For the Memories: Part V



Part IV: 1988 College Football Tournament


By Glenn Guzzo


            For the love of board games, nostalgia, and a real college-football playoff … Here is the third round in the tournament using the 48 teams from Strat-O-Matic’s 1988 college football cards.


With the field now trimmed to 12, the top seven seeds (Notre Dame, West Virginia, Nebraska, Miami, Florida State and USC) all have won their first two games. So have Cinderella Army (the 18th seed) and No. 20 Colorado. Under-seeded No. 19 Michigan remains a threat, as does No. 24 LSU, which toppled No. 8 Arkansas in the second round, 27-24. Finally, No. 12 Oklahoma State, with incomparable running back Barry Sanders, made the cut by beating Florida and Georgia by a combined four points.


In these six third-round games, two were decided on late two-point conversion attempts and a third game was tied until nearly midway into the fourth quarter.


The two top-seeded winners will draw byes, while the other four Round 3 winners fight for the other two spots in the Final Four.


Remember (see Strat-O-Sphere for Parts I, II and III), this was played solitaire, mostly with basic-game rules. Remember, too, that the Strat-O-Matic college game differs from the pro version in several ways, including many more “Receiver” readings on quarterback cards and interception-return ratings for each team.



The third round match-ups and results:


No. 1 Notre Dame     28                    No. 24 LSU                 10


            The impressive Irish defense intercepted three passes in the middle quarters and then marched to touchdowns alter each of them. In the process, Notre Dame humbled hot passer Tommy Hodson, who had led the Tigers to 68 points in their first two games.


            Here’s how impressive the Notre Dame defense was: After a fumble at the Notre Dame 28 on the Irish’s first play, LSU settled for a field goal. The Tigers did not score again until Notre Dame led 28-3 late in the third quarter. Hodson hit only 21 of 56 passes with three interceptions and six sacks. LSU managed just 23 rushing yards in 26 attempts (including 38 yards in losses on six sacks).


            The one-dimensional Notre Dame offense did not complete a pass, and had a mediocre 225 yards rushing, led by QB Tony Rice’s 63 yards and two touchdowns. But the Irish had to march only 15 and 38 yards to two of their scores following interceptions.


            Notre Dame is assured of a bye and place in the Final Four.



No. 20 Colorado         14                    No. 2   West Virginia             12


            Undefeated before their bowl loss to Notre Dame in the real 1988 season, the Mountaineers’ sometimes-spectacular, often-frustrating offense finally did them in. Meanwhile, Colorado won in familiar fashion – one or two key drives enough offense for the stalwart Buffaloes defense.


            Eric Bienemy (110 yards rushing on 25 carries) raced for TDs on runs of 15 and 7 yards in the middle quarters. The rest of the story was Colorado’s defense vs. West Virginia’s spurting and sputtering offense. The Mountaineers outgained the Buffaloes 387-200 and had the edge in first downs, 29-9. But West Virginia missed two field goals (one from 24 yards), turned the ball over on downs deep in Colorado territory, failed on a two-point conversion that would have tied the game with 2:30 to play, and finally ran out of time with fourth down at the Colorado 5 following a sack that took the Mountaineers out of range for the winning field goal.


            West Virginia scored first, on a field goal after recovering a first-quarter fumble at the Colorado 21. But Bienemy’s touchdowns put Colorado ahead 14-3 entering the fourth quarter. After his two misses, West Virginia field goal kicker Charlie Baumann booted one from 39 yards to make it 14-6 with 11:45 to play. Then with four minutes left, Grantis Bell returned a punt 40 yards to the Colorado 36 to set up West Virginia’s sole touchdown. RB Undra Johnson smashed off tackle the final four yards after QB Major Harris (19-for-31, 275 yards, 2 interceptions) hit big-play WR Reggie Rembert for 22 yards. But Johnson’s run for the tying two-point conversion was stopped cold with 2:30 remaining.


            West Virginia had one more chance, a good one. The sturdy Mountaineer defense forced Colorado to punt and Bell got loose again, covering 24 yards to the Colorado 39. Harris’ pass to TE Keith Winn got West Virginia to the 25.


The final series went like this:


            First down: Harris throws an interception chance 2-7, but the pass falls incomplete.


Second down: Harris is sacked for an eight-yard loss, putting the ball on the 33 with 15 seconds to play. By the margin of one yard, that sack moved West Virginia out of field goal range (2-6, 12) into territory where only a roll of 2 would do the job.


Third down: So Harris tried for all of it on a bomb. Rembert caught it – for 28 yards, down at the 5 – as time ran out.



No. 3   Nebraska        35                    No. 19 Michigan        3


            West Virginia’s loss may have been just, because Nebraska is looking like a worthy national champion after dominating three opponents, including very dangerous Michigan. With this win, the Cornhuskers earn a bye into the Final Four.


            A great match-up, supposedly: Nebraska, the only team to win both of its early games by shutout against Michigan, a team with quality passing and running – and 65 points against decent foes Iowa and Syracuse.


            And Michigan scored first, late in the first quarter, but settling for Mike Gillette’s 35-yard field goal after driving 74 yards in 14 plays. It looked like it would stay that way at halftime, since Michigan’s defense was doing a superior job containing the explosive Nebraska running game. But the Cornhuskers’ Dana Brinson returned a punt 49 yards for a touchdown with 2:30 to go before haltime.


            The score was still 7-3 until very late in the third quarter, when Nebraska picked off a Michael Taylor pass (one of four on the day) and returned it 21 yards to the Michigan 30. Five plays later, FB Bryan Carpenter bulldozed into the end zone from four yards out and Nebraska led 14-3 entering the final period.


            Things quickly got out of hand for Michigan after that. Brinson returned a punt 70 yards for his second score with 13 minutes left. Michigan made a bid to get back in the game, driving to the Nebraska 15. But Nebraska’s fourth interception precipitated an 82-yard clinching drive that ended on QB Sean Taylor’s 3-yard cutback run. The Huskers added a TD on the game’s final play for the exclamation point.


No. 4   Miami             45                    No. 18 Army               0


            Cinderella had a 10 p.m. curfew for this mismatch, which pitted Army’s all-run offense vs. a strong run defense and Miami’s top-tier passing against one of the worst pass defenses in the tourney. Army managed just 160 yards rushing and 192 overall, and only 9 first downs. Miami passed for 376 yards and had 518 yards overall. QB Steve Walsh was 24-for-33 for 340 yards and two touchdowns, and backup Craig Erickson threw for a third score. Cleveland Gary ran for two touchdowns.


Miami led 10-0 after one quarter, 24-0 at half and 38-0 after three quarters.


            The mighty Hurricanes draw Colorado in the next round.


No. 5   Auburn            35                    No. 12 Oklahoma St. 21


            Barry Sanders had rushed for more than 600 yards in two games, but not against a run defense like Auburn’s. Still, Auburn and Sanders alternated touchdowns for three quarters (one each per quarter with Auburn scoring first each time) before Auburn’s strong finish.


            It was good Barry (188 yards on 36 carries and three touchdowns) and bad Barry (two fumbles leading to Auburn scores in the first and third quarters). And good Auburn offense against bad Oklahoma State defense (300 yards rushing, 161 passing). Auburn RBs Stacy Danley (111 yards on 22 carries) and James Joseph (103 yards on 18 carries) each ran for more than 100 yards as the Tigers dominated possession with 26 first downs.


            The turning point came early in the fourth quarter. Auburn fumbled a punt, but Oklahoma State couldn’t capitalize, missing a field goal. Then Auburn immediately drove 80 yards in 11 plays, scoring as RB Vincent Harris burst up the middle for 18 yards with 9:30 remaining. Danley’s 3-yard TD run up the middle clinched the victory with 1:15 to play.


            Auburn will play the winner of Florida State-USC.


No. 6   Florida State   21                    No. 7   USC                19


            This one was billed as a potenial classic between teams with superior defenses and solid offenses. The game lived up to expectations as it came down to USC’s failed two-point conversion with 1:15 to play.


            The defenses were the stars of the game as their were more punts (21) than first downs (19) and as many turnovers (six) as scores. Each team managed just one long touchdown drive.


            Florida State’s defense dominated USC on its first possession, leading to a punt that gave the Seminoles the ball on the Trojan 41. Eight plays later, FB Dane Williams slashed into the end zone from 3 yards out and a 7-0 Florida State lead.


            In the second quarter, USC FB Leroy Holt dove the final yard on a fourth-down play to cap a 14-play, 66-yard drive, but Florida State took the kickoff and answered with a 70-yard drive that required only seven plays, including Chip Ferguson’s 35-yard pass to WR Terry Anthony and Dexter Carter’s 16-yard sweep. USC had to drive only 29 yards before Quin Rodriguez’ 37-yard field goal on the final play of the first half that cut the FSU lead to 14-10.


            USC’s defense was ferocious in the second half, forcing five turnovers and nearly coming up with four more. It was a heroic effort that lacked only a victory to be legendary. The fact was, Florida State’s defense was every bit as good, but without the turnovers (USC turned it over only once, none in the second half). Notably, the intimidating Florida State pass defense (led by Deion Sanders) held Rodney Peete and his talented receivers to 141 yards on 12 of 28 passing with one interception and four sacks for 34 yards in losses.


            Neither team could move the ball in the third quarter. But Deion Sanders returned a punt 25 yards to set Florida State up 33 yards from the USC goal late in the third. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Ferguson and Anthony combined on an 11-yard TD pass to give the Seminoles a 21-10 lead.


            But when USC intercepted Ferguson for a third time, it had the ball on the FSU 25. The Seminoles defense gave USC just six yards, but Rodriguez hit a field goal to make it 21-13 with 9 minutes remaining.


            USC got its big break with 2:30 to play, when it forced Sammie Smith (held to 20 yards in 14 carries) to fumble at the Florida State 16. Three plays later, Aaron Emanuel got outside for an 11-yard touchdown with 1:15 remaining. That made it 21-19. But Emanuel’s run off tackle was stopped a yard short.


            After a failed onside kick gave Florida State the ball at midfield, Smith fumbled again (USC forces automatic fumbles on defensive rolls of 5 and split-chance fumbles on rolls of 9), but the Seminoles recovered and killed the clock.


So it’s Miami-Colorado and Auburn-Florida State. If Colorado wins, it will play Notre Dame. If Miami wins, it will play Nebraska. Both of those match-ups were involved in national-championship Orange Bowl games in the 1980s.


Next time: The six games that decide the championship



            Here’s a recap of the first round:


1        Notre Dame     (11-0) vs.        48        Dartmouth        (5-5)    … Notre Dame, 81-0

2        West Virginia    (11-0) vs.        47        Princeton          (6-4)    W. Virginia, 52-0

3        Nebraska         (11-1)  vs.        46        Cornell             (7-2-1) Nebraska, 51-0

4        Miami               (10-1)  vs.        45        Penn                 (9-1)    Miami, 37-3

5        Auburn (10-1)  vs         44        Navy                (3-8)    Auburn, 45-6

6        Florida State     (10-1)  vs         43        Texas Tech       (5-6)    Florida St., 49-10

7        USC                (10-1)  vs         42        Penn State        (5-6)    … USC, 21-14

8        Arkansas          (10-1)  vs         41        Oregon             (6-6)    Arkansas, 34-14

9        Wyoming          (11-1)  vs         40        Baylor              (6-5)    Baylor, 28-17

10    Houston           (9-2)    vs         39        Arizona State    (6-5)    Arizona St., 23-14

11    Oklahoma        (9-2)    vs         38        Pittsburgh         (6-5)    Pittsburgh, 13-10

12    Oklahoma St.   (9-2)    vs         37        Florida             (6-5)    Okla. St., 24-21

13    Clemson           (9-2)    vs         36        Texas A&M     (7-5)    Texas A&M, 10-7

14    UCLA              (9-2)    vs         35        Wake Forest    (6-4-1) … UCLA, 34-28

15    Syracuse          (9-2)    vs         34        Michigan St      (6-4-1) Syracuse, 28-10

16    S. Mississippi   (9-2)    vs         33        Illinois               (6-4-1) Illinois, 37-17

17    UTEP               (10-2)  vs         32        Virginia (7-4)    … UTEP, 30-14

18    Army                (9-2)    vs         31        Arizona            (7-4)    … Army, 26-17

19    Michigan          (8-2-1) vs         30        Iowa                (6-3-3) Michigan, 35-21

20    Colorado          (8-3)    vs         29        BYU                (8-4)    Colorado, 10-3

21    Georgia            (8-3)    vs         28        Indiana             (7-3-1) Georgia, 35-20

22    Washington St  (8-3)    vs         27        N.Carolina St.  (7-3-1) NC State, 45-17

23    Alabama           (8-3)    vs         26        Hawaii              (9-3)    Hawaii, 16-13

24    LSU                 (8-3)    vs         25        S. Carolina       (8-3)    … LSU, 44-7



And, second-round results:

1    Notre Dame                             40        Baylor              … Notre Dame, 34-14

2    West Virginia                            39        Arizona St.       W. Virginia, 36-21

3    Nebraska                                 38        Pittsburgh         Nebraska, 17-0

4    Miami                                       36        Texas A&M     Miami, 41-7

5    Auburn                         33        Illinois               Auburn, 21-13

6    Florida State                             27        N. Carolina St. … Florida St., 28-3

7    USC                                        26        Hawaii              … USC, 47-6

8    Arkansas                                  24        LSU                 LSU, 27-24

12 Oklahoma State                        21        Georgia            Oklahoma St., 28-27

14  UCLA                                      20        Colorado          Colorado, 17-13

15 Syracuse                                  19        Michigan          Michigan, 30-21

17 UTEP                                        18        Army                … Army, 34-23