WHERE THERE'S A WILLIS...
Florida State quarterback Peter Tom Willis may have surprised some people this year, but South Carolina knew all about him. Last year, while filling in for senior Chip Ferguson, who had a separated shoulder, Willis completed 17 of 20 passes for 271 yards in a 59-0 win over the Gamecocks, only to return to the bench for mop-up duty the rest of the season. Now Willis is Florida State's top gun, and against South Carolina last Saturday he threw for a career-high 362 yards and three TDs in a 35-10 victory. It was the seventh in a row for the Seminoles, who started the season 0-2.
A fifth-year senior, Willis was recruited in the same class as Ferguson and redshirted his freshman year after losing the battle for the quarterback job. Until this year he had spent most of his career riding the pine. In fact, when Florida State played LSU on Sept. 16, the pro scouts came to see Tiger quarterback Tommy Hodson. They left with Willis's name added to the short list of top quarterback prospects in Division I-A after he threw for 301 yards. Since then, Willis has become the first Seminole quarterback to have four 300-yard-plus passing games in one season.
Against South Carolina, Willis completed nine passes in the Seminoles' first 11 plays from scrimmage. "As a quarterback," he said, "I'd like to throw every down." All told, he completed 25 of 38 throws.
This week the Seminoles, whose seven victims include Miami and Auburn, will get a week off before wrapping up the season against Memphis State and Florida. "I'm beat up and sore and ready to go home for a weekend," said Willis after Saturday's game. Still, he wasn't too weary to do a little campaigning for the benefit of scouts representing eight bowls. "We just need to win our next two games and then go wherever the highest ranked team is," he said. "If we have a chance to win the national championship, that's where we want to be."
O.K., Peter Tom, but you should know that no team has ever won the national title with two losses.
THE MANE MAN
Hair hasn't been much of an issue in college football since the early 1970s, so Michigan State running back Blake Ezor had to be surprised when coach George Perles told him to have his hair trimmed before the Indiana game. Thinking quickly, Ezor turned Biblical scholar and reminded Perles of "the Samson thing," as Ezor called it.
Nice try, but Perles insisted on doing his Delilah thing. Reluctantly, Ezor had his hair cut by his brother and roommate, Bert. The result—a sort of semi-Marine-recruit look—so pleased Perles that he said, "You're going to have a big day, mark my words, because you cut your hair."
Sure enough, not only did Ezor have a big day in the Spartans' 51-20 rout of the Hoosiers in Bloomington, but he also overshadowed Indiana's Anthony Thompson, who set an NCAA record with his 60th career touchdown. While Michigan State's defense was holding Thompson to 82 yards on the ground, Ezor gained 203 yards, scored four TDs and caught three passes.
BRUINS IN RUINS
Stanford coach Dennis Green called his team's 17-14 upset of UCLA in Palo Alto a "benchmark" for his program. But Bruin coach Terry Donahue was closer to the mark. After the game he proclaimed that UCLA had "fallen to rock bottom."
How to measure the fall? Let us count the ways. The defeat was the Bruins' sixth against only three wins and assured UCLA of its first losing season since 1979. It also was the Bruins' fourth consecutive defeat; they hadn't lost that many games in a row in one season since 1971. Finally, the loss came against a Stanford team that was 1-7.
What's puzzling about the Bruins' demise is that they aren't bereft of talent. Most of the preseason polls had UCLA ranked in the Top 10 and headed for a ninth straight bowl appearance, maybe even the Rose Bowl. Instead, the Bruins could end up 3-8.
Against Stanford, UCLA coughed up three turnovers, and Donahue twice replaced starting quarterback Bret Johnson with backup Jim Bonds, once with 7:47 remaining in the first half and again at the start of the final quarter. Donahue insisted, though, that he was neither panicking nor losing confidence in Johnson. "I just didn't want to go through the season without having some information on Jimmy Bonds," said Donahue. "We didn't want to go into next spring without knowing how he would do in game competition."
The operative phrase is "next spring." Apparently, all that remains for UCLA fans is to look forward to next year and hope that Donahue can figure out how a potentially good team fell so far so quickly.
NOT SO PRETTY IN PINK
Pink has never exactly been the color of choice among football coaches, bless their macho hearts. But when Iowa's Kinnick Stadium was refurbished in 1984, someone came up with the bright idea of doing the visitors' locker room in pink. "The stadium was built in 1929," says Hawkeye coach Hayden Fry, "and there have been a lot of paint jobs through the years trying to make the place look halfway decent. Frankly, painting it pink was just an accident."
Perhaps, but when Michigan coach Bo Schembechler got a load of the pink, he gave orders to have the walls covered with paper before the Wolverines' 1984 game. The wallpapering drew so much attention that Schembechler abandoned the practice for this season's game against the Hawkeyes at Kinnick, a 26-12 Wolverine victory. "Is this pink?" said Bo, looking at the walls. "I didn't know that."
Another curious reaction came from Illinois coach John Mackovic, who wore a pink shirt when he talked with reporters last week. He also put a pink flamingo in the Illini locker room. "Since we can't change it, it's best we meet it head-on," said Mackovic, who was tickled pi...well, mauve, after Illinois' 31-7 win at Kinnick.
For his part, Fry might want to think about changing his color scheme. After all, the Hawkeyes are 1-4 at home this season, and that's not very rosy.
According to Penn State safety Sherrod Rainge, coach Joe Paterno told his players that the best way to stop West Virginia quarterback Major Harris was to take advantage of the way he "holds the ball like a loaf of bread and swings it all around when he runs." The Nittany Lions forced Harris to fumble three times in a 19-9 victory.... Air Force senior Dee Dowis ran for 141 yards in a 29-3 win over Army. That performance gave him 3,336 career yards and the alltime NCAA rushing record for quarterbacks.... In Division III, a 33-8 loss to Millikin gave Augustana its first defeat at home since 1980.
For the second consecutive year, Willis riddled South Carolina with pinpoint passing.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
OFFENSE: Cal State-Fullerton running back Mike Pringle, a senior, rushed for 352 yards—five short of the Division I single-game record—on 31 carries, and scored touchdowns of 59, three and 11 yards in the Titans' 45-10 win over New Mexico State.
DEFENSE: Senior linebacker Quentin Riggins of Auburn had 13 solo tackles and seven assists in a 10-7 victory over Florida. The Tigers limited Emmitt Smith, who had been rushing for 161 yards per game—best in the nation—to 86 yards on 27 carries.
SMALL SCHOOL: Steve Roberts, a senior at Division II Butler, gained 271 yards on 34 carries, hauled in four passes for 109 yards and scored six touchdowns, including one on an 80-yard pass and one on an 85-yard run, in a 56-28 win over St. Ambrose.