DOING IT ALL
Who was the best natural athlete in college football this season? Purdue's Rod (I'll play everywhere) Woodson, a six-foot, 200-pound speed blur, gets our vote. All Woodson did in a memorable farewell to college football on Saturday—a 17-15 upset of Indiana—was star on both sides of the ball. As a cornerback, his normal position, he made seven unassisted tackles (he's the Boilermakers' alltime leading solo tackier with 320), broke up a pass and caused a fumble. Offensively, he rushed 15 times for 97 yards, a Purdue season high, caught three passes and returned three punts and two kickoffs.
Three weeks earlier, lame-duck coach Leon Burtnett had told Woodson, "In the last game, we're going to let you play anywhere you want to play." Saturday was the first time Woodson had played running back, but he had previously caught four passes as a wide receiver. Naturally, the NFL is poised to pounce in the first round of the draft. Pete Brown, director of player personnel for the Bengals, says: "He can cover without using all his speed, so he's under control when he changes directions. The guy is simply physically superior."
Woodson is a three-time Big Ten 55-meter indoor hurdles champ, and Purdue track coach Mike Poehlein says Rod "could have been the No. 1 or No. 2 hurdler in the world and a possible Olympic gold medal winner." The reserved Woodson shrugs when asked about Olympic might-have-beens and says, "I was always the kid who got outrun. By about 10th grade, I started, and everybody else just kind of stopped."
DIM QUOTE OF THE WEAK
Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz on his 4-6 Fighting Irish: "It would be easier to win if they didn't try to win."
Way too often major college players gripe way too much about how tough their sport is. Not Florida quarterback Kerwin Bell, who grew up in Mayo, a small (pop. 4,500) North Florida tobacco-farming town. Says Bell, "You can play 60 minutes of football and you're still not as tired as you are working in a tobacco patch under a hot sun."
It's Heisman time again, so over the weekend we filled in our ballot and mailed it.
Our first choice: Penn State linebacker Shane Conlan, who has been beyond brilliant all season. Without him, the Nittany Lions would not be on any of our minds this year. A bona fide student, Conlan had a 3.54 dean's list average last semester and will graduate in January with a degree in administration of justice. Lions coach Joe Paterno has gone uncharacteristically nuts over Conlan's abilities. As the season progresses, he is playing better than either Oklahoma's Brian Bosworth, whose mouth is off-putting to both us and the NFL, or 'Bama's Cornelius Bennett.
Second choice: Miami quarterback Vinny Testaverde. He'll win the trophy, of course, because Heisman voters seem incapable of looking beyond running backs and quarterbacks. However, Testaverde is terrific; you can look it up. Heck, 26-yard out passes? No problem. We just couldn't bring ourselves to vote him first because of his disdain for the academic side of college life. Football is his deal, and he went to Miami to play football. Period. Nice guy, great athlete, a lock to be the No. 1 pick on NFL draft day. But, as we've said before, the winner of the game's premier award should display an interest in books and in earning a degree, as well.
Third choice: Notre Dame junior flanker-halfback Tim Brown, a business administration major whom academic adviser Mike De Cicco calls "a very serious student." Brown is on schedule to graduate in four years. A dazzling big-play phenom, he is college football's most exciting player. He has caught 40 passes for 821 yards, rushed for 244 yards and returned 21 kickoffs for 601 yards and 2 TDs. We confess that Brown is a favorite in part because he was sports editor of his high school newspaper in Dallas. That, obviously, is clear evidence of genius.
WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD
"We are," says Sheila Evans, mother of the Air Force Academy's leading (758 yards) rusher, senior fullback Pat Evans, "people with a mission." During Pat's three seasons on the varsity, his parents, along with his girlfriend, Mary Nell Alonzo, have driven from Vicksburg, Miss., to see every Falcon home game. Throw in one spring game, two jayvee games and five trips not related to football, and that comes to 23 trips to Colorado Springs since 1983.
The Evanses and Mary Nell reckon that the 2,294-mile journey takes precisely 18 hours up, 19 hours back (an extra hour for the fatigue factor). Typically, Sheila drives the first shift, leaving Vicksburg around 6 p.m. on Thursday and reaching Dallas by about midnight, when Pat's father, Bubba, takes over. He stays at the wheel until daybreak—by then they usually are somewhere around Amarillo—when he's spelled by Mary Nell, who gets them to Colorado Springs by noon or so on Friday. After having dinner with Pat following Saturday's game, Sheila, Bubba and Mary Nell pile back into the Evanses' Ford around 10 p.m. and head back to Vicksburg.
The trio has also driven to West Point, Salt Lake City, El Paso, Albuquerque, Laramie, Wyo., Annapolis, South Bend, on and on, for Falcon away games and, of course, to the two bowls (the Independence and Bluebonnet) in which Pat has played. Heck, last weekend's trip is hardly worth mentioning—just 850 miles to Houston and back for the Rice game. They sheepishly concede that last year they flew to BYU and, perhaps because of high water, to Hawaii and that this season they flew part of the way to Utah, San Diego and West Point. "We're getting soft," concedes Bubba, who says that they will drive to Colorado Springs for Pat's final game, against BYU, on Dec. 6.
Remarkably, nothing much has ever happened over those 100,000 miles—no wrecks, no flats, just a couple of speeding tickets. They did see some mule deer once, and another time the gas station in Vernon, Texas, where they always stop, didn't have Tab.
Says Pat, who has made the brutal drive himself only twice, "I sure do appreciate their coming."
All told, Sheila, Bubba and Mary Nell have missed only one of Pat's 35 varsity games, the Utah game in Provo in 1984. "We decided that after Pat fumbled in that game and we weren't there, that we were going to be with him good times and bad," says Sheila. "This is no sacrifice. This is an experience. And we're kind of sad it's ending."
Iowa's Hayden Fry is an incessant complainer. For instance, earlier this season he blasted the Big Ten supervisor of officials. Gene Calhoun. "He's doing a terrible job," said Fry. That must have really helped Fry get better officiating.
The other day Fry was grousing about negative coverage of his team by the Iowa media. So in an effort to try to please the coach, Dan Millea, assistant sports editor of a campus newspaper, wrote a tongue-in-cheek Fry-style lead: "The Iowa Hawkeyes, fighting tremendous odds and with little hope of survival, valiantly battled an Ohio State team that may be one of history's finest before finally being nipped 31-10."
As Central Florida was closing out its season a fortnight ago with an apparent 66-0 win over Samford, things got a little crazy. Seems all week, senior punter Jim Hogan had been saying he wanted to "be remembered for something different." So he jokingly said that after receiving the snap he might turn around sometime and boot the ball in the opposite direction.
Sure enough, when Hogan, who averaged 38.6 yards per kick this fall, came in to punt late in the fourth quarter, he made a U-turn and...the coaches went bonkers. So Hogan turned another 90 degrees and gestured toward the sideline seats. The coaches went bonkers. Finally, Hogan faced forward and tried to kick up-field. The punt was blocked, and Samford's Chris Betts returned the ball for a TD to make the final score 66-7. The coaches went bonkers.
Whereupon Hogan sprinted for the dressing room, changed his clothes and left. Running frontward. No one knew his plans. Several days later Hogan showed up at a team meeting, with his familiar winning smile. Said coach Gene McDowell, "He showed a little low class but I still like him."
Early this year Boston College fans booed Eagle quarterback Shawn Halloran. Then Halloran righted himself to lead BC to an 8-3 finish and a berth in the Hall of Fame Bowl. So it was nice to see a sign at a recent BC game that read: SHAWN, WE WERE WRONG....
LSU coach Bill Arnsparger was asked if he would consult his players about which bowl they would like to play in. Said Arnsparger, "Yes. I sure wouldn't want to go by myself."
...Georgia Tech's home-attendance average of 32,100 was its lowest since 1948....
Denver Bronco kicker Rich Karlis was watching the end of the Oklahoma-Nebraska game on a television set in the corner at 21 Club, a New York City restaurant, Saturday night. When the Sooners' Tim Lashar kicked the winning field goal with nine seconds left, Karlis's simpatico eyes lit up like a pinball machine. "That's the perfect ending to any game," he chortled. Except, of course, if you're for the other team.
Woodson was a toiling Boilermaker.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
OFFENSE: In a 14-7 win over Utah, Fresno State quarterback Kevin Sweeney passed for 216 yards to give him 10,623 career yards, breaking Doug Flutie's record of 10,579.
DEFENSE: Linebacker Brad Hippenstiel made 13 tackles, including three sacks, to lead undefeated Penn to a 31-21 win over Cornell and its fifth consecutive Ivy League crown.