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COLLEGE REPORT
William F. Reed
November 27, 1989
APOCALYPTIC BACKFIELD
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November 27, 1989

College Report

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TOP 20
If Miami defeats Notre Dame, five teams could have a shot at the national title.

THIS WEEK

 

LAST WEEK

1

NOTRE DAME (11-0)

1

2

MICHIGAN (9-1)

2

3

COLORADO (11-0)

3

4

ALABAMA (10-0)

4

5

FLORIDA STATE (8-2)

5

6

MIAMI (9-1)

6

7

NEBRASKA (10-1)

7

8

TENNESSEE (8-1)

9

9

ARKANSAS (8-1)

10

10

USC (8-2-1)

8

11

AUBURN (8-2)

11

12

HOUSTON (7-2)

12

13

VIRGINIA (10-2)

13

14

ILLINOIS (8-2)

14

15

CLEMSON(9-2)

15

16

TEXAS A & M (7-2)

16

17

BRIGHAM YOUNG (9-2)

17

18

TEXAS TECH (8-2)

18

19

PITTSBURGH (6-2-1)

20

20

OHIO STATE (8-2)

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APOCALYPTIC BACKFIELD

Judging by the way Notre Dame's new four horsemen—quarterback Tony Rice, tailback Ricky Watters, wing-back-flanker Raghib Ismail and fullback Anthony Johnson—galloped in the wind and cold of State College, Pa., last Saturday, it looks as if only a violent allergic reaction to sunshine and orange juice can keep the Irish from beating Miami in the Orange Bowl this weekend to complete a second consecutive unbeaten season. A victory would also set up a winner-take-all national championship game with Colorado, the 11-0 Big Eight champion, in the Orange Bowl on New Year's Day.

Oh, sure, the Hurricanes pride themselves on their No. 1-ranked defense, but they showed some weaknesses in a 24-10 loss to Florida State on Oct. 28. Penn State, which had allowed only 104 yards per game on the ground going into the Notre Dame game, thought it had a pretty strong defense too. But with Rice making all the right option moves behind a huge offensive line, the Trish became the first team ever to gain more than 400 yards rushing against the Nittany Lions (the total was 425).

"Those four kids in the backfield," said Penn State coach Joe Paterno, "that's an awful lot of people in there that can really run." In addition to a career-high 141 yards rushing, Rice set up big days for Ismail, who had 84 yards on nine carries, and Watters, who gained 128 on 16 attempts. Johnson, whom Paterno called "the best fullback in the country," got 45 yards—mostly tough ones up the middle—on 15 rushes.

Rice threw only 10 passes, completing five for 47 yards. The conditions in Miami should be better, but the Irish will go to the air more frequently only if the Hurricanes do a much better job against the run than Penn State did.

TO LIVE AND TIE IN LA.

Southern Cal goes into the Rose Bowl concerned about what happened in its last regular-season game, a 10-10 tie with struggling UCLA that could easily have been a defeat. The game figured to be one of the biggest mismatches in the series' 60-year history. Southern Cal was 8-2 and had already locked up the Rose Bowl berth. UCLA, with a 3-7 record, was headed nowhere.

So what happened? Well, USC shot itself in the foot. Despite getting twice as many first downs as the Bruins (20 to 10) and almost twice as much yardage (387 to 202), Southern Cal suffered six turnovers. Fortunately for the Trojans, they got a lot of breaks. On their touchdown, which came on their first possession, the officials didn't notice that flanker Gary Wellman's knee seemed to hit out of bounds before his foot landed in the end zone. And on Quin Rodriguez' 40-yard field goal, the ball hit the right upright before going through.

USC got its final break on the game's last play, a 54-yard field goal attempt by UCLA's Alfredo Velasco. "I hit it as well as I could," said Velasco. "I was jumping up and down because I thought I made it. It was absolute disbelief when it hit the crossbar."

The outcome left UCLA coach Terry Donahue to ponder a season in which tying USC was the major cause for celebration. "We start on Monday to rebuild the program," he said. "The best thing about this game is that the team fought. It's something to go into '90 with."

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