Vols miss boat on Chow

NATIONAL NOTEBOOK

With Tennessee offense sputtering, hiring ex-USC coordinator should have been the choice

National notebook

November 05, 2005|By DON MARKUS | DON MARKUS,SUN REPORTER

The fallout from Tennessee's three-game losing streak that culminated with last week's 16-15 defeat to South Carolina and led to the demotion of offensive coordinator Randy Sanders could bring a familiar face back to Neyland Stadium.

David Cutcliffe, who held the position during Peyton Manning's career as a Vol, is now back in Knoxville after being fired last year at Mississippi. Cutcliffe will certainly be a popular choice, but will he be the best choice?

Why not Norm Chow? Nothing against Cutcliffe, but Chow should be Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer's first call. Now in his first season with the Tennessee Titans, Chow was the offensive coordinator at Southern Cal who developed both Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart into Heisman Trophy quarterbacks.

Did we forget to mention that Chow's offense helped the Trojans win back-to-back national championships en route to what is now a 30-game winning streak?

Before going to USC, Chow was the offensive coordinator at North Carolina State who brought along a freshman quarterback named Philip Rivers. Chow was at BYU for Ty Det- mer's Heisman Trophy career.

"We're going to look around nationally and find the best person that fits what we want to do and brings the right things to the table," Fulmer said.

Chow could be the perfect choice to help turn around the career of talented but erratic sophomore quarterback Erik Ainge, who has been in and out of Fulmer's doghouse for most of his two years.

With fifth-year senior Rick Clausen gone next year, it would likely be Ainge's job.

Hiring Chow might also be an incentive for Clausen's little brother, Jimmy, one of the top high school quarterbacks in the country as a junior, to follow big brothers Rick and Casey to Knoxville.

Chow left USC after last season because he came to the decision that his Asian-American heritage was working against him getting a head coaching job in the college ranks, the last instance being when Pitt's Walt Harris was hired at Stanford.

According to some at USC, Chow also felt that he wasn't getting enough credit from Trojans coach Pete Carroll.

Conversely, Sanders became the scapegoat for a Tennessee offense that has fallen to 108th out of 117 among Division I-A teams.

Rick Clausen, who has been booed himself by Volunteers fans since transferring from LSU, said he heard some of them calling for Sanders' head toward the end of the South Carolina game.

"Not only had he taken me [under his wing], he'd also taken my brother," said Clausen.

"It's tough. If I would have played better, he'd probably still have his job. If Erik would have played better, he'd probably still have his job. Don't blame that man. Blame us."

No repeat

As he approached his team's biggest game in several years, Penn State coach Joe Paterno has sent a not-so-subtle message to officials who are going to work today at Beaver Stadium when the 10th-ranked Nittany Lions face No. 14 Wisconsin.

In discussing last year's 16-3 loss in Madison with reporters earlier this week, Paterno was asked about the hits by former Badger Erasmus James that sent Penn State quarterbacks Zack Mills and Michael Robinson out of the game, in Robinson's case a helmet-to-helmet blow that landed him in a local hospital.

"I hope the officials will make sure that doesn't happen," Paterno said during his weekly teleconference. "One or two of the shots last year were very dubious as to whether they were legal."

Not that Paterno is accusing Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez of playing dirty.

"Wisconsin plays good, tough football, and if you are going to play in this league and you want to be a quarterback, you have to bounce up when somebody gives you a good shot," Paterno said. "And I think Michael has done that. It's up to us to protect Michael."

The 2004 game against the Badgers also came on the day Paterno received news that his son-in-law was critically injured in a bicycle fall in State College.

Asked if that was the most stressful day he has had coaching football, Paterno said, "It's difficult for me to say that, after 50 years, it was the toughest day that I ever had. But it certainly was a very difficult day."

don.markus@baltsun.com

The Associated Press and other news organizations contributed to this article.

Around the nation

NATIONAL GAME OF THE WEEK

Wisconsin@Penn State -- The game will have a big effect on this season's Big Ten championship, but Miami's trip to Virginia Tech will affect the national title picture. The third-ranked Hokies got a little closer to No. 2 Texas last week, and could keep climbing with a win tonight at Lane Stadium over the No. 5 Hurricanes.

National Player To Watch

USC running back LenDale White -- With coach Pete Carroll's blessing, White pulled a Halloween prank on his USC teammates by faking that he quit the team for playing second fiddle to Reggie Bush and then getting pushed off a tall building. The Trojans should know that White is more Superman than second banana.

NATIONAL STORY LINES

Fading Vols -- Given the way Notre Dame scored on USC's defense in its 34-31 loss last month to the Trojans in South Bend, and given what happened when Tennessee lost at home to South Carolina last week, will any more Vols assistants be forced to step down if the Fighting Irish win big?

Lucky Bruins -- How many miracle finishes are left for No. 7 UCLA? After four comeback wins in five weeks, the Bruins are still unbeaten and on the periphery of the national championship race. A trip to Tucson to play much-improved Arizona could see UCLA's luck run out.

NATIONAL NUMBER

15 -- Possessions Baylor has had in the fourth quarter or overtime of its four defeats this season, resulting in five punts, four turnovers, two field goals and one touchdown. On three possessions, the clock simply expired in regulation. The Bears, who play No. 2 Texas today, have lost two games in OT.

Don Markus

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.