Freshman Maurice Clarett has been a stunning success for Ohio
In an era of spread offenses, the once-glamorous tailback is
seldom the heart of the attack. Leave it to Ohio State, the
school that has produced five Heisman Trophy-winning running
backs, to find a freshman to rush the sixth-ranked Buckeyes back
to the future. Maurice Clarett not only carried 31 times for 230
yards and two touchdowns in his team's 25-7 defeat of No. 10
Washington State, but he also started talk of a national
championship in Columbus for the first time in four years.
"Biggest adjustment he had," quipped Ohio State offensive
coordinator Jim Bollman, alluding to Clarett's seamless
transition from high school, "was not carrying the ball every
Funny thing, because Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel pulled Clarett
aside last Thursday and said, "You think you can carry it 40
times on Saturday?" Clarett told him yes, and he showed plenty of
stamina against the Cougars. Though he left the game in the
second half after his 27th carry, Clarett returned three plays
later and went around right end for 44 yards.
Clarett, who is third in the nation in rushing (157.0 yards per
game) behind Joshua Cribbs of Kent State and Southern
Mississippi's Derrick Nix, doesn't carry the ball as if he's
someone who has played just three college games. With a quick,
toothy smile in interviews, he doesn't carry himself like a
rookie, either. One reason Clarett feels at home at Ohio State is
that he graduated early from Warren G. Harding High in Warren,
Ohio; enrolled at Ohio State last January; and went through
spring practice. Another reason is Tressel. Clarett began
attending the coach's summer camps at Youngstown State in grade
school. When Tressel left Youngstown State in January 2001 after
15 seasons to come to Columbus, Clarett, who that fall would be
named the USA Today high school offensive player of the year,
knew he was destined to become a Buckeye. Clarett feels
comfortable enough with Tressel to joke around with him during
games, and on Saturday he even left a bloodstain on Tressel's
white shirt after patting him on the shoulder.
Tressel was as impressed as anyone by Clarett's performance.
"Maurice broke tackles," he said. "There weren't a lot of
blockers on some of those plays." Clarett was especially
effective in the second half, when Ohio State, trailing 7-6, set
out to pound the ball straight into the Washington State defense.
When the Cougars began using five down linemen, the Buckeyes
responded by going to their Jumbo formation, which includes six
linemen and two tight ends stacked on the left side. The fullback
lines up a step to the left of center, and occasionally right
guard Bryce Bishop pulls to the left side. On Saturday those big
bodies overpowered the right side of the Washington State
defense, and Clarett reaped the benefits, gaining 194 second-half
He ran as well against a Top 10 team as he had at Harding High.
"Things happen a whole lot quicker in [college]," Clarett said,
"but I've learned that if you work harder, you get the same
Turning Chances Into Points
No one thought that first-year California coach Jeff Tedford
would have to counsel his team about overconfidence. But that's
exactly what Tedford did after the Bears improved to 3-0 with a
46-22 thrashing of No. 15 Michigan State last Saturday. "Now that
we have won a big game, we will make sure we remember how we've
had this success," Tedford said on Sunday.
Cal has had success by playing efficiently--the team is plus-10 in
turnover margin, a statistic that even Tedford calls "a little
bit absurd." The Bears, who are second in the nation in scoring
(50 points per game), have scored on all 16 trips inside their
opponents' 20-yard line (12 touchdowns, four field goals). No one
has been more productive than senior quarterback Kyle Boller, who
began this season with a 7-21 record as a starter and with a
reputation as a poor decision maker. This season he has completed
61.5% of his passes (up from 49.1% last year) with seven
touchdowns and one interception. Against the Spartans, Boller
threw for two touchdowns, ran for another and caught a fourth, a
14-yard pass from wideout LaShaun Ward on a play dubbed Rat Tail
because of the shape of Boller's route.
While Tedford, who was Oregon's offensive coordinator last year,
cautions the Bears not to overreact to their success, he
appreciates what it means to his team after their 1-10 finish
last season. "You see a smile on their faces," Tedford says.
"They deserve something good happening to them."
South Carolina Miscues
Holtz's Guys Lose Their Grip
What in the name of Lou Holtz is going on at South Carolina?
Holtz's teams are known for not turning the ball over much, but
in the last two weeks the Gamecocks have lost nine fumbles and
thrown two interceptions. Even worse, a crucial turnover cost
South Carolina a chance to beat Georgia last Saturday when senior
fullback Andrew Pinnock, who had two fumbles earlier in the game,
mishandled a pitch from quarterback Corey Jenkins on
fourth-and-goal at the Bulldogs' two with 12 seconds to play.
Georgia free safety Thomas Davis recovered the fumble and the
Bulldogs ran out the clock in a 13-7 win.
Holtz rebuilt South Carolina from 0-11 in 1999 to 8-4 in 2000 to
9-3 last season by stressing field position and ball security.
Last season the Gamecocks committed only 13 turnovers, tied for
third fewest in the nation. A constant downpour throughout the
Georgia game contributed to the fumbling, but that does not
explain South Carolina's six lost fumbles in a 34-21 loss to
Virginia on Sept. 7.
On Sunday, Holtz said he wished he had listened to his son Skip,
his offensive coordinator, and run the last play to the right
side, where there would have been an extra blocker. Still, Holtz
added, "It was a perfect pitch. The play was going to work." If
South Carolina continues to turn the ball over, it won't matter
which plays it runs.
Because the Reno Air Show filled every hotel room in the area
last weekend, Brigham Young coach Gary Crowton decided that the
Cougars would fly in for their game against Nevada, scheduled for
1:05 local time, on Saturday morning. BYU left Provo, Utah, just
after 8 a.m. and arrived in Reno an hour later without incident,
but the Cougars played the first half completely out of sync. The
Wolf Pack jumped on them for 31 first-half points and hung on to
win 31-28. Nevada senior quarterback Zack Threadgill completed 28
of 37 passes for 410 yards and four touchdowns.... With Georgia's
quarterback controversy suspended for six weeks, the length of
time that it will take freshman D.J. Shockley to recover from the
bone he broke in his left foot against South Carolina, Bulldogs
fans hope that sophomore David Greene will relax and play as he
did a year ago, when he was the SEC freshman of the year....
Bowling Green stunned previously undefeated Missouri, winning
51-28 as senior quarterback Josh Harris had 411 yards of total
offense and caught a 34-yard touchdown pass. Under second-year
coach Urban Meyer, the Falcons are 4-0 against BCS conference
schools.... In the last three seasons Cincinnati's All-America
kicker Jonathan Ruffin made 6 of 9 field goals from 40 yards or
longer. With the Bearcats trailing West Virginia 35-32, Ruffin's
49-yard attempt on the last play of the game bounced off the left
upright.... North Carolina coach John Bunting rewards his players
for big plays with giant wood chips from oak trees that were
recently cut down outside Kenan Stadium. Why? Bunting wants each
player to play as if he has a chip on his shoulder
COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER Clarett shredded Washington State for 230 yards in just his third college game.
COLOR PHOTO: DANNY MOLOSHOK/GETTY IMAGES Cal's Boller has gone from mistake-prone to near error-free.
Head to Head
Tennessee RB Cedric Houston versus Florida MLB Bam Hardmon
With 180 yards and three touchdowns in two games, the six-foot,
210-pound Houston is the standout of the Vols' heralded sophomore
class of running backs. On Saturday, Tennessee will run often
against the Gators, who surrendered 306 rushing yards in their
only real test, a 41-16 loss to Miami on Sept. 7. In an effort to
improve its rushing defense, Florida moved the 6'1", 234-pound
Hardmon, who started the Gators' first two games at weakside
linebacker, to the middle last week.
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