As dominant as they've been, the Auburn defenders should get a stiff test this week when surprising Southern Mississippi (8-1) visits Jordan-Hare Stadium. In red-hot quarterback Brett Favre, who has thrown for 1,900 yards and 15 TDs this season, the Golden Eagles may have a man who can hold his own against the Tigers, who have surrendered only one touchdown in their last 16 quarters. Against Memphis State last Saturday. Favre connected with Eugene Rowell on a 45-yard pass play with 39 seconds remaining to give Southern Mississippi a 34-27 win and wrap up the host spot in the Independence Bowl. And that, of course, made coach Curley Hallman happy. Dad-gum happy, as a matter of fact.
There's a running back out there who has the following numbers to show for little more than 31 games: 3,606 yards, a school-and conference-record 46 touchdowns, 278 points. His name is Elroy Harris, and the reason you won't find him on a Heisman Trophy ballot is that he plays for I-AA Eastern Kentucky.
"The only thing you don't get at a small school is recognition," says Harris, "but just look at Walter Payton [ Jackson State] and what he did. Just look at Aaron Jones and what he did."
Jones, a defensive lineman on Eastern Kentucky's team last season, was the Pittsburgh Steelers" No. 1 draft pick in April. Although the 215-pound Harris is a junior, hell be eligible for the next NFL draft because he had to sit out a year to concentrate on his studies. But he says he won't make a decision about turning pro until after this season, in which the Colonels are 6-2 and bound for the I-AA playoffs for the third consecutive year.
Eastern coach Roy Kidd says the Colonels worked especially hard to recruit Harris out of Winter Park ( Fla.) High, where he was considered the equal of Sammie Smith (now at Florida State) and was ranked among the nation's top 100 schoolboy prospects. Says Kidd, "I guarantee you one thing—there's not a football program in the country that wouldn't take him. He's that good."
After rushing for a career-high 244 yards on 39 carries and scoring three TDs in Eastern's 31-24 overtime win over Murray State last Saturday, Harris was gaining just a shade less than 150 yards a game on the ground. Of Division I backs, only Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders and Indiana's Anthony Thompson are averaging more.
Bet the grocery money that no matter how much the folks at the Fiesta Bowl are prepared to ante up, Notre Dame will not agree to a rematch with Miami. The attitude in South Bend is that having already defeated the Hurricanes 31-30, there's nothing to be gained by taking on Steve Walsh & Co. again.
You can also bet that the Irish won't cut a deal with any bowl until after their game with Perm State on Nov. 19, the day bowl invitations go out, and that they'll pick the game that "best enhances our chances to win the national championship," as associate athletic director Roger Valdiserri puts it.