Archive for year 2007

Q&A: Outland Trophy Winner Kris Farris on Mark Weber

In this interview, former UCLA All-American offensive tackle Kris Farris offers BYU football fans some unique and personal insights into the Cougars’ new offensive line coach, Mark Weber.

Under Weber’s guidance at UCLA, Farris earned consensus first team All-American honors as well as the Outland Trophy award for best interior lineman in the country as a junior in 1998.

Farris didn’t give up a single quarterback sack that year. In fact, the entire Bruin line yielded only 10 sacks in 1998, while helping their offense rack up a single season school record of 5,847 total yards. UCLA won the Pac-10 title that year and lost a heartbreaking 38-31 nail-biter to Wisconsin in the 1999 Rose Bowl Game.

Following his junior season, the Pittsburgh Steelers made Farris the 74th pick overall in the 1999 NFL Draft.  Two weeks after the draft, Farris broke his ankle, which kept him off the playing field for two years of painstaking rehab. He then signed with the Buffalo Bills and cracked into the starting lineup, only to break his leg against the Steelers. He decided to retire after being picked up by Atlanta in 2003.

Farris earned a bachelors degree in English at UCLA and is currently working toward an MBA at his alma mater. He is Sales Manager for Crest Steel, a steel distributor serving the Western United States.

CG365:  Do you recall the first time you met Coach Weber?

KF:  I actually first met him during recruiting when I was in high school, but he was at UNLV, I think.  It wasn’t more than a handshake at the time, but he reminded me later when he came to UCLA that we had met.

Aside from that, I didn’t officially meet Coach Weber until my sophomore season.  We were in off-season conditioning and Coach (Bob) Toledo walked in with him and Weber was this bald, stern-looking guy and I thought, “Oh boy, what are we in for now?”

Now, he always talks about the first time we met, too. The year before he got there—my freshman season—I had played really poorly. It was like I was starting more because the cupboard was bare.  So, I walked into his office, and he always says the first thing I said to him was “I’ll bet you already heard how bad I am.” He says my shoulders were slumped over and we sat there and talked for a while. It was the first of many talks we had over the next six months. He had a lot to do with helping me get my confidence back and helping me learn how hard I needed to train in the off-season in order to succeed.

CG365:  Would you credit Coach Weber with helping develop you as an offensive lineman?

KF:  I credit him more than anyone else. Coach Toledo gets credit, and it didn’t hurt to red shirt behind Jonathan Ogden for a year—watching him work and how he did things, obviously, helped me a lot.  But, Coach Weber guided me a lot. He talked me through a lot of things. We’d go out to practice and one of the main things he taught me, and I actually still use it in life, I’d go out to practice and run around like a chicken with my head cut off, because I thought, “I’m so bad. I want to be good.”

Coach Weber would say, “Look, you’re not going to get there overnight.  Let’s pick out one thing together everyday that you can work on, and we’ll keep on working on that one thing until you master it, and then we’ll move on to something else.”

That made learning all the nuances of the position and developing my skills a lot more simple.  By the end of my college career, it evolved from “let’s work on your stance” into “let’s work on getting this one step a few inches wider.” We had really got to the point where we were honing in a lot more on refinements that elevated my game. It really helped me out.

CG365:  As you were working on all those little intermediate skill steps, did Coach Weber help you put it all together and see the big picture?

KF:  Yeah, big time. I remember walking into the film room after the Washington game late in my first season under Coach Weber and he told me that I had finally put it all together. I had a dominant performance in a really important game for our team against a top player in the conference. I am still proud of that moment; it showed me that all of the hard work I had put in during the off-season and after practice every day was paying off.  That game skyrocketed my confidence and it carried over into the USC game, our bowl game, and the next season. Twelve months later I won the Outland Trophy.

CG365:  What were your observations of Coach Weber as a recruiter at UCLA?

KF:  He was a really good recruiter. He brought in a lot of key players. He brought in Cade McNown’s replacement, who started for four years, and several blue-chip offensive linemen, that I know of. He was just a really good recruiter.

CG365:  What do you think are Coach Weber’s greatest strengths as a position coach?

KF:  He is great at fundamentals. In that position, especially when you’re trying to mold raw players coming out of high school, you need to spend a lot of time teaching them what to do with their footwork and their hands. You know, “Put your hands right here.  Don’t put it on their chest, I want you to put it three inches to the left of their number.”  You know, he’s just real precise with the fundamentals.

I always found him really approachable, too, where we could just go in and watch film together or talk things over after practice. We could sit out on the field a half hour or more after practice talking about things, even the most mundane stuff, but that’s how committed he was to fundamentals and helping make his players better.

CG365:   What was he like during game time, say, like if he noticed something that your opponent was doing differently than what you saw in their game film?

KF:   He’s really solid in game situations. We’d huddle up after we got off the field every single time, and he has that great ability to tell which players need to be yelled at and which players just need a pat on the back, like “Hey, you’re better than this. Calm down.  Stop worrying about all this other stuff and work on this one step because the player you’re going against is coming upfield more than going outside,” or something like that.

CG365:   As a junior, you didn’t allow a QB sack, and your entire unit only gave up 10 the entire season. How do you think those accomplishments reflect on Coach Weber and his responsibility for your offensive line unit?

KF:  Well, Coach Toledo was always talking about how good our offensive line was and how we were dictating the tempo in practice and our team’s success in the games. Coach Weber really impressed on us how we were pretty much the key to how the team was doing.  If practice wasn’t going well for the whole team, he’d pull us aside and say, “Hey, you can’t let this happen—you guys set the tone for the whole thing.”

If he felt we needed more intensity, he’d ratchet us up a notch and all of the sudden, we’d have more intensity and the whole team would get more out of practice.

He was really big on us being the core unit of the team and instilling pride in us that we were responsible for the quality of the team’s preparationity. And Coach Toledo definitely bought into that philosophy.

CG365:  What kind of memories do you carry with you from that incredible season when you received a lot of personal awards, UCLA won the Pac-10, and you played in the Rose Bowl Game?

KF:  It was unreal—a once in a lifetime type of experience. We were such a close knit team. The offensive line unit we had that year are still good friends of mine. We were close and spent a lot of time off the field together. We’d go out to dinner together once a week.  We knew each other’s personality so well and how we would react to different things, and we communicated really well.

We had a couple sophomores who had joined the starting unit that year and they stepped up and did a great job. It was a kind of a whirlwind year but really exciting. I think we all have a lot of pride in that year. I got a lot of the accolades that year, but I was just the guy the media chose—our entire line play was incredible.

CG365:  What special skill does Coach Weber bring to BYU’s offensive line that they haven’t seen in previous coaches?

KF:  I keep thinking of the word “polish.” He knows how to polish a player’s skill set.  Like I said, he’s really good at fundamentals and if they’ve got a solid unit already, he’s going to step in and really analyze their game and figure out how to make them even better. He knows how to make a good player great, and a great player even better. He helped make me a lot better than I would have been, and everyone else in our unit, too.

CG365:  BYU plays UCLA this coming season in the Rose Bowl Stadium.  How might Coach Weber’s experience at UCLA and playing in Rose Bowl Stadium help prepare the BYU squad for that game in September?

KF:  Well, he did work with Coach Dorrell for a year or two so he probably knows a bit about how UCLA prepares and such. There might be something valuable there he can tap into and relate to his players. As far as playing in that environment, I’m sure he’ll bring them to the stadium the day before and show them that at the end of the day it’s just a grass field like the one they practice on. For sure, he’ll know how to help keep his unit focused in that game.

CG365:  Do you recall any favorite stories or quotes of Coach Weber that have stuck with you throughout the years?

KF:  Not really that I can recall, but what I’ve always remembered and loved is the fact that he instilled a lot of pride in us and it was always just like, “Hey, this game’s on you guys.  If we’re gonna win this game, it’s on you guys.” That’s such a great feeling.

It’s a lot of pressure he put on us, but we’d respond to it and perform because he’d prepared us and we were ready to go. And none more so, than when there were six minutes left in the game and we had a little bit of a lead. He’d just huddle us up and say, “Okay, just like I said.  It’s on you. You guys are gonna win this game for us right now.”

CG365:  One of the most important responsibilities a college coach has is to help young men prepare to survive, succeed, and make positive contributions to society when they finish playing football.  What are your thoughts and feelings about how Coach Weber helped you prepare in that regard?

KF:  Well, it’s been nine years since I left for the NFL, and I still talk to him about every six months.  I think that says a lot about the type of impact he has on his players.  He wasn’t one of those coaches that are all football, football, football. He always asked me how I was doing in my classes. Graduating was always really important to him.  Since I was leaving after my junior year, he always impressed upon me the importance of returning and completing my degree.

I’ve talked to him about jobs I was going to take like the career I have now after I retired from the NFL. I consulted with him back when I was trying to decide whether to take the Buffalo Bills offer or one from New Orleans after I left the Steelers.

He’s been like a life mentor to me. He’s a good friend and his advice and help has gotten me a long way and I trust him. His expertise on the football field carries over off the field.  Football’s a great metaphor for life, and when you’ve got a great coach like Coach Weber who has helped you on the field, it easily carries over off the field.

CG365:  Based on your collegiate experience with Coach Weber, what advice would you give to a young college lineman at BYU regarding this coming season?

KF:  I would say that you need to trust him.  He might tell you to do some things differently than your previous line coach said.  He might take something you think you do really well and say, “Let’s break this down and start over and kick it up a notch.” He understands the big picture, and the fundamentals he teaches are correct, so I think the big thing is to just really trust him.

Fourth and inches …

Will the Gators repeat? Sorry Gainesville, you’ll have to settle for your repeat in hoops ‘cuz it ain’t gonna happen on the gridiron this season.  Okay, but if not Florida, who will ascend to the throne of college football in 2007?  The smart money says USC or LSU.  Given the experience and depth in both programs right now, I would have to agree.  Keep in mind these five top challengers as the season progresses:  Wisconsin, Michigan, West Virginia, Texas, and Louisville.

Let’s get real about the Heisman Trophy … Everybody’s preseason list this year includes Hawaii’s Colt Brennan, Brian Brohm (Louisville), Darren McFadden (Arkansas), Steve Slaton and Pat White (West Virginia), John David Booty (USC), and another Colt, the McCoy kid (Texas).  My dark horse candidate is Nebraska’s senior gunslinger Sam Keller.  Brennan will put up unreal numbers against a patsy schedule (3rd worst strength of schedule in Division 1-A) obliterating virtually every existing NCAA D-1A passing record that he doesn’t already hold along the way.

Can Brennan truly be considered Heisman-worthy if Hawaii goes undefeated and lands in a New Year’s Day Bowl?  I have serious reservations and it’s not because of Hawaii’s weak schedule.  Is it right to place college football’s highest individual award into the hands of a convicted felon who is still on probation (and will be when the award is presented) for crimes committed just three years ago at the University of Colorado?   By all means, flame away with your own take.

For those of you who might have forgotten, as a redshirt freshman at Colorado, Brennan was accused of entering a female student’s dorm room while intoxicated and fondling her.  He was eventually found not guilty of indecent exposure and criminal intent to commit sexual assault, but he was convicted on felony counts of second-degree burglary and first-degree criminal trespass.  He received a sentence of seven days in jail, 60 hours of community service, and four years’ probation, which is still in effect until sometime in 2008.

More on Brennan and Hawaii’s weak schedule … Don’t blame Brennan for having to face patsy opponents like Division 1-AA Northern Colorado and Charleston Southern.  It’s not his fault.  I suggest that the NCAA not include individual and team statistics against opponents from the lower division in the official record book.  That would keep stat-happy coach June Jones from playing Brennan more than the first half of each game.  Instead, watch for Jones to wait until midway thru the 4th quarter before he calls the dogs off.  Figure a minimum of 12 TD passes for Brennan in those two games alone.  Throw in another 12 against Idaho and Utah State and he’d have two dozen TD tosses with eight games to go.

More on the Heisman … The Heisman voting shouldn’t take place until after the bowl games.  Remember when the electrifying Reggie Bush choked in the 2006 Rose Bowl Game?  How could anyone not have voted for Vince Young after his brilliant, clutch performance against USC in that national championship battle?

Speaking of statistics, can the NCAA get their act together?  … They need to go back and include postseason stats for individuals as far back as the record books will allow.  Either that, or don’t include postseason stats for anyone.  It’s ridiculous that bowl game statistics prior to 1992 are not included.  What gives?  One example:  BYU’s Ty Detmer should have something like 7 more TD passes and 1,175 extra yards added to his career stats if his bowl game performances were included.  He still holds the NCAA bowl record for total offense with 594 yards (576 passing yards) against Penn State in the 1989 Holiday Bowl.

More Detmer … This Saturday in their home opener against the Arizona Wildcats, BYU will officially retire jersey #14 worn by All-American QBs Ty Detmer (1988-1991) and Gifford Nielsen (1975-1977).  Both of these former Cougars have previously been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

QUICK HITS

Worst name change… D-1A is now supposed to be called the “FBS.”  Never mind what they are calling D-1AA.  Until further notice, I’m sticking with the traditional terms we are all familiar with for both divisions.  Who came up with this idiotic change anyway?

Biggest impact rule change … Moving the point of the kick-offs back to the 30-yard line will result in two major increases this year:  kick-offs returned for touchdowns and injuries.  Longer gains and more pain.

Coaches on the hottest seats … Arizona’s Mike Stoops, Virginia’s Al Groh, and Mississippi State’s Sylvester Croom.

Potential BCS Busters … Hawaii, TCU, BYU, and Boise State.

Highest rated academic conference in D-1A? … The Big Ten.

Best 2007 Preview magazine … Phil Steele’s steals every category across the board.

The sports information staff that outshines the rest … Notre Dame.  A friendly, efficient team—always first with their media guides in the mail.

Savviest early season scheduling … USC will vandalize Idaho this week, then they’ll have a bye week to get ready for Nebraska on the road.

Quickest fall from grace … University of Florida president Bernie Machen began campaigning for a college football playoff last year even before the Gators won the title.  His proposal was shot down without any fanfare by his conference colleagues in late May at the SEC Spring Meeting.

Upset Specials of the Week… Wyoming Cowboys over Virginia Cavaliers … Toledo Rockets over Purdue Boilermakers … Utah Utes over Oregon State Beavers … Central Michigan Chippewas over Kansas Jayhawks …

BYU Gains Revenge – Smashes Arizona

The BYU Cougars waited twelve long months to settle a score with the Arizona Wildcats but the wait is finally over. Taking a 20-0 lead into the final minute of the game, the Cougars christened the 2007 season with a convincing 20-7 smack-down of Arizona today.

The surprise story of the game was running back Harvey Unga. The redshirt freshman scored two touchdowns and totaled 196 yards (68 rushing, 128 receiving)—nearly as much real estate as Arizona’s team net total 255 yards.

It’s difficult to fathom the backfield weapons the Cougars will have at their disposal when you consider that Fui Vakapuna is not yet 100 percent healthy and Manase Tonga will be rejoining the squad for next week’s game against UCLA.

Just as important, though, for Cougar fans was the question answered about their untested quarterback Max Hall and whether or not he can play at real game speed.  He can. In his first game college game against one of the better defenses in the country, Hall’s line was 26-39, 288 yards, and 2 TD passes with no interceptions.

As a matter of comparison, Miami Dolphins rookie QB John Beck was 28-37, 289 yards, and 1 TD pass for the Cougars last year against Arizona.

Hall, a redshirt sophomore, was cool under pressure, showed excellent pocket presence, a quick release, and a live arm.  He was only sacked once, by a blind side corner blitz, and displayed good field vision with capable foot speed the few times he was forced to scramble.  His upside is enormous this season if the hogs protecting him continue to dominate the line of scrimmage like they did today.

The “Granite Wall” offensive line was as good as advertised. They didn’t give up a sack today (the one sack on Hall was not the O-line’s responsibility). Particularly impressive was BYU’s new offensive line coach Mark Weber yanking Ray Feinga out of the game for a talk after Feinga was flagged for holding on a critical play in the third quarter.

That type of accountability is sure to raise the bar in Cougar land.  More proof of raising the bar?  In last season’s home opener against Arizona, the Cougars gave up 3 sacks compared to one by cornerback Antoine Cason in the first quarter today. They also lost 76 yards in penalties last year compared to 27 yards this time around.

Additional proof that BYU football is rapidly reconnecting with its tradition in the Mendenhall era occurred with 5:58 left in the game and the score 13-0.  BYU had stopped Arizona on a fourth down attempt at the Wildcat 43-yard line and the chains reversed direction.

Instead of running the ball and trying to drain the clock, as offensive coordinator Robert Anae would have done in his past two years helming the Cougar offense, he went to the air. Hall zipped a strike to TE Vic So’oto for an 18-yard gain and a first down at the Arizona 25. It was a dagger to Arizona’s heart, and three plays later Unga carried the rock in from 11 yards out to ice the game.

Nice surprise:  The defense looks even faster this year.  Solid play from backup safety turned starter Corby Hodgkiss and the trio of nose tackles taking over for the injured Russell Tialavea.

Not so nice surprise:  BYU’s kicking and punting units are a glaring weakness that must be addressed.

Post game reflection: Mike Stoops can thank his lucky stars that Appalachian State pulled off a miraculous upset in Ann Arbor about six hours earlier in the day. Michigan’s collapse at home to a D-1AA program will help deflect attention national sportswriters might have given the whipping the Wildcats received in Provo. Stoops was facing the likelihood of that oft-mentioned hot seat getting quite a bit hotter if Arizona suffered a shut out at the hands of a non-BCS foe.

Next up: UCLA at Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, CA on September 8. Former Cougar star recruit Ben Olson is now the starting QB for the Bruins. Cougar fans have largely forgotten the hurt caused when Olson transferred after completing a church mission to Canada back in 2005.  Still, nothing would feel better than to have Hall outshine Olson in next week’s clash.

AP Top 25 Weekly Recap

NO. 1 USC TROJANS (1-0). USC opened up the 2007 season with a stodgy 38-10 thumping of WAC bottom dweller Idaho Vandals … yes, the same Vandals whom Dennis Erickson misled and left hanging when he bolted for Arizona State last winter. To be sure, Erickson’s presence on the Vandals sideline wouldn’t have helped a bit. It was the Trojans’ 34th straight victory at home–the longest such streak in the nation. “There’s a lot of areas we can do better on,” Pete Carroll said, acknowledging a much stiffer test in two weeks on Sept. 15 when they visit No. 16 Nebraska and a rematch with Sam Keller, the former ASU QB who had them on the ropes in Tempe two years ago.

NO. 2 LSU TIGERS. (1-0). The Tigers’ opening 45-0 rout of Mississippi State didn’t necessarily prove a lot, considering it was played in a steady rain. Matt Flynn replaced JaMarcus Russell at quarterback and completed 12 of 19 passes for 128 yards. He also ran for 42 yards, which was a little surprising. With the poor footing, breakaway back Keiland Williams became a short-yardage plugger, scoring twice. The Tigers intercepted MSU QB Michael Henig six times (three picks from Craig Steltz), prompting Henig to remark: “I know people will say bad things this week.” This might also be remembered as the game in which backup QB Ryan Perrilloux emerged from the shadows – the former high-profile recruit ran for one score and threw for another in garbage time. We’ll see how good Les Miles’ team really is this week, when No. 9 Virginia Tech comes to town.

NO. 3 WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS (1-0). Last year, Western Michigan’s defense was sixth nationally against the run – but it never had to face Steve Slaton and Patrick White. Slaton rushed for 109 yards, White for 97, and the Mountaineers frolicked, 62-24. Even better, from the point of view of WVU coach Rich Rodriguez, White showed a stronger arm and finer marksmanship, chucking for 192 yards and two touchdowns. The game marked the debut of superfrosh Noel Devine, who rushed for 44 yards and a TD and caught a 19-yard pass. The Mountaineers play in-state rival (“We Are!”) Marshall on Saturday.

NO. 4 FLORIDA GATORS. (1-0). We all knew Tim Tebow could run, but can he throw? Well, against Western Kentucky, he could. The sophomore southpaw dissected the WKU secondary for 300 yards and three touchdowns in a 49-3 Gator victory, including 103 yards in receptions by Andre Caldwell. “I think (coach) Urban (Meyer) wanted to showcase his (Tebow’s) arm,” Caldwell said. Mission accomplished. As for the defense, the Gators knocked the Hilltoppers’ top two quarterbacks out of the game. It was a night fit for Gators, as well – an hour rain delay in a contest that was finally called by lightning midway through the fourth quarter. Next up: Troy State, which was feasted upon by Arkansas last week.

NO. 5 OKLAHOMA SOONERS. (1-0). The Sooners’ 79-10 blowout of North Texas was the most lopsided season opener since 1989 when they beat New Mexico State 73-3. Freshman DeMarco Murray became the first Oklahoma player to score five touchdowns in his debut, and new redshirt freshman QB Sam Bradford broke Josh Heupel’s record for passing yardage in a half, going 20 of 22 for 350 yards in the first half. He also tied Jason White’s school record of 18 straight completions before his backup came on to mop up the carnage. The Sooners will host the Miami Hurricanes (1-0) this week in one of the best matchups of the early season.

NO. 6 WISCONSIN BADGERS (1-0). The Badgers logged one of the most impressive season openers among ranked teams with a thorough 42-21 spanking of dangerous Washington State. Tyler Donovan looked impressive against the Cougars with a performance that won over the crowd (19 of 29, 284 yards, three passing TDs, one rushing TD). His favorite receiver was Luke Swan, who grabbed eight passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns. The Badgers took a commanding 28-14 lead in the first half after ripping off three unanswered TDs and never looked back. They’ll travel to Las Vegas to take on MWC cellar dweller UNLV this Saturday.

NO. 7 TEXAS LONGHORNS (1-0). It’s a bit hard to believe the pollsters were so kind to leave Texas ranked this high (dropping only three spots) after the Longhorns struggled mightily at home against Arkansas State, finally prevailing 21-13. Coach Mack Brown said, “I told them not to let it scare them. Everybody’s pretty good if you let them stay in the game.” QB Colt McCoy went 22 of 33 for 223 yards, two scores and two picks. No. 19 TCU heads into Austin this Saturday for one of the weekend’s best clashes. TCU is looking to be a BCS buster this year and the Longhorns are one of the biggest obstacles in its way. If Texas plays like it did against Arkansas State, the Longhorns won’t beat the Frogs.

NO. 8 LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (1-0). Brian Brohm started out 8 for 8 – eight possessions, eight scoring drives – as the Cardinals ate Murray State, 73-10. Except for the presence of new coach Steve Kragthorpe on the sidelines, this was déjà vu – Brohm throwing for 375 yards and four touchdowns to veteran receivers Harry Douglas, Mario Urrutia and Gary Barnidge, with holdover RBs George Stripling, Sergio Spencer and Anthony Allen chewing up yardage. “Brian was a surgeon out there,” Kragthorpe said. More like Dr. Kervorkian. The Cardinals go slumming again this week, facing Middle Tennessee in a Thursday night game.

NO. 9 VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES (1-0). Are the Hokies ready to be America’s Team? Their erratic performance in a 17-7 season-opening victory over East Carolina makes one wonder. Of course, with all the emotion revolving around a pre-game dedication of the season to last April’s 32 Tech shooting victims, it’s understandable that Frank Beamer’s squad was a little distracted. Problem is, QB Sean Glennon’s poor showing was a reminder that this week he has to operate against a fierce LSU defense. It’s the 2005 Poster Team (Katrina) against this year’s version; Glennon — and Tech — had better put all distractions aside.

NO. 10 CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS (1-0). Get revenge for last year’s humiliation to the Vols on national TV. Check. Christen DeSean Jackson’s Heisman Trophy campaign. Check. Check out new freshman running back Jhavid Best. Check. The Bears look to be every bit the BCS contender with an impressive 45-31 smack-down of Tennessee in Berkeley on Saturday. Jackson ripped off one of his signature TD punt returns (a jaw-dropping 77-yarder) that instantly catapulted him to top-three status on the Heisman watch list. Cal freshman Best carried the brick four times for 46 yards in his college debut. The Bears have so many speedy offensive weapons, Colorado State head coach Sonny Lubick’s head must be spinning in preparation for this weekend’s game in Fort Collins.

NO. 11 GEORGIA BULLDOGS (1-0). The Bulldogs’ opener with Oklahoma State was supposed to be one of the top games on the opening-day menu – a potent offense (OSU was No. 7 nationally in scoring last season) playing on the road versus a traditional power with 12 first-time starters. The problem, from the Cowboys’ point of view, is that QB Bobby Reid and RB Dantrell Savage were let down by their offensive line, which allowed game-long penetration by the Dawgs. Meanwhile, sophomore QB Matthew Stafford hit 18 of 24 passes for 234 yards in a 35-14 rout. And now, we all know Knowshon – Georgia’s heralded freshman back, Knowshon Moreno, gained 70 yards. This week gets tougher when South Carolina visits.

NO. 12 OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (1-0). The Bucks rolled over early season tune-up Youngstown State 38-6 behind new QB Todd Boeckman’s 225-yard, two-TD performance. Ohio State coach Jim Tressel coached at Youngstown St. for 15 years and racked up four I-AA championships before arriving in Columbus in 2001. “It’s tough when you play against your old folks,” he said. Buckeye fans erupted in cheers and jeers when they learned that archrival Michigan had been upset by I-AA (now FCS) Appalachian State. Tressel, however, said he was rooting for the Wolverines. He knows the importance of playing Michigan as a ranked team at the end of the year. Next up: Akron in Columbus.

NO. 13 UCLA BRUINS (1-0). The Bruins showed Stanford’s new head coach, Jim Harbaugh, just how much work his team needs to compete in the Pac-10 again. Lots. UCLA toyed with the Cardinal in the first half, heading into halftime with a 14-7 lead. The second half was a one-way slugfest with the Bruins dominating 45-17. One sore spot that coach Karl Dorrell knows he needs to shore up is the pass defense. UCLA gave up 331 yards passing to Stanford, and that’s a huge concern with BYU’s precision aerial attack coming to Pasadena this weekend. Intrigue in the game abounds, as Bruin QB Ben Olson was once BYU’s most prized recruit, but he opted to transfer after his church mission to Canada two years ago.

NO. 14 PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS (1-0). Joe Paterno’s troops registered a workmanlike 59-0 dismantling of Florida International in front of a home crowd in Happy Valley that exceeded 107,000. The Nittany Lions outgained the Golden Panthers 549 yards to 114. Penn State receiver Derrick Williams said not having Paterno on the sidelines last year was like their dad was gone. “It showed today how important it is he’s on the sidelines.” The Lions host Notre Dame this week in what might very well be the last time the two teams meet at Beaver Stadium with JoePa at the helm of the PSU program.

NO. 15. RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS (1-0). Cinderella? Not anymore. This was Cinderella on steroids (just a figure of speech, honest), and the Knights planted their size-18 glass slipper squarely on the back of hapless Buffalo, 38-3. This was one of your classic “not as close as the score would indicate” games, with Rutgers up 35-3 at halftime. Heisman candidate Ray Rice rushed for 184 yards and three touchdowns while QB Mike Teel threw for over 300 yards, but the real star turned out to be wide receiver Tiquan Underwood, who caught 10 passes for 248 yards and a pair of scores. The visitors were, well, Buffaloed. This week, it’s Navy’s Midshipmen for Greg Schiano’s scarlet legions.

NO. 16. NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS (1-0). The Cornhuskers smashed the Nevada Wolfpack 52-10 in the debut of heralded transfer QB Sam Keller, who only managed a 193-yard effort with one TD and one interception. Nebraska’s offense looked more like the smash-mouth Big Red ground machine of old with Marlon Lucky rushing 30 times for 233 yards and three scores. The Huskers cannot afford to look past their road game this week at Wake Forest as a showdown with No. 1 USC looms on the horizon. The Demon Deacons fought mightily in a 38-28 loss on the road to Boston College last weekend, and they won’t need any motivation to get up for only their third meeting ever with Nebraska.

NO. 17 AUBURN TIGERS (1-0). The Tigers played like old nags most of the way against a fired-up Kansas State team, then finished like Secretariat. Trailing 13-9 going into the fourth quarter, with a reworked offensive line looking outmatched, Tommy Tuberville’s team finally moved ahead on a TD pass from Brandon Cox to Gabe McKenzie with 2:01 left, then iced the game less than a minute later when DE Quinton Groves showed why he’s on everyone’s All-America team list by separating K-State QB Josh Freeman from the football, which Antonio Coleman carried into the end zone. This Saturday could be one of those “trap” games for the Tigers, though, as South Florida of the Big East visits. The Bulls were underwhelming in a 28-13 victory over Elon, but Alabama transfer Mike Ford looked good at running back and QB Matt Grothe was sharp. Memo to Auburn O-line: SFU’s George Selvie had four sacks last week.

NO. 18 ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS (1-0). Any hopes that Casey Dick would morph into Peyton Manning during the offseason were dashed during the Razorbacks’ 46-26 demolition of the Troy Trojans. Casey didn’t exactly strike out, but he was his old self, a barely adequate 11 of 20 for 108 yards. Still, do the Razorbacks really need a quarterback? Heisman hopeful twins Darren McFadden and Felix Jones rushed for a combined 280 yards (Jones also scored on a kickoff return) and McFadden threw a 42-yard touchdown pass. The Hogs now get a week off before traveling to Alabama.

NO. 19 TCU HORNED FROGS (1-0). Playing without preseason All-America defensive end Tommy Blake, the Horned Frogs stifled instate Big 12 rival Baylor 27-0. The Purple Menace thwarted the Bears’ offensive attack at every turn in preparation for the biggest game on their schedule against Texas in Austin. The Frogs and Horns last tangled in 1995 when they were both members of the old Southwest Conference; Texas leads the longtime series with a record of 60-20-1. If TCU can prevail in Austin, it might very well go on a roll until it plays at BYU in early November.

NO. 20 HAWAII WARRIORS (1-0). Hawaii defeated Division I-AA Northern Colorado 63-6 at home in its season opener. QB Colt Brennan tossed six touchdowns in the first half alone. Extrapolating that over the entire season, Brennan would end up with 150 TD passes on the season–22 more than the category career leader Ty Detmer (128 career TD passes). “We took care of business. That’s what we wanted to do,” said Brennan. Next up for the Warriors is a road game at WAC foe Louisiana Tech. Hawaii faces one of the weakest schedules in Division I-A this year and shouldn’t be severely tested until Nov. 23 in its highly anticipated conference clash with Boise State.

NO. 21 GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS (1-0). So … is Georgia Tech that good? Or is Notre Dame that bad? The consensus after Tech pounded the Irish 33-3 in South Bend – the worst opening-game loss ever for a Notre Dame team – seemed to be: A little of both. Irish coach Charlie Weis said later that his team came out “determined to run the ball.” That’s not good, because ND finished with minus-8 ground yards. The Yellow Jackets were dominant on defense, blitzing relentlessly, and rode RB Tashard Choice (196 yards, two TDs) on offense. This game may be remembered as the debut for freshman Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen, who hit 4 of 6 passes in mop-up duty. Or, it could be remembered as the opening statement in a landmark Georgia Tech season. A letdown shouldn’t be a problem for Chan Gailey’s squad with Samford next on the schedule.

NO. 22 BOISE STATE BRONCOS (1-0). BSU took care of business with a 56-7 thrashing of Division I-AA Weber State on the Smurf Turf field. It was BSU’s 14th victory in a row dating back to last year’s season opener, and the longest winning streak in the nation in major college football. The Broncos led 49-0 at halftime. Ian Johnson had 129 yards rushing and three TDs on the day. BSU coach Chris Petersen said he was surprised how well his team executed on both sides of the ball. This week the Broncos head west to Seattle to take on the Washington Huskies for the first time ever in their brief history as a Division I-A program.

NO. 23 TEXAS A&M AGGIES (1-0). The Aggies took care of Division I-AA Montana State 36-7 in their season opener at home. Coach Dennis Franchione said he was happy with the win and glad that “we’re not Michigan tonight.” QB Stephen McGee accounted for well over 200 offensive yards with 112 yards passing and 121 yards rushing on the night. He also scored two touchdowns. They will face a much stronger opponent when Fresno State (1-0) visits College Station this weekend.

NO. 24 TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS (0-1). Did you really think Tennessee was going to go on the road and beat Cal? After last year’s Golden Bear humiliation in Knoxville? The final score was 45-21, DeSean Jackson used the Volunteers as visual aids for his Heisman campaign, and the young Vol defense obviously leaked. Still, Erik Ainge threw for 271 yards and three touchdowns despite an injured pinky on his throwing hand; WR Lucas Taylor looked like a reasonable replacement for Robert Meacham at wideout; and LB Xavier Mitchell turned out to have “only a concussion” instead of a possibly career-ending spinal injury. As Jimmy Buffett advises in one of his latest tunes: “Breathe in, breathe out, move on.”

NO. 25 CLEMSON TIGERS (1-0). Tiger fans ripped down the collapsible goalposts at the end of their team’s 24-18 victory over Florida State at Death Valley on Monday night – problem was, the game wasn’t quite over, as the officials wanted to review Drew Weatherford’s final incomplete pass. It really didn’t matter, of course, and that’s what Tiger LB Nick Watkins pointed out, as well. “We beat Florida State last year.” Nevertheless, Clemson’s Arkansas-style backfield of James Davis and C.J. Spiller ripped through the Seminoles’ collapsible defense, new QB Cullen Harper tossed a couple of touchdown passes, and the Tiger ‘D’ was solid in the first half. After that, though, Clemson seemed to lack the killer instinct to put the game away – the killer instinct exhibited by the Tiger fans. This week, Clemson hosts Louisiana-Monroe, a 35-17 loser to Tulsa in its opener. The goal posts are probably safe.

ON THE BUBBLE: Boston College, Missouri, Miami, Oregon, Alabama, Oregon State, Michigan, South Carolina, BYU, South Florida.

Fourth and inches …

Talk about shocking the college football world … No disrespect to Appalachian State. They are a fine football team, and by the way, the only team from North Carolina to win any sort of NCAA football title. But, c’mon. When you have the tradition, a national recruiting base, outstanding facilities, a Numero Cinco Ranking with a legit shot at the national title game this year, AND the ghost of Bo watching over you, how can you permit a D-IAA team to come into your crib (The Big Crib, er, House, no less) and make you look silly? The Wolverines tumbled 27 spots in this week’s AP poll–the biggest freefall in the history of the polls. Will anyone be surprised if Lloyd Carr is respectfully asked to step down at the end of the season regardless of whether Michigan goes 11-0 the rest of the way?

►Lucky Choice: The shifting sands of Heisman hype… Like a couple of tigers Siegfried & Roy used to pull out of thin air in Las Vegas, Georgia Tech’s Tashard Choice (196 yards, two TDs versus Notre Dame) and Nebraska’s Marlon Lucky (233 yards rushing, three TDs rushing, one TD receiving) have magically appeared on everyone’s Heisman radar. If Marlon and his teammates gets really Lucky on Sept. 15 against the USC defense and he happens to shred them as easily as he did the Nevada Wolfpack, then he’ll clearly become a leading candidate. No such luck for Tashard, who doesn’t have a Choice regarding who, where, or when the Ramblin’ Wreck play this week. A huge game against Samford just won’t cut it, TC, but don’t worry. G-Tech has plenty of big games coming up on the schedule for you to strut your stuff.

►More Heisman talk at the water cooler … the usual suspects all turned in eye-popping stats … Hawaii’s Colt Brennan tossed six TDs against D-IAA Northern Colorado, and Brian Brohm (Louisville), Darren McFadden (Arkansas), Steve Slaton and Pat White (West Virginia) all posted the numbers necessary to maintain traction on the watch list. John David Booty (USC), and Colt McCoy (Texas) did not. Some folks are ready to throw Ben Olson (UCLA) on the list after connecting for five TD passes over Stanford last week. Hmmm … let’s wait and see how he fares this Saturday when his former buddies from BYU visit Pasadena.

►Speaking of BYU … Cougar fans gotta be happy with newbie QB Max Hall and his performance against Arizona last Saturday. He went 26 of 39 for 288 yards and two TDs, which bettered his predecessor’s showing last year ever so slightly. (John Beck was 28 of 37 for 289 yards and one TD last year against the Wildcats). Just as impressive was redshirt freshman Harvey Unga. Making his first start ever, Unga racked up 196 total yards (68 on the ground, 128 receiving, two TDs) and was honored with the MWC Offensive Player of the Week award. Also noteworthy was BYU’s stingy defense which held Arizona pointless for 59 minutes of the game, finally allowing a score in the final seconds of mop-up time.

QUICK HITS

► Worst name change… I’m holding this over from last week. D-IA is now supposed to be called the “FBS” and the D-IAA is now supposed to be the “FCS.” Everywhere you read about college football, everyone is using both categorizations. Is that the politically correct thing to do? If you don’t like it, say something. Start a fan revolt and petition the NCAA. I’m not using ’em, so there.

►Let’s get this straight … For you UCLA and BYU fans needling each other back and forth on your smack boards, “The Granddaddy of Them All” is a trademarked name referring to the Rose Bowl Game because it is the oldest and most prestigious bowl game in college football … It is not another name for Rose Bowl Stadium. The 94th Rose Bowl Game will be played on Jan. 1, 2008, just a few hours after the 119th Rose Parade.

►Coaches on the hottest seats … Yep, I checked and they’re still there … Arizona’s Mike Stoops, Virginia’s Al Groh, and Mississippi State’s Sylvester Croom.

►Potential BCS Busters … Everyone here holding strong through Week 1 … Hawaii, TCU, BYU, and Boise State.

►Look out, coach! … Tom O’Brien, former head coach at Boston College, leads the North Carolina State Wolfpack into dangerous territory this weekend …

►Potentially looking at the longest season of despair? … Notre Dame fans.

►Best Electronic College Football Database? … Collegio Football (www.sophosoft.com). You will be amazed by the amount of information and ease of navigating the program. It’s like having a mini-media guide for all 119 D-1A teams at your fingertips.

►Tressel says he was rooting for Michigan last week? … Some Buckeye Nuts might find that difficult to swallow, but I’ll buy it. It is only to Ohio State’s advantage to play the highest-ranked Michigan team it possibly can in late November.

►You’re either suspended or you’re not, right? … What’s with Wisconsin running back Lance Smith being suspended from road games but being cleared to play at home? Smith was arrested on battery charges in July and originally suspended from the team. AD Barry Alvarez reinstated Smith’s home game privileges. He’ll miss the UNLV game this week, as well as road games at Illinois, Penn State, Ohio State and Minnesota.

►Big ouch … Tulsa has lost prized Oklahoma transfer RB Courtney Tennial to a season-ending knee injury. Tennial was the Golden Hurricanes’ leading ground gainer last season with 862 yards and 14 TDs. Get well soon, Courtney.

►Quick Snap Question … presented by the 83rd East-West Shrine Game, Jan. 19, 2008 in Houston on ESPN:

When was the last time that Ohio State played an unranked Michigan team in The Rivalry Game?

Be quick and be correct. The first email received with the correct answer wins you a limited edition two-card set of 2007 Rose Bowl Game trading cards. The winner will be announced in next week’s Fourth and inches…

►Best Games of the Week … TCU Horned Frogs at Texas Longhorns … BYU Cougars at UCLA Bruins … Miami Hurricanes at Oklahoma Sooners … North Carolina State Wolfpack at Boston College Eagles … Oregon Ducks at Michigan Wolverines … Fresno State Bulldogs at Texas A&M Aggies … Boise State Broncos at Washington Huskies … South Carolina Gamecocks at Georgia Bulldogs … Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Penn State Nittany Lions … South Florida Bulls at Auburn Tigers … Virginia Tech Hokies at LSU Tigers …

►Upset Specials of the Week … Last week (1-3) … Washington Huskies over Boise State Broncos … TCU Horned Frogs over Texas Longhorns … BYU Cougars over UCLA Bruins … South Florida Bulls over Auburn Tigers …

A Different Type of Star QB

In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Daily News, UCLA quarterback hopeful Ben Olson responded to a remark made by the reporter who was perpetuating the mythical notion that no quarterback who served a two-year Latter-day Saint mission had ever returned to become a star quarterback.

Olson, who served his mission to Canada from 2003-2005, offered a response oozing with confidence, one that ought to have UCLA fans drooling at the thought of having him at the helm of the Bruins’ offense for the next three years:

“It’s important to me, plus I’m blessed with a lot of talent,” Olson said. “I’m better than any other guy that’s gone on a mission.”

You have to love that sort of self-assurance from this redshirt sophomore, even if it’s not exactly wrapped up in fact. You see, there happens to be a respectable group of returned missionaries preceding Olson who have already delivered Big Ten, Pac-10, and Mountain West Conference championships, not to mention bowl game victories, including two in “The Granddaddy of Them All” during the past twelve years.

So, the question that begs to be asked is “what does it take to be a star quarterback?” John Elway gained star status as a quarterback in college, even though he never led Stanford to a Pac-10 title or even a bowl game appearance. Who determines star worthiness—the critics or the fans?

The following five returned missionary quarterbacks accomplished star-quality achievements on the gridiron after volunteering two years of their lives to religious pursuits. Did their success translate into stardom?

Darrell Bevell, Wisconsin Badgers

Bevell served his mission in the Cleveland, Ohio region. He was a four-year starter (1992-95) in Madison and finished his career as Wisconsin’s all-time leading passer with 19 school records and two Big Ten marks.  He is best known to Badger fans as the quarterback who led Wisconsin to a victory over highly favored UCLA in the 1994 Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl championship was the first ever for Wisconsin, and it capped a 1993 regular season which saw the Badgers go 10-1-1 and claim a share of the Big Ten Conference championship, the program’s first conference title since 1962.

Brad Otton, USC Trojans

Otton served the beginning of his 2-year mission in Italy and completed it in Brooklyn, New York. A transfer from Weber State, the lanky 6’5” field general led USC to the Pac-10 title in his senior year (1995 stats: 196-of-370, 2,649 yards, 20 TDs and 10 interceptions). His remarkable performance in the 1996 Rose Bowl Game victory over Northwestern was a fitting exclamation mark to his college career (29-44, 391 yards, 2 TDs).

Brandon Doman, BYU Cougars

Doman served his mission in Argentina.  He didn’t win the starting quarterback job at BYU until the next to last game of his junior year. He engineered back-to-back wins in those two starts with the final victory of the season coming on the road over instate rival Utah in the last game of LaVell Edwards’ sterling career. As a senior in 2001, Doman was a unanimous All-Mountain West Conference first team selection and Heisman Trophy candidate, leading the Cougars to an undefeated conference championship season, a Liberty Bowl appearance and 12-2 overall record. He was the second ranked passer in the nation and second in total offense (2001 stats: 261-408, 3,542 yards, 33 TDs, and 503 yards rushing and 8 TDs).

Paul Peterson, Boston College Eagles

Peterson served his mission in Nicaragua.  After earning 2002 J.C. Grid-Wire All-America honors as a quarterback at Snow College (leading the NJCAA in passing yards and TDs) he transferred to B.C. and immediately challenged for the starting QB job. He took over starting duties with three games left in the season and promptly led the Eagles to victories over Virginia, Rutgers and 12th ranked Virginia Tech. He went 16-25, 244 yards, and 2 TDs in a 35-21 win over Colorado State in San Francisco Bowl. The next season B.C. won their first two games, making Peterson the only Eagle QB to ever go undefeated in his first six starts.  He finished 12-2 as a starting quarterback at Boston College, capping it off with an MVP-winning performance (24-33, 236 yards, 2 TDs) over North Carolina in the Continental Tire Bowl—even though he broke his leg and missed the bulk of the second half action.

John Beck, BYU Cougars

Beck served his mission in Portugal.  He is the quarterback that Ben Olson would be competing against for the starting role at BYU had Olson remained in the Cougar program.  He is one of only two quarterbacks to start all four years in the BYU program, with Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer being the other.  As a freshman, Beck earned Academic All-Mountain West honors and second-team All-Mountain West honors as a sophomore.  Last year was his breakout season, being named team offensive MVP, Academic All-MWC, and All-MWC first-team. He threw for 3,709 yards, and ranked fifth nationally with 309.1 yards-per-game average.  Beck currently ranks second all-time in Mountain West Conference history with 7,136 career passing yards and this year he has already been named the MWC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year by The Sporting News and Blue Ribbon and projected as a Top 10 NFL QB prospect by nearly every draft analyst.

So what is it that makes a college quarterback a star?  What will be the measuring stick for Ben Olson when compared to other returned missionary QBs? Is it conference championships, bowl game victories, eye-popping statistics, gutsy performances in the clutch, or a combination of these achievements?

All five quarterbacks, with the exception of John Beck, have led their teams to league titles or bowl game victories, and he has one year left to do it.  If you ask Beck, he’ll tell you that glossy stats and postseason awards mean nothing without achieving team goals. For his part, he won’t consider himself a star quarterback until he has helped BYU win a conference championship and a bowl game. His only comparison for greatness is found in the accomplishments of the legendary signal callers who came before him.

Ben Olson doesn’t need to measure himself against other returned missionary quarterbacks to be considered a star quarterback.  He need not look any further than Westwood for inspiration and a more meaningful measuring stick. Former Bruin QBs like Gary Beban, John Sciarra, Tom Ramsey, Rick Neuheisel, Wayne Cook, and Cade McNown all delivered Pac-10 titles and four Rose Bowl victories in six appearances to their alma mater.  And, Ben, be happy in knowing that most UCLA fans also consider Troy Aikman a star—and he accomplished neither.