The Old and the New
Here is an early appraisal of the three Southeastern Conference programs with new coaches: Lowly Vanderbilt is, as usual, running in place, now for Gerry DiNardo; once-proud LSU seems headed for the back of the pack despite the efforts of Curley Hallman; Mississippi State is thinking dynasty now that Jackie Sherrill has come to Starkville.
DiNardo knew what he was getting into when he accepted the mission impossible at Vandy (one winning season in the past nine years), so the Commodores' 37-10 defeat at Syracuse probably wasn't too hard for him to take. But Hallman is suddenly aware that his first LSU team might be lucky to duplicate last season's 5-6 record that earned Mike Archer his walking papers. After the Bayou Bengals lost to Georgia 31-10, Hallman moaned, "We made enough mistakes to lose 60-0.... Make that 70-0."
Georgia, coming off a most un-Dawglike 4-7 season, turned in its best performance under third-year coach Ray Goff. The Bulldogs piled up 305 yards passing—their first above-300 total since 1972—and forced five LSU turnovers. "LSU coming in was looking at last year's Georgia team," said Bulldog tailback Larry Ware, who gained 113 yards and caught a touchdown pass. "This is a whole new team."
Speaking of which, how 'bout them other Dawgs, the ones at Mississippi State? Playing host to Texas (last year's Southwest Conference champion and Cotton Bowl representative), State pulled out a 13-7 win to go 2-0. The Longhorns now have lost six in a row to Sherrill, who was out of coaching for two years after being forced to resign from Texas A&M when his program was found guilty of numerous NCAA violations.
The Bulldogs won with defense, confining Texas to 211 yards in total offense and saving the game twice in the last quarter—first by holding Texas to a field goal after the Longhorns had a first down on the State six, then by stopping Texas on downs at the Bulldog 19 when defensive end Rodney Stowers sacked quarterback Peter Gardere on fourth down.
"We're just going to get better and better," crowed Sherrill afterward. "We will have a very good football team at the end of the year." Which has to make Hallman and DiNardo feel even worse.
Skinning the 'Cats
We're hesitant to start the season by kicking a team when it's down—waaaaay down—but Cincinnati, not Penn State, deserves to be censured for that 81-0 debacle in State College. It wasn't a matter of Penn State running up the score, but a case of the Bare Cats—er, Bearcats—being so uncompetitive that the Nittany Lions couldn't help themselves.
Penn State coach Joe Paterno substituted early and often, but it made little difference. He pulled his starting quarterback, Tony Sacca, in the third quarter, but even Tony's younger brother, fourth-string quarterback John Sacca, turned a broken play into a 75-yard touchdown run in the last quarter. All told, Penn State amassed 706 yards—484 on the ground, 222 in the air—the most ever by a Nittany Lion team.