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Archive for Friday, January 3, 1992

BIG EIGHT SLOW TO REALIZE URGENCY OF BALANCING ACT

January 3, 1992

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After Nebraska's soporific offensive performance against Miami in the Orange Bowl, maybe even Tom Osborne now realizes the brave new world of college football demands thou shalt pass.

Probably not, though.

Why change when you're guaranteed at least nine victories a year by producing the nation's best running game?

Still, after five straight postseason defeats and the ignonimy of being shut out by the Hurricanes, perhaps Osborne will modify his I-formation is the I for intransigent? attack.

One-dimensional offensive football just won't cut it anymore.

NO ONE HAD to convince Bill McCartney and Gary Gibbs about bending with the breeze. And now Colorado and Oklahoma have a head start on the rest of the Big Eight.

Colorado's McCartney hasn't lost a Big Eight game in three years, yet McCartney refused to sit on a pat hand and used the Blockbuster Bowl as an on-the-job training exercise in offensive metamorphosis.

"We knew going in that it was really risky to do it before a bowl game," McCartney said. "But my attitude is we're on a seven-week program to change the offense two weeks before the bowl, three weeks of spring ball and two weeks of two-a-days next fall."

McCartney paid the price for abandoning the option the Buffaloes lost 30-25 to Alabama but the Colorado coach voiced no regrets after quarterback Darian Hagan threw the ball 30 times.

"What we've been doing isn't good enough going into the '90s for us to take on the competition that we have in front of us," McCartney said.

IN OTHER words, co-national champs Miami and Washington are not option teams. Neither are they wishbone or are you listening Tom? I-formation or single wing teams. They are multiple-offense teams. They can run AND they can throw.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma's Gibbs also put the pigskin in the air in the Gator Bowl, although I'm not sure he did it because he's as pragmatic as McCartney.

Gibbs opened up his drab tailback-oriented offense, I think, because he realized, or someone convinced him, that he was wasting a gifted quarterback.

Anyway, freed from the shackles of handing off to Mike Gaddis on every down, sophomore Cale Gundy completed 25 of 31 passes for 329 yards in the Sooners' lopsided 48-14 victory over Virginia.

Now if Gibbs can find a talented running back to replace Gaddis, the Oklahoma coach will have the most feared offense in the Big Eight this fall because its two dimensions will make it indefensible.

HALF THE Big Eight finished in the Top Twenty in NCAA rushing statistics last fall. Nebraska was No. 1, Oklahoma No. 10, Kansas No. 12 and Colorado No. 19.

In NCAA passing stats, however, Nebraska was No. 76, Colorado No. 81, Kansas No. 85 and Oklahoma No. 95.

Those numbers aren't balanced enough for contemporary college football. McCartney knows it, Gibbs knows it and Kansas' Glen Mason knows it. One of Mason's priorities in spring practice will be to juice a passing attack that produced only six touchdown passes last season.

Kansas' passing problems, however, weren't so much an effect of the system as they were deficiencies of personnel. KU's aerial game suffered from the lack of a legitimate speed receiver and from quarterback inconsistency.

WHEN OPPOSING defenses stopped KU's running game cold remember Kansas State? the Jayhawks were unable to switch to an auxiliary tank.

You saw the same thing on Wednesday night in the Orange Bowl.

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