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So the former quarterback became a split end—and a pupil of his former favorite receiver. "I told Larry, 'I'm going to make myself like carbon paper and do everything you do,' " Rodrigue says. "As a quarterback, I knew the plays. I stood behind him in practice day after day and imitated him. We also spent a lot of time talking."
"I caught Frisbees on the beach with him for four or five hours a day," Brodsky says. "Chasing them into the surf. I was like Mike's Labrador."
The two receivers are now a matched pair. Both are quick, but neither is particularly fast, so they have taken to calling themselves the Average White Boys, a takeoff on the name of the rock group called the Average White Band. Brodsky, who's half Jewish and who likes to relax in country and western bars, also answers to the Jerusalem Cowboy. They play it loose, these two. "I think they're as good as any two professional receivers in the country," says Schnellenberger.
Lou Saban recruited well, leaving Schnellenberger with more than a strong arm and sure hands to put the Hurricane offense in motion. Among Saban's legacies is senior Dan Miller, a field goal kicker known to his teammates—and to his chagrin—as Big Foot. "Really, I've got a pretty small foot," says Miller. "Eight and a half regular...6½ in a football spike. The kicking shoe should fit tight." Miller is Miami's alltime leading scorer, with 217 points, and has twice saved the Hurricanes this year—once with 40 seconds left against Florida, when he kicked a 55-yard field goal for a 21-20 win, and again against Houston, when he had field goals of 44, 50, 34 and 32 yards in a 12-7 victory.
He began learning his craft by kicking footballs between two banana trees growing on a neighbor's property in Clewiston, Fla. "The leaves came straight across and formed sort of a crossbar," he says. "But, after a while, they cut the trees down because the balls were landing up next to their house. I've since spent hundreds and hundreds of hours on football fields practicing by myself. Some people take up tennis and golf. I took up kicking."
So did Greg LaBelle. LaBelle is a punter who cites his Tae Kwan Do karate as the key to his accomplishments. "It helped out my balance, my flexibility and my concentration," he says. "It helped me follow through. When I was a freshman, my follow-through was waist-high. Now it's over my head. Better hang time, better distance." After he took up karate in 1979 his punting average climbed from 35.8 yards to 40.6 in 1980.
Penn State Coach Joe Paterno came to Miami knowing he was up against more than Country Kelly, the Jerusalem Cowboy, Big Foot and a karate kicker. The Hurricanes had yielded an average of only 12.8 points a game in a schedule that included games with Florida (25.3-point average), Houston (19.3) and Mississippi State (21.7). Paterno also knew that the Hurricanes had lost to Texas 14-7 and to Mississippi State 14-10 because in both games a touchdown had been called back.
He was aware, too, that Miami has an All-America candidate in Free Safety Fred Marion. ("If there's a better safety in America, he's in the NFL," Schnellenberger says.) And another candidate in 6'3", 277-pound Defensive Tackle Lester Williams, who runs the 40 in 4.8. If Miami was soft anywhere; it was in pass protection. The Hurricanes had already lost their two best offensive linemen, John Canei and David Stewart, to knee injuries. Schnellenberger fitted 6'3", 251-pound Bill Welch, a junior-college transfer, into Stewart's shoes for the Penn State game, and that was a spot Paterno intended to probe. "We've got to get to Kelly," he said. "We've got to be able to do it without blitzing. He reads blitzes like a pro. He's a big league quarterback. We've got to beat people one-on-one. We've got to get to Kelly."
Clearly Paterno wasn't taking Miami lightly, despite the fact his defense had yielded but nine points a game while his offense was scoring 36.8 and averaging 440.7 yards a game in total offense. In Curt Warner, the 6-0 Nittany Lions had the third-leading rusher in the nation (167.6 yards per game), and in Sean Farrell and Mike Munchak, Paterno said he had maybe the two best offensive linemen ever to play at Penn State. He also thought that Brian Franco, the placekicker who had made 11 of 12 field-goal attempts, was probably better than the Nittany Lions' fabled Bahr brothers. All in all, even the close-lipped Paterno let it be known that this was perhaps the best team he had ever coached. "This is the fastest team we've ever had," he said over coffee the morning of the game. "They need a couple of real tough ball games to know how good they are."
What the Nittany Lions now know is that Miami is for real, and that they are no longer No. 1. Kelly ended up throwing for 220 yards and one touchdown. Penn State just couldn't get to him, largely because Welch, who was tested as Paterno had promised, passed with high marks from his own coach. "I thought his play was the most important thing out there," Schnellenberger said. That and the Hurricanes' defensive line, which cut the Lions off at the corners and corked up the middle. Warner, who was still suffering from a pulled left hamstring that had kept him out of the West Virginia game a week earlier, played only two quarters and was held to only 21 yards in 13 carries, and Penn State, which had been averaging 308.5 yards a game rushing, gained but 69 last Saturday afternoon.