The current year got off to a promising start for Tennessee football rooters, when the U of T Volunteers crushed Miami, 35-7, in a shocking Sugar Bowl result. Things have gone sour around the state ever since. The Vols have really collapsed, and the major college teams at Vanderbilt and Memphis State haven't exceeded their very modest expectations. Picked in some quarters to win the Southeastern Conference, Tennessee is 0-3 in league play and 2-5 overall. This a cruel twist to the many orange-clad fans, who keep hoping Tennessee will be transformed into a perennial power by Johnny Majors, architect of Pittsburgh's 1976 national champions and a two-time National Coach of the Year.
The team's most agonizing defeat may have come at the hands of Army, which scored the winning touchdown on a blocked punt with 35 seconds left. Of course Tennessee's latest defeat, a 14-13 loss to Georgia Tech, was a real heartbreaker, too.
Memphis State and Vanderbilt, a bowl team four years ago, have combined to equal Tennessee's less-than-grand win total. Each team is 1-7. After losing to such non-powers as Louisville and Southwestern Louisiana, Memphis State finally broke into the win column, but at Vanderbilt's expense. The Tigers beat Vandy 22-21 last Saturday.
Life in football's Bermuda Triangle continues this week as Memphis State takes on Tennessee in another game between disappearing Division I-A teams. Under Majors, the Volunteers are 5-0 against State, but MSU has the momentum garnered from a one-game winning ``streak.'' TD with no time left lifts Wolfpack
Remember Doug Flutie's famous game-winning pass against Miami two years ago, the one that clinched a Cotton Bowl berth for Boston College and the Heisman Trophy for the BC quarterback? Well, Erik Kramer of North Carolina State has come up with his own version of Flutie's miraculous completion. Kramer's wasn't quite so long, 33 yards compared with 48 for Flutie, but it, too, came down in the arms of a teammate for a TD after time had expired. The connection gave the Wolfpack a 23-22 victory over South Carolina. The game would have ended on the previous play, a sack of Kramer, except that the Gamecocks were called for offsides, and a game cannot end on a defensive penalty.
``The pass'' is only the latest, exciting chapter in NC State's surprising 6-1-1 season. Three weeks ago they won a wild 35-34 affair over North Carolina, when the Tar Heels failed on a two-point conversion attempt with 8 seconds left. And in an even earlier, high-scoring thriller with Wake Forest, State emerged a 42-38 winner.
This has all come as a very pleasant surprise for a program that has been stuck in a 3-8 rut the last three seasons. Things have turned around under new coach Dick Sheridan, the 1985 Div. I-AA Coach of the Year. Sheridan came from Furman, a 2,500-student school that had beaten 24,000-student NC State the last two seasons. Virginia's progress halted
Just two years ago, George Welsh, one of the most respected coaches in the country, took Virginia to its first-ever bowl appearance. After a Peach Bowl victory capped the school's first consecutive winning seasons since 1952, many observers were convinced that a bright new era had begun for the Cavaliers.
That hasn't exactly been the case. Last year's team managed to keep the ball rolling with a 6-5 record, but the current squad has dipped to 2-6. Virginia's latest defeat, a 41-37 loss to cross-state rival William & Mary, was particularly demoralizing.
For one, it came to a team that plays at the 1-AA level, which is a cut below major-college status. Furthermore, William & Mary's quarterback, Ken Lambiotte, was once enrolled at Virginia. When his basketball and football ambitions were stymied at Virginia, though, he transferred to William & Mary, and on Saturday completed 29 of 37 passes for 307 yards and three touchdowns. Briefly speaking
Though the Navy-Notre Dame rivalry has enjoyed some appeal over the years, it is basically void of true competitiveness. That point was underlined once again last Saturday, when the Irish posted their 23rd straight victory over Navy, which last won with Roger Staubach at quarterback. The Midshipmen occasionally put up a gallant fight, and were not really embarrassed in losing 33-14 this year. Still, Notre Dame owns a 50-9-1 record in the nation's longest continuous intersectional rivalry, which no longer serves any useful purpose.
Although Florida, which has been on probation, is again eligible to accept bowl bids, its postseason prospects were virtually nil until now. The Gators are still only a mediocre 4-4, but Saturday's electrifying 18-17 upset of fifth-ranked, undefeated Auburn momentarily returns them to the bowl picture. Quarterback Kerwin Bell came off the bench to spark a spectacular fourth-quarter comeback, in which Florida scored all 18 of its points, including the winning TD and two-point conversion with 36 seconds left.