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ALABAMA'S NO. 1
After it wrapped up a 10-0 regular season by routing West Georgia 41-14, North Alabama, the top-ranked team in Division II, didn't generate much excitement in a state where just about everyone is daffy over either Alabama or Auburn, which meet on Saturday in Auburn. However, that's not a big deal to Lion coach Bobby Wallace, who's still known around the state as the guy who, as a coach at Auburn, recruited Bo Jackson. "We're just a regional university," says Wallace of North Alabama. "We don't expect to be more important than Auburn or Alabama." Yet North Alabama is favored to win a national championship. Can Auburn or Alabama say that?
To beat the Lions, somebody will have to stop a triple-option offense that has averaged 40.6 points, 371.5 yards on the ground and 470.2 total yards. "The 6'4" quarterbacks aren't coming here," Wallace says. "With the triple option I can recruit great athletes, and the offense will work, no matter how the quarterback throws." When Wallace says "great athletes," he means those that Auburn and Alabama leave behind. His current team has 21 players who come from within 60 miles of the campus in Florence.
The triple option's first option is Rush—tailback Tyrone Rush. After running for 1,364 yards last season, he has piled up 1,155 on only 167 carries this fall. A senior, Rush grew up in the Bronx but moved to Philadelphia, Miss., at the age of eight to live with his paternal grandparents in a tin-roofed shack that had no phone, no electricity, no running water and no windows. "We'd stuff the open areas with old clothes," Rush says. "In the winter, that kept out the cold; in the summer, it kept out the snakes."
Snakes? "Of course," Rush says. "My uncle had a .410 rifle, and we'd just shoot the chicken snakes hanging from the rafters when it got bad."
On defense the Lions get first aid from Redcross—defensive end Jeff Redcross. In the last three seasons Redcross, a senior, has made 161 tackles. Is he tough? Tough as a Marine. Redcross enlisted in the reserves the day after he graduated from Sparkman High in Toney, Ala. He spent 12 weeks in boot camp before reporting to North Alabama, where Wallace's two-a-days were a snap.
The Lions' goal now is to be home for the holidays. Since 1986 the Division II title game has been played at 13,000-seat Braly Stadium on their campus. North Alabama defensive tackle Orinthius James (O.J.) Patrick has made a point of leaving town around title time. "When they're practicing on your field," Patrick says, "that's a hurtin' feeling." This year Patrick might want to stick around.
'BAMA'S BOUNTY (cont.)
It's too bad we don't have an award for Non-Player of the Week, because Rutgers senior quarterback Bryan Fortay would be a landslide winner. He's the guy who transferred from Miami because he didn't get the starting job and then last summer filed a $10 million lawsuit against Miami and its coach. Dennis Erickson. One element of the suit is that the Hurricanes damaged Fortay's pro potential by not making him their starting OB. something they allegedly had promised to do.