Generation Gap

Hey, Dad, can you help me with something? Sure thing. What's up? It's the PlayStation.

How can I help YOU with that? You should be the expert, as much time as you spend with it.

It's this NCAA 2006 football game. There's some things I just don't understand.

OK, I'll try, but you know way more about this than I do.

What are all of these dumb formations in there for? Nobody would ever use them.

Dumb formations? Like what?

Well, normally I play this no back or this Spread with four wide receivers. I used it with Vince Young and threw for 850 yards against Notre Dame, but there are a lot of these weird ones that I don't know what they do.

Well, your dad might know a little. Show me which ones.

OK, so what's this I-formation?

That's a basic set with a fullback and a tailback lined up behind the quarterback. It looks kind of like a capital letter I. That's the main formation we used to run when I was playing. Practically everybody ran it twenty years ago.

But who are you supposed to throw to?

Well, you can throw to any of the usual guys, but the main focus is running the ball.

Like when I use Michael Vick in the Madden game? Nobody can tackle him when he runs!

Well, not exactly. The tailback was the workhorse. Here. Let's look at some of the plays on the video game.

Whoa, they are supposed to just run up the middle like that?

Well, sure, that's where the blocking is.

OK, well, what's this other one? I've never seen a wishbone. Is that old-fashioned, too?

Maybe to you it would be, but the wishbone was a very innovative offense when it was developed. Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma and Nebraska used to be hard to stop running plays like those. See how the running backs are lined up? Any one of them might be the runner. You could run a dive with the fullback or you could do pitches, sweep, and options. Here, you be one of the running backs and I'll be the quarterback…..

I'll run a post.

Umm…

A fly?

No....

A flag?

No, son, the idea with the wishbone is that we'll run the ball. Let's option to the left.

What's an option?

Well, it's a fundamental football play. The quarterback runs this way, see, and the pitch man –that's you—follows a few steps back. When we get near a defender, I have the option of what I want to do.

Throw the bomb, right?

We'll, no. I can keep the ball, or I can toss it back to you like this.

Then I throw the halfback pass for six! Booya!

No. No. Son, we're not really looking to throw the ball all that much. You could pass the ball, but the other team will have a hard enough time just stopping this. You should have seen Walter Lewis or Turner Gill or Jamelle Holieway or J. C. Watts quarterback those teams!

That congress guy?

Yes, he was in the US congress a while back, but before that he was a great quarterback at Oklahoma. I have Walter Lewis's autograph. He was one of those quick Alabama quarterbacks and he played with Reggie White on the Memphis Showboats.

Showboats? ‘Cause they jumped up in the stands and did end zone dances and Sharpie autographs and stuff?

No, the team was called the Showboats. They were in the USFL.

What's the USFL?

That's a league that tried to compete with the NFL in the late 80's. They had some big stars…Reggie White, Steve Young, Jim Kelly, Herschel Walker; even Doug Flutie.

Oh, I've heard of him! He's that backup kicker for the Patriots.

Umm, yeah. There was also a World Football League in the early seventies.

Was that that "He Hate Me" thing?

No, son, that was the XFL. I wouldn't expect you to remember much about that. Anyway, I was saying, the wishbone QB's were very exciting to watch.

They had great arms, huh?

No, they weren't very good passers at all by today's standards. Like I was saying, the emphasis was on running the ball. They were great quarterbacks because they were great athletes.

How come they were so hard to stop?

Well, OK, watch, you stand here. If I have the ball and run right at the defensive end like this, the defense doesn't know who is going to get the ball and they have to choose one of us. If they choose me, I pitch it to you. If they choose you, I keep it. Simple idea, but beautiful when it's run correctly. Wishbone teams and other option teams used to run the same few plays over and over.

Whoa! Did the fans boo?

No, they loved it. I loved it.

Sounds boring to me. Hey, I used Matt Leinart to beat Fresno State 117-10!

Well, it wasn't PlayStation cool, but it was smart football. There are still a few teams who can run that offense well, but every player has to do his job just right. Here, let me show you a T-formation on paper. Ok, see why that is called a T-formation? Good. So, then, this is a Bear set. Here is a Ram set. This is the Maryland I. This one is called a Veer offense. You could do a box, like this, or a double-wing. Tennessee was famous for this last one; the single-wing. The halfback could run, pass, or quick kick. And before you ask, a quick kick was a kind of punt when no one was expecting it.

I've never seen any of those goofy things. I am glad Tennessee doesn't do any of that weird stuff. I only wish they'd throw the bomb more. I made Ainge win the Heisman in season mode! He threw for over 6,000 yards and 58 TD's!

There's a lot more to football than throwing the ball sixty times a game, son. I mean, I love a passing attack, too, but good football still needs to have a running game. You've watched Peyton play on TV. He still gives the ball to Edgerrin James, doesn't he?

Yeah, I guess so. I played the Colts against the Cowboys yesterday. Peyton and Marvin Harrison had 9 TD's! They're unstoppable. Was he the best QB ever at Tennessee?

That's a hard question to answer. Sure, he was probably the best, but there have been a bunch of good ones. When I was a kid, the Man was Condredge Holloway. He's my favorite Vol quarterback, ever.

Did he throw for over 4,000 yards? Was his picture on billboards? Did he win the Heisman?

You know, his numbers wouldn't look all that great compared to today, but his three years were the most exciting Tennessee football I can remember.

Three years? I bet he left early for the NFL.

No, players really didn't leave early then. He only played three years because freshmen weren't eligible to play on the varsity team.

What? That's dumb? How come?

Well, people thought that it would be better for those guys to get used to school and grow up a little first.

Oh, so, then they'd redshirt, huh?

No, no. Redshirt years weren't a big part of the system. I'll never forget Condredge leading a beautiful fourth quarter drive in the UCLA game in 1974. He made a great run and dove into the end zone to tie the game 17-17.

Then we won in overtime, right?

Well, there was no overtime. It was a tie.

That stinks.

Actually, ties could be very exciting. Remind me sometime to tell you about the tie with Georgia back when Tennessee first got artificial turf.

I never knew Neyland Stadium had artificial turf!

Yeah. I guess some things are better these days.


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