Connoisseurs of classy running would have been in halfback heaven last Saturday in North Carolina.
In Chapel Hill, they could have watched North Carolina tailback Kelvin Bryant score five touchdowns and run for 136 yards against Miami of Ohio in the afternoon. Then they could have traveled 30 miles along Highway 54 to Raleigh, in time to see tailback Joe McIntosh of N.C. State run for 167 yards against East Carolina that night.
Bryant, a junior, and McIntosh, a freshman, primarily are responsible for their teams' unbeaten records going into home games this weekend.
Bryant, who scored an Atlantic Coast Conference record six touchdowns and rushed for 211 yards two weeks ago against East Carolina, will be on regional television Saturday (noon, WJLA-TV-7) against Boston College. BC has a huge defensive line that could pose a bigger problem than either of the relatively weak teams North Carolina has faced so far.
McIntosh, who two weeks ago rushed for 220 yards against Wake Forest and has 518 yards in three games, will test Maryland (0-2) in a 7 p.m. game Saturday in Carter-Finley Stadium.
The two have achieved their success with different running styles. East Carolina Coach Ed Emory had the misfortune of trying to defend against both in successive weeks.
"I'm probably too much of an expert on those two," Emory said. "I was coaching at Georgia Tech when Herschel Walker (now at Georgia) was a senior in high school. I recruited Herschel. I don't want to be an idiot and say Kelvin Bryant is as good as Herschel. But there ain't more than a hair of difference between the two.
"Kelvin (6 foot 2) weighs about 200 pounds and isn't as thick as Herschel is at 220. But as a pass catcher and for speed, Bryant is every bit as good. Herschel runs the 100-yard dash in 9.6 seconds. I've seen Kelvin run the 100 in 9.3 in high school and I hear he can do it in 9.2 now. Kelvin can run over you. But he doesn't need to."
McIntosh runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, which is good but not exceptional.
"We were in position to stop McIntosh every time," Emory said. "He doesn't run over you or by you. He doesn't punish you. He just keeps his legs underneath him and never lets his feet die. Tremendous balance."
McIntosh is averaging 7.6 yards per carry and 172.7 yards per game, and has scored four touchdowns. His biggest thrill as a freshman: the seven-yard touchdown pass he threw to quarterback Tol Avery against East Carolina.
"Joe isn't Herschel Walker-spectacular," said Guy Ingles, the N.C. State running back coach. "He still needs to improve on his blocking and other fine points of the game. But it is surprising he came on so fast once the season started. In our last two spring scrimmages, he began to flash the talent we hoped he had."
McIntosh ran for more than 2,000 yards last year in Lexington, N.C., and was voted outstanding high school player in the Carolinas by the Associated Press. He came to North Carolina State partly because of a stunt devised by Coach Monte Kiffin.
Last Christmas Eve, Kiffin dressed up as Santa Claus and went to the McIntosh home. Joe answered the door and Kiffin said, "Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas, Joe. I understand the only thing you want for Christmas is a North Carolina State scholarship."
Kiffin handed McIntosh a gift-wrapped letter of intent, then had to pull off his white beard before McIntosh recognized him. McIntosh forgot about Notre Dame, Michigan and North Carolina and signed on the first permissible day, in February.
"My goal at first was to just make the traveling squad," McIntosh said. "But we were low on running backs and the coach said, 'Go as hard as you can and we'll see what happens.' I was shaky at first. But now I'm adjusting."
"The biggest reason I've been successful so far is because we have a big, veteran offensive line," McIntosh said. "Defenders look to the backfield and can't wait to get a hold on that little freshman. But they forget about our offensive lineman."
McIntosh gained 131 yards in 19 carries as a reserve against Richmond and has been the lead back in State's ground game ever since. His biggest test by far will come Saturday night against a Maryland team that is vulnerable to the pass but solid against the run.
Bryant, from Tarboro, N.C., must be considered a Heisman Trophy candidate.
Bryant's popularity here soared recently because of a gesture he made to Steve Streater, a former Tar Heel safety-punter who signed as a free agent with the Redskins but is now confined to a wheelchair because of an auto accident last spring.
In the East Carolina game, Bryant spotted Streater sitting just beyond the end zone in Kenan Memorial Stadium. Bryant ran over to Streater after his fifth and sixth touchdowns and handed Streater the ball.
Bryant, a quiet man who says his personal role model was former Viking running back Chuck Foreman, has recently described "three immediate goals" for this season. All are modest.
"They are, to help the University of North Carolina win the conference championship, play in a bowl game and rush for more than 1,000 yards.