MARCUS ALLEN, THE
USC TAILBACK, IS RELAXING AT home, an island of calm in the tumultuous sea of
adulation and attention in which he has found himself since Sept. 12, when he
began rattling off 200-yard games and unnerving the opposition in the race for
the Heisman Trophy. Allen is laughing and telling stories, as winners always
do, and he remembers a hot day last summer when he told USC offensive
coordinator John Jackson, "Hey, I want to get 2,000 yards this
settled down and made some realistic goals." That was a good idea because
no collegian had ever rushed for 2,000 yards in a season. Pitt's Tony Dorsett
had come as close as anyone figured was possible when in 1976 he got 1,948
yards on 338 carries, the NCAA 11-game season record.
Ahhhh, but the
unrealistic goal of 2,000 yards turned out to be gloriously realistic on Nov.
14, 1981, in Seattle when Allen sprinted, spun and slashed for 155 against
Washington to bring his season total to 2,123. "All Marcus is doing,"
says USC coach John Robinson, "are things that have never been done before
in college football." And Allen, who now holds eight NCAA records and is
tied for another, does the impossible because he has always understood that two
shortcomings of ordinary humans are that they fail to dream big enough and they
think of dreams only as something you wake up from. Marcus lives his big
Washington whipped USC 13-3 on a 100% miserable day--rain poured, wind blasted,
power failed, bridges closed, ark-building began-- Allen delivered another
dreamlike performance, especially given the conditions.
Needing only 32
yards to reach the magic 2,000, he did it early in the first quarter, on his
fourth carry, when he cruised around end on the oh-so-familiar Student Body
Right. He eluded several tacklers and slogged on for 13 yards. That run brought
Allen to 2,000 yards exactly. Three plays later he cracked over center for four
more to move past 2,000--and earn a prolonged ovation from Washington fans.
however, Allen was depressed. "What I did doesn't mean all that much right
now," he said softly afterward. "All I'm thinking about is that we
didn't win the game." The loss all but killed the Trojans' Rose Bowl
defeat, Robinson remains upbeat about Allen's performance this season. "The
hell with 2,000 yards," he says. "Let's go for 3,000." Why not?
There's one game left, against UCLA on Nov. 21, and Allen needs but 877 yards.
His offensive line, big and mobile in the USC tradition, might just be up to
it. And so might Allen himself, who may be the best athlete ever to line up at
tailback for USC. Sorry, Charles, A.D., Clarence, Ricky, Mike. Oh, and yes,
Allen won't get to match the career yardage figures of Charles White (5,598),
much less Dorsett's record total of 6,082. Dorsett got that total in four years
of running, while Allen spent part of his career as a blocking back, knocking
defenders out of White's way.
The person most
thrilled with this unbelievable year is Allen himself. When he goes out in
public, he's an instant mob scene. And when he stays in, there he is, great big
smile on his face, sprawled over a couch in the living room of the small house
he lives in behind his aunt's Inglewood home. Hanging above him is a map of the
world (which will be his to purchase after the numbers are filled in next year
on his NFL contract), an NBC Sports banner, three days' worth of clothes and a
basketball hoop. A basketball hoop?