MTSU: 'We've run three plays the last five games'
After losing four of their first six games, the offensive staff at Middle Tennessee State decided that some change needed to be made in order to turn their season around.
The staff decided that the changes needed to start with their offensive playbook, so following their third straight loss to North Texas, they "cut everything" and have rolled with a playbook of just three plays ever since, rolling off five straight wins to finish 8-4.
“We cut everything, and we have stuck with that plan,” offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner told The Daily News Journal. “I wish we could’ve figured that out a couple games earlier. We probably got ahead of ourselves putting too much in. But give the kids credit. We have won five straight.”
“We have run only three run plays the last five games. We just did them out of multiple formations.
To make that kind of sacrifice is one thing, but the numbers that MTSU has put up since making that decision are fascinating:
During the five game win streak the Blue Raiders have:
- averaged 523 yards
- average of 43 points per game
- scored on 23 of 25 trips inside the red zone (including 17 touchdowns)
- averaged 273 rushing yards and 250 passing yards per game
- allowed just 1 sack
- produced 240+ rushing yards in every game
As a playcaller, Faulkner explained how the thinned out playbook benefitted them over the past five weeks and helped to put them in the position they're in now; just waiting to hear their bowl placement.
“We have been more balanced. Our screen game has been a lot better the last four or five weeks. And I could be wrong, but I don’t think we have taken a sack in the last five weeks. All those things go together. We eliminated negative plays, we have stayed ahead of the chains, continued to do pretty good on third down and finished drives the last five games. Our red-zone percentage has gotten better.”
It's that time of year. Time to take a look at your playbook and decide what should stay, and what should go. While Middle Tennessee's results aren't typical (and results will definitely vary), it does make you want to take a long, hard look at your playbook with a large trash can, or white-out nearby.
The best hire of the 2012-13 coaching carousel? Gary Pinkel
Type "Fire Gary Pinkel" into your Google search bar and you get 91,500 returns. There are websites and Twitter accounts dedicated to the ouster of Missouri's head coach. "Put the man on the hot seat already," FirePinkel's bio reads. "We're grateful he took us to this level, but he'll never won on it."
You could see their thinking, however shortsighted it may have been. Missouri was in the S-E-C now and needed to play a style that could win in the S-E-C with a coach that knew how to win in the S-E-C. The Tigers' quote-unquote finesse running game wouldn't cut it, and Missouri's 5-7 debut campaign proved that. While fellow newcomer Texas A&M instantly became the conference's new star pupil, Missouri was stuck at the back of the classroom. In a 14-team league, they were Team 14.
Of course, it wasn't that simple. It never is.
Of Missouri's seven losses, three were by a touchdown or less. A 5-7 mark could've just as easily been an 8-5 finish. And then there were the injuries. The Tigers played the entire season without starting running back Henry Josey, starting quarterback James Franklin spent the heart of the season going in and out of the lineup, and the offensive line lost four contributors for the season.
A year later, everything about Missouri's luck turned on its head. After ending on the wrong end of too many close games, Mizzou simply stopped playing them. Ten of their 11 wins are by 14 points or more. All 11 are by at least a touchdown. Outside of one awful quarter - when the Tigers blew a 17-0 fourth-quarter lead at home versus South Carolina - Pinkel's bunch joins Florida State as the most consistently dominant team in college football. Injuries haven't been near the problem they were last season - only one player has been lost for the season, and redshirt freshman quarterback Maty Mauk performed admirably in Franklin's stint on the injured list.
Pinkel was never as bad as it looked last season, and he's benefitted from good fortune this season. And he knows it.
Pinkel said if the 2013 team had all the injuries the 2012 team did, "I wouldn't be standing here. I'd be recruiting right now."— David Morrison (@DavidCMorrison) December 2, 2013
Who else knows it? Pinkel's boss, Mike Alden. After winning at least a share of three Big 12 North titles from 2007-10, Missouri is in the SEC title game - shocking everyone by beating fellow Big 12 refugee Texas A&M to Atlanta - and Pinkel will be a finalist for each and everyone one of the 61 national coach of the year awards (give or take a few).
That Fire Pinkel Twitter account? Not a peep this season.
There were 31 head coaching changes last season, and perhaps the best move was the one not made.
Video: Sweet look at Oklahoma State's practice facilities
The facilities at Oklahoma State were designed to provide the best student-athlete experience in the country.
With that in mind, here's a look at the practice facilities that the Cowboys use, along with some really good insight from athletic director Mike Holder including the fact that if they really needed to play a game in their indoor facility, that they easily could.
How many other schools could say that?
VIDEO: Cincinnati will have new helmets on Thursday
If you can see it through the lights and fog, Cincinnati will unveil a new helmet Thursday night. In what they're dubbing a black out game, Cincinnati's traditional black helmets will trade out their usual white "C" paw for a silver paw. The entire helmet has a shinier feel to it.
If the helmet doesn't do it for you, how about this? Cincinnati and Louisville's rivalry features perhaps the coolest name of all rivalry games - the Keg of Nails. Last year, Cincinnati built a 24-14 lead in the third quarter only to see the Cardinals rip off 17 straight points, but the Bearcats rallied to tie the game with 1:03 left. Louisville won in overtime, 34-31.
Thursday night's game (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) also has American championship and BCS implications - if SMU beats Central Florida on Saturday.
Ron Burgundy interviews Peyton Manning
What better way to spend a minute of your Wednesday morning than watching Will Ferrell (as Ron Burgundy) interview Peyton Manning?
Ron Burgundy will host SportsCenter starting at 6pm EST tomorrow night and something tells me that it will be one of the most watched SportsCenter segments of all time.
Now if we could just get Burgundy in one of those hilarious commercials with Peyton, Eli and Archie, all would seem right with the world. I'd also settle for Burgundy being placed in a Saban or Spurrier press conference or halftime interview as well.
That's not too much to ask, is it?
'There are no cliff notes for being a head coach'
As a first year head coach taking over a wildly successful program, Utah State's Matt Wells (who previously served as the Aggies offensive coordinator) had to get used to a lot of changes.
Literally everything changes once you take the head coaching job Wells explains.
"Every week is not the same." Wells told Fast Football yesterday about the biggest change from going from offensive coordinator to head coach.
"It's just like, everything changes. As you get into it, I asked Gary (Andersen) and a few other coaches in the business that I've worked for, and have a great respect for, I'm always a guy that wants to know what the next hurdle is, or pile, or what's coming up in the road that I need to navigate and get our program around.
"They all told me kind of the same thing, 'Ya know Matt you don't really know until you get in the middle of it and you go through it, there is really no cliff notes version for it, and that's been so true, but it's just kind of going from week to week and having a plan and sticking to it."
Wells will lead his 8-4 Aggies against a very good Fresno State team Saturday in the Mountain West championship game. Kickoff is scheduled for 10pm EST.
Video: Return to the MAC (Championship) rap
If you enjoy old school rap, then this video should stir up some good memories.
Making their second straight trip to the MAC title game as an undefeated team (and third trip in three season) with the hopes of crashing the BCS party a final time, here's a musical tribute to Northern Illinois and their magical season.
When it comes to football-themed music remakes, I've certainly heard worse and have a soft spot for 90's rap, so this isn't too bad.
Jim Mora is staying at UCLA, signs a six-year extension
After spending the better part of 24 hours in quiet negotiations and deliberation, UCLA head coach has spurned Washington - his alma mater - and will stay in Westwood.
In staying at UCLA, Mora receives a six-year contract extension through 2019, along with promised pay increases for his staff according to the Los Angeles Times. USA Today lists Mora's 2013 salary at $2.3 million, the 38th-highest in FBS.
“Jim Mora has established himself as one of the preeminent coaches in all of college football,” UCLA athletics director Dan Guerrero said in the school's announcement. “Under his guidance, UCLA football has garnered national recognition for its success on the field, in the classroom and in the community. We are excited about the commitment Jim has made to our student-athletes and this University and feel this extension further demonstrates UCLA’s commitment to building a championship-caliber football program.”
Mora is 18-8 in two seasons at UCLA, leading the Bruins to the 2012 Pac-12 South title and within a game of repeating this fall.
“I want to thank Dan Guerrero and Chancellor Gene Block for their tremendous support,” said Mora. “This further commitment the University has made is crucial as we continue in our pursuit of excellence. From day one our goal has been to win championships, and with our tremendous staff, our incredible student-athletes and our dedicated administration, UCLA will win championships. We’ve only just scratched the surface of our potential, and as a Bruin fan, I’d be chomping at the bit just to see what UCLA football is going to do next.”