Suddenly as flexible as Gumby, Notre Dame Coach Lou Holtz now says he will play for the victory rather than settle for a tie against No. 1 Florida State.
This is news for two reasons:
--He might actually be telling the truth.
--A missed two-point conversion, if it comes to that for the second-ranked Irish, could cost them a chance at a national championship.
"In all probability and in fairness to our football team, we would go for two," Holtz said this week.
Less than 10 days ago, Holtz had convinced himself that if the Irish had just scored and he trailed Florida State by one with only a few seconds left, he would kick the extra point. That way he might get another crack at the Seminoles in a bowl game.
"But after thinking about it, I don't want to play them again," Holtz said.
It's just as well. The fans at sold-out Notre Dame Stadium might storm the field if Holtz revives his Michigan strategy of a season ago. Rather than trying aggressively to move the ball downfield for a possible game-winning field goal against the Wolverines, Holtz thoroughly botched the calls on the final drive and took a tie.
Notre Dame fans thanked him with boos they generally reserve for Miami players.
GAME OF THE HALF-CENTURY
Now then, do you want to know the real reason Holtz now says he would go for two points? Easy--the fickle poll voters.
A tie against No. 1 FSU would guarantee nothing, certainly not a stranglehold on the No. 2 ranking. What if No. 3 Miami obliterates visiting Rutgers on Saturday and Holtz plays it safe and settles for a tie? It isn't inconceivable that Associated Press voters, as well as USA Today/CNN coaches' poll voters, would adjust their ballots in favor of the Hurricanes.
And if a tie didn't hurt Holtz's national championship hopes this week, it might next week, when Miami plays West Virginia at Morgantown, W.Va., in a game that ultimately could determine who plays where for a national championship. By then, the Hurricanes will be 8-1 and ranked no worse than No. 3.
Not to be forgotten in the mix is surprising West Virginia, which figures to start the Nov. 20 game with a 9-0 record and a ranking somewhere in the top 10.
"If we can get by Temple (Saturday), we're sitting here . . . and Miami has to come to us," said Mountaineer Coach Don Nehlen. "Then we'll see what happens.
"Everyone was sitting up there forgetting us," Nehlen said. "Like I told you (at the preseason Big East media day), don't forget about us."
Nehlen can start his third-teamers against poor Temple and still win. The Owls have been outscored this season, 450-90.
Wisconsin officials must have been dipping into their private reserve of Blatz when they devised the latest Camp Randall Stadium security plans. Either that, or they give the 12,500 fans in the student section much more credit than they deserve.
With memories of the Oct. 30 postgame near-tragedy still fresh in their minds, Wisconsin administrators and security personnel recently unveiled a spiffy game-day stadium strategy last Saturday that looked nice on paper, but in reality, was as toothless as a newborn.
To make more room in the cramped bleacher seating, the Wisconsin marching band was moved to the field level near the end zone. Aisles were cleared. Security personnel was increased. Student passes were exchanged for hand stamps. Breakaway fences were installed.
In addition, a moment of "reflection" was observed shortly before kickoff, all to commemorate the Oct. 30 incident that resulted in an estimated 69 student injuries. And as the game against Ohio State came to an end, the stadium announcer pleaded for a safe and sane fifth-quarter celebration.
It almost didn't matter.
As usual, Wisconsin students, historically the worst behaved in the Big Ten, hurled coin-filled marshmallows at the visiting Buckeye players whenever possible. Security personnel merely watched. Later, Ohio State Coach John Cooper called the students' actions asinine.
Also, it was hard to ignore the boozy odor emanating from the section. The alcohol, along with the possibility of a Wisconsin upset, probably helped fuel another ill-advised surge toward the section's front railings. As the Badgers readied themselves for a possible last-second game-winning field goal, students near the bottom of the seating area could be seen motioning for the other students to stay put.
In the end, Rick Schnetzky's blocked kick probably cost the Badgers a Rose Bowl appearance, but it might have saved another end-zone student rush. As it was, students and other fans were caught in a scary postgame crush just outside one of the stadium's exterior portals. No one was injured, but it wasn't uncommon to see spectators swept along against their will.
Wisconsin officials are reluctant to return to the days when incoming fans had their belongings checked for alcohol, but something has to be done. The recently implemented policy is a nice start, but it shouldn't be the end. Last Saturday's student performance proved that.