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  • The sophomore from Ft. Washington, Md. scored his first collegiate touchdown on a 68-

    Sept. 6, 2004
    By Dennis Dodd
    SportsLine.com Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!


    Rutgers coach Greg Schiano is happy to create the barstool argument.

    Was the Scarlet Knights' 19-14 victory over Michigan State on Saturday maybe the biggest upset of the season to date? Judge for yourself: Rutgers opened the season at home before a packed house coming off a five-win season. The heat, that used to be focused on Schiano and his players, instead took a lot out of the Spartans in steamy Piscataway.


    Ryan Neil is hugged after returning an interception for Rutgers' only TD in Saturday's big win.(AP)
    "To our kids and to our staff, I don't think it was (an upset)," Schiano said. "but probably nationally it certainly is because of the reputation we've had."

    For years, the reps of Rutgers and New Jersey were both a challenge for the tour and convention bureau. Without going into a lot detail, suffice to say there aren't many states featured in a cable series about a ruthless crime family.

    At least The Sopranos has been a hit. Rutgers had hit bottom with 11 straight sub.-500 seasons going into this season.

    "The state could really use something to get behind now," Schiano said.

    Rutgers football might be it. After three mostly down seasons, under Schiano (9-27 overall) the Scarlet Knights are hotter than the weather. Anyone who checked into their personnel and 5-7 finish in 2003 knew this might be coming, but c'mon, it was still Rutgers.

    In its 135-year history, the program has been to one bowl -- the 1978 Garden State Bowl, a postseason game that was created just for the school and no longer exists.

    Its own fans were booing the school that played in the first college football game in 1869. Saturday became a coming out of sorts with a sellout of 42,612 packing Rutgers Stadium to see if the hype was true.

    The game wasn't exactly artistic -- Rutgers did not score an offensive touchdown -- but it did lend hope. The victory was the program's first over a Big Ten team since 1991. Since then there have been 46 victories, 16 of them over Navy, Temple or I-AA schools. During the Schiano regime, Rutgers has lost to Buffalo and Villanova.

    So, go ahead Rutgers, celebrate.

    "I can't speak for any of the teams that come before but this is the biggest win since I've been here," quarterback Ryan Hart said after the game. "This is the kind of victory Coach Schiano has been talking about since he got here ... It's so big for the program."

    The love is hitting all at once. Kicker Jeremy Ito (special teams) and defensive lineman (Ryan Neill) were selected Big East players of the week. The Knights received a vote in the AP Top 25.

    A 6-0 start going into the Oct. 23 game at Pittsburgh isn't a pipe dream. Rutgers gets I-AA New Hampshire (which lost its starting quarterback to injury) this week. A modest 2-0 start would be the first since 1994.

    That game is followed by hapless Kent State. There are then consecutive trips to Syracuse and Vanderbilt (outscored by a combined 82-6 in their first games) followed by a home game against Temple.

    It's probably a good sign for Rutgers that the upset quality of its season opener was debatable. Unranked Michigan State was only a six-point favorite and had lost a raft of talent from 2003.

    The early season is becoming known for its lack of shockers. Form is holding all over the country. The AP Top 25 is 20-0 so far and just completed its first undefeated full weekend (17-0) since 1996.

    The only upset that qualifies as major so far is Florida Atlantic's overtime victory at Hawaii that ended at 4:11 a.m. Sunday morning. The Warriors lost to a I-AA team that didn't exist five years ago.

    To a certain extent the major powers have been warned, Schiano said. The MAC is 1-10 overall in non-conference games a year after enjoying its best season ever in terms of national upsets.

    "MAC teams have been beating some real good football teams," Schiano said. "Everybody realizes that now. I think kids see Northern Illinois knocking off Maryland."

    Things change slowly when you're trying to find your way. To hasten the process, the former Miami defensive coordinator has brought a bit of South Florida with him. Any former letter winner has a field pass waiting for him to any home game. It looked a bit like Miami's sideline Saturday with letter winners from as far back as 40 years ago showing up to clog the sidelines.

    Minus the national championship rings, bling-bling, posses and NFL superstars on the sideline, yeah, it was just like Miami. But you've got to start somewhere.

    Among the sellout crowd celebrating the big win was alum James Gandolfini. You probably know him better as Tony Soprano.

    "There is a buzz in the state," Schiano said. "The state of New Jersey was on fire on Saturday. I don't think you should be afraid of that (success)."

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  • DJRamFan
    Schnellenberger building a fourth power in Florida
    by DJRamFan
    Sept. 23, 2004
    By Dennis Dodd
    SportsLine.com Senior Writer

    Why not flip a coin to pick a starting quarterback?

    Howard Schnellenberger had done wackier things in his career. Twenty years ago it seemed like he was throwing that career away. Miami had won the national championship in 1983 and Schnellenberger, the celebrated architect of Hurricanes football, bolted -- try not to laugh -- to the USFL.

    Needless to say, that didn't work out. There was an inspiring stop at Louisville and a disappointing one at Oklahoma but, really, his career arc was never the same again.

    "In my opinion, he might have as many championships as anybody, ever (if he stayed at Miami)," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. "It's crossed my mind many times."

    So why not flip that coin three years ago? How is that more outrageous than creating a football program at an unknown campus in Boca Raton, Fla.? A place where the burrowing owls on campus were the inspiration for the school's nickname?

    Or agreeing to go door-to-door soliciting community leaders for the mere $15 million needed to go from germ of an idea to kickoff?

    Really, it wasn't weird at all for the 70-year old who, well, let's just say he still has extreme confidence in his abilities. So, yeah, it really was Schnellenberger who suggested in 2001 that freshman quarterbacks Jared Allen and Garrett Jahn flip a coin to start the first game in Florida Atlantic's history.

    "They were too close for a human being to call so God called it," Schnellenberger said this week, considering his latest construction project. "Certainly I would do that. Why wouldn't I?"

    Ridiculous is sublime again in Schnellenberger's world. Amid this season's talking points -- hurricanes, instant replay, kickers who can't kick -- is the job Schnellie has done at that owl-laden commuter campus of 13,000 students in Palm Beach County.

    Three victories, all on the road, all against I-A competition in Florida Atlantic's final season before joining the big time, which in this case is the Sun Belt Conference in 2005. Next year, this college football IPO will be eligible for -- please stifle your laughter again -- a bowl.

    All of it after playing organized college football for all of four years. All of it according to plan.

    "He was basically semi-retired in Miami selling municipal bonds," said Dr. Anthony Catanese, the man who hired Schnellenberger at Florida Atlantic in 1998. "I said, 'That's not the place for Howard Schnellenberger.'

    "He told me in five years he'd have this program nationally recognized. He did it in three."

    Almost all of it has been done with kids from the state of Florida who couldn't go to one of the Big Three -- Miami, Florida or Florida State....
    -09-23-2004, 01:14 PM
  • DJRamFan
    Red Dragons earn first win at Bob Boozer Field since 1995
    by DJRamFan
    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida State quarterback Drew Weatherford and Kyle Wright, his counterpart from Miami, are about to take center stage in one of college football's greatest rivalries.

    Both will be making his first career start Monday night when the ninth-ranked Hurricanes open the season against the 14th-ranked Seminoles.

    What a way to make a first impression.

    "We can't go in and make first-game mistakes that you'd get away with against a team of a lesser caliber," said Wright, a sophomore who played sparingly behind Brock Berlin last season.

    Wright took hold of the No. 1 spot in the spring and secured the starting job in the preseason. Ten of the last 11 Miami quarterbacks have won their first start. Ryan Clement's loss to Florida State in 1995 is the only blemish.

    Weatherford, meanwhile, didn't know until last week he'd be Florida State's starter.

    The job came open when Wyatt Sexton was sidelined for the season with Lyme disease, and Weatherford outplayed Xavier Lee to earn the nod for the opener.

    "I'm sure I'll make some plays a freshman will make," Weatherford said. "And I know I'll do some good things."

    Lee will likely get into the game, too, but how much will depend on how Weatherford plays.

    Florida State quarterbacks have won their first start 11 times in a row. The last to lose was Peter Tom Willis to Southern Mississippi in 1989.

    "Everybody keeps asking about Kyle and Weatherford," Miami assistant coach Art Kehoe said. "It's not so much who makes the big plays. It's who avoids the bad ones. That's the big deal."

    Lately, Florida State has been the team making the key mistakes in the rivalry, especially at quarterback. Miami has won six straight, including the last five with Chris Rix starting at QB for the Seminoles.

    A year ago, the Miami-Florida State game scheduled at the Orange Bowl was postponed four days because of Hurricane Frances.







    Now, a week after Katrina came ashore some 300 miles west, football goes on and school officials are hoping the attention on the game produces more help for the storm's victims. The two universities, ACC and NCAA are all foregoing their traditional advertisements during the ABC telecast to allow messages focused on relief efforts.

    It's the second straight year Miami and Florida State, which became Atlantic Coast Conference rivals last season when the Hurricanes moved into the league, have opened the season against each other.

    "The bad news is you've got to be in midseason form to compete against the people you're playing," lamented Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, who has had a handful of national title opportunities taken away by Miami over the years.
    ...
    -09-05-2005, 08:11 AM
  • DJRamFan
    Gundy, Stillwater run deep with optimism for OSU football
    by DJRamFan
    Feb. 14, 2005
    By Dennis Dodd
    SportsLine.com Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!


    STILLWATER, Okla. -- This is what a couple of victories over Oklahoma will get you ...


    Interest from a millionaire donor.
    Interest in your coach.
    Interest in getting better?
    Oklahoma State is in the business of answering that question -- again. It's a common one in Stillwater, where rookie Mike Gundy is the fourth coach since crippling NCAA sanctions tore OSU football apart in 1988.


    QB Donovan Woods will have the spotlight next year. (Getty Images)
    Its perpetual starting point is being the other program in the state, seldom dealing from a position of strength. On its own campus, Eddie Sutton consistently fields a top 10 basketball program. OSU football constantly fights for recruits, attention and victories against that national power 90 minutes down the road.

    Ah, that's where the Cowboys can claim some progress. Quick, name the only school to beat Oklahoma more than once since the beginning of the 2000 season.

    Yep, Oklahoma State, which has won two of the past four meetings and five of the past 10.

    "Our staff, in my honest opinion, does a great job of game-planning them," said Gundy, who ascended from offensive coordinator to replace Les Miles on Jan. 3. "We challenge them. We go after them. Some teams go out there and say, 'Let's get this over with.' Our players go right after them."

    Sooners everywhere have about eight months to let those words soak in. Until then, I-A's youngest coach (Gundy is 37) is brash enough to keep crowing. Miles wasn't shy about the subject while leading the program out of a decade-long malaise before departing for LSU. While his record wasn't spectacular (28-21), his organizational skills and game-planning were outstanding.

    Ask Oklahoma. A going-nowhere Cowboys team beat the No. 4 Sooners in Norman 16-13 in 2001, Miles' first season. They did it again the next year, winning 38-28 against a team ranked No. 3.

    Based largely on those two results, LSU swept in and hired Miles, the only coach to guide Oklahoma State to three consecutive bowls. Also based on those victories, Oklahoma State quickly replaced him with Gundy. Millionaire T. Boone Pickens was already on board, having given a combined $200 million to the school and athletic department.

    Mike Gundy file
    A brief history of Oklahoma State's new coach:
    Birthdate: Aug. 12, 1967 (youngest I-A coach)
    Wife: Kristen
    Children: Gavin, Gunnar, Gage
    School: Oklahoma State
    Playing experience: Four-year starter at quarterback, 1986-89; still holds school career passing record (7,997 yards)
    Coaching experience: assistant Oklahoma State, 1990-1995; Baylor, 1996; Maryland,...
    -02-18-2005, 07:48 AM
  • DJRamFan
    Penn State has Coke-bottle glasses about JoePa
    by DJRamFan
    Oct. 27, 2004
    By Dennis Dodd
    SportsLine.com Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!


    National feature | Notebook
    At least Florida had the power to fire its coach.

    Penn State has no such option. The only person who can determine the future employment of Joe Paterno is Joe Paterno. And at last check the 77-year-old was armed with a four-year extension as a foundation for an increasingly obvious stubborn streak.

    SportsLine.com odds
    Florida coaching candidates
    Coach, School Odds
    Steve Spurrier EVEN
    Bobby Petrino, Louisville 2-1
    Butch Davis, Browns (NFL) 3-1
    Urban Meyer, Utah 10-1
    Jeff Tedford, Cal 100-1
    Rick Neuheisel, H.S. $11,000-1
    Bob Stoops, Oklahoma 1 million-1
    The silly season kicked off early Monday with the firing of Ron Zook at Florida. The 2004-05 round of coaching changes apparently won't include the departure of Paterno. What was merely uncomfortable the past couple of seasons could get flat-out embarrassing in Happy Valley.

    Those Coke bottles might help JoePa focus on his world, but they're still blocking his view. Saturday's 6-4 loss to Iowa proved that -- or rather reinforced it. The Nittany Lions have few Big Ten-quality athletes, even fewer playmakers.

    They are 2-5 this season and 5-14 over the past two seasons. In the last four-plus seasons, Penn State has lost 31 games. That's not a blip on the radar, friends, that's a trend. The school lost a total of 22 games in the 1970s, 28 in the 1980s and 26 in the 1990s.

    What little Big Ten talent Paterno does have, he doesn't seem to know what to do with. The coach lashed out at reporters last week after calling quarterback/receiver Michael Robinson "one of the best football players I have ever coached."


    Steve Spurrier is getting in some golf in Florida before a widely anticipated return.(AP)
    "Don't question me," Paterno added.

    Robinson promptly went out and threw two interceptions and fumbled on plays that ended Penn State's final three possessions. Most troubling, and usually a sure sign a coach is in trouble, is thousands of empty seats at Beaver Stadium.

    Apparently, not at Penn State where the school would be firing one of its biggest donors who has ties to bigger donors. That the final score was the same as the first college football game played in 1869, between Rutgers and Princeton, taints those first noble football warriors.

    Back then, didn't each "touchdown" count for a point?

    Considering the issues, jobs, coaches and schools this could be on the most interesting offseasons in recent history. Now that Florida has broken the seal, here the top potential openings in the country ...

    Florida
    He's coming...
    -10-27-2004, 11:14 AM
  • DJRamFan
    Rose's dream is Big Ten vs. Pac-10 AND title game
    by DJRamFan
    Aug. 5, 2005
    By Dennis Dodd
    CBS SportsLine.com Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!





    CHICAGO -- There's a unique opportunity for the Pac-10 and Big Ten in 2005. For the second time in BCS history, the Rose Bowl is the site of the national championship game after this season. Assuming that USC is the prohibitive No. 1 favorite going in, that puts the pressure on the Big Ten to make it a 1-2 natural matchup for the national championship.


    Heisman winner Matt Leinart is expected to lead USC to a Rose Bowl berth. (Getty Images)
    That's something that hasn't happened in 37 years.

    It seems amazing the last time the Rose Bowl's anchor teams met while ranked 1-2 in the Associated Poll was Jan. 1, 1969. Ohio State beat USC 27-16. A "rematch" of sorts could be looming, although considering the strength of the Big Ten, Ohio State is in for a battle to win the league. Michigan was named the favorite this week at the Big Ten preseason media days.

    "Anyone going in against USC would be the underdog," Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk said. "That would be a little bit of motivation, I think."

    Only twice in history have the 1-2 teams in the AP poll from those conferences met in Pasadena (the other year was 1963). That shows how much fans of both leagues care about such an occurrence. Michigan coach Lloyd Carr has said in the past he valued a Rose Bowl berth over a national championship shot.

    But this year, the stars are aligning for a Big Ten vs. Pac-10 championship game in the shadow of the San Gabriels on Jan. 4. No. 4 Michigan, No. 9 Ohio State and No. 10 Iowa all start the season ranked in the top 10 in the coaches poll. USC, which brings a 22-game winning streak into the season, is led by Heisman winner Matt Leinart.

    "We definitely want to get there no matter who we're playing, but we'd definitely like to get a shot at USC," Michigan running back Michael Hart said. "Whoever wins the Big Ten this year and goes undefeated, they have no choice but to put you in the national championship game because the Big Ten is so strong this year."

    There is some recent history. Michigan was the victim 20 months ago when the USC started its championship run with a 28-14 victory over the Wolverines in the Rose Bowl.

    To say Carr is obsessing over that game might be too strong, but he does remember it. Michigan was trailing only 7-0 in the second quarter when John Navarre's pass hit Braylon Edwards' heel. USC's Lofa Tatupu intercepted and ran it back to the Michigan 3. USC scored easily to make it 14-0.

    "They got a hell of a break when the ball hit Braylon in the heel," Carr said. "We never got back in it. If you look at the teams (they beat), they get them down, they kill...
    -08-08-2005, 06:18 AM
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