Should the Bombers go on to another national championship, what would be left for Butterfield to accomplish? When reminded that only he and Woody Hayes have won national championships in three decades, Butterfield says, "Well, that's pretty neat company." Then he grins. "And you know what else?" he says. "Woody's sister went to school at Ithaca." As always Jim Butterfield was thinking family.
BADGERING THE BIG TEN
Don't make the mistake of thinking that Wisconsin's 20-16 win over Ohio State was a fluke. Under coach Barry Alvarez, who is in his third year since leaving Lou Holtz's side at Notre Dame, the Badgers have improved to the point where they may now be Michigan's most serious—only?—challenger in the Big Ten (at least until Penn State comes aboard next season). This, of course, is faint praise. The Big Ten may be at an alltime low. Its non-conference record is 13-17-1, including a woeful 2-11-1 mark against teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25.
Alvarez, for one, is doing his part to improve the Big Ten's stature. During his first spring practice in Madison, Alvarez was so demanding that 52 players left the team. The Badgers went 1-10 that season, but Alvarez was able to replace the departed players with promising newcomers, including four high school All-Americas. His first two recruiting classes ranked in the top 30 nationally.
Last season Wisconsin finished 5-6, the fourth-best turnaround in the NCAA. The Badger defense ranked 24th nationally, but Alvarez was unhappy with his offense. So he recruited quarterback Darrell Bevell, who had spent the 1989 season at Northern Arizona before dropping out to work as a missionary in Cleveland for the Mormon Church. "I'd never heard of Wisconsin," says Bevell, who's now a red-shirt freshman at the age of 22. "Somebody told me Wisconsin plays in the Big Ten, and I'm like, 'Yeah, right.' " Against Ohio State, making only his third career start, Bevell completed 18 of 30 passes for 214 yards.
Considering the fact that Wisconsin doesn't have to play Michigan this season, it's possible that the Badgers could finish unbeaten in the Big Ten and, assuming the Wolverines stumble, earn a trip to their first Rose Bowl since 1963. Their stiffest test is Saturday's game against Iowa in Iowa City. "The sign of whether we've matured will be if we can play good games back-to-back," Alvarez says. "I think it's way too early to say we've turned the corner. But obviously this was a big step."
At Notre Dame, under the protective gaze of Touchdown Jesus and with the vaunted Lou Holtz in charge, things that aren't supposed to happen have been happening quite a bit lately. In 1990 Stanford came to South Bend a 16-point underdog and parlayed three turnovers into a 36-31 victory. In 1991 Tennessee rallied from a 31-14 halftime deficit to deflate the fifth-ranked Irish 35-34. And last Saturday, Stanford again stunned Notre Dame, 33-16, scoring 33 unanswered points in the second half and dealing the No. 6-ranked Irish their worst home loss in eight seasons.
Holtz shouldered the blame for the loss—sort of. He acknowledged that instead of simplifying his game plan at mid-season as he usually does to avoid overburdening his troops, he presented them with a full package for Stanford. (How's that for a mea culpa: The Irish weren't up to my rigorous standards.) And why should he have eased off? Holtz sounded as if he was already making excuses even before the game, when he fretted that the course load at Notre Dame in the early fall frequently sends the team into a slump. "Hey," countered one Stanford player, "we go to school too."
Ballyhooed as a Heisman hopeful, Notre Dame's Rick Mirer stuck around for his senior season hoping to see his name linked to Irish quarterbacking legends like Johnny Lujack, Joe Theismann and Joe Montana. But his numbers are not even vintage Rusty Lisch. He completed only 13 of 38 passes for 195 yards on Saturday, and he has connected on only 44.3% of his throws this season. "I didn't seem to be on the same page as the receivers more than once," Mirer said. "Maybe we got too complicated."