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Davis puts players' interests ahead of piling up points

By JOE FRISARO

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 13, 2000


CORAL GABLES -- When it comes to running up the score, coach Butch Davis prefers to reward reserves rather than risk injury to his starters.

"We've got 102 kids on this football team who have put in about eight months of their lives trying to make this team successful," said Davis, whose Hurricanes beat Pittsburgh 35-7 Saturday. "About 75 of those guys live for the opportunity to play those last three or four minutes. I think it would be tragic for those guys not to get opportunities."

Miami (8-1) is in prime position to play for the national championship. With two regular-season games left, it is trying to preserve its top players.

"To get (a starter) hurt with two minutes left in the game where you are beating someone's brains in anyhow, that's dumber than running up the score," Davis said.

Davis said Sunday he isn't sure how the Bowl Championship Series' margin-of-victory criterion works. He said he recently discussed the "running up the score" factor with Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association and plans to address BCS revisions at the association meetings Jan. 7-10 in Atlanta.

"Grant has said that a lot of coaches have sent requests talking about that," Davis said.

DAVENPORT INJURED: Miami's injury-plagued fullback position took a blow when junior Najeh Davenport sprained his right knee in the first half. The injury could sideline him the final weeks.

Tight end Robert Williams and Nick Nettles, who had spent the past month playing defensive line, played fullback Saturday. Davenport had been starting at fullback because D.J. Williams is out with a separated right shoulder.

TIDE COMES IN: The Birmingham (Ala.) News reported Thursday that Alabama has Davis at the top of its list to replace Mike DuBose, who will not be retained after the season. Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer, the paper said, also is on the short list.

"Why would I want to leave?" said Davis, who earns about $900,000 aseason.

UM athletic director Paul Dee said: "No one from Alabama's athletics department has contacted me or anyone else in our administration."

Davis has three years remaining on a contract originally extended after the 1996 season.

FAMILY FEUD: At least one Miami family will be torn if Oklahoma faces Miami in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3 for the national title.

The Marshall family has sons playing for both teams. Sheven Marshall is a junior linebacker at UM, and Torrance Marshall, a senior linebacker, starts for the Sooners. Torrance's interception return for a touchdown rallied the Sooners past Texas A&M 35-31 on Saturday.

"I don't know how I could keep my composure," mother Cathy said. "It would be devastating to see one of them lose."

"It's real frustrating," father Randolph said. "We're stuck right in the middle."

DEFENSE PROVIDES OFFENSE: Cornerback Phillip Buchanon's 71-yard interception return for a touchdown was the sixth such score by UM this season. The school record was five in 1967.

UM leads the nation in "non-offensive" touchdowns with 11 -- six interceptions, three punt returns and two fumble returns. Buchanon returned a fumble for touchdown against West Virginia.

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