Tim Brown, Notre Dame's dangerous flanker, may finally have broken into the open in the Heisman Trophy race. If he goes on to win the ``best player'' honor, voted on by the nation's football writers and broadcasters, his selection will mark the first time since 1972 that the award hasn't gone to either a pure running back or quarterback. Like Nebraska's Johnny Rodgers, the '72 recipient, Brown is a flanker whose main contributions come as a pass-catcher and kick returner.
As a result, he hasn't compiled the rushing or passing statistics Heisman voters love to see. To some degree, his tangible contributions can be negated by opponents who choose to kick the ball away from him or surround him with defenders as he runs his pass routes.
Nonetheless, he makes the most of his opportunities, as happened last Saturday against Boston College, when he compiled a personal best 294 all-purpose yards, including 126 on five pass receptions and 132 on an equal number of punt returns. It was a well-timed effort, sure to win over many fence-sitting Heisman voters, wondering who will get their first-place votes.
This has clearly been the most wide-open Heisman race in quite some time, with a dozen or more viable candidates surfacing at various points. Many have receded into the background, usually because of off days, injuries, or the demise of their teams. Among the candidates who seem to have fallen out of contention are Oklahoma quarterback Jamelle Holieway, Ohio State linebacker Chris Spielman, Florida running back Emmitt Smith, Michigan State tailback Lorenzo White, and Holy Cross's two-way star Gordie Lockbaum, who hasn't had the blockbuster statistical year he enjoyed a year ago.
If Brown sees anyone off his shoulder at this point it could be Syracuse quarterback Don McPherson, who has come on spectacularly in the last few weeks. UCLA's Gaston Green, if he can shake off an injury, could be right there, too, as might Pittsburgh's freight-train running back Craig Heyward. Briefly speaking
With today's increased emphasis on kick coverage, hang time, and the like, returning punts can be a futile proposition. At this year's Cal Lutheran-San Francisco State game, there weren't any returns, which may not seem too surprising until you realize there were 24 punts.
Maryland was looking for every edge it could find during last Saturday's game with Penn State. The Terrapins used the occasion to break in new uniforms - black jerseys, red pants - in hopes of snapping Penn State's streak of 22 victories in the series. Other mental lifts came from playing before a sellout crowd of 62,500 in Baltimore's Memorial Stadium, where the Terrapins had last beaten Penn State in 1961, and knowing they had come close to winning several recent games. None of this was boost enough, however, as the Nittany Lions won, 21-16, in the fifth straight game decided by five points or less.
The coronation of a new career passing leader has become practically an annual event. San Diego State's Todd Santos is the latest quarterback to the scale the heights by bringing his four-year total to 10,661 passing yards, an all-time major college record, during a 38-21 loss to Brigham Young last week. The Aztecs still have two games to go, too, and Santos better keep flinging if he expects to hold the mark for long. Fresno State's Kevin Sweeney broke it last year, Boston College's Doug Flutie in '84, Duke's Ben Bennett in '83, and BYU's Jim McMahon in '81.
The bowl bids go out this weekend, and everybody's waiting to see who gets the Orange Bowl invitation to meet the Big Eight champion (the winner of next Saturday's Nebraska-Oklahoma game). Third-ranked Miami would seem the logical choice, but selecting the Hurricanes would be a ticklish proposition, since they could fall in the polls if they lose to either Notre Dame or South Carolina in their last two games.
The dream of every defensive back is to intercept a pass and return it all the way for a touchdown. Houston's Johnny Jackson enjoyed the dream in spades last Saturday against Texas, when he turned the trick a record three times, racing 97, 53, and 31 yards for TDs with hijacked aerials. For good measure, his roommate, Randy Thornton, even carted one into the end zone as the Cougars shocked the Longhorns, 60-40.
In Kansas, where victories have been in short supply this season, the annual Kansas-Kansas State game provided a rare opportunity for one team to improve its record. On Purple Pride Day, it appeared that winless K-State would finally achieve the school's much-awaited 300th victory in the Wildcats' 92nd gridiron season. All Mark Porter had to do was kick a very makeable 38-yard field as time expired, and K-State would raise its record to 1-8, thereby keeping pace with the downtrodden visitors. The attempt was blocked, though, resulting in a 17-17 tie. ``I didn't watch [the last play]; I heard it. It sounded like one of my 4-irons hitting a tree,'' said Kansas State coach Stan Parrish.
The Loras College Duhawks, who play in 5,000-seat Rock Stadium in Dubuque, Iowa, can't claim many gridiron distinctions. Unless somebody can prove otherwise, however, Loras will boast of having the players with the longest and shortest names of any team this year. Linebacker Dhamitha Arsakularatra is the long man, defensive back Joe Re the short.