Oct. 16, 1997

College Football Notes

By RICHARD ROSENBLATT
AP Football Writer

Sedrick Irvin swears he'll do anything to help Michigan State win. The tailback says he'll "even hike the ball" if it helps.

What he's done, instead, is hike the 12th-ranked Spartans (5-0) to their best start since 1966 while becoming one of the nation's most exciting players.

"I always wanted to be in the limelight," the 6-foot, 217-pound sophomore said. "I love it. I love the attention. It's a dream for me to be in the spotlight."

In last Saturday's 38-6 win over Indiana, Irvin ran for a career-best 178 yards, including TD runs of 1 and 56 yards and capped off his day with an 80-yard punt return for a score.

Irvin, who chose Michigan State over the three major Florida schools even though he's from Miami, said he savored the chance of breaking open a game his team led only 10-6 at halftime.

"We came in thinking we'd be up by 28 or 35 points by then," said Irvin, whose team has outscored opponents 139-13 in the first half. "I took it on myself. I want to be like Deion Sanders and Emmitt Smith. I wanted them to ask me `Sed, we need a play. What are you gonna do?' I want that on my back.

"I tied my shoes, buckled up and prayed to God to let may talent flow. And it did. And everyone was looking at me making a play."

In the third quarter, Irvin ran 56 yards for a score which put the Spartans up 17-6, then capped the day with his 80-yard return. He finished with 306 total yards.

"He was the difference," Hoosiers coach Cam Cameron said. "That's why you recruit guys like Irvin, because they can make big plays and be the difference."

Spartans coach Nick Saban said Irvin, a cousin of Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin, has been consistent over the first four games, but "last Saturday was the first game he made a lot of big plays."

For the season, Irvin has 508 yards rushing and five TDs, along with a 15.7-yard average on 14 punt returns, including the 80-yarder for a score. He also has 12 catches for 132 yards, including one TD catch.

"Hopefully, that game got him untracked," Saban said. "This is the first glimpse we've seen of him as game-breaker."

If Irvin is just getting warmed up, it couldn't happen at a better time. Through the first five games, the Spartans are averaging 37 points and allowing 10.8 in rolling over teams with a combined 11-20 record.

Michigan State plays Northwestern on Saturday, and then moves into the meat of the season -- home games against No. 5 Michigan and No. 11 Ohio State, followed by games at Purdue and Illinois before closing out at home against No. 1 Penn State.