A week after being held to only 28 yards rushing in a 31-0 loss to Washington, Southern Cal tailback Ricky Ervins exploded against Ohio State, trampling the Buckeyes for 199 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-26 victory that was called with 2:36 remaining because of thunderstorms and lightning. Going into the game at Ohio State, the 5'8", 190-pound Ervins had gained only 181 yards on 60 carries, hardly the sort of numbers to evoke comparisons with such outstanding Trojan tailbacks of the past as Mike Garrett, O.J. Simpson, Charles White and Marcus Allen, all of whom won the Heisman Trophy. Ervins, in fact, often calls a former Heisman winner for advice—but not one from USC. Ervins phones the Detroit Lions' Barry Sanders, who played for Oklahoma State when he won the award in 1988. The two were introduced by a Southern Cal cheerleader before last season and quickly found that they have more in common than diminutiveness (Sanders is also 5'8").
"He is religious like me, and we talk some about the Lord," says Ervins. "But we talk mostly about running the football. Barry gives me tremendous encouragement. He also gives me some pointers. Barry bounces off tacklers and cuts back quickly, and those are things I'd like to think I do well."
Ervins, the 1989 Pac-10 rushing leader, had 164 yards by halftime against Ohio State, and he didn't even play in the last quarter because of a sprained ankle. "I just started hitting the holes," said Ervins afterward. "And there were a lot of them. Before I was taking too much time picking my holes and always trying to break the big one."
"Our game plan was to mix it up," said Trojan coach Larry Smith, "but the more successful the run was, the more we went with it." Buckeye quarterback Greg Frey outpassed Southern Cal's Todd Marinovich, throwing for 262 yards and two touchdowns to Marinovich's 119 yards and no TDs, but Ohio State picked up only 79 yards on the ground to USC's 331.
PIECE OF CAKE
By beating Miami this Saturday in the Orange Bowl, Florida State can make Bobby Bowden only the 11th Division I-A coach with 200 wins. Unfortunately for the Seminoles, they seem to be backing toward this landmark triumph. Victory No. 199 was a shaky 39-28 win over 25-point underdog Virginia Tech in Tallahassee, Fla. Although Florida State needed a couple of big defensive plays to pull out the game—corner-back Terrell Buckley's 53-yard touchdown on an interception and corner-back Errol McCorvey's 77-yard scoring jaunt with a recovered fumble—Bowden still put on a happy face afterward. "I can't see anything but good coming from this game," he said.
O.K., Bobby, but what do you see coming from the trip to Miami? The Hurricanes have been eagerly awaiting this meeting with Florida State, the only team to beat them on their way to last season's national championship. Having lost their opener to Brigham Young, the Miami players know they can't afford another defeat if they hope to successfully defend their title. They also need a win against a top-notch opponent to attract the attention of the bowl scouts.
In their tune-up for the Seminoles, the Hurricanes routed Iowa 48-21. Miami coach Dennis Erickson's uneasiness about his defense was more than offset by his pleasure with the offense, which racked up 542 yards. "A good sign," said Erickson, "with Florida State coming to town."
Another good sign was that the Hurricanes, heeding Erickson's warnings about excessive hotdogging, were downright gentlemanly against the Hawkeyes. Why, heck, they'll probably have a cake ready for Bowden, just in case he gets No. 200 on Saturday.