At Okla., Michigan, freshmen make impact

For Sooners' Peterson, Wolverines' Hart, Henne, success comes quickly

Analysis

College Football

October 25, 2004|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

The 2004 college football season has been a revelation in one regard: Any coach who resists using freshmen should look to see what their brethren at Oklahoma and Michigan are doing.

Although tailback Adrian Peterson was expected to be something special right away for the Sooners, there certainly wasn't the same consensus about Michael Hart and Chad Henne for the Wolverines.

Peterson became only the third freshman in Division I-A history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in just seven games, joining Emmitt Smith and Marshall Faulk. Second-ranked Oklahoma still has five regular-season games and a Big 12 championship game left.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's editions incorrectly stated that Florida defeated Tennessee this season in college football. In fact, Tennessee won 30-28 on Sept. 18.
The Sun regrets the errors.

Just the threat of Peterson touching the ball, as he did 22 times for 126 yards and a touchdown in a 41-10 rout of Kansas in Norman on Saturday allows Sooners quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jason White to have a monster game (27-for-44 for 389 yards and four TDs).

"Kansas was determined to take the running game away, but [White] made some great throws, some great plays, and we were on the verge of making some others," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.

Said Peterson: "I knew they couldn't stop us both. The pass opened up the run game."

The same can be said for Michigan. After Henne had taken over for sophomore Matt Gutierrez and led the Wolverines to four straight wins, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr was still looking for someone to replace former star Chris Perry in the backfield.

Carr probably found another future star during Saturday's 16-14 win over then-No. 12 Purdue on the road. Henne put up decent numbers (22-for-39 for 190 yards and a touchdown) to hold his own with Boilermakers senior Kyle Orton, but Hart was sensational.

In setting a single-game school rushing record for a freshman, Hart ran 33 times for 206 yards and caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Henne.

"Michael Hart has certainly done his share," Carr said. "He's a special kid. He has the durability that is just amazing for a kid who just graduated from high school a few months ago."

Will Zook get the hook?

If ever a coach was giving his athletic director and administration ammunition to fire him, it's Florida's Ron Zook. The Gators (4-3) have had a strange season, but no more bizarre than their third-year coach.

Back-to-back 8-5 seasons had put Zook on shaky ground with the team's over-the-top fans, who still long for former Gators coach Steve Spurrier, but even Zook's most staunch supporter, athletic director Jeremy Foley, now appears to be getting the settlement package ready.

Even before Saturday's embarrassing 38-31 loss at Mississippi State for the then-No. 20 - and now unranked - Gators, Zook was the subject of some unflattering reports involving a fracas between some of his players and a campus fraternity.

It's interesting that the reports surfaced after Florida, which won at Tennessee earlier this year, had blown a 14-point lead in a 24-21 loss to LSU two weeks ago in Gainesville. Zook allegedly had threatened Pi Kappa Phi fraternity members with the now infamous "I'm not going to let you take the football team down" remark after a Sept. 16 incident.

It's also interesting that Foley had sent a letter to season-ticket holders recently apologizing for Zook's behavior.

University president Bernie Machen didn't exactly give Zook a vote of confidence when he told the Orlando Sentinel recently that the coach wasn't in any imminent danger, saying, "But everything counts. We just don't make decisions in the middle of the year like this."

Zook asked reporters last week, "Is this Beat Up Ron Zook Week?"

Pi Kappa Phi isn't going to take Zook down. The Gators, whose schedule includes Saturday's annual game against Georgia in Jacksonville and a season finale at Florida State on Nov. 20, are doing a good job all by themselves.

Safety school

Playing golf can't be more frustrating. Fishing can't be more boring. Just think of any activity septuagenarian Joe Paterno would be doing - reading books at the campus library named after the legendary coach and his wife, Sue - if he weren't still coaching Penn State. They would have to be more satisfying than coaching the Nittany Lions.

The Nittany Lions have never been offensive juggernauts, but Saturday's 6-4 loss at home to Iowa - a score that was eclipsed later by the Red Sox and Cardinals - has to be some sort of low point for Paterno's career in Happy Valley.

"I don't think we can play much poorer than we did today," Paterno said after Penn State lost its fourth straight game.

Consider that Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz had his team take one of the safeties and you see how pitiful Penn State was on offense. Ferentz, once considered a leading candidate to replace Paterno if he retired, probably fell a few notches in the eyes of the Nittany Lions fans.

It has certainly caused some internal discontent in the Penn State (2-5) locker room.

"We're playing really well on the defensive side of the ball," said defensive end Tamba Hali. "On the offensive side, I don't know if they come out to play every game. It's kind of sad that they can score on Purdue, and I don't think Iowa has such a great defense that we can't score. If Iowa didn't score, we win the game, 2-0."

The Associated Press and ESPN.com contributed to this article.

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