In Sports from United Press International

Sept. 6, 2002 at 3:36 PM
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Florida, Miami square off on gridiron

GAINESVILLE, Fla., Sept. 6 (UPI) -- New Florida Coach Ron Zook faces his first real test Saturday as when the sixth-ranked Gators host top-ranked and defending national champion Miami in the weekend's only matchup between ranked teams.

Zook, the successor to Steve Spurrier, is the former defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints.

"I think everybody around this country has in the back of their heads about coach Spurrier leaving except the players on this team," said Florida safety Todd Johnson. "We know that we're going to come out and play like coach Zook wants us to. I'm sure people will think about coach Spurrier because of what he has done. I know coach Zook is going to be good for this program and the university."

Zook began his tenure at Florida (1-0) with an easy 51-3 win over Alabama-Birmingham last Saturday. Next up are the Hurricanes (1-0), who have the longest current winning streak in the country, 23 games, to Gainesville.

Miami opened its season with an easy 63-17 win over Florida A&M to improve to 13-0 since Larry Coker took over as coach last season.

"It's going to be a great challenge for us, but at the same time, it's what our players are looking for," Coker said.

The game also features a matchup of quarterbacks Ken Dorsey of Miami and Rex Grossman of Florida, both of whom were Heisman Trophy finalists last season.

While Miami and Florida meet down south, two other marquee programs will meet in the Sooner State as third-ranked Oklahoma (1-0) hosts Alabama. The schools have combined for 19 national titles and 86 bowl appearances, but Saturday marks the first regular-season meeting between the two schools. The last meeting was a 24-24 tie in the 1970 Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl.

Another storied program in action this weekend is No. 24 Notre Dame (1-0), which routed Maryland, 22-0, in the Kickoff Classic last week. The Fighting Irish will host Purdue.

The Maryland game was the first at Notre Dame for Tyrone Willingham, who seemed unfazed by the pressure last week. Saturday, he will coach his first home game in South Bend.

"The truth of the matter is, we haven't done anything yet," Willingham said. "One game never makes a season."

Notre Dame is trying to open a season with two straight wins for the first time since 1996.

Many of the higher-ranked teams are facing overmatched opponents this weekend.

No. 4 Tennessee (1-0) hosts Middle Tennessee, No. 6 Michigan (1-0) entertains Western Michigan, eighth-ranked Nebraska (2-0) hosts Utah State, and No. 9 Ohio State (1-0) welcomes Kent State.

Also, No. 20 Colorado State (2-0), which surprised then sixth-ranked Colorado, 19-14, last week, will open a team's season for the third straight week when it visits UCLA.

No. 21 Wisconsin (2-0) hosts West Virginia, No. 22 North Carolina State (2-0) welcomes Navy, 12th-ranked Washington State (1-0) plays Idaho, No. 13 Oregon (1-0) hosts Fresno State, No. 14 Washington (0-1) welcomes San Jose State, No. 15 Michigan State plays Rice, and No. 19 South Carolina (1-0) is at Virginia.

No. 10 Virginia Tech (2-0) and No. 18 Marshall (1-0) are off this week before squaring off on Thursday, Sept. 12.

No. 2 Texas (1-0), No. 5 Florida State (2-0), No. 11 Georgia (1-0), No. 16 USC (1-0) and No. 25 Penn State (1-0) also are idle this weekend.

Bengals lose LB Foley for season

CINCINNATI, Sept. 6 (UPI) -- The increasingly shaky linebacker depth of the Cincinnati Bengals has gotten a little worse with the news that veteran Steve Foley will not play in the 2002 regular campaign because of a dislocated right shoulder.

Foley suffered the injury in last Thursday's preseason contest against Atlanta when he tried to breakup a pass by the Falcons' Michael Vick and landed awkwardly on the shoulder. Team trainer Paul Sparling expects Foley to recover in time for next season after undergoing reconstructive surgery.

Foley's spot in the starting defensive lineup will be taken by six-year veteran Canute Curtis, who signed a new contract Thursday. Foley had been hampered by old, nagging injuries in the preseason (hip flexor, groin strain), and was making his first game appearance in the Atlanta game.

"I look forward to it," Curtis said. "Of course, there's more pressure because you're going to be in there and guys are going to be counting on you, and you're going to be counting on yourself. You just don't want to let anyone down."

Adrian Ross will be the backup to Curtis.

"Since both Canute and I play special teams, we have to figure out how to work that," Ross said. "Losing a guy like Foley is hard because he's a 6-4, 260-pound guy who can run like the wind. He's also a good pass rusher and he can cover the tight end. (But) I don't think our depth is going to be a problem. We just have to figure out how to arrange it."

Curtis, a 6-2, 257-pound native of Amityville, N.Y., was dubbed the "Amityville Horror" collegiately at West Virginia, where he shattered a school record with 34 1/2 career sacks.

He averaged five tackles per game last season at linebacker, and is also the Bengals' leading special teams tackler with 31 over the last three seasons.

The Bengals open the new season on Sunday at home against the San Diego Chargers.

Redskins DE Smith signs new deal

ASHBURN, Va., Sept. 6 (UPI) -- Veteran defensive end Bruce Smith has been signed to a new three-year contract that various media reports indicate is worth $10 million.

The new deal gives the team a cushion for its salary cap this season and clears more than $2 million in cap space. The money saved likely will make it easier for the Redskins to negotiate new deals for two key members of their offense -- Pro Bowl running back Stephen Davis and tackle Jon Jansen, both pending free agents.

Washington also save nearly $3.6 million against the cap in 2003, and Smith, 40, will take a $750,000 pay cut this year, according to the Washington Times.

"He is energized and anxious to be a part of the team for at least the next couple of years," Smith's agent, Leigh Steinberg, told the Times. "He willingly facilitated the team's attempt to create the strongest possible roster. At this point, winning is paramount."

Smith did get a $2 million signing bonus, and agreed to reduce his income for the 2002 season by $750,000, from $3.5 million to $2.75 million.

"He has a great affinity for (Redskins owner) Dan Snyder and a real belief in Dan's commitment to winning," Steinberg said.

The 6-4, 265-pounder, who had two offseason knee procedures, said he's physically fit and ready to play.

"Physically, I'm very comfortable with where I am in the scheme of things," Smith said. "I feel great."

In 17 pro seasons, the Norfolk, Va., native has started all but four of his 247 games, has 855 solo tackles (1,154 overall), 43 fumble recoveries, and 186 sacks.

The former Virginia Tech All-American was a first-round draft pick by the Buffalo Bills in 1985. He played his first 15 pro seasons with the Bills and was an AFC Pro Bowl choice 11 times.

Flames to sign Iginla

CALGARY, Alberta, Sept. 6 (UPI) -- The Calgary Flames have scheduled a news conference for 3:30 p.m. Eastern time Friday afternoon to announce the signing of high-scoring Jarome Iginla to a new deal.

Iginla, a restricted free agent, reportedly has agreed to a two-year contract worth $13 million. His agent, Don Meehan, was seeking a two-year, $15 million deal after rejecting a two-year offer worth $11 million. Iginla earned $1.7 million last season.

The agreement comes eight days before the Flames are scheduled to open training camp in Banff, Alberta.

Iginla, 25, had 52 goals and 44 assists last season and won the Pearson Award as the NHL's Most Valuable Player by a vote of his peers. He also played for Canada's gold-medal winning Olympic team, skating on a line with another superstar, Joe Sakic.

Iginla missed the start of training camp in 1999 after scoring 28 goals the previous season. He eventually agreed to a three-year contract worth $5 million three games into the 1999-2000 season.

In those three years, he proved his worth, totaling 112 goals and 230 points.

Lewis surrenders IBF crown

LONDON, Sept. 6 (UPI) -- Lennox Lewis, who won his first heavyweight title after former champion Riddick Bowe threw a

belt in the garbage, has relinquished his IBF crown.

Lewis, 40-2-1, 31 KOs, also the WBC champion, elected to give up the belt rather than face mandatory challenger Chris Byrd.

The 6-5 Lewis, who turned 37 on Monday, solidified his standing as the best heavyweight in the world on June 8, when he pounded former champion Mike Tyson on the way to an eighth-round technical knockout. But after such a convincing victory, Lewis was left without an immediate opponent that would generate as much fan interest.

After the Tyson fight, he spoke about retirement and did not seem interested in a bout with WBO champion Wladimir Klitschko.

IBF President Marian Muhammad is in Portland for Saturday's bout between light-heavyweight champion Roy Jones Jr. and Clinton Woods, but a spokesperson at the commissioner's office said they were aware that Lewis relinquished his title.

Lewis first won the WBC belt with a second-round knockout of Razor Ruddock in October 1992 after Bowe, the undisputed champion at the time, gave up that belt. He lost the title to Oliver McCall in September 1994, but regained it in a rematch three years later.

Lewis became undisputed heavyweight champion in 1999, when he beat Evander Holyfield in a rematch after their first bout was ruled a draw.

Lewis' only other loss came against Hasim Rahman in April 2001. After the two brawled at a prefight press conference, Lewis avenged that defeat last November.

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