We've all heard the saying that "It's not about the Xs and Os; it's the Jimmies and Joes." The fact is that is not necessarily true. I would say the biggest difference between the NFL game and the college game is that in the NFL, Rosters rule the game while in College, schemes rule the game.
In the NFL to build a Championship contender, you draft and trade your way to a roster full of All Pros and guys that should or will soon be All Pros. The reason is clear. By the time you are a journeyman NFL athlete, your abilities are well known and not going to surprise anyone. Many a college star has gone undrafted, or drafted lower than you would expect from their college level productivity.
In the College game, Schools like Texas Tech under Mike Leach or West Virginia under Rich Rodriquez squeezed the most out of lesser talented rosters through the Spread Offense. But, even before the advent of the Spread, there were guys like Spurrier and his Run and Gun that were going to throw out the Pro Style scheme and try something different than the status quo to gain a competitive advantage.
Something that occurred to me after our humiliation in the bay, after hearing the news that we had received a commitment from top-5 rated center Scott Quessenberry, is that Mora is trying to build a winner the NFL way; by building a roster of talented athletes. Do not get me wrong. I'm all for it, and if he can build us an all star laden roster; I will applaud him for it.
However, I would encourage Mora to keep in mind that this is a different game. As we have all read and discussed; certain game time decisions that baffle us point to the NFL mentality of simply ordering your guys into the breach and smashing the other guy until they give up. An example of this mentality is running Franklin up the middle repeatedly, although OSU had proven in their game against Wisconsin they could not only stop the run, but stop a Heisman finalist RB. Another example would be attacking the Cal defense with our passing game although they had proven to be susceptible to a strong running game. This is a 'win by attrition' mentality that is not well served in the college game. In the NFL if one of your guys goes down, you put his replacement in, and there should not be too big a drop off in talent. In the college game, if your main guy goes down, there is often a huge drop off in talent between him and the next guy.
As I mentioned in another thread, I was struck by Dana Holgorsen's play calling in their key win against Texas this last weekend.
There was a moment late in the 3rd qtr when WVU faced 3 and 11. Texas allowed only an 8 yard gain. The Longhorn fans got rowdy and essentially celebrated early. Dana Holgorsen did not even hesitate to go for it, despite the fact The Mountaineers had not yet crossed midfield! They easily converted the 2 yards needed for a 1st down and it was back to business as usual. I wrote on the pre game thread at the time, “That takes brass.”
It was a perfect example of grabbing (or keeping) momentum. Texas thought it had grabbed it. Maybe it did. But, Holgorsen recognized the importance of the momentum and grabbed it back. That’s a guy that knows how to win.
As I mentioned, this move was not about playing the odds, playing it smart, or even believing in your guys. It was about taking the momentum back from Texas. I am convinced this play and the resulting 1st down is what won the game for WVU. This was a question of schemes, not 'which roster is bigger, nastier, or wants it more.' It was a question of seizing momentum, and more importantly, recognizing it needed to be re-seized.
Maybe in the NFL it is important to prove you can run the ball against a team that stops the run. In college, it is important that you make a team pay for stacking the box. If that means going to the air to open up the run game, so be it. But, this isn't the NFL.
Coach Mora, if you are reading this, I want to point out that Pete Carroll went out and built superlative squads through recruiting. That success led to a Split National Championship, a BCS National Championship (later rescinded) and a host of Rose Bowl wins. However, his inability to embrace the College game's mentality often led to losses to teams like 40 point underdog Stanford and always under manned Oregon State. Those losses often cost him and his team a chance to even compete for a National Championship. Meanwhile, coaches Jim Harbaugh and Mike Riley provide you with two very important case studies for success in the College game.
Jim Harbaugh has proven you can get your guys to play good college ball, and then move on to the NFL and still succeed. Mike Riley has proven repeatedly that the best roster does not always win.
You have shown us you can think outside the box by going for it on 4th downs and making intriguing substitutions like using a DL as a fullback. These kinds of decisions will pay off in the College Game. While asking a still green kicker to kick a 46 yard FG usually does not. Stay fluid, and keep in mind it's not always about the percentages or the 'safe' play. You'll be alright.