Coaches talk about special teams being as important as the offense and defense units. Sometimes that's all it is—talk. "You come into spring prepared to get guys ready to fill holes on offense and defense," says USC special teams coach Shawn Slocum, whose Chad Morton returned the first kickoff to the Trojans this season 98 yards for a touchdown in a 27-17 victory over Purdue on Aug. 30. "In the fall, on special teams you still have question marks. Once you get two or three games in, you find out who's dependable."
By then, it may be too late.
Stanford Goes Out on a Limb
Competing not only against a sublime fall climate that offers lots of recreational options but also against each other, the two Bay Area Pac-10 schools, California and Stanford, are offering creative—and perhaps desperate-season-ticket packages to their fans. Included in Cal's six-game, $152 package is a free digital cellular phone valued at $149. But that's nothing compared to the deal the Cardinal is offering: a money-back guarantee to all first-year season-ticket holders ($150 for six games). "We're trying to reach out and get some new people to games," says Bob Carruesco, the marketing director at Stanford, which averaged 56,935 fans for its six games at 85,500-seat Stanford Stadium last year. "If at the end [of the season] they're not satisfied with the product, we'll return their money."
At the moment that looks like a risky ploy. The Cardinal's highest-ranked guest, North Carolina, lost to Miami of Ohio last Saturday, while Stanford's most attractive matchups, against Notre Dame, Arizona State and UCLA, are all on the road. Worse, the Cardinal lost its home opener 35-23 to lowly San Jose State last Saturday before a sparse crowd of 36,396.
Cal, meanwhile, won its home opener against Houston 14-10 and hosts defending co-national champion Nebraska this weekend in a game that figures to draw 65,000 fans to 75,028-seat Memorial Stadium. The Bears, who attracted 43,000 customers a game in 1997, also host the Cardinal for this year's Big Game on Nov. 21.
The phone number for Stanford's athletic ticket office is 1-800-BEATCAL. Or is that 1-800-BE AT CAL?
All in a Day's Work
This Williams Gets No Respect
It's bad enough that tailback Ricky Williams of Texas Tech, who rushed for 251 yards and two touchdowns against UTEP, couldn't emerge from the shadow cast westward from Austin, where Texas's Ricky Williams rushed for 215 yards and six TDs against New Mexico State. But the Red Raiders' Williams couldn't even grab his own coach's attention. When Williams took himself out of the game for a breather in the second half, Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes got all over him. "I told him, 'You're going to have to learn to play all the time,' " Dykes said on Monday. "Lo and behold, I found out he had 41 carries. I felt like an idiot." Williams's reply to Dykes? "Yes, sir. I'll do some running this week."
A Testy Situation
A Center with Real Bite