The Cardinal defense, ranked second nationally, caused five turnovers, including an interception by free safety John Lynch with 14:11 left to play that broke Notre Dame's spirit. The Irish were on the Stanford eight-yard line, trailing 20-16, when Lynch stepped in front of a Mirer pass in the end zone and returned it 24 yards. The Cardinal defense so thoroughly dominated the game that when Notre Dame wide receiver Lake Dawson was asked how physical Stanford had been, he simply lifted his jersey to reveal the ice pack that was taped to his bruised ribs. "How physical was Stanford?" Dawson asked. "Here's the proof."
Stanford coach Bill Walsh dismissed notions that he gained insight into the Irish strategy while working as a color man on Notre Dame telecasts in 1991. "Being just an average analyst—and that was written enough—I was more concerned about players' hometowns and who won fishing derbies as kids," Walsh said. "And I still got their names backwards."
Nobody is referring to the Mid-American Conference as the Big MAC, but in the Midwest, the men from Madison aren't the only ones stealing some thunder from the once mighty members of the Big Ten. The 10-team MAC is too. MAC schools Toledo and Central Michigan have upset Big Ten teams Purdue and Michigan State, respectively, and Bowling Green, the defending conference champion, played Ohio State tough in Columbus before losing 17-6. "There are no negatives in our program," says Bowling Green coach Gary Blackney. "And we do have talent."
In recent years the MAC has been sending its champion to the California Raisin Bowl, where Bowling Green whipped Fresno State 28-21 last year to complete an 11-1 season. The Raisin Bowl has now shriveled up, though, so the MAC will dispatch this season's winner to the inaugural Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 18. Blackney's Falcons took a major step toward earning that trip when placekicker Brian Leaver booted a 33-yarder with 3:59 remaining to give the Falcons a 17-14 win over Central Michigan last Saturday. The Falcons are now 3-2, and 2-0 in the conference.
Before Blackney arrived in Bowling Green in 1991, the Falcons had had five consecutive losing seasons; they have now won 10 league games in a row. "Coach has brought in all the intangibles, like hard work and dedication. They might all be clichés, but they're so significant to his and our success," says quarterback Erik White, who completed 17 of 29 passes for 204 yards against the Chippewas.
The Falcons will need the best from Blackney and White and a little luck to make it to Vegas. They play only eight conference games this season, one less than Central Michigan. Since league rules stipulate that the champ is the team with the best winning percentage, Bowling Green could go 7-1 and still lose out if the Chippewas go 8-1. "Our backs are against the wall every week," Blackney says. "One loss puts us out."
Georgia Tech's Scott Sisson made the sixth game-winning boot of his career when his 29-yard field goal with no time left on the clock beat North Carolina State 16-13. The others came against Boston College (42 seconds remaining, in 1989), Virginia Tech (eight seconds, 1990), Virginia (seven seconds, 1990), Furman (21 seconds, 1991) and Virginia again (no time remaining, 1991)....
The Citadel upped its record to 5-0, the best start in the school's 85-year football history, with a 25-0 victory over Appalachian State, the defending Southern Conference champion. The Citadel's wishbone attack produced 386 rushing yards, and its defense handed Appalachian State its first shutout at home since 1979....