Caps' start isn't horrible, just normal


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For you folks lamenting the horrible start of the Washington Capitals, be advised that heading into Friday night's home game against Vancouver, the team is enjoying its fifth-best start in history (20 years) with its 6-7 mark.

* Earl Banks was the kind of guy who made an immediate and lasting impression when you met him. First off, there was the physical presence, the man resembling a couple of granite blocks lashed together. He had huge, smiling eyes behind those thick glasses, and his voice seemed to rumble up from the bowels of the earth.

The Hall of Fame coach of Morgan State, who was laid to rest yesterday, was so solid and dependable it rubbed off on those around him. He led by superb example and didn't just demonstrate for change, he caused it.

"The game," he used to say about football, "is blocking, tackling and running." Reminded that the pass was here to stay, he'd relent: "Yeah, that too, I guess."

Back in the mid-'60s, Maryland and Navy had pretty good teams, but far and away the best football hereabout was conducted during the week out on Hillen Road. Banks' teams in that era were so rugged, it hurt to watch them practice. His nickname, Papa Bear, said it all.

* You know your college football, buddy, if you can recall the last time a team was so dominantly entrenched at the top of the national polls as Florida State is presently. The 8-0 Seminoles, who visit 1-7 Maryland Saturday (noon), have posted four shutouts and allowed just five touchdowns in eight games . . . and they're an offensive team!

FSU has exceeded 50 points three times while averaging 44 per outing, its top five rushers have averaged 6.5 yards per carry on 300 trips and the likely Heisman Trophy winner, QB Charlie Ward, is completing passes at a 70 percent clip. Terps coach Mark Duffner isn't kidding when he quips, "To even begin to handle these guys, you'd like to have 15 players out there on defense."

Incidentally, the Seminoles have tied the record for consecutive victories in the ACC with 15, and a conservative estimate is that mark may be extended to 40 or so before it's over.

* What do you do with a fighter who has decent boxing skills, a couple of good if overrated punches in his arsenal and first-class marketability, but absolutely no ability to take a punch?

If you come up with something, get in touch with heavyweight Tommy Morrison and the people handling his career. Morrison has won 38 bouts and lost but two, but each time he has been beaten, first by Ray Mercer and during the weekend by Michael Bentt, it has appeared as if Tommy was done as a serious title threat.

He probably could have had Evander Holyfield or Riddick Bowe as an opponent in a big-money go if Mercer hadn't waxed him, and Bentt's first-round destruction cost him a shot at Lennox Lewis' WBC crown and millions.

* Big story in the New York papers detailing how Yankees owner George Steinbrenner lost about $470,000 before lunch the other day when his holdings in American Shipbuilding Corp. took a huge dip on the stock exchange. Big deal. That's actually chump change in baseball, where that's about a month's salary for a guy who has been on the disabled list for six weeks.

* For want of something better to talk about at the Maryland football press luncheon yesterday, several correspondents took to discussing the Terps' prospects in ACC hoops this winter. The conversation didn't last long, Maryland being picked to finish eighth in the conference, same spot they currently hold on the gridiron. There seems to be a trend developing here, maybe even a reverse dynasty.

Meanwhile, on the Big East front, the experts are picking Georgetown to prevail with something to spare with Boston College, Connecticut and Syracuse in a battle for the runner-up spot. Maryland, remember, opens against the Hoyas Nov. 26. Oops!

NCAA champ North Carolina, a decent bet to repeat, sports eight McDonald's All-Americans, same number as the entire Big East Conference.

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