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Whiz Kid Makes Strides, But ‘Cats Call On Billy Jack

Tue., Aug. 27, 1996

So far, Kentucky football coach Bill Curry is saying all the right things about a delicate situation involving his quarterbacks.

Saturday, his actions will speak louder than words when the Wildcats open the season at home against Louisville.

Yes, he says, Billy Jack Haskins will start at quarterback, and yes, high school whiz kid Tim Couch has earned playing time as his backup. Who will be playing at the end of the game remains a mystery.

Here’s how Curry views it:

“Billy Jack Haskins remains the starter, but Tim has been making enormous strides,” Curry said Monday. “Tim is now a firm second, and he’s proven he is good enough to play. How that will work out, we’ll have to wait until game time. Both have been superb.”

But the pressure is on Curry to produce a winner and Couch was just that at Leslie County High School, in Hyden, Ky. He completed 872 of 1,371 passes for 12,104 yards and 133 touchdowns. He set national high school records for completions, yards and TDs.

Haskins, meanwhile, was 93 of 154 for 1,176 yards and four TDs as the Wildcats went 4-7 last season.

“Both will see playing time,” Curry said. “There’s no set way to do it. Games differ in how they unfold and it’s highly unlikely we’ll get into a shuttle-type system.

“Billy Jack is the starter, but Tim is good enough to have earned playing time.”

Translation: Unless Haskins is nearly perfect, Couch will make his college debut against the Cardinals.

Watch your back

LaVell Edwards is already warning his players not to overlook Arkansas State on Saturday following BYU’s 41-37 upset of Texas A&M; in the Pigskin Classic.

He really doesn’t care if his Cougars are 33-point favorites, either.

“Just look at Northwestern last year,” Edwards said Monday. “They began the season with a win over Notre Dame and then went out the next week and lost to Miami of Ohio. Then they won the rest of their games and went to the Rose Bowl. I bet they’d like that Miami game back.

“That’s why we have to be sure we’re ready.”

Tube time

Saturday’s TV lineup:

ABC: Illinois at Michigan, Washington State at Colorado, Clemson at North Carolina and Texas Tech at Kansas State (regional coverage starting at 12:30 p.m. PDT). Washington State at Colorado will be shown by Spokane’s KXLY-TV.

CBS: No games. First game is UCLA at Tennessee on Sept. 7 (5 p.m. PDT)

NBC: No games. First game is Purdue at Notre Dame on Sept. 14 (11:30 p.m. PDT)

ESPN: Purdue at Michigan State (9:30 a.m. PDT), West Virginia at Pittsburgh (4:30 p.m. PDT)

ESPN2: Louisville at Kentucky (3:30 p.m. PDT), Boston College at Hawaii, 6:30 p.m. PDT)

They’ll be watching UCLA

UCLA coach Bob Toledo better be ready for a rough ride in his first season leading the Bruins. Not only does UCLA open at No. 2 Tennessee on Sept. 7, but the Bruins are at Michigan on Sept. 28. That means UCLA will play in the nation’s two largest stadiums. Neyland Stadium in Knoxville seats 102,485, while Michigan Stadium holds 102,501.

Colorado QB gets OK

Colorado senior quarterback Koy Detmer was given full medical clearance to play this season, school officials said.

Detmer injured his right knee in the fourth game last season against Texas A&M;, tearing the anterior cruciate ligament. Detmer attempted to play with a special brace two weeks later but the injury required two surgeries and he has been rehabilitating ever since.

Prior to Monday’s official announcement, Detmer had been cleared for all but full-contact action, which - as a quarterback - he would have been kept away from anyway.

“He’s 100 percent,” coach Rick Neuheisel said. “There are zero signs he’s ever been hurt.”

Colorado opens the season against Washington State on Saturday.

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