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SPOTLIGHT WEEK 7

Leaders of Pack ... for Now

October 13, 2002|Mike Bresnahan

The doubters can form a line to the right, between those that don't believe Notre Dame is back and those that believe Elvis soon will be.

But the truth of the matter is that North Carolina State is off to its second-best start in a mostly mundane 111 years of football.

Sure, there have been a few Peach Bowl victories and an occasional exciting player that passed through Raleigh (Torry Holt, please stand up and wave), but more often than not, the Wolfpack is better known in college football circles for being the alma mater of ESPN and ABC analyst Dr. Jerry Punch.

N.C. State is 7-0 after Saturday's physical 34-17 pasting of North Carolina, the former football king of Tobacco Road, and things haven't been this fun for the Wolfpack since an 8-0 start in 1967, when Coach Chuck Amato was playing linebacker for a guy named Lou Holtz.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Monday October 14, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 100 words Type of Material: Correction
College football -- North Carolina Coach Chuck Amato played for head coach Earle Edwards at North Carolina State, not for Lou Holtz, as was reported in a Sports story Sunday.

Ranked No. 14, N.C. State has just about everything going its way. Philip Rivers is the nation's top-rated passer and freshman T.A. McLendon already has 12 rushing touchdowns this season.

Karma has also been kind to the Wolfpack: On the way to Saturday's game, the police car in which Amato and wrestling Coach Bob Guzzo were riding was forced off Interstate 40 because of a flat tire. The two coaches stopped one of the team buses and boarded it.

"The whole day started off bad," Amato said. "I got on the bus and said this is the only loss we're going to have today."

Heck, N.C. State even has its own version of Thunder and Lightning: Safety Terrence "Lightning Bolt" Holt and linebacker Dantonio "Thunder Dan" Burnette are on a defense that has given up more than 19 points in only two games.

But before North Carolinians purchase round-trip tickets to Tempe, Ariz. for the Fiesta Bowl, there's the little matter of this soft schedule.

Kansas State Coach Bill Snyder would blush at the creampuffs N.C. State has faced so far: New Mexico, East Tennessee State, Navy, Wake Forest, Texas Tech, Massachusetts and North Carolina.

There'll be another laugher next week against Duke before things finally get interesting Oct. 26 at Clemson. And, of course, Florida State comes to Carter-Finley Stadium for the regular-season finale.

Until then, the Wolfpack can smile at its good fortune, particularly on a day when Rivers threw only five passes in the second half.

"We have a Heisman Trophy candidate and he's handing the ball off," said Amato, in his third season at N.C. State after 18 seasons as a Florida State assistant. "It was a beauty to see."

The Hook for Zook?

It's back, and it's getting more visitors than ever.

FireRonZook.com was shut down after its owner received a phalanx of hate mail, but it's up and running again with a determined second effort to dethrone the embattled Florida coach.

Demand is rising: Visitors who tried to get onto the site after Florida's embarrassing 36-7 loss to Louisiana State at Gainesville were denied for hours by the following words: "Please be patient and try again in a few seconds ... the Web site you are trying to access is experiencing an extremely high volume of traffic."

The site emerged this spring and called for Zook's resignation months before his first Florida game, but its owner, who identified himself as "Mark" to the St. Petersburg Times, took the site down in April after being hit with a flood of give-the-guy-a-chance e-mails.

Less than six months later, after seeing the Gators' recent regression under Zook, "Mark" has seen enough.

"We sat back and gave him a chance ... now we're serious," said the site's new flash introduction.

The site counts down the days to Zook's "removal," using his three-year contract as an end date.

Watch Your Language

There were a lot of "dangs" and "flippins" at Vanderbilt on Saturday.

The hapless Commodores lost to unheralded Middle Tennessee State for a second consecutive season, 21-20, and had to refrain from swearing, as per a policy installed by first-year Coach Bobby Johnson.

For each foul word uttered, a player must perform 10 "up-downs" at practice, a drill in which a player runs in place, drops flat to the ground, then jumps up and starts the process again.

The New York Times published a commentary bemoaning Johnson's stance against profanity, although Vanderbilt players are willing to try anything: The Commodores (1-5) have had 19 consecutive losing seasons.

Cadillac Dented

Arkansas crushed Auburn, 38-17, and its players had a few choice words for Auburn running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, who gained 99 yards in 24 carries and failed to break any long runs.

"We gave the Cadillac a flat tire," Arkansas defensive tackle Jermaine Brooks said. "We had signs about Cadillac in our locker room all week that we had to stare at. We just got sick and tired of it. If you stop him, you stop Auburn."

The best running back in the game was Arkansas' Fred Talley, who ran for 241 yards in place of injured Cedric Cobbs.

Talley's total was the second-best performance in school history, behind 271 by Dickey Morton in 1973.

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