Saturday, November 11, 2017

Certain Moments are Just Right...

Originally published September 22, 2010.

Certain moments are just right, and you know it. You smile, soak it in, and enjoy.

It's that moment, back in the day, when you're drenched from dancing outside in George's Beer Garden to the Cate Brothers with David wailing his lead vocals out under the clear stars of a warm, breezy Fayetteville night with that hot chick a year or two older than you in your summer class...Your buddy hands each of you a cold bottle of beer. As you both throw back your bottles just before you're about to break rhythm, immediately you know what only she knows -- the beer is ever so slightly frozen. It's Perfect for Right Now. And you keep dancing...

When reality takes over a day or two later, you know you can't go back, leaving the moment for daydreams.

Sometimes you see things that others don't, but what's the use if you don't have a say in how things are done? You know it's right, you fancy the fleeting thought knowing the world would be better, and then you leave it to daydreams...

I can only speculate why, a few years ago, I was looking at when I ran across an interesting article from Stewart Mandel. As I read it, I had zero appreciation that IT WOULD HIT SO CLOSE TO HOME. Arkansas wasn't mentioned in the article, but I thought, "This is for Arkansas. It's the equalizer we need."

I might have read it wondering if Houston Nutt was ever going to open up the offense as he had done at Murray State with transfer Razorback Mike Cherry. Maybe I was wavering toward acceptance of "it's very difficult to recruit players to Fayetteville, Arkansas," and that the Razorbacks might be a permanent also-ran in a tough SEC.  It was a spark of  my imagination, but what's the use if I didn't have a say in how things are done?

I knew it was right, I fancied the fleeting thought knowing the world would be better and then left it to an occasional daydream...

On occasion I dusted off the memory and mentioned it to friends. I wanted to blog about it earlier this year but for whatever reason, I couldn't locate it (and usually I can locate minutia). It didn't look like I was meant to go back... as these things go.

Searching for my latest blog's details, I found it! So it began:

"Boise State offensive coordinator Chris Peterson was watching his quarterback line up under center for a routine passing drill this spring when an unusual thought crossed his mind. "I was wondering if, in five or 10 years, it's going to look really weird if someone's under center taking a snap -- kind of like how strange it would look now if someone lined up in the single wing," said Peterson. "If someone lines up under center, will people be like, 'What is that?'"

Boise State, even if it gave Nutt his 1 year of NCAA D-I head coaching experience before coming to Arkansas, was still Boise State playing in the mash potato league or whatever conference they're in. Smashmouth football, the wishbone, triple option, the veer, the I-formation,  and pro sets are effective with decent players who execute the play. But even those venerable offenses weren't happening in Arkansas which was coming off of a 5-6 year, going 3-5 in the SEC in 2004 with Matt Jones going to the NFL.

It didn't take much football experience or thought to figure out that 2005 wasn't going to be much better, but I thought so for a different reason than most. Back in the day, my best friend's older brother was the backup quarterback to Houston Nutt at Little Rock Central. His plays worked pretty much the same way in the back yard. The quarterback usually ended up running, scrambling or fearing for his life moving from a hero to a goat and back in an afternoon. Arkansas was about to return to the "up the middle" days of Ken Hatfield.  God love his Good Heart.

I perked up when Mandel wrote, "There's an offensive revolution afoot in college football. Of the top 11 teams in the country in total offense last season, eight ran some variation of the modern "spread offense," where teams line up with one or no running backs and as many as four or five receivers. The spread was once viewed almost exclusively as a passing scheme, but a new generation of coaches is now using spread principles in the running game as well to create dangerous, balanced attacks... "The hot offenses are the West Coast and the spread," said new Florida coach Urban Meyer, who went undefeated at Utah last season while lining up almost entirely in shotgun, spread formations."

Now we're talking Florida football. Post-Spurrier or not, having Florida part of this article lent instant credibility. More followed:

"The top four teams in the country in total offense last season -- Louisville, Bowling Green, Utah and Boise State -- showcased some of the sport's most groundbreaking schemes while combining for a 43-5 record. Louisville coach Bobby Petrino, whose team averaged nearly 50 points per game, molded his personnel to be proficient in both the spread and traditional power-I football. Then Utah coach Meyer dazzled the profession with a shotgun, one-back spread offense that also incorporated old-school option football..."

Still, Louisville, Bowling Green, Utah and Boise State don't have to line up and play Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee for half their seasons. Didn't Louisville play Memphis and Cincinnati in basketball? That's Conference USA, right? For real? I didn't know those schools had football teams. In some measure, it's like claiming a 4.0 college grade point taking algebra, grammar, and physical education.

The story continues mentioning Mike Leach at Texas Tech and throwing a few other names in for good measure. Mandel was preaching to the choir when he made a point that these offenses were using more mobile quarterbacks and forcing defenses to cover more field. Matt Jones did that by himself. Then Mandel dials in another gear.

"It's not as if traditional offenses have disappeared from college football. Though the cutting-edge passing concepts Norm Chow introduced when he was an assistant at BYU in the '70s and '80s inspired a whole generation of coaches -- most notably Leach -- his playbook at USC (where he was the offensive coordinator before leaving for the NFL after least season) during the Trojans' 36-3 run the past three seasons was actually fairly simple, with plenty of contributions from the traditional tight end and fullback positions. Michigan, coming off consecutive Rose Bowl seasons, has had great success running a mostly conservative, pro-style offense. And Ohio State and LSU have both won national titles this decade with fairly vanilla offensive approaches."

"Those teams, however, were also blessed with some of the most talented skill players in the country. When you have a quarterback like Matt Leinart throwing to receivers like Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett, or a supreme playmaker like Braylon Edwards, or an elite tailback like Michael Hart, you have a built-in advantage more valuable than the most creative schemes."
"The [teams that] are most successful are the ones that have the talent to put 'em on the field and leave 'em on the field," said Tiller. "You can show me all the multiplicity of formations you want -- if they have the superior talent, the rest of it is window dressing."

"It's no coincidence, then, that the majority of today's unconventional offenses have taken root at schools with traditionally less-prestigious football programs -- Boise State, Louisville, Texas Tech, Utah, Bowling Green and Northwestern -- where unique schemes can help lessen competitive disadvantages, and where the microscope on coaches isn't quite so glaring."

Here, in the middle of an article that in 2005 had little relevance to the Razorbacks, the thing that I'd always felt was written. It was at the heart of 15 years of Toiling Razorbacks and Frustrated Hog Fans.

Unique Schemes Help Lessen Competitive Disadvantages!

We had already lived the dream in basketball with the unique "40 Minutes of Hell" and knew it to be true. Whether it was more difficult to recruit to Fayetteville or not, Creativity would combine with Hearts and Souls of Fighting Razorbacks like Zach Painter or Sam Olajubutu who were blessed with The Best Desire and less than the Best Talent.

I heard Mandel's words, merely observations, as a Rallying Cry for Imagination which was Just Right.

I smiled, soaked it in, and enjoyed it. But what was the use because I didn't have a say in how things were done? I knew it was right, I fancied the fleeting thought knowing the world would be better and then left it to a more than occasional daydream to escape the Hell in watching Razorback Fans' in-fighting, planes circling overhead like vultures over the near-dead, and the Undeniable, Persistent Pull to Unimaginative, Predictable Play Calling despite HogWild formation glimmers.

We woke up one daydream to discover it's no longer. Go Hogs!!

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