Thursday, November 29, 2001

With the last weekend of the regular season upon us, it’s time to reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly of another college football campaign.

Let’s start with a paean to JoePa. Two months ago, Penn State was 0-4 and many football fans, including yours truly, thought the game had finally passed by coach Joe Paterno. But the 74-year-old legend has proved there’s still a little magic left beneath the tinted glasses and high-water slacks. Thanks in large part to Paterno’s patience and the emergence of sophomore quarterback Zack Mills, the Nittany Lions are now 5-5 and can become bowl eligible with a victory at Virginia (4-7) this weekend.
One might even suggest that this season’s resurrection represents the best coaching job of Paterno’s career which is only fitting since this is the season Paterno passed Bear Bryant to become the winningest coach in Division I-A history.
Paterno responds to such praise in typically humble fashion.
“I don’t think in those terms,” said Paterno during his weekly news conference. “If we did a good job, you have to give the assistant coaches credit. I don’t do that much. The guys that have to go out there and teach the techniques and fundamentals every day they are the guys who deserve the credit, not me.”
Those weren’t the guys taking the heat when Penn State was 0-4.
Did anybody expect to live to see the day when Maryland (10-1) had more players on the All-ACC team than Florida State?
Seven Terps made the ACC’s first team, giving Maryland more than any other in the league and three more than the Seminoles. Add those accolades to Ralph Friedgen’s honor as national coach of the year and the Terps are basking in more than just a BCS berth and an ACC title. The Maryland first-teamers were tailback Bruce Perry, guard Todd Wike, center Melvin Fowler, linebacker E.J. Henderson, defensive backs Tony Jackson and Tony Okanlawon and punter Brooks Barnard.
Saturday’s BCS-deciding trifecta of No. 1 Miami at No. 14 Virginia Tech, No. 5 Tennessee at No. 2 Florida and No. 3 Texas vs. No. 9 Colorado makes it the most exciting day of college football since the national title game was nixed from the New Year’s Day lineup.

Let’s all say goodbye to delusional Notre Dame coach Bob Davie, who apparently thinks a victory over Purdue this weekend will be enough to save his job. Athletic director Kevin White has said all along that he will wait until the end of the season to evaluate Davie. But with the Irish at 4-6 and Davie’s career mark at just 34-25, not even a papal vote of confidence could save Davie from a pink slip.
“I don’t know if anybody is going to come in here and just have the fans just jumping up and down each and every week,” said Davie, trying to defend himself. “I don’t know if that guy exists. If he did, his name was Knute [Rockne], or one of those statues outside my office.”
If Miami, Texas and Tennessee all win this week, computers will determine whether the Longhorns or the Vols meet Miami in Pasadena. Last season the BCS formula cheated us out of an Oklahoma-Miami showdown. In the unlikely event that all three aforementioned teams win Saturday, one of the UTs will get compu-screwed this season.

One of the game’s ultimate rivalries has turned pure nasty over the last week as the verbal battle continues between Florida coach Steve Spurrier and the Florida State athletic department.
Florida State athletic director Dave Hart fired the latest salvo toward Spurrier on Monday when he said, “It would probably be good if somebody just spanked him and put him to bed and hope he wakes up all grown up.”
Hart’s comment came after Spurrier accused All-ACC defensive end Darnell Dockett of dirty play after Florida’s 37-13 victory over the Seminoles on Nov. 17. Spurrier said that after tackling Florida tailback Earnest Graham, Dockett intentionally wrenched Graham’s leg, causing the sprained knee that likely will cost Graham the rest of his junior season. Spurrier also claimed that later in the game Dockett tried to cleat the throwing hand of Florida quarterback Rex Grossman after a tackle on the sideline.
“If you’re a coach and something like this happens to one of your players and you don’t defend him, you’re a coward,” said Spurrier, who ripped both Dockett and the Florida State coaching staff after the game, and forwarded a tape of the game to the NCAA. “Somebody has to say something.”
Interestingly, Spurrier had nothing to say in 1999, when defensive end Alex Brown hit Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin more than three seconds after a first-quarter handoff. Martin separated his shoulder on the play, his throwing motion was limited for the rest of the game and Florida went on to win 23-21.
The moral of the story is that football is a brutal game, and some coaches have short memories and big mouths.

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