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Marcus Allen, the USC tailback, was relaxing at home the other night, 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 year."
Then what happened?
"Then we 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 last Saturday 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 dreams.
Although 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 before being decked by Husky Linebacker Ken Driscoll. That run brought him to 2,000 yards exactly. Three plays later Allen cracked over center for four more to move past 2,000—and earn a prolonged ovation from Washington fans.
Predictably, 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 hopes.
A blitzing Husky defense, led by Linebacker Tony Caldwell's 12 tackles, had a lot to do with USC's losing. So did two field goals by Chuck Nelson—a first-half 21-yarder and a brilliant boot into a twisting wind from 46 yards with 2:19 left to play. Then, without a tick going off the clock, the Huskies scored a TD when the ensuing kickoff bounced, went off the hands of USC's Fred Crutcher and was recovered in the end zone by Washington freshman Fred Small.
Despite the 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 USC game left, against UCLA this Saturday, 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, incredibly, may be the best athlete ever to line up at tailback for USC. Sorry, Charles, A.D., Clarence, Ricky, Mike. Oh, and yes, sorry, O.J.
Nonetheless, Allen won't get to match the career yardage figures of Charles White, 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.