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The Small Turn Out to Be Mighty Good

September 10, 2006|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

Chalk up another one for the little guys.

New Hampshire's 34-17 victory Saturday over Northwestern made it two weeks in a row that a Division I-AA team defeated an NCAA Division I-A team from a BCS conference.

Last week, Montana State defeated Colorado. Richmond also defeated Duke, but the jury is still out on whether or not Duke is a Division I-A team.

Why is this happening? Simple, said New Hampshire Coach Sean McDonnell.

"The kids at this level want to prove they can play Division I guys," McDonnell said.

Still, that doesn't make it any less surprising when it happens, especially against a team from a major conference.

"It's an unbelievable feeling," New Hampshire receiver David Ball said. "I'm still in shock a little."

The major difference between Division I-A and I-AA is the number of scholarship offered. Division I-AA schools can have 63 scholarship players, compared with 85 for Division I-A schools.

Still, Division I-AA schools have produced several NFL stars, including Walter Payton, Jerry Rice, Steve McNair and Randy Moss. Ball, who had two touchdown receptions, has 47 in his career and is three shy of Rice's Division I-AA record.

The New Hampshire victory spoiled Northwestern's first home game since Coach Randy Walker died in June. The school paid tribute to him before the game.

"The pregame was excellent, a real special moment and obviously a great tribute," said Pat Fitzgerald, who replaced Walker. "Obviously it didn't get us to the right place, but I don't think it had any role in it. I just think New Hampshire executed well."

How Does It Feel?

Montana State, which had the upset of the day last week over Colorado, came back to Earth in a big way Saturday, losing to Chadron State -- a Division II school -- 35-24.

"This game was a slap in the face," said Montana State Coach Mike Kramer.

They've Got Skills

Travis Thomas of Notre Dame and Reggie Smith of Oklahoma would have been sucking down the oxygen on the sidelines ... if they had time.

Both players were a significant factor on both sides of the ball and on special teams during victories Saturday.

Thomas, a starting linebacker for the Fighting Irish, scored a rushing touchdown four plays after he ran a fake punt 44 yards.

Smith, a starting defensive back, had a 12-yard reception as a receiver during a second-quarter scoring drive and also had a 62-yard punt return that set up a touchdown.

The '0' Ball Coach

South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier, known for his high-scoring offenses, had a goose egg on his score line for the first time since 1987 -- his first year as a college coach -- when the Gamecocks lost Saturday to No. 12 Georgia, 18-0.

(Don't) Ring My Bell

The Southeastern Conference recently reinstituted a rule prohibiting fans from using artificial noisemakers at games -- a rule some feel is intended to silence the cowbells that Mississippi State fans traditionally ring.

Now, too much noise could bring a penalty against the home team. What will they outlaw next? Nachos?

Shoulda Brought Tents

Angry Nevada Las Vegas players congregated at midfield while yelling at officials, shaking their helmets and refusing to leave the field for about 15 minutes after a 16-10 loss to Iowa State. They were upset that officials ruled Shane Steichen's pass into the end zone incomplete on the final play.

The problem was that nobody told UNLV Coach Mike Sanford the play had been reviewed by a replay official, who did not overturn the call.

"I really don't believe we lost, because the play wasn't reviewed," Sanford said. "It was too controversial to not review it."

That wasn't the only bad news for the Rebels. Quarterback Rocky Hinds, a USC transfer from Playa del Rey St. Bernard High, left the game in the second quarter with a right knee injury.

Not-So Special Teams

Two overtime games for top-25 schools were decided by failed conversion attempts. No. 11 Tennessee escaped with a 31-30 victory over Air Force when Xavier Mitchell stuffed a two-point conversion run in double overtime. No. 18 Clemson lost, 34-33, when Boston College blocked an extra-point attempt, also in double overtime.

Clemson Coach Tommy Bowden, however, said it was Boston College's Jeff Smith, not the extra point, that cost his team the game. Smith had 213 yards in kickoff returns -- one yard shy of the school record -- including a 96-yard touchdown.

Record-Setters

Matt Trannon set a school-record with 14 catches as Michigan State beat Eastern Michigan, 52-20, on Saturday. Trannon also threw a 35-yard scoring pass to A.J. Jimmerson.... Houston quarterback Kevin Kolb became the all-time leading passer in school history, throwing for 350 yards and three touchdowns in a 45-7 victory over Tulane. Kolb finished the game with 9,738 career passing yards, breaking David Klingler's mark of 9,430 yards set from 1988-91.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

*

Leveling the field

So far this season, I-AA schools have pulled off a few upsets against I-A teams:

SEPT. 2

* Montana State 19, Colorado 10

* Richmond 13, Duke 0

* Portland St. 17, New Mexico State 6

SATURDAY

* New Hamp. 34, Northwestern 17

Los Angeles Times

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