considering that the day before the game he had gone to the hospital, where he was treated for strep throat. No, amid all the backslapping and interviews, Foster was scanning the field. "I was looking for Carson," he said a bit later. "I wanted to talk to him."
That would have been Carson Palmer, the Trojans' starting quarterback and a freshman every bit as precocious as Foster. Last year the two met in the CIF Southern Section Division V championship, a game that is still spoken of with reverence by the Southern California pigskin cognoscenti. That day Foster ran for 377 yards and six touchdowns for Tustin High, and Palmer passed for 419 yards and five TDs for Santa Margarita High, which won 55-42. Ever since an emotional embrace at midfield following that game the two have formed a mutual admiration society, but neither of these high school All-Americas dreamed he would be a focal point of L.A.'s grand rivalry just one year later.
As usual, Foster didn't start in UCLA's three-tailback rotation, but he did jump-start the Bruins in the first half, scoring three times as they took a 27-10 lead. The 6'1", 205-pound Foster is a dazzling combination of hustle and muscle. On his first score, a four-yard catch-and-run on a throw from Cade McNown, he made like his idol, Earl Campbell, and bulled into the end zone over the top of a would-be tackler. Early in the second quarter Foster added a 65-yard scamper down the sideline. For the game Foster rushed 15 times for 109 yards and now leads UCLA with 556 yards (at 5.6 per carry) and 12 touchdowns. "DeShaun was awesome, as usual," Palmer said following the game.
Palmer wasn't so bad himself, completing 28 of 43 passes for 252 yards and a touchdown. A year ago, after their epic confrontation, he had consoled a teary Foster by telling him, "You are the man." The same goes now, only more so.
If Governor John G. Rowland and the city of Hartford follow through on last week's tentative agreement with the New England Patriots and build a 68,000-seat stadium, UConn, now a Division I-AA school, almost certainly will move up to I-A and become the ninth team in the Big East. One problem: Where will the Huskies find I-A talent? At the start of this season, the eight Big East teams had a total of just 12 players from Connecticut on their rosters.... The longest winning streak in the Pac-10 after those of UCLA (20) and Arizona (5) belongs to 3-8 Stanford, which won its last two games. The Cardinal's 10-3 defeat of Cal not only was Stanford's fourth consecutive Big Game victory but also prevented the Golden Bears, who finished the season 5-6, from qualifying for a bowl game.... The crowd to see Temple lose to Syracuse 38-7 at 67,000-seat Veterans Stadium was so sparse (an announced 12,483) that one Owls defensive player adjusted his position on the line after hearing a coach yell at him from the press box.
Amp Campbell, CB, Michigan State A second-team All-Big Ten selection as a junior last season, the 6-foot, 192-pound Campbell suffered a severe cervical-spinal injury against Oregon on Sept. 5 but hopes to play again. Considered a lock for a bowl berth before the season, the Spartans are 6-5.
Rob Cieslinski, DT, Colorado State The Rams' best run-stopper, Cieslinski, a 6'4", 293-pound junior, hasn't played since injuring his left hamstring against Nevada on Sept. 12. Colorado State is ranked 58th nationally in rushing defense.
Alge Crumpler, TE, North Carolina The 6'3", 250-pound Crumpler caught 24 passes for 278 yards and four touchdowns as a sophomore last year, but he hasn't played a down this season after tearing his left ACL in March. Tar Heels tight ends have eight catches this season.
Joe Domingeaux, TE, LSU Sophomore Domingeaux, a 6'6", 267-pound stalwart blocker, tore his right ACL during spring practice. LSU is a disappointing 4-6, and its inability to get into the end zone from inside the five-yard line resulted in losses to Alabama and Georgia.
Reuben Droughns, TB, Oregon In five games the 6-foot, 205-pound Droughns, a junior, ran for 824 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. The Ducks have not had a 100-yard rusher in the five games since Droughns broke his right ankle against UCLA on Oct. 17.
John Fitzgerald, QB, Tulsa The No. 2 passer in school history, the 6'3", 225-pound Fitzgerald was sidelined for the rest of his senior season after fracturing his right wrist against Air Force on Oct. 24. The Golden Hurricane is 4-7.
Arturo Freeman, FS, South Carolina The Gamecocks lost their defensive leader -- 92 tackles and six interceptions last year -- in August after Freeman, a 6'1", 190-pound senior, tore his right ACL. South Carolina is 1-10 and has the third-worst defense in the SEC.
Anthony Poindexter, FS, Virginia The best safety in the nation, the 6'1", 220-pound Poindexter, a senior, had 73 tackles and three interceptions in seven games before blowing out his left knee on Oct. 24 against N.C. State. The Cavaliers have gone 2-1 in Poindexter's absence, but they haven't replaced his leadership and intensity.
Quinton Spotwood, WR-PR, Syracuse The 5'11", 190-pound Spotwood, who tied an NCAA record by returning four punts for touchdowns as a sophomore last season, tore his left ACL on Oct. 10 against Cincinnati. The Orangemen haven't returned a punt for a TD this season.
Chris Weinke, QB, Florida State Forced to start after an off-season knee injury to Dan Kendra, Weinke, a 26-year-old sophomore, had thrown 218 passes without an interception before injuring his neck against Virginia on Nov. 7. His loss may be hard to overcome in the Seminoles' bowl game.
Oklahoma State vs. Oregon State
Mountain West Conference
Notre Dame (9-1) at USC (7-4)
Miami (7-2) at Syracuse (7-3)
Arizona State (5-5) at Arizona (10-1)
Grambling (5-5) at Southern (7-3)
The ball seemed to hang in the air forever. I was trying to decide whether to signal for a fair catch when I saw I had some room. As soon as I caught the ball, I noticed my teammates Willie Austin and Carlease Clark take out the sprinters on either side of me, and I took off up the field.
I ran straight ahead for 10 yards, and then as I tried to cut to my right, I felt myself stumble a bit. I kept thinking, Don't fall down, and I did everything I could to keep my balance. Thankfully I stayed on my feet and ran up a lane my blockers had cleared along the right sideline. Near the 40-yard line I started looking for the kicker. As he came into view, I watched Donte King lay him out and another guy throw a great block at the 50.
My mind was racing, and my eyes opened up when I saw nothing but the end zone. Before the game I knew that one big play on special teams could turn the game around, and as I approached the goal line, I grew more and more excited. I told myself to go faster because there was no way I wanted to be caught from behind. As soon as I crossed into the end zone, I threw up my hands, and I really don't remember what happened after that because it was so crazy.
Growing up, I used to fantasize about making the big play in the big game, but what happened on Saturday was beyond my wildest dreams. Playing a large part in winning a championship is something I'll never forget.
--Nick Davis KR-WR, Wisconsin
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