National feature | Notebook
The most famous visor in college football is now a Fedora.
Lost in the soul-shaking ending of Tennessee's victory over Florida was the job done by one Larry Fedora. That last name is catchy, huh? Especially when you are carrying on the legacy of Steve Spurrier, once removed. Florida's offensive coordinator was promoted this year by coach Ron Zook because the offense had bogged down, somewhat, under Ed Zaunbrecher.
Promoting Larry Fedora might help Ron Zook keep his own job. (AP)
The Vols' 30-28 victory was largely an homage to Spur Dog by Fedora. For most of the game, you had to rub your eyes to make sure you weren't watching the Fun 'n' Gun.
Spreads, hot routes, wide-open fast receivers and a surprisingly effective running game. One drive lasted 17 seconds. Another took 16 plays and went for 97 yards. Fedora did everything but alternate quarterbacks. All in all, the change of hats was pretty darn close to Spurrier Ball.
Who is this guy, Fedora? Zook brought him from Middle Tennessee when he got the job a couple years ago. Middle Tennessee might as well have been the middle of nowhere except that in 2001 the Blue Raiders were fifth in total offense. Fedora left Murfreesboro having a hand in the team breaking 43 school offensive records over three years.
|2. Big 12||26-8||.765|
|3. Big Ten||23-9||.719|
|4. Big East||12-6||.667|
|10. Sun Belt||4-15||.210|
Coming to Gainesville was like finding a shiny new 10-speed under the tree. In preseason drills, Fedora immediately began running plays every 10 to 14 seconds to simulate the tempo of his offense.
The guy has been known to call out plays in his sleep. He's one of those offensive brainiacs who draws plays on cocktail napkins during dinner.
That explains why Fedora rose steadily up the ladder from graduate assistant at Baylor to pinball wizard in 12 short years.
"I knew my freshman year in high school this is what I wanted to do," Fedora told the Palm Beach Post. "From that point on I just started learning."
Through two games, Florida is averaging 415 yards per game, good for 36th nationally in total offense. Last year, they averaged 391.4 yards and were 46th.
Tennessee's Erik "The New Peyton" Ainge got most of the attention Saturday. He seemed to turn a corner, destined to take over the starting quarterback spot from Brent Schaeffer.
But Florida's Chris Leak seemed like he turned his own corner. It's obvious the sophomore has been given more responsibility as a sophomore. His 286-yard, three-touchdown performance was one of the best of his short career.
Had Florida won, it might have been his Heisman campaign coming-out party. As it is, Gators everywhere should be slobbering over Leak's potential in what should be an entertaining three-game homestand coming up against Kentucky, Arkansas and LSU.
For one night, it was great to watch before a Neyland-record crowd of 109,061. The Gators went no-huddle early. That allowed Leak to audible at the line based on what he saw from the defense. It all added up to the mutual maturation of Fedora and one of the fastest rising quarterback stars in the nation.
Case in point: Florida was down 14-7 in the second quarter and getting bullied by Tennessee's power running game. Return man Andre Caldwell promptly amped up the Neyland decibels by stepping out of bounds with the kickoff at his own 3.
With Tennessee's defense looking for the kill shot, Leach and Fedora showed what this offense can do. Mixing seven passes with nine runs, Florida drove those 97 yards in 16 plays, taking 6 minutes, 42 seconds.
"He managed the clock, the noise and checks," Florida coach Ron Zook said. "The 97-yard drive showed what we can do. We were clicking on all cylinders."
Zebras in full effect
There's nothing like officiating controversies to get juices flowing in the SEC.
LSU's Ronnie Prude was flagged for a crucial personal foul that allowed Auburn another chance at the game-winning extra point Saturday. The new rule prohibits a player blocking a kick to run into an opponent. It's a player-safety issue for those defenders who get a running start to go flying in the air. Ironically, LSU coach Nick Saban is on the NCAA rules committee that implemented the rule. "(It was) kind of a cheap way ... to end up losing the game."
Meanwhile, controversy rages across the SEC because the officials gagged in the final seconds of Florida-Tennessee. SEC supervisor of officials Bobby Gaston, who attended the game, said the crew goofed during the final minute of Tennessee's 30-28 victory.
Officials should have started the clock after flagging Florida for a personal foul with 55 seconds left, he said. The flag came out after Tennessee's Jonathan Wade and Florida's Dallas Baker traded slaps. The call, though, should have been offsetting penalties.
"(Florida) probably would have gotten 20 seconds off the clock before the kick," Gaston said.
Tennessee was able to kick the winning field goal with six seconds remaining. The biggest question: If the error was so glaring, why weren't Florida's sideline and coaches raising a stink?
The situation recalls the infamous Fifth Down game in 1990. Colorado was allowed a fifth down to win a game against Missouri but no one on the Tigers sideline seemed to notice either.
By the way, neither play would have been subject to instant replay in either the NFL or Big Ten.
Missing a coordinator
Iowa has been without defensive coordinator Norm Parker all season as he recovers from toe amputation surgery.
Parker underwent the procedure in August due to complications from diabetes. He is out of the hospital, but he did not make the trip to Arizona State and will not be on the sidelines Saturday at Michigan.
Typically, Parker calls the team before the game and at halftime to relay his thoughts.
It has a been a tough year for the 62-year old Parker. Son Jeff, 33, died in March. He was born with Down's Syndrome. The school named a football manager scholarship in Jeff's honor.
- That was some "upset" Saturday by Arkansas playing "at" Louisiana-Monroe. The Razorbacks were able to cruise 49-20 in the "hostile" environment. So hostile, that 55,562 crammed into Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium to "root on" the Indians. Why the emphasis quotes? Why not? Louisiana-Monroe signed a five-game, nine-year deal with Arkansas to play "home" (there we go again) games in Little Rock, Ark. Because the NCAA technically counts the stadium that is three hours away from Fayetteville as a neutral site, Louisiana-Monroe jumped all over the chance to count the gate -- and grab a $500,000 guarantee -- toward its average attendance. The NCAA requires a 15,000 per-game average.
- Kansas media outlets won a district court ruling that compels the school to publicly release details of athletic director Lew Perkins' contract with the Jayhawks. Perkins, who is responsible for building UConn football so quickly, is doing the same at Kansas. It is speculated Perkins makes $400,000 per year, which would make him one of the highest-paid ADs in the country.
- Tennessee's 10 touchdowns have been scored by 10 different players.
- Texas Tech had scored seven touchdowns in 209 plays in its first two games. In its final 55 plays against TCU last week, it scored nine. The 70 points scored against the Horned Frogs vaulted Tech up to 12th nationally in scoring.
- Only 13 teams have yet to throw an interception this season, and three of them are from the Big 12 South -- Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas A&M. Only five of the 13 are ranked -- California, Minnesota, Oklahoma State, Purdue and Texas.
- Thanks to upsets by Maine (over Mississippi State) and New Hampshire (over Rutgers) the Atlantic 10 has a better record against I-A competition (2-3) than the Sun Belt (3-15), Mountain West (5-12) and the MAC (0-29). All seven of the MAC's non-conference victories have come against I-AA teams.
Who said it?
"I didn't even know they had a college in Maine." -- Mississippi State's Darnell Jones after losing to the I-AA Bears 9-7.