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College Football
William F. Reed
October 04, 1993
FOOTBRAWL
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October 04, 1993

College Football

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FOOTBRAWL

It was hardly news that Miami was involved in yet another ugly incident, this one marring an otherwise splendid 35-29 win over Colorado in Boulder. What was surprising was how many other teams wagged tongues, threw elbows and, inevitably, swung helmets and fists last Saturday afternoon. The result was perhaps college football's brawlingest weekend ever, one that also featured back-room action from five teams in the ACC (Atlantic Coast Cruiserweights?) as well as from that celebrated pugilist power Virginia Tech. When the final tallies were in, 20 players had been ejected, one of them twice. Further, one administrator and two assistant coaches were facing sanctions and a season's worth of red faces.

With a few exceptions, the most obvious being the Hurricanes, college football players have usually been model citizens in this respect. But this weekend's overloaded fight card—there were fisticuffs during North Carolina-N.C. State, Virginia-Duke and Virginia Tech-Maryland as well as in the main event, in Colorado—might spur the NCAA's football rules committee to consider changes when it meets in January. One possibility is to suspend light participants for at least the next game, as college basketball does. Almost surely the NCAA will pass a rule that ejected players must head for the showers instead of hanging around the sidelines, poised to join in any other fights that might break out or, if a football game happens to break out, to sneak back into the action. Duke tailback T.C. White was tossed out of the game against Virginia yet caught a pass moments later. Duke officials claimed on Monday they had been confused about whether While had actually been tossed, so he never left the field. End the confusion: Escort ejectees out.

There was no single reason for the brawls. Perhaps some teams are following the clear message that Miami has sent over the last decade—intimidation works. The Hurricanes have now been involved in five fights since 1988. But let's be clear that Colorado was more than willing to mix it up. In fact, the most embarrassed man in the stadium was, or should have been, Colorado athletic director Bill Marolt, who left his sky box to run onto the field to protest a call in the second period. He also called the officiating "an embarrassment to college football and the integrity of the game." Big Eight commissioner Carl James is looking into Marolt's statements, which violate conference rules. and Marolt may well be watching future games from a different vantage point. Is there any place higher than a sky box?

Setting a not-so-fine example in Carolina were assistant coaches Donnie Thompson and Ted Cain. After the game, Thompson, a defensive assistant coach for the Tar Heels, tackled Cain, the Wolf-pack's offensive coordinator, and they wrestled on the ground for a few moments. Is it any surprise that boys will be boys when men will be boys also?

RUNNING BACKWARD

Kelly Whiteside reports from Corvallis, Ore. Despite losing 33-0 to Arizona, Oregon State can hold its head up high. The Beavers' immovable offense held the potent Arizona defense scoreless. That's more than Illinois's O could do two weeks ago when the Wildcat defense chalked up a safety and two fumble returns for TDs in a 16-14 victory over the Illini. Yessir, against Oregon State, Arizona actually had to rely on its offense for offense.

The Beavers should also be proud that they are the first team this season to end a game against the Wildcats in the plus column in rushing yards. UTEP couldn't do it (minus 8 yards on the ground), Pacific couldn't do it (minus 32), and Illinois couldn't do it (minus 27). Oregon State, on the other hand, piled up a gaudy 50 rushing yards. Plus 50.

Adding that up (or subtracting that up), Arizona's defense, known as the Cactus Curtain or Desert Swarm, has allowed minus 17 yards on the ground this season, an average of minus 4.2 yards per game. The NCAA record for fewest rushing yards allowed per game during a season was set in 1967 by Tennessee State, then a Division II school, with minus 16.7. Penn State holds the Division I-A mark, having yielded plus 17.0 in 1947.

"Our stats are misleading," says Arizona's modest coach, Dick Tomey. It's true that the Wildcats are not just stifling sweeps and stuffing traps to accrue their remarkable numbers. The NCAA counts sacks as rushing attempts, and darn if Arizona's opponents aren't attempting a lot of those. The Wildcats sacked UTEP five times, Pacific seven times, Illinois eight times and Oregon State once.

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