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College Football Spotlight

Big Ten's Experiment Is Not an Instant Classic

September 05, 2004|Robyn Norwood | Times Staff Writer

On further review ... let's take a look at that again, can we?

The Big Ten's instant-replay system -- approved as a one-year experiment by the NCAA -- got off to an awkward start in Wisconsin's 34-6 victory over Central Florida on Saturday.

A 50-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Wisconsin's Dontez Sanders was called back after the replay official ruled Sanders' knee was already down when he gained control of the ball.

Call that good use of replay, though Sanders didn't care for it.

"I did like it before ... but I don't like it anymore," he said.

The replay system also was used to establish where the Badgers' Anthony Davis stepped out of bounds on a play -- although it took two times to get it right.

Call that tedious use of replay.

"I don't think the intent of that rule is to stop the game for five minutes to see if he stepped out five yards prior to the spot," Wisconsin Coach Barry Alvarez said. "You could stop the game probably all the way along to get the correct spots."

In yet another situation, there was no review when almost everyone expected to see one to check whether Wisconsin's Jonathan Orr got a foot down inbounds on a 16-yard touchdown reception.

Call that non-use of replay: Unlike in the NFL, coaches aren't allowed to call for a review in the Big Ten system.

"I asked the referee, 'Why can't we get a replay of that?' and he said they decide that up in the press box," said Dave Huxtable, coaching Central Florida because of the death of new coach George O'Leary's mother.

"So what's the deciding factor on whether they want to look at it or they don't want to look at it? I don't know much about it, but if you ask me, I would not be in favor of it."

Luckily for the Big Ten, those weren't calls that affected the outcome.

By the time the conference season begins, it will be crucial to have the system down.

"It's a work in progress," referee Steve Pamon said.

Central Florida defensive lineman Frisner Nelson agreed.

"It caused more confusion for the refs than anything," he said.

After seeing Saturday's display, UCLA is probably glad it made the right call -- by exercising its option not to use the system when the Bruins play at Illinois this Saturday.

Garden State Party

It was a nice New Jersey story.

James Gandolfini, star of "The Sopranos," was at the game in spruced-up Rutgers Stadium in Piscataway, N.J.

The Rutgers coach, Greg Schiano, is a New Jersey native, and 71 players from the state are on the roster.

But Rutgers -- the state university of New Jersey -- couldn't have pulled off its upset of Michigan State on Saturday without a Californian.

Jeremy Ito, a freshman from Redlands High, kicked four field goals in the Scarlet Knights' 19-14 victory over the Spartans.

It was the biggest Rutgers victory since Schiano became coach -- though, granted, there were only eight of them in his first three seasons.

Only two seasons ago, Rutgers was 1-11. But after a victory over Syracuse in the final game last season and a headline-making upset in the first game this season, Rutgers fans can start hoping for the school's first winning season since 1992.

"The state of New Jersey wants something to be proud of, and I believe Rutgers football will be it," Schiano said.

And as defensive lineman Ryan Neill recently told the Record, a New Jersey newspaper, sporting goods stores are even starting to sell Rutgers apparel, "right next to Miami and Texas."

Rutgers has a bit of football history -- after all, the first college football game ever played was between Princeton and Rutgers in 1869 -- but credit for its current rise goes to Schiano.

At 38, the former Miami defensive coordinator not only is the youngest Division I-A coach in the nation, he is the youngest for the fourth year in a row. (Only five, including Alabama's Mike Shula, 39, are under 40.)

Unlike the Sopranos' characters who have given New Jersey a certain cache, Schiano doesn't curse. His reported favorite oath? "What in Sam Hill is going on here?"

Michigan State might have been asking the same thing after the game.

Former Bruin Update

John Sciarra, the former UCLA reserve quarterback who transferred to Wagner, had quite a day. Sciarra, son of the former UCLA star of the same name, completed 29 of 38 passes for 333 yards and three touchdowns in his Division I-AA debut, a 35-28 victory over LaSalle.

*

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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