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.)
North Alabama, Alabama and Auburn aren't the only teams in the Camellia State that are in full flower. In Division I-AA, Troy (Ala.) State took over the No. 1 spot. The Trojans allowed Alcorn State's Steve McNair to pass for 380 yards but still came away with a 63-21 victory, thanks mainly to quarterback Kelvin Simmons's five TD passes. Elsewhere in I-AA, Alabama-Birmingham ended Dayton's 46-game regular-season winning streak with a 27-19 victory.
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.
Because of the suit, Fortay's reunion with his former teammates last Saturday in the Orange Bowl was much anticipated. However, Fortay, who's nursing a bruised throwing shoulder, played only three downs in the Hurricanes' 31-17 victory. All his appearances were as a holder—twice on extra points and once on a 51-yard field goal.
On one of the PATs, Miami defensive end Kevin Patrick, a former roommate of Fortay's, said he almost hit Fortay. Patrick said that as he approached Fortay, he saw Fortay's "eyes light up." Said Fortay, "My eyes did not light up." After the game Fortay wanted to deliver a friendly note to Patrick, but security officers advised him to head directly to the visitors' locker room.
From the time Fortay first appeared on the sideline, he was the target of abuse from the crowd of 52,561. There also were signs: FORTAY, WE WON'T HURT YOU and NO PLAY, NO PAY FOR FORTAY and WELCOME HOME, BRYAN. NOT. Some fans wore T-shirts imprinted with NO WAY, FORTAY. Then there was the elderly couple at gate 12. When an usher asked them to open a container they were carrying, the husband said. "What, aren't we allowed to bring in any Fortay tomatoes?"
As for Fortay, he said the Miami players "were pretty good to me—they acted with a lot of class." And the fans? "The people were just here to have fun," he said. "I didn't hear anything that I don't normally hear on the road."
Trivia quiz: Name the two SBC quarterbacks who are unbeaten as starters. You probably know Alabama's Jay Barker, who is 23-0-1. The other is Vanderbilt freshman Ronnie Gordon, who's 2-0 after directing the Commodores to victories over Kentucky and Navy....
St. John's news: By gaining 134 yards in a 42-30 loss to Iona last Friday. Anthony Russo of St. John's of New York became the third-leading rusher in NCAA history. With one game left Russo has 5.689 career yards. Only Johnny Bailey of Texas A&I (6,320 yards) and Tony Dorsett of Pitt (6,082) had more. The next day St. John's of Minnesota beat Concordia 44-21 to raise its point total for the season to 615, an NCAA record for a non-Division I-A team. The old mark of 609 was set by Mississippi Valley State in 1984....
Virginia's 23-14 loss to Clemson makes the Cavaliers 0-18-1 in Death Valley.
Mark Williams (43) helped the Lions wrap up West Georgia and a 10-0 regular season.
BEN VAN HOOK
While Miamians tried to reach out and touch Fortay, he barely got his hands on the ball.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Utah quarterback Mike McCoy, a junior, completed 29 of 39 passes for 459 yards and two touchdowns and threw no interceptions in a 41-24 victory over Air Force.
Cal safety Eric Zomalt had eight tackles and two interceptions, returning one for a TD, and broke up a pass in the end zone with :36 left in a 24-20 upset of Arizona.
Quarterback Tom Stallings, a senior at St. Thomas in Minnesota, connected on 35 of 63 passes for six IDs and a Division III-record 602 yards in a 42-41 win over Bethel.