After Georgia's 21-10 loss to South Carolina last Saturday, Bulldogs senior defensive tackle Richard Seymour sounded as if he didn't understand what had just happened. "It's still early in the season," said Seymour, "even though you don't want to lose to an inferior team."
If there was an inferior team on the field, it wasn't the Gamecocks. While Georgia junior quarterback Quincy Carter was throwing five interceptions, South Carolina sophomore tailback Derek Watson was rushing for 93 yards and three touchdowns. "I'm not going to sit here and say we were lucky to win the game," said South Carolina coach Lou Holtz on Sunday. "I'm also glad this wasn't two out of three."
Since he left William and Mary in 1971, Holtz has never needed more than two years to turn around the programs at North Carolina State, Arkansas, Minnesota, Notre Dame or, Gamecocks fans hope, South Carolina. After going 0-11 in 1999, Holtz's first year, the Gamecocks entered the season with the nation's longest losing streak—21 games. Now they're 2-0, having outscored New Mexico State and Georgia 52-10, and Holtz's reputation as a savior has been burnished anew.
But success has come at a price to South Carolina: For the second consecutive week, the school had to order a new set of goalposts, at a cost of $4,200, to replace those that were torn down during a victory celebration, as well as replace 75 wax-leaf shrubs that made up the hedge behind the north end zone. As if that weren't enough, at least one travel agency in South Carolina began advertising bowl packages on Sunday.
New Coach Bobby Williams
High Anxiety at Michigan State
In the wee hours of last Saturday morning—nine months after having replaced LSU-bound Nick Saban and guided Michigan State to a last-second win over Florida in the Citrus Bowl—Bobby Williams anxiously awaited his second game as the Spartans' coach. He lay in bed, staring at the ceiling of his East Lansing hotel room; repeatedly clicked the television on and off; and finally began pacing. He gazed out the window at Spartan Stadium in the glow of dawn. Williams never did get to sleep, then he couldn't eat breakfast, and he even took a wrong turn during the quarter-mile walk to the stadium, all the while visualizing a hundred scenarios that might occur in Michigan State's matchup with Marshall.
Later, after the Spartans' 34-24 victory had ended the Thundering Herd's 18-game winning streak, Williams acknowledged that none of the situations he had played over in his mind had come close to becoming reality. Perhaps that was because even the most pessimistic coach could not have imagined his team losing its best linebacker—in Michigan State's case, senior T.J. Turner—to a shoulder injury, having two punts blocked and being flagged for three personal fouls, all in the game's opening 20 minutes. Then at the end of the first quarter, with the game tied 7-7, the Spartans lost junior starting quarterback Ryan Van Dyke to a sprained right thumb on his throwing hand. Williams, who had never been a head coach or even a coordinator in his 18-year career before taking over in East Lansing, relied on his trademark equanimity when he summoned freshman quarterback Jeff Smoker. "Coach has this way of looking you in the eye that says he believes you will succeed," said Smoker, after completing 16 of his 24 passes for 138 yards. "His confidence is contagious."
Williams acknowledges that his confidence stemmed partly from a critical personnel move he had suggested last season while working as Michigan State's running backs coach. He had lobbied to mold prize recruit T.J. Duckett into a tailback, even though Duckett had arrived on campus as a consensus high school All-America quarterback-linebacker and had never played tailback. The 6'1", 251-pound Duckett had nimble feet that reminded Williams of Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne's, and Duckett blossomed with 606 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns as a freshman. Nicknamed Diesel, Duckett is strong enough to have set a Michigan high school record in the shot put (64'7") and fast enough to have run a 4.45 in the 40, and he carries the ball with a linebacker's mentality. "My goal is to punish the opponent," says Duckett. "I'm going to try to knock your head off, just keep drilling you, until I make you wither."
Against Marshall, Duckett's first 13 carries netted only 40 yards, but his last 13 rushes produced 179, for a career-high total of 219 yards. "T.J.'s a great weapon because he gets stronger when everybody else is getting way weaker," says Williams. "He provided some stability for us in a very stressful game."
Late Saturday evening, an exhausted Williams returned to his home in Okemos, Mich., and crashed on a lawn chair on the patio. He lit one of his favorite victory cigars, savored the fact the he was still an undefeated coach and wondered if it will get any easier.