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Separate, Not Nearly Equal

October 12, 2003|Elliott Teaford | Times Staff Writer

This was the weekend that separated the champs from the chumps.

When the dust settled on the biggest weekend of the season -- so far, anyway -- it was pretty much status quo at the top of the Associated Press poll.

No. 1 Oklahoma looked as impressive as ever in crushing No. 11 Texas, 65-13, at the Cotton Bowl at Dallas. Coach Bob Stoops showed how best to separate Sooners from Longhorns, breaking up a pregame scuffle that threatened to get nasty.

Duly impressed by his team's comprehensive victory, Stoops said of the Sooners, "I said this is our strongest team coming into this game. Everybody changed that to [mean] this is our best team. To be the best team, we'll have to win 13 [games] plus one."

What's more, the Sooners' victory means Roy Williams, a senior receiver for the Longhorns, and his class will be the first since Eric Metcalf and his 1985-88 teammates to leave Texas without defeating Oklahoma.

"You want to beat every Big 12 team there is at least once," said Williams, who had seven receptions for 89 yards. "We just haven't beaten Oklahoma."

The lopsided loss could push Texas out of the top 15 for the first time in 50 weeks.

Meanwhile, and with no less attention trained on Tallahassee, Fla., No. 2 Miami overcame the loss of leading rusher Frank Gore to a season-ending knee injury last week and defeated No. 5 Florida State, 22-14, for the fourth consecutive time.

Jarrett Payton, son of the late NFL great Walter Payton and a fifth-year senior, got his first collegiate start in place of Gore, gaining 97 yards and scoring the Hurricanes' only touchdown, on a 14-yard pass.

Victories by No. 4 Virginia Tech over Syracuse, No. 16 Northern Illinois over Central Michigan and No. 18 Texas Christian over South Florida mean the list of unbeaten teams is down to five.

Scratch No. 3 Ohio State, which hit the road for the first time Saturday and discovered the road hits back. No. 23 Wisconsin halted the defending national champion Buckeyes' winning streak at 19 consecutive games with a 17-10 victory at Madison, Wis., and did so with backup quarterback Matt Schabert completing a 79-yard pass play to Lee Evans for the go-ahead touchdown with 5:20 remaining.

Draw a line through No. 5. Florida State, which was steamrollered by No. 2 Miami during a driving rainstorm that turned the field into a bog that was not fit for man or beast, but seemed just fine for the Hurricanes.

Delete No. 6 Louisiana State, which was exposed as a national title pretender by Florida of all teams, 19-7. The Gators were unranked and trying to salvage the season for beleaguered Gator Coach Ron Zook.

Erase No. 7 Arkansas, which didn't have a clue on the ground or in the air against resurgent Auburn, losing, 10-3.

Dismiss No. 10 Nebraska, which couldn't put away traditional punching bag Missouri, losing to the Tigers for the first time since 1978 by 41-24.

Last and least, dump No. 17 Minnesota, which couldn't hold a three-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter en route to a 38-35 loss Friday night to No. 20 Michigan.

And there was a good deal more to ponder about the day they called Separation Saturday.

Separation Anxiety

Arkansas might have fared better against Auburn if holding penalties against receiver George Wilson hadn't nullified a 68-yard gain by running back Cedric Cobbs and a 78-yard run by quarterback Matt Jones.

"We could have been in there hooting and hollering if we don't have two flags on the ground," Arkansas Coach Houston Nutt said after the Razorbacks' 10-3 loss.

Jones' run would have tied the score, 10-10, late in the game, but there was little doubt about whether Wilson was guilty of holding. At least that was the view of Auburn's Junior Rosegreen.

"It was a dirty play," Rosegreen would later say. "The receiver grabbed my ankle and twisted it hard."

More Separation Anxiety

Mississippi State Coach Jackie Sherrill and Memphis Coach Tommy West went nose to nose for a few moments after the Bulldogs' 35-27 victory, when Sherrill asked West to deliver a message to Memphis defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn.

Harsh words were exchanged, but no punches were thrown.

Sherrill fired Dunn without explanation in December. Dunn said he saved Sherrill's job when Dunn left Arkansas to become Mississippi State's defensive coordinator in 1996.

"Then seven years later, he threw me out in the street," Dunn said.

Said West of jawing with Sherrill: "Well, I'm not his messenger boy, OK? If [Sherrill] needs to send a message to somebody, he can get it himself."

Further Separation Anxiety

It certainly looked as if Clemson receiver Kevin Youngblood pushed off against Virginia defender Jamaine Winborne before catching a four-yard touchdown pass that gave the Tigers a 30-27 overtime victory over the No. 25 Cavaliers.

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