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NATIONAL INSIDER

These two top-10 teams have a lot in common

September 08, 2007|From wire reports

The game of the week takes place in Baton Rouge, La., today when No. 9 Virginia Tech visits No. 2 Louisiana State in the season's first matchup between top-10 teams.

Just don't expect the usual hyper-active buildup. Expect the pre-game to have a somber tone because both teams are closely associated with two of the nation's biggest recent tragedies: The murderous on-campus shooting spree at Virginia Tech, and Hurricane Katrina, which battered the Gulf Coast.

Instead of the usual raucous welcome given to Tigers' opponents, the Hokies will be greeted by a 10-foot tall quilt knitted by a student group that included several LSU football players and signed by Coach Les Miles.

Louisiana State athletic department officials published a letter Thursday urging fans to be respectful of the Hokies, who are still recovering from the shock of the on-campus shootings last spring.

Miles and Tigers team captains Matt Flynn, Glenn Dorsey and Craig Steltz signed the letter, which said in part, "As students, fans and alumni from Virginia Tech come to the LSU campus for the Hokies' first road football game of the 2007 season, we know Tiger fans will welcome them with open arms and sympathetic hearts."

Said Miles: "There are similarities between the two teams. It is a tremendous opportunity to rally for a cause. There isn't any question that it is a motivating factor."

Ali Highsmith, among the LSU starters who played for the Tigers two seasons ago, recalled how victims of Katrina were housed at LSU and how the football team felt an obligation to raise the spirits of the state.

"You're just trying to carry all of those people," he said. "You're just trying to give them something to smile about."

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Leap Frogs

When No. 19 Texas Christian and No. 7 Texas meet at Texas, it's much more than an in-state rivalry between top-20 teams.

It marks the first football game between the schools since the Southwest Conference disbanded after the 1995 season. It's also a chance for TCU, which plays in the Mountain West Conference, to show it can be this year's Bowl Championship Series-buster.

"We know if we play well, or win, that we gain some more ground of where we're trying to get to as a program," Coach Gary Patterson said. "But I don't think our kids will be happy if we just play well. I think we're past that point as a program."

That TCU is not already in a BCS conference is a sticking point with the Horned Frogs. They were left on the sidelines when the Southwest Conference disbanded and Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor and Texas A&M joined what had been the Big Eight to form the Big 12.

Texas Christian has a five-game win streak against Big 12 teams, including victories over Oklahoma and Texas Tech.

But Texas is 27-1 in the last 28 meetings between the teams and has a 60-20-1 overall record against the Horned Frogs.

"TCU doesn't scare me," Texas quarterback Colt McCoy said.

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Airing it out

It's no secret that No. 20 Hawaii and quarterback Colt Brennan go to the air like no other team on the field -- but the Warriors also do so off the field.

This week's trip to Louisiana Tech is the first of five away games that will require 51 hours of flights.

This trip is the longest in terms of distance and length -- the team is staying on the mainland for 12 days, stopping for a game at Nevada Las Vegas before returning home.

"We live in paradise and that's the price we pay," said Brennan, who passed for 416 yards and six touchdowns at home against Northern Colorado last week.

That's not the only price.

Under Coach June Jones, the Warriors are 50-20 at home but 15-20 on the road. Last year, the Warriors were 8-1 at Aloha Stadium and 3-2 away.

Hawaii also plays at Idaho, San Jose State and Nevada.

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Kicking it

Ryan Pretorius always dreamed about playing in front of huge crowds, only he thought he'd be playing in the Rugby World Cup instead of kicking for No. 12 Ohio State.

Pretorius, 28, is a former professional rugby player from South Africa. He became interested in American football by watching the movies "Rudy" and "Jerry Maguire." When his rugby career stalled, he contacted former NFL kicker Gary Anderson, a family friend.

He sent tapes to about two dozen schools, but none showed interest until he visited Columbus, met with the football staff there and secured a tryout.

Now a junior, he has worked his way to No. 1 on the depth chart. He made five of five extra-point attempts and a 24-yard field goal in last week's 38-6 victory over Youngstown State.

Not bad for a guy who two years ago didn't know how to put on a uniform.

"[Former fullback] Stan White's locker was two away from me and he said, 'You need some help there, buddy?' Pretorius recalled. "I was like, 'Yeah. Please.' I didn't have a clue."

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Back to Boston College

Homecoming weekend is a little early this year for North Carolina State Coach Tom O'Brien.

The Wolfpack visits Boston College, where O'Brien coached the last 10 seasons.

"I had a great experience at BC, and those kids are special kids up there," he said. "But come Saturday, my job is to win the football game and do the best I can for these kids at N.C. State.

O'Brien took six members of his coaching staff with him, giving Boston College plenty of motivation -- as if they needed more after losing to the Wolfpack last year on a last-minute touchdown.

"We remember that play, and losing the game on the final drive. It doesn't really matter who's on the sideline," Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich said.

-- Compiled by Peter Yoon

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