For Norm Chow, the scheme has changed
Never before in the long history of college football had we made it through the entire month of September without one of the top eight teams in the preseason poll going down -- but it almost happened this year.
However, in a shocking turn of events in Austin, Texas -- shocking because the No. 7 Texas Longhorns had a 16-game home winning streak, shocking because the visiting UCLA Bruins had been humiliated on their home field just two weeks earlier, 35-0 by the Stanford Cardinal, and shocking because the Longhorns had the country's No. 1 defense and one week ago had just short-circuited the supposedly lethal Texas Tech Red Raiders offense into its worst performance in a generation -- the Bruins came to heavyweight football country and mauled Mack Brown's team, 34-12.
The really shocking part: the Bruins got this win by throwing for only 26 yards total, just 12 in the game's first three quarters. In one stretch of the game, the Bruins had 22 consecutive running plays. Twenty-two in a row?!? This is, after all, the offense piloted by the game's grand QB guru Norm Chow, the same guy who has produced six first-round QBs and three Heisman winners. It is truly stunning in this business of system guys to grasp the transformation that has taken place with Chow's offense this year. This is like Joe Paterno showing up on game day wearing gators or Jim Tressel wearing his sweater vest on the sideline -- without a shirt underneath.
College coaches often go out in the spring and visit with other staffs to try to pick up a thing or two to add to their offensive and defensive packages. Usually, it's one element or maybe a different way they can run their practices, and in many cases, they eventually dismiss the new stuff by fall camp for fear of interfering with the concepts that are integral to who they think they are as coaches.
But when the Bruins visited with the Nevada staff -- famous for the "Pistol" attack -- they were looking for a complete overhaul, and, honestly, when I first heard that 64-year-old Chow was going to go "all-in" on such a radical shift, I was thinking it had the potential for disaster. Coaches, especially ones who are in their mid 60s, don't often do change well.
A few weeks before the season opener, I had spoken to longtime Nevada assistant Jim Mastro, who remarked how impressed he was by the Bruins' staff commitment to going to the Pistol.
"You've gotta be truly committed to running it if it has any chance to work," he told me.