Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Gir's Weekly Column: Volume 92

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Gir's Weekly Column: Volume 92

By Gir Todafunk
Special to The Daily Magi
November 10, 2056


Happy Magia Week, everybody! I'm Gir Todafunk with another Weekly Column for the Daily Magi and the Magi Football Blog. Well, I am counting down the days towards wrapping up my business degree at Mitakihara University. This game, the Magia Day game, honors me and the other seniors on the team, such as Nick Malceski, Rick Eagle, Bryan Malone, Nyaruko Sims, Quinton Reese, Jason Kennedy, Yoshino "Baby" Kousaka, the Bonds brothers—James and Julian—and Hunter Hearst Helmsley, to name a few. We've had a career, and we've had a lot of fun satirizing the game of gridiron with our beyond-effective play.

I'm letting you people know this straight up: if you play for Mitakihara, you're gonna have a lot of fun. The freshman camp helps form a foundation for your skills and ability and causes you to play at an All-World Level. No other university has as awesome a sports medicine program like Madoka. No one can do it better. It's the one single reason why the football team plays the way it does. Advances in sports science and nutrition put Mitakihara on the cutting edge. Only fitting for a university located in Canada's City of the Future. I'm just glad to be a part of it.

Now I have been looking at the archives of the Daily Magi, and Dr. Akemi, who used to be an offensive coordinator for this team, wrote about the flexbone formation. You can find her piece in the archives of this blog. However, I want to talk about the wishbone, which is a precursor to the flexbone formation. The wishbone formation, also known simply as the ’bone, is an offensive formation in American football. The style of attack to which it gives rise is known as the wishbone offense. Like the spread offense in the 2000s, the wishbone was considered to be the most productive and innovative offensive scheme in college football during the 1970s and 1980s.

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While the record books commonly refer to Emory Bellard developing the wishbone formation in 1968 as offensive coordinator at Texas, the wishbone's roots can be traced back to the 1950s. According to Barry Switzer, it was Charles “Spud” Cason, football coach at William Monnig Junior High School of Fort Worth, Texas, who first modified the classic T formation in order “to get a slow fullback into the play quicker.” Cason called the formation “Monnig T”. Bellard learned about Cason's tactics while coaching at Breckenridge High School, a small community west of Fort Worth.

Earlier in his career Bellard saw a similar approach implemented by former Detroit Lions guard Ox Emerson, then head coach at Alice High School near Corpus Christi, Texas. Trying to avoid the frequent pounding of his offensive line, Emerson moved one of the starting guards into the backfield, enabling him to get a running start at the opposing defensive line. Bellard served as Emerson's assistant at that time. During his high school coaching career in the late '50s and early '60s, Bellard adopted the basic approaches of both Cason and Emerson, as he won two 3A Texas state championships Breckenridge in 1958 and 1959 and a 4A state title at San Angelo Central High School in 1966, using a wishbone-like option offense.

In 1967 Bellard was hired by Darrell Royal and became offensive coordinator a year later. The Texas Longhorns only scored 18.6 points per game in a 6–4 season in 1967. After watching Texas A&M—running Gene Stallings' option offense—beat Bear Bryant's Alabama team in the 1968 Cotton Bowl Classic, Royal instructed Bellard to design a new three-man back-field triple option offense. Bellard tried to merge his old high school tactics with Stallings' triple option out of the Slot-I formation and Homer Rice's variations of the Veer, an offensive formation created by Bill Yeoman.

Introducing the new offensive scheme at the beginning of the 1968 season, Houston Chronicle sportswriter Mickey Herskowitz stated it looked like a “pulley bone”, while Royal agreed but changed the name to “wishbone”. Royal quickly embraced the idea of the wishbone, which proved to be a wise choice: Texas tied its first game running the new offense, lost the second, and then won the next thirty straight games, leading to two National Championships using the formation. The offense was embraced by Bear Bryant, who after seeing Bellard's offense run after visiting with Texas' head coach Darrell Royal installed the offense at Alabama.

Bellard later left Texas and – using the wishbone – guided Texas A&M and Mississippi State to bowl game appearances in the late 1970s. At Mississippi State Bellard “broke the bone” and introduced the “wing-bone”, moving one of the halfbacks up to a wing formation and frequently sending him in motion. Another variation of the wishbone formation is called the flexbone.
Ironically, the longest running wishbone offense was run not by Texas but by their arch-rivals, the University of Oklahoma, who ran variations of the wishbone well into the mid-1990s. Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer has been credited by some for having “perfected” the use of the wishbone offense and former OU quarterback Jack Mildren is often referred to as "the Godfather of the wishbone" throughout College Football lore. The Oklahoma Sooners wishbone offense set the all-time NCAA rushing average in 1971 of 472.4 yds per game, a record that stood until Mitakihara wiped it off the face of the earth.

The wishbone's reliance on execution and discipline, along with its ability to eat up the play clock, make it a favorite of programs that routinely play opponents with superior size and speed, such as the three service academies. Air Force saw tremendous success running the option game out of the wishbone. In 1985, Air Force climbed to #2 in the country, just barely missing the national championship game, under Head Coach Fisher DeBerry. Army football saw success using the wishbone under head coaches Jim Young and Bob Sutton in the 1980s and early 1990s, leading to the school's only bowl appearances (10–6 win over Michigan State in the 1984 Cherry Bowl; 31–29 win over Illinois in the 1985 Peach Bowl; 29–28 loss to Alabama in the 1988 Sun Bowl; and a 32–29 loss to Auburn in the 1996 Independence Bowl) and its only 10-win season.

Phil Jack Dawson, then head coach of Westbrook High School in Westbrook, Maine, developed an effective defense against the wishbone offense then in use by Texas, called “backbone defense”. Dawson contacted Ara Parseghian, then head coach of the University of Notre Dame, and convinced him to use it against Texas in the 1971 Cotton Bowl Classic. Notre Dame beat Texas 24-11.

I'll talk a bit more about how the wishbone is run in my next weekly column. I'm Gir, Mr. Wonderful, signing off. You are not alone.

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