- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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"If they beat us, they're going to have to pass to do it," Baylor Coach Grant Teaff said before taking on Southwest Conference co-leader Southern Methodist. The Mustangs win on passes? C'mon, Grant, everybody knows there's no way to harness SMU's Pony Express tandem—Eric Dickerson and Craig James, who were, respectively, second and 12th nationally in rushing average. It turned out, though, that Teaff knew whereof he spoke: At halftime the Mustangs had gained only 13 yards in 20 runs, and they trailed 13-0 because the Bears had gotten two field goals from Ben Perry and a one-yard scoring run from Allen Rice. What corralled the Pony Express was Teaff's calculated switch from his usual 4-3 defensive alignment to a 6-1 in which the ends were moved to tackle positions and the outside linebackers up to the line as ends for the Bears.
Baylor's 6-1 did its job—Dickerson wound up with 73 yards, James with 22—but, as predicted, the Bears were vulnerable to passes. SMU Quarterback Lance McIlhenny exploited that weakness in the second half. Although completing only seven of 16 passes, McIlhenny made three pay off for touchdowns to give the Mustangs a 22-19 victory.
"We didn't hold up our end of the bargain," Oklahoma Coach Barry Switzer said of his team's disappointing 2-2 record, which was why the Texas game was not on national TV for the first time in five years. Fullback Weldon Ledbetter gained 144 yards in 20 rushes and scored on runs of 15 and 59 yards as Oklahoma ran for 384 yards while scoring once in each period to topple unbeaten Texas 28-22. The Longhorns lost even though Robert Brewer passed for 235 yards.
Leonard Harris of Texas Tech ran back the opening kickoff 83 yards to the Arkansas 11. Thereafter, the Razorback defense hog-tied the Red Raiders, who made nothing or lost yardage on 39 of 76 plays, gained only 36 yards in 37 rushes and lost 21-3. Texas Christian defeated Rice 24-16, and Houston beat Texas A&M 24-20.
Penn State's 42-21 loss at Alabama was a real kick in the pants. There was Ralph Giacomarro of the Nittany Lions, all set to punt with 4:48 left in the game. There was Mike Suter, who was back to protect the punter. Simple enough. Except that Suter, who usually doesn't play on the punting team, blocked the wrong person, backing right into the pad) of Giacomarro, whose kick ricocheted off his teammate and back toward the Penn State goal. Two plays after the Tide got the ball at the 12, Halfback Linnie Patrick went around right end for six yards and a touchdown. That, plus a two-point pass by Quarterback Walter Lewis to Jesse Bendross, gave Alabama a 35-21 lead. On the first play after the ensuing kick-off, Linebacker Eddie Lowe of the Crimson Tide intercepted a Todd Blackledge pass and raced 31 yards for another TD.
That sudden turnaround blew open what had been, for the most part, a taut game. 'Bama had scored first on a four-yard run by Lewis, only to have Halfback Curt Warner knot the score by turning a Blackledge pass into a 69-yard scoring play. The Tide led 21-7 at the half and 24-21 early in the fourth quarter. And Blackledge again had the Nittany Lions on the move. He had a third-and-one at the Alabama 45 when End Russ Wood of the Tide made a spectacular tackle. Warner, sweeping left behind blockers, seemed to be on his way to picking up a vital first down, but Wood knifed between two blockers, under a third and tripped him up for a three-yard loss. That's when Giacomarro came in to make his ill-fated punt. Blackledge passed for 234 yards as he made good on 20 of 36 attempts. But he also had four of his throws picked off. Lewis repeatedly dipped, dodged and dashed out of the hands of would-be tacklers, rushing for 86 yards and connecting on nine of 14 passes for another 96.
Alabama rooters are accustomed to winning, but that hasn't been true of Vanderbilt fans. Which is why most of the crowd of 39,726 in Nashville wouldn't leave Vanderbilt Stadium until the Commodores returned for one last cheer after shocking Florida 31-29. For Vandy, it was the first Southeastern Conference victory at home since 1975. Most of the Gators' 540 yards in total offense (to 400 for Vandy) came from Fullback James Jones, who rushed for 146 yards, and Quarterback Wayne Peace, who hit on 28 of 36 passes for 285 yards. Whit Taylor of the Commodores connected on 30 of 47 throws for 287 yards and two touchdowns.
Georgia matched Alabama's 2-0 record in SEC play. The Bulldogs ran for 304 yards, 149 by Herschel Walker on 24 carries, as they defeated Mississippi 33-10. Walker scored three times and broke the conference record for career rushing by increasing his total to 4,158 yards, 123 more than Charles Alexander had when he finished up at LSU in 1978. Georgia's Kevin Butler tied an SEC mark with a 59-yard field goal.