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When Illinois was upset by Arizona 28-16 in its season opener two weeks ago, it appeared that the Illini would take a while to adjust to the loss of quarterback Jeff George, who turned pro last spring after his junior year and became the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. George's replacement, sophomore Jason Verduzco, heard the nay-saying, and he got mad-mad enough to lead the Illini to a come-from-behind 23-22 upset of ninth-ranked Colorado in Urbana- Champaign, Ill.
The 5'9", 185-pound Verduzco completed 23 of 29 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns against the Buffaloes, who were expected to challenge again for the national title but now find themselves with a 1-1-1 record. "I got tired of hearing people say I don't have the ability to contribute to this team," said Verduzco, who outplayed Colorado quarterback Darian Hagan, considered a Heisman Trophy candidate when this season started. "I've always had the confidence I can do the job. Now I'm finally getting the opportunity to do it."
The Illini trailed 17-3 in the second quarter, tied it up in the third, then dropped behind 22-17 in the final quarter on a safety and a field goal. But with time running out, Verduzco completed five consecutive passes in a march capped by fullback Howard Griffith's one-yard scoring plunge with 1:18 to play. In that drive, said Illinois coach John Mackovic, Verduzco was "as good as you can get. He made the plays. He did what he needed to do. He was a gutty, gutty guy."
NOT HALF BAD
During the warmups before Saturday's game against Washington State in Provo, quarterback sensation Ty Detmer noticed that his Brigham Young teammates were "too loosey-goosey," a sign that they were still basking in the glow of the previous week's shocking win over Miami. So what? The visitors were 12-point underdogs, so BYU could come out flat and still win the game, right? Well, not exactly. The next thing anybody knew, Washington State had intercepted Detmer twice and was in the locker room with a 29-7 halftime lead.
BYU coach La Veil Edwards, a former Mormon bishop, delivered unto his men a stern lecture. "How you play the second half will set the tone for the rest of the season," said Edwards. If that turns out to be true, the NCAA should get ready to rewrite its record books. With Detmer leading the way, BYU blitzed Washington State for 36 points in the final quarter to win 50-36. The victory improved Brigham Young's record to 3-0 and enhanced Detmer's growing status as a folk hero.
He finished with five touchdown passes and 448 passing yards, increasing to 15 his NCAA record for consecutive games with at least 300 yards in the air. The winning rally may have been the most thrilling in the school's history, even surpassing the one against SMU in the 1980 Holiday Bowl, in which quarterback Jim McMahon led BYU to a 46-45 win after it had trailed 45-25. "We got fired up and got hot," said Detmer. "There are not many teams that can score 43 points in a half."
Right you are, Ty, but there also are not many teams—good ones, at least—who can fall 22 points behind Washington State.