The 5'11" Vargas, who leads the nation in total offense, with an average of 413.1 yards per game, has the build of a pro—"a pro golfer," says Nevada coach Jeff Horton. "He's just a little scrawny guy. We list him at 170 pounds, but he's probably 160 at best."
As a high school senior in Woodland, Calif., Vargas was recruited by only a handful of small colleges. Nevada didn't offer him a scholarship until a few months before his freshman year began, and then only because the Wolf Pack found itself short a reserve quarterback. Vargas has gone on to break just about every Nevada passing record—an especially impressive feat considering that he didn't become a full-time starter until this season.
Vargas's counterpart last Saturday, San Jose's Jeff Garcia, has been nearly as impressive. Garcia has completed 150 of 272 passes for 2,108 yards this season for the 2-7 Spartans. Against Nevada he threw four touchdown passes, giving him 18 for the season.
Like Vargas, Garcia didn't get many scholarship offers; he fractured an elbow during his senior year at Gilroy (Calif.) High. He picked San Jose State in part because he wanted to remain near home. The Garcias are a close family that has been brought even closer by tragedy. Jeff's younger brother, Jason, drowned at age six. Jeff's younger sister Kimberley was killed in an auto accident when she was five. Jeff's parents also lost twin daughters, who died shortly after birth. "I think about all of them often," says Jeff. "I just want to make the most of myself to make up for them not being here."
At 6'1" and 188 pounds, Garcia, like Vargas, isn't as big as most pro quarterbacks. Yet this is what Stanford and former 49er coach Bill Walsh said after watching Garcia dissect Stanford's defense in a 31-28 San Jose loss in September: "If he's handled right, he could have quite a successful pro career. He's got some Montana in him."
So does Vargas, at least when it comes to comebacks.
A SWEET RIDE
The most heartwarming scene of the week was Duke coach Barry Wilson's being carried off the field on his players' shoulders after the Blue Devils' 21-20 upset of 22nd-ranked North Carolina State in Durham. The previous Saturday, Duke had been pounded 47-14 by Georgia Tech to fall to 2-7, and two days later Wilson announced that he would resign at season's end to spare the university the chore of firing him. "I said when I came here four years ago that no one would ever have to fire me," said Wilson, who has put together a 13-29-1 record in Durham. "If I came in with some dignity and pride, I wanted to step down with some dignity and pride."
That's exactly what he did. In taking his leave, Wilson didn't use Duke's high academic standards as an excuse for his failure on the field. He didn't blame his players, and he didn't mention bad luck. (The Blue Devils have lost 10 games by 10 points or less under Wilson, and this season missed field goals cost them victories over Rutgers and Clemson.) "I leave this position with no gripes or complaints or animosity toward anyone," said Wilson.
Following Saturday's win Wilson sought out Duke athletic director Tom Butters and hugged him. Wilson told Butters, "I've got a muddy game ball in my locker that will stay in my possession a long time and in my heart forever." When asked what else he had discussed with Butters, Wilson said, smiling, "I did tell Mr. Butters that if we beat Carolina [on Nov. 26], I'm going to ask for a raise."