Critics of Johnny Majors and his Tennessee football team have been very quiet the last two weeks.
After a 1-2 start this season, the Volunteers tied then-18th-ranked Louisiana State, and Saturday beat No. 2 Alabama, 35-28, for the first time since 1970 to start an all-night party in Knoxville and send Majors into an overflow of superlatives.
"This is something Tennessee people have been yearning for a long, long time," Majors said yesterday in a long-distance telephone conversation. "It's by far the highlight in my coaching career here. Nothing else comes close. It was great, just great."
"If you had to pick one football team in the country to win week after week, year after year," Majors said, "it would be Alabama. This will last in my mind till the day I die."
Majors said there has been "one segment of fans that has been a little negative, but I have no qualms with our supporters." However, observers close to the team say there has been more than a little criticism of Majors, who returned to his alma mater after winning a national championship with an undefeated Pittsburgh team in 1976.
Similar results were expected at Tennessee, but Majors has been 32-29-1 in 5 1/2 seasons. A Knoxville newspaper did man-in-the-street interviews before the LSU game in which many were highly critical of Majors. But the university administration and influential alumni reportedly haven't been critical -- yet.
"I worked with some players that had good character," Majors said, "but there wasn't a lot of size, speed and strength the first few years. We improved last year (8-4 with a victory in the Garden State Bowl) and we've made progress recently. I knew we were an improved team during the LSU game. What little negativism has dropped off the last two weeks.
"I've seen a lot of my coaching colleagues criticized . . . people saying they were in trouble. But they'll all be around for few years."
Majors was finished celebrating, and said he was ready to start preparing for next week's game at Georgia Tech.
"We've gotta get off that cloud," Majors said. "The town was turned upside down. I told the players not to get into trouble (celebrating). And I haven't heard of anybody being in trouble, so far."
In local weekend games, Maryland's jubilation over its fourth straight victory, a 52-31 decision over Wake Forest, was muted by the first-half knee injury to senior defensive guard Mike Corvino, a team captain.
He suffered a partially torn ligament in his left knee and will be examined today by Dr. Stanford Lavine to determine the extent of the damage. Corvino, an all-America candidate, will miss Maryland's next two games, against Duke and North Carolina, Coach Bobby Ross said.
"If there's any chance at all, I'm playing against North Carolina," Corvino said yesterday. "I never thought this would happen to me. I've got about the strongest legs on the team. But I got leg-whipped. I threw my man (guard Danny Martin) down, and jumped over him to go for the quarterback. I came down on my right leg, and he swung his leg -- maybe it was his arm -- back and got my other knee."
Corvino is one of the primary reasons Maryland's rushing defense is ranked third in the nation. He will likely be replaced by junior Tyrone Furman, who is good enough to be a starter on almost any other team in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Offensive guard Shawn Benson suffered a right knee sprain, which will also be evaluated by Lavine. Benson may be able to play against Duke. Cornerback Gil Hoffman may miss a third week with his twisted right ankle recovering slowly.
The injuries came at the worst possible time for the Terrapins, whose final six opponents include Duke, Carolina, Miami and Clemson.
At Annapolis, Navy also suffered a number of injuries in a 39-3 victory over Division I-AA William and Mary. Cornerback Eric Wallace suffered a separated right shoulder and will be out at least four weeks.
Quarterback Marco Pagnanelli bruised his right elbow in the second half, but his 18 completed passes in 25 attempts for 217 yards made a major impact on Navy Coach Gary Tranquill.
"I may have been too conservative earlier in the year," Tranquill said. "We decided yesterday to come out and throw, and we should do it more." The 559 yards of total offense was Navy's highest production since 1970 when the Midshipmen gained 653 against Colgate.
Tranquill was also pleased with his defense. The Midshipmen played more aggressively than in past weeks, didn't miss many tackles and held William and Mary to eight yards rushing.
Despite Howard's 13-9 victory at Virginia State, Bison Coach Floyd Keith was still upset yesterday about the nine penalties called against his team.
"The films reconfirm some of the poor calls that hurt us during the game," he said. "A lot of them stopped our momentum on potentially good drives. A few of them just killed the kids' intensity, which made it look like we didn't play too good. But at least we have two victories, back to back."
Bison tailback Melvin Sutton reinjured his badly bruised left shoulder and is doubtful for Howard's homecoming game Saturday at RFK Stadium against North Carolina A & T.