Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Leach’s Spread Offense All That Matters in Texas

There are a lot of ways Texas Tech’s Head Coach Mike Leach can approach his pregame speech for Saturday’s showdown with in-state rival and top-ranked Texas. He could channel Al Pacino from “Any Given Sunday.” He could be like Dan Devine in “Rudy” and tell them that no one comes into their house and pushes them around. Or he could quote Bill Murray from “Meatballs” and simply say, “It doesn’t matter.”

It doesn’t matter that Texas is ranked No. 1 by the polls and the computers, or that they have the Heisman front-runner at quarterback, or that the Red Raiders have lost five straight to the Longhorns. Because for the past nine seasons in Lubbock, Leach has proven time and time again that the status quo in college football simply does not matter.

He proved it simply by becoming a head coach when many think that you have to have played in college in order to coach in college. Leach is one of only four Bowl Subdivision coaches who did not play in college and he has shown it doesn’t matter if you played. A rugby aficionado, he attended Brigham Young and watched from the stands as LaVell Edwards’ teams aired their way to success. He then jetted to Malibu where he earned his law degree from Pepperdine, but a year after graduation he decided to give up a lucrative legal career to coach a sport he hadn’t played since high school.

As a coach, he incorporated a spread-style offense predicated on the pass. While it has been successful in high school and at the lower rungs of college football, many dismissed it as a gimmick that wouldn’t work against the athletes that big-time college football had to offer. Then he became the offensive coordinator at Kentucky and took an anemic passing offense which had managed 967 yards in 1996 and created an air attack not seen since the Luftwaffe, racking up 3,884 yards passing in his first season.

Still, the critics were there. They said you couldn’t go with five wide receivers on a consistent basis, that you needed a running game to set up the pass. For Leach, the running game just doesn’t matter if the passing game is run effectively. He even joked to The New York Times in 2005, saying, “I’ve thought about going a whole season without calling a single running play.” His offense is the spread unlike any other. Even the linemen are spread, often taking six-foot splits. This season Texas Tech’s potent passing offense has actually opened the way for their running game too, which has amassed 1,154 yards this season, as teams are forced to play with only six or seven men in the box in order to account for the likes of wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Detron Lewis. Still, most say balance is being able to run as effectively as you pass, but to Leach balance can also be three receivers gaining 1,000 yards receiving. As long as the ball is spread around it doesn’t matter.

ost college football coaches are like generals leading their troops. Leach is more like Jack Sparrow leading his crew on a plundering mission – his interests in pirates has led him to hang a skull and crossbones flag from the video tower during practices. Decorum would say that if you have a lead late in the game that you take a knee, but Leach is a firm believer of muscle memory, and the more his team scores the easier it will become in the future. This mantra has led him to keep firing until the last play, as he did in 2004 when he called a timeout with 15 seconds left and a 27-14 lead over SMU in order to set up a touchdown.

While most coaches are tight-lipped in press conferences, Leach is notoriously loose with his lips. Case in point – his press conference last season when he accused Big 12 officials of aiding Texas to victory in its matchup in order to ensure Texas made a BCS game, prompting the Big 12 to fine him $10,000. He has the charisma and quirkiness of Pete Carroll – he can often be found rollerblading around Lubbock – but he is not living in sunny California, he is living in the west of Texas.

This brings us back to Murray.

Texas Tech is the Jan to Texas’ Marcia (“UT.UT.UT!”). Texas is located in beautiful Austin, while Texas Tech is in dusty west Texas. If you are an athlete growing up in the Lone Star State you dream of playing for the Longhorns, not the Red Raiders. Texas is filled with five-star prospects like Colt McCoy, but Tech is filled with a bunch of players, who, while extremely talented, did not live up to the Longhorn standard in high school and were spurned in their attempts to play in Austin. There’s the duo of Graham Harrell and Crabtree, who will undoubtedly win numerous awards this season, but were not shown interest by Texas. They may have been snubbed by Mack Brown, but if they win on Saturday, it doesn’t matter.

Texas probably should win on Saturday night. They have the better players on paper and they have better facilities. Their burnt orange and white uniforms are nicer than Texas Tech’s XFL-style uniforms. They have a larger fan base, and even their slogan of “Hook ’em horns” is better than Tech’s “Guns up.”

Luckily, all Mike Leach has to do is summon his best Bill Murray, and tell his players: It doesn’t matter.

Ryan Travers is a junior in the College. He can be reached at Illegal Procedure appears in every other Friday issue of HOYA SPORTS.

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