Classifieds inside Tuesday, October 29, 2002 — Page 13 dwzett SPORTS Can Pitt pull off an upset? Page 18. Back in the picture lUP's Eyerman returns as Indians move back into top four in region IUP quarterback Brian Eyerman, who missed last week's game with a concussion, returned to practice Monday. '" . : (Gazette photo by Thomas Slusser) By MATTHEW BURGLUND Gazette Sports Writer The IUP Indians' push for a playoff berth received help in two ways on Monday. First, the team welcomed back record-setting quarterback Brian, Eyerman, who missed Saturday's 31-14 win over Lock Haven because of a concussion. Then, the Indians learned they had moved up to fourth in the NCAA Division II Northeast Region poll. Not bad for a Monday. Indiana University of Pennsylvania's chance of advancing to the playoffs for a 13th time in 17 years received a great boost with Eyerman's return to practice. He was injured when he was hit by California linebacker Lloyd Price in lUP's 20-9 win over the Vulcans on Oct. 19. He did not receive medical clearance to play until Monday, and he participated in the team's one-hour practice. The Indians' all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns said he suffered the concussion's effects for a few days after the hit. "It's like a fog," Eyerman said. "I had a migraine for about three days, and my vision was blurry. It was like waking up and not getting out of that waking-up stage. It was an experience." ' Eyerman said the week off wasn't a welcome vacation. "It screwed me. up because I spent the week going to the doctor and getting checked out by (head trainer) Frank (Trenney)," he said. "I missed one full day of prep time when I could have been watching film." But it wasn't all bad for the Indians. They got a glimpse of the future, with freshman Kevin Weidl running the offense at quarterback. The Mount Lebanon native completed 7 of 15 attempts for 84 yards and two touchdowns as IUP defeated Lock Haven for the 21st straight time. Eyerman dressed for Saturday's game because it was Senior Day, but he was relegated to sending in plays to Weidl from the sideline. "It was strange," he said. "Especially because we only have two games left. And it was strange against California, when I came out for the second half knowing that I wouldn't be playing and that my team was going out there without me. It was kind of scary." IUP was ranked fifth in the region heading into last weekend. The Indians' win, coupled with Ferris (Mich.) State's 24-3 upset win over No. 2 Sagi- naw Valley (Mich.) State, pushed the Indians up to No. 4 this week. The top four teams in each of the four regions earn playoff berths at the end of the regular season. Grand Valley (Mich.) State, the top-ranked team in the American Football Coaches Association Top 25, retained its No. 1 ranking in the region. The Lakers (7-0) are followed this week by Bentley (Mass.) (8-0), Findlay (Ohio) (7-1) and IUP (8-1) in the top four. Bentley managed to move up a spot despite beating Plymouth (Mass.) State College, a winless Division III team. Findlay survived a scare from Ashland (Ohio) to move up to third from fourth. Saginaw Valley State fel! to eighth in the region with the loss to unranked Ferris State. Should IUP win its final two games, Saturday at Shippensburg and Nov. 9 at Slippery Rock, the Indians will earn a playoff spot. That's the key, according to Eyerman. "We have to play every Saturday like it's a playoff game," he said. "We can't lose. That's why we have to come out this week and next week and prep like it's a playoff game. We know we're going to get two good games from Shippensburg and Slippery Rock, so we better be ready." Steelers going soft at 4-3 By ALAN ROBINSON AP sports Writer . PITTSBURGH — It would have been laughable to suggest after season-opening losses to New England and Oakland that the Pittsburgh Steelers would have a record as good or better than either team by Halloween. ' -Look who's laughing now. - After winning four of five, and with a seemingly soft schedule ahead of them, the Steelers (4-3) are quickly becoming the team they expected to be in training camp. And looking nothing at all like the team that started the season by playing so terribly in losses to the Patriots (30-14) and Raiders (30-17). "The confidence is up on this team, the morale is up," cornerback Dwayne Washington said. "It's going to be tough to beat us." Especially when the rest of their schedule doesn't look very challenging for a team that might be playing as well as it did in going 13-3 last season. Of the Steelers' remaining nine opponents, only Atlanta (4-3) and Tampa Bay (6-2) have winning records — the schedule is, by far, the easiest of any of the current prime contenders for the AFC playoffs. Among their remaining opponents are the winless Bengals (0-7) and expansion Houston Texans (2-5). , San Diego (6-1), for example, still must play San Francisco (5-2), Miami (5-2), Denver (6-2), Oakland (4-3), Buffalo (5-3) and high-scoring Kansas City (4-4). Denver must play Oakland twice, San Diego, Kansas City and Indianapolis (4-3). Oakland's schedule may be tougher still: San Francisco, Denver twice. New England (3-4), San Diego, Miami and Kansas City. Miami must piay Green Bay (6-1), San Diego, Buffalo, Oakland and New England. Buffalo has New England twice, Kansas City, Miami, San Diego and Green Bay. Indianapolis has Philadelphia, Denver and the New York Giants. "We're feeling good, but we have to stay hungry and stay humble," safety Lee Flowers said. "And we can't worry about our record." With their schedule, that shouldn't be a problem — at least as iong as they can keep quarterback Tommy Maddox healthy. Maddox gave the Steelers a scare Sunday when his left ankle was stepped on by Baltimore's Kelly Gregg in the third quarter and Pittsburgh cruising with a big lead. ButX- rays proved negative, and Maddox returned to lead die Steelers to their fourth victory in five games since he replaced Kordell Stewart in the fourth quarter of a 16-13 overtime victory over Cleveland on Sept. 29. Stewart, the Steelers' MVP last season, has played only one series since then, replacing Maddox briefly Sunday in Pittsburgh's 31-18 victory. With Maddox playing as efficiently and effectively as he is now, Stewart understands he won't be playing again soon unless there is another injury or an unusual circumstance. Maddox hit his first 11 passes Sunday, two to Plaxico Burress for touchdowns, and is giving the Steelers steady play at quarterback. And this guy didn't make a starl in the NFL in 10 years, and was out of the league for six years because he couldn't get a job, even as a clipboard-carrying emergency quarterback? "He's been under a lot of scrutiny," coach Bill Cowher said. "Everybody is looking for holes. Can he do this? Can he do that? The only person who doesn't realize it is him. He's been calm, cool and collected. You have to The Steelers' Plaxico Burress hauled in two touchdown passes from Tommy Maddox on Sunday. (AP photo) respect a guy like that. He's the consummate team guy. He's done a good job leading this team." Sunday's game at Cleveland (4-4) will mark the second week in a row the Steelers will meet a division rival for first place in the AFC North. It also will be the first time Maddox has opposed a team he faced before, though the Browns saw him for less than a fuli quarter on Sept. 29. The Steelers could be without run- ning back Jerome Bettis (left knee sprain) for a second straight game. His replacements, Amos Zereoue (53 yards) and Chris Fuamalu-Ma'afala (21) combined for 74 yards against Baltimore. Wounded Lemieux keeps Pens on track By ALAN ROBINSON AP Sports Writer - PITTSBURGH — From the blood on Mario Lemieux's lip to the exhaustion in Jaromir Jagr's eyes to the determination on Johan Hedberg's face, this looked more like the playoffs than late October. - Lemieux, cut so badly by a flying puck he was bleeding a half-hour after the game, scored the decisive goal as the Pittsburgh Penguins held off the Washington Capitals 3-2 Monday night. ' In a game that both sides agreed was played with playoff-like intensity, the Penguins opened leads of 2-0 and 3-1, then weathered a Capitals power play over a frantic final two minutes. • "This was big for us to win a game like this," Hedbergsaid. "There was a lot of emotion and we fought really hard, and to win really builds up our confidence." • Lemieux set up a Jan Hrdina goal that made it 2-0, only to be struck in 'the face by Alexei Kovalev's deflected shot late in the first. ; He stayed down for about 90 seconds before getting up gently, blood spilling from a gash on his upper lip that required 25 stitches. Coach Rick Kehoe said many players wouldn't have bothered coming back so early in the season. As usual, the worst brought out the best in Lemieux. SUNO, Mario Lemieux, right, held up former teammate Jaromir Jagr in last night's game at Mellon Arena. (AP photo) Several minutes after returning midway through [he second period, Lemieux's hard one-timer from the left wing boards on a power play flew past goalie Craig Billington. It was Lemieux's sixth goal and league-high 20th point in nine games. "It was out of nowhere," Capitals coach Bruce Cassidy said. "We kind of overskated the puck, and the next thing we knew it's in our net from the far boards. That's Mario for you. I thought his own guy knocked him out, and that would have been the best break we got all nighi." Lemieux never considered not returning, saying a team coming off a 28-win season needs every point it can get in the standings. With the 37- year-old Lemieux scoring like he did 15 years ago, the Penguins are 5-1-2 since losing their opener. "It will be important for us down the stretch when we're trying to make the playoffs," Lemieux said. Hedberg stopped 40 of 42 shots in probably his best game since his memorable playoff run two years ago, yet it was Lemieux — again — that everybody was talking about. Jagr, stopped point-blank by Hedberg in a final-seconds flurry that saw the Capitals get six good shots, wouldn't talk about his first regular- season meeting with Lemieux. He still idolizes his longtime teammate, but he was clearly frustrated with not getting the tying goal past Hedberg. The Capitals essentially had a two- man advantage over the final 1:06 after pulling their goalie. Jagr got the best chance with only a couple of seconds left, but a sprawled Hedberg caught the puck with his glove. "I didn't want to shoot right away," Jagr said. "I wanted to make him go down. He did a great job." NOTES: Robert Lang, signed to a $25 million contract by Washington during the offseason, also went scoreless in his Pittsburgh return. ... Washington was held to two goals or fewer in every game of a 3-4-1 road trip. ... Lemieux was injured for all four Capitals-Penguins games last season. ...Washington was O-for-7 on the power play. Irish gain on Miami inBCS By JORGE MILIAN Cox News Service WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. —The Miami Hurricanes remain No. 2 in the latest Bowl Championship Series rankings released Monday, but they might not stay there for long. Notre Dame, on the heels of a 34-24 victory against Florida State on Saturday, moved within .30 points of Miami in the BCS standings. The margin is small enough that a victory by the Irish on Saturday against Boston College could allow them to leapfrog Miami next week, even with a Hurricanes' win over Big East doormat Rutgers. "I would think Notre Dame would pass them," said BCS analyst Jerry Palm. But it's not all bad news for the Hurricanes. "In a couple of weeks Notre Dame gets Rutgers," Palm pointed out. "It's not like Noire Dame passes them and Miami can't pass them back." Still, even if Miami drops to No. 3 for a week, it highlights the possibility that the defending national champion Hurricanes might gel left out of the title game. The top two finishers in the BCS standings meet on Jan. 3 in the Fiesta Bowl, site of this season's national championship game. With five weeks left in the season, six teams remain undefeated. Five of those could finish out the year without a loss. Miami and Virginia Tech, both undefeated, play Dec. 7. • "If five leams finish undefealed, Ihe BCS poll still determines the national championship game," said BCS chairman Mike Tranghese, who opposes a playoff format. "And, yes, there will be controversy. Bui Ihis is the system." Oklahoma (7-0) continues atop the BCS standings for the second week in a row by a considerable margin. The Sooners have 3.33 points, weli ahead of Miami, which has 6.69. Notre Dame is close behind with 6.99 points followed by Georgia (8.24), Ohio State (9.49) and Virginia Tech (10.88). All arc undefeated. "It's still fairly early," said Miami coach Larry Cokcr. "I think it's going to be tough to go undefeated fora lot of us." Florida Stale could have done Miami a big favor by beating Notre Dame in Tallahassee last weekend because, olher man Ihe Irish, the teams behind the Hurricanes cannot pass an undefeated Miami team. Even if the Irish finish undefeated, Palm thinks they will eventually lose some ground in the strcngth-of-schedule component in the BCS formula. Notre Dame's schedule ranks fourth this week while Miami is 34th. The Irish have Boston College (4-3), Navy (1-7), Rutgers (1-7) and USC (6-2) left to play. Miami has Rutgers, Tennessee (4-3), Pitlsburgh (6-2) and Virginia Tech (8-QJ. Palm said Notre Dame will likely finish around No. 15 in strength of schedule while Miami ends up in the 30s. If the other three factors that comprise the BCS formula — poll average, computer ranking and defeats — remain as is, the Hurricanes would finish ahead of the Irish.
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