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Friday, November 3

Oregon upset shows home-field value

Winning on the road in college football is definitely a huge accomplishment -- just ask my good friend Beano Cook, who is an expert observer as well as a top historian on the game.

Key games on Sept. 30
This week's key games and other interesting matchups:

Wisconsin at Michigan
Virginia Tech at Boston College
Florida at Mississippi State
South Carolina at Alabama
Washington at Oregon
Kansas State at Colorado
Georgia at Arkansas

There is no observer of college football who places more value on home-field advantage than Beano. I, on the other hand, strongly believe the team that has superior personnel and is mentally prepared to play an "A" game ultimately wins out, regardless of the venue.

But more often than not, Beano has been proven to be correct, particularly this season. This was evident on Saturday, when the UCLA Bruins traveled to Eugene, Ore., to face the Ducks.

Autzen Stadium provides a huge home-field advantage for the Ducks, with the crowd on the field particularly difficult to deal with for opposing signal callers when they drop back to throw the football. Paced by former record-setting JUCO performer Maurice Morris, the Ducks rolled to a 29-10 victory.

The talented Morris rushed for 139 yards and scored a pair of TDs, while the Bruins were handled in the trenches, unable to establish any semblance of a running game.

There were several other games where the visitor was able to successfully deal with a hostile environment. Northwestern sprung the major upset of the week, defeating previously unbeaten Wisconsin 47-44 in overtime.

QB Zak Kustok effectively directed the Wildcat offense, while underrated junior RB Damien Anderson enjoyed another impressive afternoon, carrying the ball 21 times for 175 yards.

At Morgantown, the Miami Hurricanes fell behind early 7-0 to West Virginia, then proceeded to dominate the Mountaineers, rolling to an easy 47-10 victory. Credit sophomore QB Ken Dorsey with a solid showing. After struggling mightily in the Hurricanes' loss at Washington, the young signal caller looked in control of the situation, maintaining his poise and confidence throughout.

Aiding his cause was the quality effort turned in by senior wide-out Reggie Wayne. It will be interesting to see whether Wayne or his talented teammate Santana Moss end up with the higher pro grade.

And how about the job Tommy Bowden continues to do at Clemson?

Last year, the Tigers led Florida State 14-3 at the half, only to fall 17-14. This time around, the Tigers are 4-0 out of the gate, coming off a nice road victory over the Virginia Cavaliers. Highly skilled junior QB Woody Dantzler again was the difference-maker.

Maurice Morris
Who designed these uniforms?

Dantzler completed 15 of 24 aerials for 154 yards, but where he did his major damage was running with the football. Dantzler galloped 75 yards for a TD on a QB draw, accounting for 220 yards on the ground.

Based on his performance over the first month of the season, Dantzler belongs in the Heisman Trophy race. Mark down the date of Nov. 4. That's when the Tigers travel to Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee to square off against the Seminoles. That game will present a great stage for Dantzler and company.

Don't forget the impressive road win of Southern Mississippi. Jeff Bower's hard-working and underrated Golden Eagles' squad somehow managed to avoid a letdown after upsetting Alabama the previous week, rolling to a 28-6 victory at Stillwater over Oklahoma State.

Statistically, the Cowboys outgained Southern Miss 303 to 250, while rushing for 257 yards. They also held talented Golden Eagle RB Derrick Nix in check. He finished with just 23 yards on 21 carries.

The difference was the impact plays turned in by the Golden Eagle defense, along with QB Jeff Kelly avoiding any costly interceptions. The Southern Miss defense recorded 11 tackles behind the line, four sacks, three interceptions, broke up 11 other passes and recovered a fumble.

Keying the Southern Miss defense was DL Gerald Mumford (10 tackles, three for loss), OLB Roy Magee (13 tackles, one sack) and FS Chad Williams (11 tackles, two sacks, fumble recovery). Talented veteran senior defensive linemen DeQuincy Scott and Cedric Scott also made their presence felt. DeQuincy finished with eight tackles, two for loss, and a sack, while Cedric recorded five tackles, one for loss, and broke up two passes. Oklahoma State also missed two FGs.

Jeff Bower and the Golden Eagles finish the rough early schedule with a satisfying 2-1 record, losing by just three points to Tennessee and coming away with victories against Alabama and Oklahoma State. Keep in mind, the Golden Eagles were the only team in the country to play three nonconference games on the road to open the season. This week, they are finally home, opening their Conference USA slate as they play host to Memphis at Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg.

Notre Dame finished a tough early schedule with a 2-2 mark, falling by a count of 27-21 to Michigan State at East Lansing. Some observers argued that the schedule over the first four weeks wasn't quite as challenging as it was being made out to be. While that may be true, the remainder of the schedule for Notre Dame may be a little tougher than originally anticipated.

After a much-needed week off this Saturday, the Irish host Stanford on Oct. 7, then travel to Morgantown to face West Virginia on Oct. 21. Late in the year they also are home against Air Force and Boston College before closing out the regular season at USC on Nov. 25. The Irish have a few tricky games left on the schedule, plus a challenging finisher against the talented Trojans.

Based on his performance over the first month of the season, Clemson QB Woody Dantzler belongs in the Heisman Trophy race.

Stanford has already upset Texas, and despite its loss to Miami on Saturday, West Virginia is improved. Remember, Don Nehlen's Mountaineers nearly upset Virginia Tech on this same field late last season.

Air Force is off to a 3-0 start, while Boston College has the material to create problems for the opposition when they bring their "A" game. There is no need expounding on the Notre Dame-USC matchup. So while the Irish are 2-2 and have at least survived the rough early slate, the rest of the season isn't exactly a walk in the park.

I must, once again, tip my hat to Lou Holtz and his scrappy Gamecocks for a job well done in their come-from-behind 23-19 victory over Mississippi State at Columbia. Some teams would have caved in early after two costly fumbles by their blue-chip RB Derek Watson as well as a blocked punt.

However, this is a team led into battle by the incomparable Holtz, who in my opinion may be the greatest collegiate football coach of all time. Not only did he win a national championship at Notre Dame, but he also significantly elevated the play of his teams at N.C. State, Arkansas and Minnesota.

Now, he's doing it again at South Carolina. After going winless at 0-11 last season, the Gamecocks are 4-0 out of the blocks, with huge victories over Georgia and Mississippi State.

It's been an unbelievable start to the 2000 college football season. Every week, the marquee matchups have turned out to be riveting contests, and thus far there's been a shocker to steal a headline or two.

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