In its spring game, the Miami of Ohio varsity lost 18-14 to a ragtag team of alumni. Coach Tim Rose was livid, comparing his squad's performance to a "major league baseball team losing 30-0 to a minor league team." Rose will become the first Miami coach since 1942 to suffer two losing seasons in a row. Kent State snapped its 21-game losing streak by beating Eastern Michigan in the ninth game of last year. The toe of Tony DeLeone, who handles the punting as well as the placekicking, could give the Golden Flashes two victories in '84.
"We've had better teams at Tulsa than 90% of the nation realizes," says coach John Cooper. "I think the last two or three years we've had a Top 20 team." Well, maybe. The only losses in '83 were to Arkansas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, but then again Tulsa didn't play the conference's two best Division I-AA teams, Southern Illinois, which won the national title, and Indiana State. Steve Gage was a pleasant surprise, passing for 876 yards and running for 642 last fall as a freshman. So was classmate Tim Gordon, who was the No. 2 punt returner in the nation. A 1,000-yard rusher, Michael Gunter, is gone, but the Golden Hurricane has a defense averaging 264 pounds across the front. "Every one of them bench-presses more than 400 pounds," says Cooper, "and they can all move."
In 1983 freshman Paul Politi of Illinois State hit 17 of 19 field-goal attempts and booted 60% of his kickoffs into the end zone. The Redbirds also have an experienced backfield—tailbacks Kevin Jones and Virgil Winters combined for 1,672 yards a year ago—and a two-time I-AA All-America in free safety Mike Prior.
Wichita State, still on NCAA probation for recruiting violations, has a new coach, Ron Chismar, formerly an assistant at Arizona State. The Shockers will depend heavily on Eric Denson, who ran for 1,017 yards last year, but Chismar says his lack of offensive linemen is "spooky." During spring drills he dressed only two guards and three tackles.
After leading I-AA in total offense in '82, Drake finished next to last in the conference in '83. Similarly, West Texas State led I-AA in passing in 1981 and '82. but then crashed to earth in '83. The Buffalos suffered 28 interceptions and 44 sacks, and quarterback Tom Cortez completed only 34% of his passes. West Texas State has a pair of identical twins, David and Don Wood. David is the conference's best punter (40.2-yard average in '83), and Don stole six passes as a safety.
Ted Tollner's first season as coach at USC was a nightmare. His players were young, they dropped like flies, and the Trojans had their worst record since 1960. Junior Fred Crutcher is slated to play tailback, a weak point since Marcus Allen's departure, but Ryan Knight, a freshman, will start by the third game. Senior quarterback Sean Salisbury hasn't been the star many thought he'd be, but he's not bad. Nor is the defense, led by linebackers Jack Del Rio and Duane Bickett.
Washington State ended its season with five straight wins. No one in the conference had more yards than running back Kerry Porter's 1,000. The Cougars are a dark-horse contender. Arizona's most potent individual is Max Zendejas. He hit 20 of 25 field-goal attempts in '83, never missing inside the 40. The defense, though depleted, still has linebacker Lamonte Hunley and noseguard Joe Drake, who weighed in at 324 during spring practice but, says the press guide, is "expected to play in the 280-290 range." Let's call it the Tucson Diet.
The key player at Cal is long-ball artist Gale Gilbert, and his favorite target is Rance McDougald, who caught 46 passes in '83. The defense is built around linebacker John Haina, who comes from Honolulu, wears No. 50 and answers to Hawaii Five-O. Be there.
Gifted sophomore John Paye is Stanford's thrower; Emile Harry (18.8 yards per catch last fall) is the top receiver; and Jack Elway, late of San Jose State, is the coach. Says alumnus John Elway, "My father always turns a program upward." Maybe, but don't look for Stanford to do better than break even.