QB debut far quieter for Irish foe

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

September 02, 1994|By DON MARKUS

There will be a sellout crowd at Soldier Field in Chicago. There will be a national television audience tuning in. All for the much-anticipated debut of Notre Dame quarterback Ron Powlus, college football's wunderkind.

And for the less-anticipated debut of Tim Hughes.

Tim who?

Hughes, a transfer from Butte Junior College in Oroville, Calif., will be starting at quarterback for Northwestern. Unlike Powlus, who is being mentioned as a possible Heisman Trophy candidate before taking his first snap, Hughes has gone unnoticed.

In fact, Hughes wasn't even mentioned in any of the team's preseason scouting reports. But that changed earlier this week, when Wildcats coach Gary Barnett named the 6-foot-2, 215-pound sophomore as his starter in what had been a four-man race to replace Len Williams, who graduated after starting 43 of the team's last 45 games.

Hughes earned the No. 1 spot by completing 17 of 21 passes, with five touchdowns and no interceptions, in two intrasquad scrimmages.

Hughes admits that it's a pretty big jump from California junior-college football to playing Notre Dame. But, after leading Butte to a 10-0-1 record (including a victory in something called "The Graffiti Bowl") Hughes believes he is ready. (Question: At halftime of the Graffiti Bowl, do they give fans spray paint?)

"I've always wanted to do this," said Hughes, who was discovered by a couple of Barnett's assistants while they were checking out another former Butte player, linebacker Louie JTC Oropeza, who's also now at Northwestern. "I think it's every player's dream to play on national TV."

As for the matchup with Powlus, whose sore right arm has become the focus of attention in South Bend the past two weeks, Hughes said, "I really haven't thought about it. What Powlus does isn't my concern. I haven't seen him play."

Neither has anybody else.

Thrown to the Wolverines

Speaking of quarterback debuts, the toughest might be that of Boston College's Mark Hartsell. Not only will he be taking over from the school's all-time leading passer, Glenn Foley, but he will doing it in front of 103,000 hostile fans at Michigan Stadium. He has thrown a total of two passes as a backup.

"Mark's done a good job," said first-year Eagles coach Dan Henning, who'll be making his own debut as a Division I-A coach after 20 years as both an assistant and head coach in the NFL. "I'm not concerned about the job he does, but you never know emotions. Emotions are things that can change people."

This will mark the first college game Henning has seen in person since a "wild, wild 55-55 tie between BYU and San Diego State three years ago." This one should be quite a bit less frenzied, and with Heisman Trophy favorite Tyrone Wheatley as well as wide receiver Walter Smith out with injuries for the Wolverines, BC might have a chance.

Speaking of Wheatley, he won't be on the field for Michigan's first offensive play for the fourth straight year. As a freshman and sophomore, Wheatley played behind Ricky Powers and, last year, the Wolverines lined up with a four-wide-receiver set. Wheatley suffered a second-degree separation in practice last week and is expected to miss at least a month.

Stat of the week

Counting last year's Sugar and Fiesta bowls and this year's Kickoff Classic, Big East teams have been outscored, 101-7. West Virginia is the biggest culprit, with a 41-7 loss to Florida and a 31-0 loss Sunday to Nebraska.

Quote of the week

"They weren't as physical as I thought they'd be. They weren't as physical as Virginia Tech and Rutgers." West Virginia's Puppy Wright after the Mountaineers' loss to Nebraska.

Upset pick of the week

Pitt over Texas. The Panthers are due. They didn't win a game at home last year, getting outscored, 247-84. But the Longhorns will be without their two top receivers, Lovell Pinckney and Mike Adams.

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