Running back Joe Morris of Syracuse rolls his eyes when someone compares his accomplishments to those of his predecessors: Larry Csonka, Floyd Little, Ernie Davis and Jim Brown.
Even though he is Syracuse's all-time leading rusher with 3,527 yards going into today's 1:30 p.m. game with Maryland at Byrd Stadium, Morris says he isn't in the same class as the aforementioned players.
"How can anybody compare me with Jim Brown?" the tailback said yesterday after the Orangemen practiced in College Park. "Here's a man who's done everything imaginable in professional football. We're talking Jim Brown. People always say, 'Oh, doesn't he run and move just like Floyd Little?' I wish I could be compared to Floyd Little. But I can't.
"I'm just part of an offensive team," said Morris, whose brothers, Larry and Mike, also play for Syracuse. "All I want to do right now is put some satisfying games together."
There are those in upstate New York who say Morris' collegiate performance is more notable than his predecessors' because he is only 5 feet 7, 182 pounds -- littler even than Little.
"It's not a cliche to say that pound for pound, Joe is the best running back in the country," said Tony Hazzan, a senior guard. "He's one of the best in the country, anyway."
When told Morris had credited him with much of his running success, Hazzan looked surprised. "All you have to do is get out of the way and let Joe run," he said.
Morris, who has averaged 5.6 yards per carry in his first three years, broke Csonka's school rushing record last season with 58 fewer carries. He has rushed for 100 yards or more 17 times against teams like Navy (twice), Miami (twice), Ohio State, Pitt, Illinois and West Virginia.
Morris has 422 yards rushing this season. He would be aiming for 5,000 career yards if he hadn't missed five games with injuries last season. He still gained 732 yards.
Morris, also the team's leading receiver this season, ran for 164 yards last week in Syracuse's victory over Indiana.
"I felt almost satisfied after that game," Morris said. "I know I've played the best I can as soon as I look at myself in the mirror after a game. If my body is aching all over and I feel drained, I know I've done all I can.
"When I look back I'll be happy just to have done nearly this much on this level. At first, I didn't think I could play on this level. As a freshman, I just wanted to make the traveling team and return a few punts and kickoffs.
"I didn't start until my fourth game. And after I made 1,000 yards by just one yard, I kept thinking, 'Is it luck or do I have skill?' "
Most people associated with Syracuse football would answer skill, if only because he's never had the benefit of operating in an offense with a adequate passing attack. Most teams simply assume Morris will carry the ball and constantly key on him.
But this year, with transfer Willie Sydnor at a wide receiver spot, defensive backs can't wait for Morris on every down. Sydnor, a sprint and relay man on Villanova's track team, runs the 100-yard dash in 9.6 seconds.
Maryland Coach Jerry Claiborne tried twice to recruit Sydnor, who started his college career at Northwestern before moving to Villanova, which dropped football this year.
"I remember talking to Mr. Claiborne on the telephone last spring," Sydnor said. "But we were in the middle of track season and I couldn't get a ride down here. My schedule (track and visits to schools) was messy and I just never got down here."
The Terrapins (1-2) will see plenty of Morris and Sydnor this afternoon as Syracuse attempts to win its second game in five starts. As a freshman against Maryland, Morris carried nine times for 58 yards but had a 53-yard run. He says he long has been an admirer of Terrapin tailback Charlie Wysocki, who is expected to start today after missing the last two games with a sprained right ankle. In other games, Howard (1-2) badly needs a victory against Florida A&M to have a respectable record in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The Bison, who play FAMU at 1 p.m. at Howard Stadium, have several injured starters.
Virginia (0-3) must contend with North Carolina State and freshman running back Joe McIntosh, who has gained 645 yards in four games. Navy will play at Yale in a regionally televised contest (WJLA-TV-7, 12:40 p.m.). The status of Navy tailback Eddie Meyers (bruised left thigh) will not play.