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  • Callahan: Changing old offense has been smooth

    Sept. 13, 2004
    SportsLine.com wire reports

    OMAHA, Neb. -- Take away the glut of turnovers, and Bill Callahan says Nebraska's transition from the triple-option to the West Coast offense has gone smoothly.

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    "If you have a system as a head coach coming into a new environment and culture, you can do it," Callahan said Monday during a conference call. "I feel very confident and secure making that comment because of what we've accomplished just in the two games we've been out there."

    Callahan said the Cornhuskers (1-1) have proved they have not sold out to the pass, as some thought would happen.

    The Huskers still are a top-10 rushing team, ranking seventh nationally at 318.5 yards a game. They are 64th nationally in passing yards at 210 a game. Their run-pass ratio is nearly even, with 68 rushing attempts and 73 pass attempts.

    "When people look at the box score, they're going to say, 'Oh, boy, Nebraska made this transition from the option to the forward pass and have all of a sudden just abandoned the run and are throwing the ball all over. But that's not true," said Callahan, in his first season with Nebraska.

    The main sticking point has been the play of quarterback Joe Dailey. The sophomore has thrown seven interceptions in two games and ranks last in the Big 12 in passing efficiency.

    "We've struggled at quarterback, make no doubt about it," Callahan said. "There has been plenty of opportunities to do some positive things, and we've struggled. We've turned it over unnecessarily and at untimely times, and it hurt our ability to sustain and endure late into the fourth quarter of this past game."

    Callahan said part of the reason for the relatively easy shift to the West Coast offense is that his assistants are familiar with the system.

    Offensive coordinator Jay Norvell was an assistant under Callahan with the Oakland Raiders before coming to Nebraska, and running backs coach Randy Jordan played in the system for the Raiders.

    Callahan also praised the work of offensive line coach Dennis Wagner, who came to Nebraska from Fresno State.

    "Wags had that line at Fresno, and now they're sitting there 2-0 beating two top-ranked teams like Washington and Kansas State, and that was his crew," Callahan said.

    Callahan hopes to see his team take better care of the ball Saturday at Pittsburgh. The Huskers turned over the ball five times in the 21-17 loss to Southern Mississippi, with Dailey intercepted three times. The Huskers led 17-9 late in the third quarter.

    "We need to learn how to finish a team off," Callahan said. "We had excellent field position provided by our defense, but we didn't seal the deal. When you have opportunities like that, it's important to finish out on a strong note."



    AP NEWS
    The Associated Press News Service

    Copyright 2004, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved

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  • DJRamFan
    LSU to play both QBs, unsure on starter
    by DJRamFan
    Sept. 6, 2004
    SportsLine.com wire reports

    BATON ROUGE, La. -- Quarterbacks Marcus Randall and JaMarcus Russell both struggled to move LSU's offense against Oregon State last weekend.

    They changed places four times and between them managed to generate just enough points for an overtime victory.

    That was enough to keep both of them in the plans for No. 6 LSU's game against Arkansas State on Saturday, coach Nick Saban said.

    "I think it's a tribute to both guys that they went in and out of the game in the second half, and both ended up making plays that contributed to the success that we had coming back in the game," Saban said of the 22-21 win. "So, I think that it would be safe to say that we'll probably end up playing two quarterbacks."

    Randall, a fifth-year senior whose experience came when he stepped in for an injured Matt Mauck for half the 2002 season, was supposed to have locked up the job. But he had problems in the opener, including seeing a touchdown erased by a penalty.

    At halftime, Russell, a 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman, was sent in. Based on history, Saban said, they had found it best when Randall was struggling to take him out and let him settle down.

    Russell had his own problems, but he also threw two touchdown passes to tie the game.

    Then in overtime, Russell had cramps and had to leave the game. So Randall stepped in again and ran for a touchdown that proved to be the game winner.

    "I'm not sure that I'm ready to say who's going to start the game," Saban said. "But I'm not sure that that's really the issue here. I think the issue is that we need better execution at the quarterback position. We want both guys to continue to improve, we need both guys to continue to improve and we're going to work both guys so that they can improve and give them both an opportunity to most likely play in this game."

    After watching the game film, Saban said there was no lack of effort or letdown even though the Tigers trailed until the final two minutes. There was a lack of execution at every position, however.

    "We looked like seals running around on dry land out there," Saban said.



    AP NEWS
    The Associated Press News Service

    Copyright 2004, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved
    -09-07-2004, 02:13 PM
  • DJRamFan
    Gilbertson changes starting QB
    by DJRamFan
    Sept. 27, 2004
    SportsLine.com wire reports

    SEATTLE -- Washington coach Keith Gilbertson said Monday redshirt freshman Carl Bonnell will be the starting quarterback when the Huskies visit Stanford next weekend.

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    Casey Paus, a junior who started the first three games, is still expected to play but now is considered the backup.

    "We labored on these thoughts," Gilbertson said. "I'd like to see a guy go in as the starter and stay there. Obviously, we're struggling offensively."

    Some other changes were forced by injuries. Receiver Corey Williams is out for the season after surgery Sunday for a separated wrist. Williams ran into a brick wall after running through the end zone during a 38-3 loss at Notre Dame on Saturday.

    He was examined after the Huskies (0-3) returned from South Bend, Ind., and doctors recommended immediate surgery.

    Receiver Charles Frederick, who also returns kicks and punts, is "very, very doubtful" for the Stanford game because of a strained hamstring, Gilbertson said. And fullback Zach Tuiasosopo probably is finished for the season after breaking a bone in his right leg at Notre Dame.

    "This happens to just about everybody at some point," Gilbertson said. "You're not always going to have smooth sailing."

    The Huskies, winless after three games for the first time since 1969, are becoming much younger. Sophomore Quintin Daniels and redshirt freshman Bobby Whithorne are the starting receivers.

    Several other youngsters have been getting more playing time, including freshman starting defensive tackle Jordan White-Frisbee. Erick Lobos and Greyson Gunheim also have been playing significant minutes on the defensive line.

    The young Huskies might be struggling, but Gilbertson said they'll improve.

    "We're not going to make seniors out of freshmen in just a few weeks," he said. "A month from now, they'll have a month more experience. A month from now, they'll be a much better football team. They've got to know it."

    The demotion came as a surprise to Paus, who was informed by a school publicist when he arrived for Washington's weekly round of interviews with reporters. He was 10-of-26 for 130 yards with no interceptions in the first half at Notre Dame.

    "It's not really up to me," Paus said. "I thought I played pretty well. Unfortunately, wins are what matter."

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    Gilbertson said he made the decision earlier Monday after meeting with his offensive coaches.

    "I don't want anyone to feel I don't think Casey Paus isn't a great player or that I don't have confidence in him. I do," Gilbertson said. "I just think this is...
    -09-28-2004, 08:27 AM
  • DJRamFan
    Despite Miami pain, Bowden says he's staying with Rix
    by DJRamFan
    Sept. 13, 2004
    SportsLine.com wire reports

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Chris Rix will remain Florida State's starting quarterback despite a dreadful performance in last week's loss at Miami.

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    Coach Bobby Bowden announced his decision at a booster luncheon on Monday.

    Rix, who is Bowden's first-ever four-year starter, became Division I-A's only quarterback to go 0-5 against the same school after failing to lead the offense to a touchdown in Friday night's loss at the Orange Bowl.

    "I thought about it all night and all the next day and all the next night and talked it over with our coaches and everything," Bowden said after practice Monday night. "We felt like he's really got the kids behind him.

    "Four years ago (the players) were not behind him. I think the wise thing to do is start him and see if he can't get back to his old self."

    Rix completed 12 of 28 passes for 108 yards, threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles, including a critical one in overtime in the 16-10 loss. He ranks 10th in the Atlantic Coast Conference's passing statistics with a 61.0 efficiency ranking.

    "It's way too early to panic," added Bowden, who has spent most of the past three autumns defending Rix, now 24-11 in four seasons leading the Seminoles, who dropped from No. 4 to 8 in the latest media poll. "It's not time."

    Bowden was quick to remind Florida State fans in the audience that the Seminoles ran the table in 1988 after losing their opener to Miami. Florida State finished No. 3 in the AP rankings that season.

    "We've been there before," Bowden said. "The only thing that game the other night proved was we're not going to have a perfect season."

    Bowden also has few alternatives as no other quarterback on the Seminoles roster has ever started a game or seen any significant playing time. Backup Wyatt Sexton was 3-of-5 for 45 yards in limited mop-up duty last season.

    However, Bowden conceded he had thought about playing the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Sexton, the top student on the team and the son of running backs coach Billy Sexton.

    Fabian Walker, who had backed up Rix the previous two seasons, transferred to Valdosta State over the summer. However, Bowden conceded he had thought about playing the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Sexton, a 4.0 student and the son of running backs coach Billy Sexton.

    "We definitely need to get him some action," Bowden said.

    Bowden hopes to redshirt freshman quarterbacks Xavier Lee and Drew Weatherford.

    Next up is Alabama-Birmingham, a team that crushed Baylor 56-14 in its opener and has Bowden more than a little worried.

    "It's a good time to play Florida State -- after Miami,"...
    -09-14-2004, 07:34 AM
  • DJRamFan
    Utah ready for big finale to breakthrough season
    by DJRamFan
    Dec. 31, 2004
    SportsLine.com wire reports

    TEMPE, Ariz. -- Utah used an unstoppable offense to break through the walls surrounding college football's big bowls.

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    Now the unbeaten Utes are expected to do more than merely win the Fiesta Bowl. They are supposed to win big over Big East champion Pittsburgh on Saturday night.

    That's heady stuff for the Mountain West Conference champs, who will bring a large chunk of Salt Lake City's population with them for the game at Sun Devil Stadium.

    "This has been pretty dreamlike," quarterback Alex Smith said. "This has been a goal of ours since January, and to finally reach it, it's pretty surreal. I'm just trying to take it all in and not let it go by too fast."

    Coach Urban Meyer, who brought about Utah's improbable climb to national prominence, will coach his final game for the Utes, sharing duties with his successor, defensive coordinator Kyle Whittingham.

    After two years at Bowling Green and two at Utah, Meyer is bound for Florida. He leaves behind a Utah program that represents the hopes of every school outside the six conferences that make up the Bowl Championship Series.

    The Utes (11-0) are the first non-BCS team to make it to one of the four elite bowls - automatically qualifying by finishing sixth in the BCS rankings.

    They did it with an offense that averaged more than 500 yards and 45 points per game. On 60 trips inside an opponent's 20-yard line, the Utes scored touchdowns 85 percent of the time. Utah scored fewer than 40 points in a game only twice.

    Meyer's explanation of his offense is simple.

    "It's a personnel-based offense," he said. "Spread the field, and let the good players touch the ball."

    Smith, fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting, is the best of those players.

    Second in the country in passing efficiency, the junior from La Mesa, Calif., completed 66 percent of his passes this season for 2,624 yards and 28 touchdowns, with just four interceptions. He also ran for 563 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 4.7 yards per carry.

    "They have an extraordinary player at quarterback," Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris said. "He's not only a good runner -- runs the option well -- he's also an outstanding passer. I think the other quality that separates him from most quarterbacks is he's tough as nails. He's the guy that makes it go."

    Smith, who might enter the NFL draft after this season, said there is no more enjoyable offense to run than the one Meyer has developed.

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    "We give a ton of different looks," the QB said. "It's pretty amazing when you can run the option and the spread from the same formation."...
    -12-31-2004, 03:56 PM
  • DJRamFan
    Texas coach declares Oklahoma is better than last year
    by DJRamFan
    Oct. 10, 2004
    SportsLine.com wire reports

    DALLAS -- Texas coach Mack Brown thinks this Oklahoma squad might just be better than the one that dominated his team a year ago.

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    The reason wasn't the score -- the second-ranked Sooners beat the Longhorns 12-0 on Saturday, compared with a 65-13 blowout last season. Rather, it was the abundance of talent for Oklahoma (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) that made the biggest impression on Brown.

    Quarterback Jason White, last year's Heisman Trophy winner, threw for just 113 yards and no touchdowns while getting picked off twice. And it was more than enough for the Sooners, thanks to 225 yards rushing on 32 carries by dynamic freshman running back Adrian Peterson.

    "Jason's such a great player and he's been around so long, we felt like we had to give him a lot of different looks and try to change up," Brown said. "Where they're so much better in some ways than they even were last year is they have the ability to run the ball now, so it's really hard to get pressure on him."

    At the end of last season, pressure was the best strategy to beat Oklahoma. Kansas State and LSU blitzed White endlessly and it cost the Sooners the Big 12 title and the national championship.

    But with Peterson in the backfield, it's no longer possible for teams to forget the run and focus on White. While Peterson never made it into the end zone against the Longhorns (4-1, 1-1), he put the Sooners in scoring position.

    "I guess he was the difference maker," Longhorns cornerback Michael Huff said.

    With Peterson emerging as Oklahoma's primary back, coach Bob Stoops is able to use Kejuan Jones as a change of pace. The junior, who bulked up to 200 pounds in the offseason, once excelled as a goal-line back for the Sooners but inherited the starter's role when Quentin Griffin departed.

    Jones had 63 yards and a touchdown against Texas.

    "We expected to be able to run the football, and it wasn't just Adrian," Stoops said. "I think our offensive line and the way they played are all part of running the ball. We're improving with it."

    The Sooners' defense also had its best performance of the season, holding Cedric Benson to 92 yards and shutting out a Texas team that hadn't been held scoreless since 1980.

    Oklahoma came up with three turnovers, including two in its own territory, and twice sacked Texas quarterback Vince Young to knock the Longhorns out of field-goal range.

    "I thought defensively, maybe not too many people recognize or give those guys much credit," Stoops said. "I felt all along we were on the verge of really playing well defensively."

    Stoops said he believed the rivalry game in the past had been a helpful boost...
    -10-11-2004, 02:40 PM
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