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Uncertainty reigns in Las Vegas Bowl matchup
Posted: Friday December 18, 1998 10:56 PM
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Unfamiliarity between football teams often breeds uncertainty and anxiety among coaches and players.
That certainly could be the case when North Carolina (6-5) and San Diego State hook up Saturday in the Las Vegas Bowl. The two schools have never met and it's not every day teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference and Western Athletic Conference meet on the gridiron.
In fact, when North Carolina coach Carl Torbush first found out his club was playing the Aztecs (7-4), he spoke in glowing terms of the program's passing game. Well, San Diego State has rushed for 600 more yards than they've passed for this year.
Oops. Torbush stood corrected.
"All of us have always felt the mystique of the WAC is big-play, high-scoring games," he said. "This is not a typical attack in that respect because they have run the ball a lot better than in many years. This year, in my opinion, they are a big-time running team. I really believe that's why they're sitting here at 7-4 instead of 4-7 or 5-6."
San Diego State coach Ted Tollner said he became impressed with the ACC when he was an assistant coach in the NFL for seven years between 1987-93.
"I didn't know a lot about those schools, but when you're in pro football you go around and you see facilities and work out players at those schools and you get a new perception," he said. "You see what they're doing as far as a commitment to football and then you see their players when you look at the draft and you say 'Hey, this is legitimate big-time football.'"
When told the ACC often gets knocked back East for not being a so-called "football league," Tollner just chuckled.
"We're the ones that get knocked on that," he said. "Some guy did a talk show with me the other night and said we're the worst conference in Division I football. Well, we don't think that.
"What happens is we had two teams that didn't win a game. Well, does that make us all bad? Does that make the good teams bad?" Tollner said.
Each team started 0-3 this season and beat only one team with a winning record, so there's not much of a gauge for either coach there.
"We've watched them [on tape] against good teams and they're in the game late," Tollner said. "We look at the ones they lost and did they get manhandled or not? They don't, they played with everyone."
This will be North Carolina's first game on artificial turf since playing at Houston on October 26, 1996 -- a span of 28 games.
Any concerns there for Torbush?
"You can run a faster 40-yard dash on an Astroturf track than you can on grass so common sense says it makes you faster," Torbush said when asked about playing on foreign turf. "I wouldn't want to play on it every week, but they have to play on it too."
North Carolina would appear to have the edge in several key positions, including quarterback. And the Tar Heels are the bigger team, and according to Tollner, has better overall speed.
"But you know what, it's a one-game deal and individuals can make plays and you never know," Tollner said.
"What scares me more than anything is because of their explosiveness at receiver what Arizona did to us. They jumped on us early -- we ended up playing with them in the second half -- but the game was already over. We have to stay in the game. Playing catchup against North Carolina is not in our best interest."
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