COLLEGE FOOTBALL / GENE WOJCIECHOWSKI : No. 1 Question Is Answered, but There Are Others

If only we had the powers of Star Trek's Spock. Then, using the Vulcan mind probe, we would ask . . .

--Brigham Young quarterback Ty Detmer why, with fewer than 30 seconds remaining, the ball on the Iowa 18, the score tied, the Hawkeyes confused, a first down, a BYU timeout remaining and his primary receiver double-covered, he threw it anyway and had the attempt tipped and intercepted?

Detmer, a Heisman Trophy winner who should have known better, is the recipient of the Bowl Dunderhead Award, presented annually to the player or coach who comes closest to wresting defeat from the jaws of victory.

We would ask . . .

--Colorado Coach Bill McCartney how he feels to have relinquished, at last, the acclaimed Dunderhead Award.

McCartney, in a daring but incredibly flawed decision, chose to punt the ball to Notre Dame's Raghib Ismail in the closing moments of last year's Orange Bowl game. Only by the grace of a penalty flag was Ismail's electrifying return for the potential winning touchdown nullified.

We would ask . . .

--Mark Duffner, who owns the highest winning percentage in college football history (and that includes Knute Rockne), why it took so long for someone to rescue him from Division I-AA Holy Cross?

The way we look at it, Maryland Athletic Director Andy Geiger got the bargain of the year when he hired Duffner (60-5-1 at Holy Cross) last week to revive the Terrapin program, which has never been the same since Bobby Ross left.

We would ask . . .

--The NCAA Football Rules Committee why, in the name of kissing your sister, there isn't at least a sudden-death provision in bowl games? After all, who in the world wants to watch a tie in the postseason?

We would ask . . .

--NBC executives how embarrassed they were when the network kept featuring Nebraska fullback Omar Soto in their daily and nightly Orange Bowl promotional spots?

Uh, people, Soto was ruled ineligible to play in the game.

We would ask . . .

--Texas Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds what exactly he was thinking when he hired John Mackovic from Illinois.

Nothing against Mackovic, a decent guy whose record as Illini coach was 30-16-1, but we have serious doubts about how the corporate image, which apparently is so important to Dodds, is going to play in a recruit's house in, say, Midland. Our choice would have been Ross, who really wanted the job.

Dodds can't seem to get this head coach stuff right. He hired and fired another suit-wearer, Fred Akers. He hired and fired David McWilliams, a former Texas player and assistant coach, a season after the Longhorns finished 10-2. Dodds did this despite giving McWilliams a four-year contract extension shortly before last year's Cotton Bowl game.

We would ask . . .

--Mississippi State's Jackie Sherrill and Ohio State's John Cooper who they would pick as the nation's most underrated head coach.

We think we know their answer: Air Force's Fisher DeBerry. In 1990, DeBerry's Falcons beat the Buckeyes in the Liberty Bowl. This season, they defeated the Bulldogs--and it wasn't even close. DeBerry's teams are almost always outmanned, outweighed and without superior speed, yet he keeps recording these nine- and 10-victory seasons. If we were an athletic director in need of a coach whose specialty is a run-oriented offense, we would quickly learn the area code of Colorado Springs.

If nothing else, Colorado's McCartney is willing to take a chance, however risky.

Against Alabama in the Blockbuster Bowl, McCartney used the two-week preparation time to install an entirely new offense, junking the highly successful option attack run by quarterback Darian Hagan and instead using a game plan that often had three wide receivers and one running back--an offensive philosophy rarely, if ever, seen by longtime Colorado followers.

It didn't work. The Buffaloes managed only eight first downs, minus-11 yards rushing and 210 yards on 30 pass attempts in a 30-25 loss.

"Experimenting with a new offense is like giving birth," Hagan told the Miami Herald. "It hurts the first time."

McCartney insisted that the new offense gave him the best chance to win the game. That's probably stretching the truth. What McCartney really did was give next year's Buffaloes an early look at Colorado's offense of the 1990s. Now, instead of using valuable spring practice time to install the offense, Colorado has the foundation in place. Then, during two-a-day fall practices, McCartney can perfect the offense.

Of course, if you purchased a Blockbuster Bowl ticket, you probably weren't too thrilled at watching what amounted to a spring scrimmage for the Colorado offense.

Don't bother mentioning the idea of national championship playoff to Miami's Dennis Erickson. He hates the concept because it would extend the season. Erickson, who coached at the Division I-AA level (which has a playoff system), said the demand of, say, a 14-game season "is not fair to the players."

Nor is Erickson a fan of preseason games, such as the Pigskin Classic or the Kickoff Classic. "We won't play in (those) unless I'm told to," he said. So much for a Washington-Miami matchup next summer. Erickson contends that Notre Dame cost itself a national championship by playing in the 1989 Kickoff Classic.

Erickson said the NFL isn't an option for him right now, but there is at least one job he might be interested in. "My old high school is looking for a coach, that's a possibility," he joked. "My dad's got an old fishing boat there, so that wouldn't be a bad life." Asked what might happen if one of his Miami teams finished 7-4, Erickson said: "We haven't gone 7-4, but if we do, I might be back at Everett (Wash.) High School."

Erickson, whose current contract runs through 1995, said he would be interested in an extension. He said he expects to meet with Miami Athletic Director Dave Maggard soon to discuss the possibility of a contract extension. A raise might also be in the works. Of Florida's Big Three--Florida State's Bobby Bowden, Florida's Steve Spurrier and Miami's Erickson--the Hurricane coach reportedly receives the lowest financial compensation.

Terrell Buckley, an All-American cornerback, told the Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) Sun-Sentinel that he was "95%" sure he would forgo his senior season at Florida State and make himself available for the NFL draft. A day later, after the Seminoles' Cotton Bowl victory over Texas A&M;, he announced that he was gone. . . . While Notre Dame quarterback Rick Mirer decides whether to skip his senior year in favor of the pros, Florida quarterback Shane Matthews, who had a better season than Mirer, said he is staying put. . . . Still no word on Washington defensive tackle Steve Emtman.

A disappointing postseason: 18 bowls and only two truly exciting games--East Carolina's victory over North Carolina State in the Peach and the tie between Iowa and BYU in the Holiday. OK, three exciting games, if you count the last couple of minutes of Georgia Tech's victory over Stanford in the Aloha.

One last prediction: The on-again, off-again bowl alliance will somehow survive. Under what plan, who knows? Our best guess is that the coalition will follow the Fiesta Bowl's suggestion and increase the alliance to eight bowls, six conference champions, six conference runners-up and Notre Dame. If that happens, maybe the days of split championships will be numbered.

Final Top 10

As selected by staff writer Gene Wojciechowski

No. Team Record 1. Miami 12-0 2. Washington 12-0 3. Penn State 11-2 4. Florida State 11-2 5. Michigan 10-2 6. Alabama 11-1 7. Florida 10-2 8. California 10-2 9. East Carolina 11-1 10. Notre Dame 10-3

Waiting list: Iowa (10-1-1), Syracuse (10-2), Tennessee (9-3), Oklahoma (9-3), Texas A&M; (10-2).

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