- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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Moments after opening with a 29-6 victory over Boston College, several Pittsburgh players attended a press conference wearing BEAT OKLAHOMA T-shirts. Said quarterback Alex Van Pelt, who completed 18 of 26 passes for 181 yards, "I don't care who we play, we're going to beat them."
Van Pelt and his teammates might not have been quite so cocky had they seen Oklahoma's 34-14 crushing of UCLA in 120� heat in the Rose Bowl. The Sooners, who play Pitt this Saturday in Norman, looked very much like the team that everyone in college football had feared for so many years. Against UCLA they had to make do without tailback Ike Lewis and with a banged-up offensive line. No matter. Tony Levy recovered two Bruin fumbles on punts, both of which set up easy touchdowns. Quarterback Steve Collins adroitly directed an option attack that netted 299 yards on the ground, and the defense intercepted four UCLA passes and held Bruin runners to 28 yards on 27 carries. "Right now," said coach Gary Gibbs, "our defense is ahead of our offense, but we are better than last year in both areas."
At Pitt, meanwhile, coach Paul Hackett didn't sound as optimistic as his players. "As far as the offense goes," Hackett said, "we have a long way to go. We are way behind schedule." That's no place to be when you're heading for Norman.
Bill Curry left Alabama under such bitter circumstances (SI, Jan. 22, 1990) that his supporters had to chuckle when they saw the score of new coach Gene Stallings's debut: Southern Mississippi 27, Alabama 24. Their glee did not last, though. On Saturday evening, Curry's current team, Kentucky, was embarrassed by Rutgers, 24-8, at the Meadowlands. The Wildcats' stats against the Scarlet Knights, who were 2-7-2 in '89, included eight turnovers and minus-seven yards rushing. "This," said Curry, "was a total team effort."
Alabama fans may prefer Stallings, a former assistant under the revered Bear Bryant, to Curry, but that doesn't mean Stallings will have an easier time wresting control of the state, and the SEC, from Auburn, which crushed Fuller-ton State 38-17. Southern Miss got little more than a cameo appearance from its standout quarterback, Bret Favre. Still recovering from injuries suffered in a July 14 automobile accident, Favre wasn't cleared to play until last Friday. He completed only nine of 17 passes for 125 yards, but his mere presence helped the Golden Eagles almost as much as Alabama's mistakes did. The winning points came on a 52-yard field goal by Jim Taylor with 3:35 to play.
Alabama's next opponent could erase all doubts that Stallings's honeymoon is over. Florida, an impressive 50-7 winner over Oklahoma State in its first game under coach Steve Spurrier, will be visiting Saturday. A loss to the Gators would give Alabama a four-game losing streak (over two seasons) for the first time since 1956.
Here's what we have to say about West Virginia's 14-10 loss to Maryland: Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, serves you right, all of you Mountaineer fans who made such a big deal over the fact that, for the first time, a woman is the university's Mountaineer mascot. Natalie Tennant, a 22-year-old broadcast journalism major, won the job by beating a male rival in a "cheer-off" at a basketball game last winter. When Tennant was announced as the winner, there were boos from the student section and chants of "Go back to the kitchen!" Later someone hung a bra on the Mountaineer statue near the student union, and buttons and bumper stickers appeared around Morgantown that said—we are not making this Up—WE DON'T WANT A MOUNTAINDEAR, GIVE US BACK OUR MOUNTAINEER.