A TIE IN MADISON
In the week leading up to last Saturday's game against Ohio State, Wisconsin officials knocked themselves out making sure there would not be a repeat of the events of Oct. 30, when a surge of euphoric Wisconsin students stormed the field after the Badgers' 13-10 win over Michigan (SI, Nov. 8). The result that day was the hospitalization of 69 people, seven of whom were critically injured. By the time the Buckeyes arrived in Madison last Friday night, plans were in place: Security would be beefed up at Camp Randall Stadium; overcrowding in the student section, once winked at, would not be tolerated; the chain link fence that had collapsed, trapping many beneath it, had been replaced with fencing that featured quick-release gates.
As it turned out, Ohio State's Marlon Kerner ensured that none of those precautions would be necessary on Saturday. With seven seconds remaining in a game that was tied at 14, he knifed in from his left corner spot, stretched out and batted down Rick Schnetzky's 32-yard field goal attempt. Kerner's acrobatics spared Ohio State its first loss of the season and snatched from the Badgers what would have been one of the biggest wins in school history. His block also plunged Camp Randall's Bleacher Creatures—some of whom had already pressed up against the new fence—into mute inertia.
Seldom does a tie yield such clear winners and losers. Several Buckeye players ran off the field shouting, "Roses, baby!" at Wisconsin students who had spent the afternoon strafing them with coin-packed marshmallows. Unless 8-0-1 Ohio State loses one of its final two games, against Indiana and Michigan, the Buckeyes will play in Pasadena. The Badgers, now 7-1-1, are bound for a second-place Big Ten finish and the Citrus Bowl. Said Badger offensive tackle Joe Panos, "We're down right now, but we'll bounce back."
Panos knows something about resilience. The week before, he wept while pulling fellow students from what had become a trough of human limbs. He had been one of 10 or so Badgers who were still on the field when the calamity began and who helped in the rescue operation. Walk-on wide receiver Mike Brin had waded into the bleachers and performed CPR on one young woman, probably saving her life.
Counseling was made available for traumatized students and players. Meanwhile, the school got calls from 20/20, Hard Copy, Rescue 911—"everyone but America's Most Wanted," said Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez—requesting interviews and credentials for the Ohio State game. The Badgers shot them all down.
Alvarez arranged for Dan Ruettiger—the real-life Rudy—to give the team a Friday-night pep talk, but when Rudy's publicists tried to use the opportunity to promote the film, Alvarez lost his temper. "Tell his people to back off," said Alvarez, "or I'll pull their tickets." The flacks beat a hasty retreat.
The players' spirits were buoyed during the week as most of the injured were released from the hospital. Still, Alvarez told his assistants to keep an eye on the guys who had seen the disaster firsthand. "I still see some funny looks on their faces," he said the day before the game. "I have no idea how the guys will respond."
The guys responded well. Quarterback Darrell Bevell's eight-yard scoring pass to Lee DeRamus in the second quarter made the score 7-7. Tailback Brent Moss's three-yard TD run in the third quarter gave Wisconsin the lead. And when the Badgers downed a punt on the Ohio State one-yard line with 4:34 left, the Buckeyes' first loss seemed assured.
Four plays later, however, the game was tied. The Buckeyes' sensational wide-out, Joey Galloway, who had only two receptions coming into the fourth quarter, caught passes on three of those four plays. The last one was a 26-yard scoring strike that left Badger cornerback Donny Brady humbled.
Brady was the picture of dignity after the game. He stood before a cluster of reporters and didn't complain when they asked him over and over to relive the touchdown. He didn't complain about being left out on an island by the frequent blitzes, either, or about playing with a strained ligament in his right knee. Every so often a teammate came by and told him to keep his chin up.
"We're tremendously close," said Wisconsin defensive lineman Mike Thompson. "We love each other, and we don't point fingers. We win as a team, we lose as a team."
Then, with disgust, Thompson added, "And we tie as a team."
WHATEVER HIS NAME IS
Although tailback was supposed to be Michigan's deepest and strongest position going into this season, doggone if the Wolverines didn't appear to be weak at that spot heading into last weekend's game against Purdue. Starter Tyrone Wheatley was out with an injury, and backup Jesse Johnson had quit the team a few weeks earlier. Ricky Powers was available, but he couldn't carry the load alone, and besides, he had shown a recent propensity for fumbling. So Michigan coach Gary Moeller decided to give the ball to a freshman who had had only seven carries for five yards. Tshimanga Biakabutuka—or "whatever his name is," as Purdue coach Jim Colletto referred to him after the game—responded by gaining 140 yards on 24 carries in the Wolverines'25-10 victory.
Biakabutuka (pronounced bee-OCH-ah-buh-too-kah) was born in Zaire in 1974. In 1980 his family moved to Montreal, where he took up football and, after watching Desmond Howard on television, became a Michigan fan. Sportswriters in Quebec dubbed him Touchdown Tim because of the 12 touchdowns he scored last season for Vanier College, a high school in Montreal. He came to Moeller's attention two summers ago when a coach from Montreal drove Biakabutuka to Ann Arbor so he could participate in Moeller's summer football camp. Moeller was impressed enough to offer Biakabutuka a scholarship.
Biakabutuka, who wears Howard's number, 21, displayed some moves against the Boilermakers that reminded some observers of the former Wolverine. "He would've rushed for 250 yards if he had played before," said Michigan assistant Cam Cameron. "He missed some little cuts, but he did O.K."
He also did O.K. in his interview with the press after the game. Biakabutuka speaks four languages: English, French and two African languages—Tshiluba and Lingala. When asked by a reporter to spell the names of the African languages, Biakabutuka obliged by writing them in a notebook. Then he smiled and said, "You want me to spell French?"
It just wouldn't have been right if Chris Vargas's last home game had ended any other way. Last Saturday, Vargas, a senior at Nevada, burnished his reputation as the best clutch quarterback in college football by engineering an 18-point comeback in the last 8:49 to give the Wolf Pack a 46-45 win over San Jose State. It was the eighth time in his career that Vargas had rallied Nevada to victory in the closing moments. Last season, for instance, he led the Wolf Pack to 20 points in the final 5:14 against Utah State, and the year before that to an NCAA-record 35-point comeback against Weber State. Said Vargas after Saturday's win, which ran Nevada's record to 6-3, "This was the perfect way to end my last game here."
The 5'11" Vargas, who leads the nation in total offense, with an average of 413.1 yards per game, has the build of a pro—"a pro golfer," says Nevada coach Jeff Horton. "He's just a little scrawny guy. We list him at 170 pounds, but he's probably 160 at best."
As a high school senior in Woodland, Calif., Vargas was recruited by only a handful of small colleges. Nevada didn't offer him a scholarship until a few months before his freshman year began, and then only because the Wolf Pack found itself short a reserve quarterback. Vargas has gone on to break just about every Nevada passing record—an especially impressive feat considering that he didn't become a full-time starter until this season.
Vargas's counterpart last Saturday, San Jose's Jeff Garcia, has been nearly as impressive. Garcia has completed 150 of 272 passes for 2,108 yards this season for the 2-7 Spartans. Against Nevada he threw four touchdown passes, giving him 18 for the season.
Like Vargas, Garcia didn't get many scholarship offers; he fractured an elbow during his senior year at Gilroy (Calif.) High. He picked San Jose State in part because he wanted to remain near home. The Garcias are a close family that has been brought even closer by tragedy. Jeff's younger brother, Jason, drowned at age six. Jeff's younger sister Kimberley was killed in an auto accident when she was five. Jeff's parents also lost twin daughters, who died shortly after birth. "I think about all of them often," says Jeff. "I just want to make the most of myself to make up for them not being here."
At 6'1" and 188 pounds, Garcia, like Vargas, isn't as big as most pro quarterbacks. Yet this is what Stanford and former 49er coach Bill Walsh said after watching Garcia dissect Stanford's defense in a 31-28 San Jose loss in September: "If he's handled right, he could have quite a successful pro career. He's got some Montana in him."
So does Vargas, at least when it comes to comebacks.
A SWEET RIDE
The most heartwarming scene of the week was Duke coach Barry Wilson's being carried off the field on his players' shoulders after the Blue Devils' 21-20 upset of 22nd-ranked North Carolina State in Durham. The previous Saturday, Duke had been pounded 47-14 by Georgia Tech to fall to 2-7, and two days later Wilson announced that he would resign at season's end to spare the university the chore of firing him. "I said when I came here four years ago that no one would ever have to fire me," said Wilson, who has put together a 13-29-1 record in Durham. "If I came in with some dignity and pride, I wanted to step down with some dignity and pride."
That's exactly what he did. In taking his leave, Wilson didn't use Duke's high academic standards as an excuse for his failure on the field. He didn't blame his players, and he didn't mention bad luck. (The Blue Devils have lost 10 games by 10 points or less under Wilson, and this season missed field goals cost them victories over Rutgers and Clemson.) "I leave this position with no gripes or complaints or animosity toward anyone," said Wilson.
Following Saturday's win Wilson sought out Duke athletic director Tom Butters and hugged him. Wilson told Butters, "I've got a muddy game ball in my locker that will stay in my possession a long time and in my heart forever." When asked what else he had discussed with Butters, Wilson said, smiling, "I did tell Mr. Butters that if we beat Carolina [on Nov. 26], I'm going to ask for a raise."
Hats off to Kansas coach Glen Mason for going for two points against Nebraska instead of settling for a 21-21 tie. The play failed, but a principle was upheld: When you have a chance to beat a team that has drubbed yours for 24 straight years by an average of 47 points, take it....
In Boston College's 48-34 defeat of Virginia Tech, Eagle quarterback Glenn Foley averaged 15.5 yards per attempt. However, the NCAA single-game record is still the 13.93 set by BYU's Marc Wilson against Utah in 1977, because a quarterback must throw at least 40 passes to qualify for the mark. Foley threw 29 passes (with 21 completions) against the Hokies....
Arizona unveiled its Ground Chuck offense in a 31-10 victory over Oregon. With starting quarterback Dan White and backup Brady Batten out with injuries, coach Dick Tomey turned the job over to running back Chuck Levy, who rushed for 126 yards. The Wildcats called 80 running plays and one pass, which fell incomplete.
The last-second block by Ohio State's Kerner (46) ensured a tie—and calm—at Wisconsin.
Terry Glenn and the Buckeyes stayed a leg up in the Big Ten.
In a matchup of two little-known quarterbacks with big numbers, Nevada's Vargas outgunned San Jose State's Garcia.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Running back William Arnold, a junior at Jackson State, rushed for a Division 1-AA record 346 yards on 31 carries to lead the Tigers to a 38-12 victory over Texas Southern.
Louisiana State safety Ivory Hilliard, a junior, had two interceptions and eight tackles, including two sacks, in the Tigers' 17-13 upset of fifth-ranked Alabama.
Brian DiLiberto, a senior at NAIA Division II Tiffin, in Ohio, ran his career rushing total to 5,567 yards by carrying 33 times for 327 yards in a 50-23 win over Taylor.