It's like getting run over by a car," said BYU wide receiver Glen Kozlowski after the Cougars were stunned 27-24 by UCLA. "You don't know what it feels like until it happens." Well, there were tire tracks all over the preseason rankings last Saturday as five consensus Top 20 teams—BYU, Illinois (page 36), Washington, Nebraska and Maryland—all favorites, all playing at home, were flattened on opening day.
The second-largest crowd in Utah history, 65,455, had come to BYU Stadium to watch the national champions continue the nation's longest winning streak, 25 games, against UCLA. It was a celebration replete with pregame parades and, even, a LaVell Edwards look-alike contest. They found a couple of close duplicates of the veteran Cougar coach, but problem was, the Cougars didn't look much like themselves, committing five turnovers to negate a 406-284 advantage in total yards. In the first quarter UCLA blocked a punt, which led to a field goal—the first of four by John Lee—and scored a touchdown on an interception for a 10-3 advantage despite having been outgained 129 yards to 11.
Still, 13th-ranked BYU and quarterback Robbie Bosco (29 for 41, 340 yards, two TDs, two interceptions) surmounted their mistakes in the second half and took a 24-19 lead with 2:54 left. "I thought we had the game at that time," Edwards said. But Bruin quarterback Matt Stevens quickly moved the Bruins 84 yards in six plays, including a 62-yard pass to Mike Sherrard. Running back Gaston Green scored from the two-yard line with 1:02 left, and a two-point conversion gave the No. 14 Bruins a field-goal-sized cushion.
Ample time appeared to remain for a BYU drive ignited by its traditionally potent air game. Instead, the Cougars opted for the 10-second drill, and Bosco's bomb was intercepted by Marcus Turner. The final gun was met with silence in BYU Stadium. "We did make a mistake there," said Edwards. "We had plenty of time to work it down and at least try a field goal."
BYU's opponent this week is Washington, the team that took the biggest fall of them all. Ranked No. 1 by SI, the Huskies were bedazzled by one of the littlest Oklahoma State Cowboys, 5'11", 186-pound sophomore running back Thurman Thomas (40 rushes, 237 yards, one TD rushing, one TD passing). Oklahoma State head coach Pat Jones was absolutely bubbling following the 31-17 upset in Seattle. "If you don't put Thurman Thomas on your Heisman Trophy list, you're missing the boat," he said.
It didn't help the Huskies that they lost one of their biggest men, 242-pound fullback Rick Fenney, who suffered a badly sprained ankle in the first quarter. "So much for spending eight months planning your offense around your fullback," said Huskies coach Don James. No. 19 Oklahoma State also sustained some damage, losing starting quarterback Ronnie Williams when he broke his jaw in the third quarter. But his replacement, Rusty Rankin, completed the job just as Williams had begun it: He gave the ball to Thomas.
With 11:22 remaining and the game tied at 17, Thomas took off wide and suddenly lofted a six-yard pass to Bobby Riley for a 24-17 OSU lead. "Now, it's kind of scary," said Thomas. "Everybody knows who I am, and they're going to be keying on me."
Meanwhile, in Lincoln, Neb. and College Park, Md. the heat was on, so to speak, particularly for the home teams. Nebraska lost to Florida State 17-13 as field-level temperatures reached 132� and the demand for cold drinks exhausted the 80,000-pound supply of ice at Memorial Stadium by the fourth quarter. The 105� in Maryland was humane by comparison, but nine fans required hospitalization, and the university opened two fire hydrants outside the stadium to cool the steaming masses. But the Terps couldn't hose down the peppery Nittany Lions and lost 20-18.
Florida State led the No. 6 Huskers 17-13 at halftime as quarterback Danny McManus kept the big Nebraska defense off balance with his passing. Despite having to leave the game in the third quarter after being knocked out and suffering from heat exhaustion, McManus finished the day with 15 completions in 27 attempts for 172 yards and a TD. The Seminoles relied on their defense and the debilitating heat to hold the Cornhuskers scoreless in the second half.
"If Nebraska had played a game and we hadn't, I think they definitely would have won," said Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden afterwards. (The Seminoles had beaten Tulane 38-12 in their opener on Aug. 31.) "They couldn't put the pieces together." In fact, Nebraska rushers piled up 372 yards but could score only two TDs.