- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
The players don't even trust the things Holtz does. About the time he was scrapping his option attack, Holtz dropped senior wideout Clint Johnson from the kick-return team. This was after Johnson had ripped off a 53-yard return against Purdue the previous Saturday. That run reminded folks of the promise Johnson showed back in his freshman Blue and Gold game, in which he tore one off for 96 yards and—keep in mind that this was when the Irish were still giving out astrophysical nicknames like Rocket—they started calling him Cosmic.
Then, a few days before the Stanford game, Holtz started to emphasize a second kick-return play, a run to the outside to complement the usual charge up the middle. This seemed to suit Johnson, whose natural move to the sideline had cost him the job in the first place. With the sideline return in, and his penance paid, Johnson was approached by Holtz on Saturday. Holtz had decided to give Cosmic another chance. "You take things he says with a grain of salt," said Johnson.
Against Stanford, Johnson returned kicks (up the sidelines) for 79 yards to set up one touchdown and 100 to score another. Finally, the enlightened Cardinal began squibbing kicks.
All this action—a successful option, a potent return game—somehow conspired to plunge Holtz into a deep depression. Looking ahead to Pitt, USC and Florida State, he could barely enjoy the miserable moment. "We're not a good enough football team to play the people we have to play," he said.
It's maddening. Holtz is not capable of making an honest analysis, not one. Except that in the middle of last week, for some reason, he announced to his players that Johnson was going to have a great game. The prediction came out of the blue—before the option had been reinstalled, before Johnson had been reinstalled, before the Irish had any hope of finding points at Stanford. Lo and behold, Holtz had told the truth.
It's what makes him interesting.
The greatest comeback in Pac-10 history, Cal's 42-41 win over Oregon in Berkeley, was orchestrated by a Bear who had spent the last seven years as a Duck. Crazy? Yeah, well, so was what transpired in the wildest Cal game since the school band helped the Bears beat Stanford in 1982.
Going into the game, Oregon was worried that Bear offensive coordinator and former Duck defensive coordinator Denny Schiller's familiarity with Oregon's plays would give Cal an edge. Indeed, Schuler still talks with his successor at Oregon, Nick Aliotti, weekly. "There's some knowledge we'd rather he didn't have," said Duck coach Rich Brooks of Schuler before the game. "We'll have to throw a few curves at the old guy."
Curves? In the beginning everything broke perfectly for the Ducks, who jumped out to a 30-0 second-quarter lead. "We were down, beaten, hurting and not feeling good," said Cal quarterback Dave Barr.