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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | KEEPING TABS

Neill Stands Tall After Absorbing Record 15 Sacks

September 12, 2000|STEVE HENSON

Ack! Fifteen sacks.

David Neill of Nevada, one of the nation's most prolific passers the past two seasons, was chased down like a stray calf in a roundup by Texas Christian in a Western Athletic Conference opener Saturday.

It marked Nevada's first-ever WAC game, and Neill was indeed whacked. Not five times. Not 10. A school-record 15 sacks for 89 yards in a 41-10 loss.

Yet Neill, a junior from Hart High, gained immeasurably with his comments after the game.

"I'm not going to blame the [offensive] line," he said. "I credit the TCU defense."

No whining.

"The number of times I didn't get sacked was a positive," he said. "We moved the ball against one of the best teams we have faced, we will face."

No flinching.

"I took a couple of hits to the body, I took a couple hits to the head," he said. "I'm going to play with broken arms, broken legs. They'll have to drag me off."

And finally, a bit of honesty.

"I don't think I've ever been so tired after a football game," he said.

Normally, Neill fatigues defensive backs. He passed for 6,651 yards in his first two seasons and should set the Wolfpack career record this year.

In 1998, he set NCAA records for a freshman by throwing 29 touchdowns passes and by passing for 611 yards against New Mexico State.

Last season, Neill passed for 3,402 yards but the program showed signs of deteriorating. He was the team's leading rusher with 209 yards, an indication the offense was one-dimensional.

The Wolfpack went 3-8 and Chris Tormey was hired as coach after the season. Neill considered transferring.

The lack of a running game continues to be a problem. In two games, both losses, Nevada has rushed for eight yards in 70 carries. Sure, the sacks skew the stats, but a legitimate running threat would keep defenses honest.

Neill, who somehow managed to pass for 226 yards against TCU, refuses to utter a discouraging word. And he grows in esteem.

"David Neill is a tough sucker," TCU Coach Dennis Frachione said. "To get sacked 15 times and hit as many times as he did and he just kept getting up and doing things. I have a lot of admiration for him."

*

Another former Hart quarterback with protection problems is California sophomore Kyle Boller. But the Golden Bears' 24-21 season-opening victory over Utah might be an indication he'll have fewer woes than last year.

Cal unveiled a no-huddle offense and Boller completed his first pass for 45 yards to Philip Pipersburg. He threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to James Smith on an audible to put the Golden Bears ahead for good, 14-7, in the third quarter and finished 18 of 28 for 209 yards.

*

Cal linebacker Scott Fujita, a junior from Rio Mesa High, recovered a fumble on Utah's first drive of the second half, setting up Boller's scoring pass to Smith.

Fujita recovered from neck surgery to earn a starting spot. He has grown from a 210-pound safety as a redshirt in 1997 to a 235-pound outside linebacker.

His primary contributions the past two seasons came on special teams, although he did start two games last year and made four tackles against UCLA.

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