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SPOTLIGHT WEEK 2

Changing Into Superman

September 08, 2002|Rob Fernas

Tony Hollings was unhappy playing defensive back at Georgia Tech. So he went to Coach Chan Gailey with a request: "Let me carry the ball."

Gailey, faced with a hole at running back, was receptive to the idea.

"He told me he played offense in high school and felt more comfortable there," said Gailey, the former Dallas Cowboy coach who replaced George O'Leary last December. "I said, 'Sure.' That was that."

Hollings has been rewriting the school record book ever since. Last week, he became the first player in Georgia Tech history to rush for 100 yards in his debut at running back. Saturday, he tied a school record by scoring four touchdowns in the Yellow Jackets' 31-14 victory over Connecticut.

Hollings, who has a Superman logo tattooed on his left biceps, ran through the Huskies for 144 yards and touchdowns of 34, one, 46 and one yard, all in the first half. In Georgia Tech's opener, he ran for 153 yards and two touchdowns in a 45-3 victory over Vanderbilt.

Granted, those are far from formidable opponents--Connecticut is playing only its third season of Division I-A football--but 297 yards and six touchdowns after two games is nothing to scoff at.

Hollings, who played option quarterback in high school, said making the transition to running back wasn't as smooth as it appears.

"Spending two years on defense, I was used to getting the ball out of other people's hands," he said. "As a running back, I couldn't let it out of my hands."

Irish Eyes Aren't Smiling About Powerless Offense

Maybe Notre Dame Coach Tyrone Willingham should consider switching Vontez Duff to offense.

Duff, a defensive back, has scored two touchdowns this season. That's two more than the Irish offense, which was held without one for the second consecutive game.

Duff's 34-yard interception return for a touchdown lifted Notre Dame to a 24-17 victory over Purdue, a week after he scored on a 76-yard punt return that secured a 22-0 victory against Maryland.

"Once I get the ball in my hands, I'm going to score," Duff said.

That's more than can be said for Willingham's West Coast offense, which has been bailed out by the team's opportunistic defense and special teams. The Irish scored two touchdowns on fumble returns Saturday.

"We felt real embarrassed about not having scored in two games," quarterback Carlyle Holiday said. "We know as an offensive team we have to make touchdowns. We have to work on some things to become a better ball club."

Willingham's honeymoon continues because the Irish are 2-0, but he'll have a lot to answer for if his offense continues its anemic play.

New Life in the Slow Lane Suits Former Bruin Just Fine

Tired of sitting on the bench after three up-and-down seasons at UCLA, quarterback Ryan McCann packed his bags and transferred to Tennessee-Chattanooga, a Division I-AA school where the pace is slower and the expectations are lower.

"It's kind of a nice change," said McCann, a former Agoura High standout. "Los Angeles is so crowded. It's nice to come to Chattanooga and see things slow down a little bit to focus on what I want to do."

McCann wanted to be the starter at UCLA, but his successes were always followed by disappointment. In 1999, he replaced Cory Paus and rallied the Bruins to a 23-20 overtime victory over No. 23 Washington. McCann again took over for an injured Paus on the second play of the 2000 season and led UCLA to wins over two No. 3 teams--Alabama and Michigan. Three games later, Paus was back and McCann didn't start again until last season--a loss to Washington State.

"I realized that if I wanted to play a whole year by myself, I'd have to go somewhere else," he said.

McCann is starting, but he isn't winning. He completed 19 of 36 passes for a career-best 257 yards and two touchdowns, with two interceptions, Saturday in a 41-23 loss to Alabama State, a week after Chattanooga was mauled by West Virginia, 56-7.

Ohio State Students Go Nuts for Their Heisman Candidate

It started out as a gag. Now the campaign for Richard McNutt as a Heisman Trophy candidate has taken on a life of its own.

McNutt, a little-known defensive back for No. 8 Ohio State, is being promoted by a group of students who have set up a Web site and are selling T-shirts with "McNutt For Heisman" on the front. On the back, a picture of McNutt's head is superimposed over that of the ballcarrier on the Heisman Trophy.

"I don't get embarrassed by it," McNutt said. "Hopefully, I can do something to live up to what they're trying to do."

Air Force Relies on Tricks To Reverse Heated Rivalry

There were reports last week that Air Force Coach Fisher DeBerry guaranteed the Falcons wouldn't lose to New Mexico for a fourth consecutive year. DeBerry denied the reports and suggested Lobo Coach Rocky Long was behind it. Long responded with some verbal jabs of his own.

Such is the state of affairs between the Mountain West Conference rivals, who have developed a strong dislike for each other in recent years.

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