UAB Corner Looks to Mom
The Shirt off Her Back
After Alabama-Birmingham's 36-17 victory over No. 18 East Carolina last Saturday, Blazers cornerback Rodregis Brooks, a 5'11", 190-pound junior, knelt at the 30-yard line and reflected on what had been a wild day for him. In the second quarter, while attempting to make a tackle, he was hit in the head as he collided with a teammate. Brooks lay motionless on the turf, his left arm numb. He was removed from the field on a stretcher, but X-rays taken in the UAB trainer's room came up negative. By then the numbness had subsided, so the Blazers' doctor gave Brooks permission to return to action.
One problem: Brooks's jersey had been cut off him by medical personnel, and UAB didn't have a spare. Though he could have donned a shirt with a different number, Brooks turned to his mother, Cathey, who had worn his 1998 jersey to the game and had followed her injured son to the dressing room. Brooks, who leads the nation in interceptions (eight) and punt returns (19.7 average), showed no ill effects from the injury. Soon after reentering the game midway through the third quarter, he ran back a punt 59 yards to set up a score. In the fourth quarter he returned an interception 91 yards for the first touchdown of his career. His mother wore a Blazers' T-shirt for the rest of the game.
Injury-Riddled North Carolina
The Tar Heels Are Reeling
North Carolina must have college football's longest bungee cord. The Tar Heels have been falling for seven weeks, and there's still slack in the line. Two years after going 11-1, North Carolina is 1-8 following back-to-back losses to Furman and, last Saturday, Wake Forest. The few Tar Heels who played significant roles in both seasons—North Carolina has only 21 fourth-year juniors and fifth-year seniors—say the difference between 11-1 and 1-8 is smaller than they had imagined. "There's a fine line" punter Brian Schmitz says, "and we're all on the wrong side of it." Here are a few snap-shots from a disastrous autumn.
•Before the season began, second-year coach Carl Torbush said, "There are only two players we can't do without: Ronald Curry and Brandon Spoon." The Heels had lost both men for good by the fifth game. Spoon, a senior linebacker, tore his left biceps tendon in Week 2. Curry, a sophomore quarterback, ruptured his right Achilles tendon in a 31-24 overtime loss to Georgia Tech in Week 5.
•Without Curry the offense has gone from bad to worst in the ACC. Backup quarterback Luke Huard, a redshirt freshman, sat out most of the two games before the 19-3 loss to Wake Forest with a bruised rotator cuff in his right shoulder. Behind Huard are no scholarship quarterbacks. Junior safety Antwon Black, a high school quarterback, shifted back to his old position and moved the Tar Heels surprisingly well against Maryland on Oct 23, but he contracted mononucleosis before the Oct. 30 game against Furman. He, too, is out for the year. Behind Black was sophomore tailback Domonique Williams, who took the majority of snaps in the Tar Heels' 28-3 loss to the—ugh—Division I-AA Paladins, and who hadn't played quarterback since high school. Over the last four games North Carolina has scored two touchdowns.
•Tight end Alge Crumpler, who fought back from having torn cartilage and two torn ligaments in his left knee in March 1998 to start in this year's opener, has only 19 receptions for 179 yards and no touchdowns. "It's not like a leak in a flat tire," he says of North Carolina's season. "It's a pin in a balloon. Pop! Everything is gone. It's a total embarrassment sitting here the way we're sitting here."
After the loss to Furman, columnists in the six North Carolina daily newspapers that cover the Tar Heels either called for Torbush to be fired or said the firing is a fait accompli. Torbush has three years remaining on his contract He refused to talk to SI. Last Thursday he said at least three times (once to a local reporter and twice on his statewide radio show), "I'm a no-excuses guy."
He has plenty of them. He ought to use them.