We are nine days away from the Bearcats season opener at Nippert Stadium. With fewer than 1000 tickets available to the general public, it appears that the game is going to be sold-out, so here is a quick reminder to those of you who are lucky enough to attend:
And Don’t Get Up To Use The Restroom If It’s Fourth-And-Long.
That final item is a tongue-in-cheek reference to new head coach Tommy Tuberville and his history of making gutsy calls in hopes of pulling out a win.
“It started back when I was at Ole Miss,” Coach Tuberville told me. “We weren’t very good and had to take a lot of chances. Tim Brando was working for ESPN at the time and we went for it on fourth down a couple of times and made it and did some other crazy stuff and ended up winning the game. That’s when he nicknamed me ‘The Riverboat Gambler.’ We really had no choice.”
“When we first got to Ole Miss together, the program was kind of in disarray,” said offensive coordinator Eddie Gran. “We had to ‘smoke and mirror’ some people, and he told our guys before every game that we weren’t going to hold anything back. We were going to go for it on fourth down, we’re going to have fakes, and we’re going to do it when they’re not expecting it. That’s what he did. It was a lot of fun and the kids believed in it.”
“I like to take chances,” said Tuberville. “I don’t like to give games away, but I like to give players a chance to win games.”
One of Tuberville’s most famous gambles came in the “Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry” between Auburn and Georgia in 2001.
“They were probably favored by three touchdowns,” said Tuberville. “We were only down by seven with a few minutes left in the half. They had a really fast return man and we couldn’t cover him on punts, so on fourth down and about a foot at our own 13 yard line I said, ‘If we punt it, they’re going to return it to about the 15 and score anyway so let’s go for it.’ We ended up making it. A few plays later, it was fourth-and-nine in our own territory (27 yard line…you can look it up) and we faked a punt and picked up the first down. That was probably one of the crazier things that I’ve done, but it worked.”
Final score: Auburn 24 Georgia 17
“In another game, we were able to score but we couldn’t stop the other team,” Tuberville told me. “So I told the players at halftime before we went back out that there was no reason for our punter to even come out. We were going to go for it on every fourth down. We ended up going for it on fourth down three times in the second half. We made it every time and won the game.”
Beginning in his third year at Auburn, Coach Tuberville led the Tigers to at least one victory over an AP Top-10 team in a school-record seven consecutive seasons. He had a stretch of six straight wins over archrival Alabama in the Iron Bowl. Two years ago as a four-touchdown underdog, his Texas Tech team ended Oklahoma’s 39-game home winning streak. Tuberville’s record in bowl games is 7-3.
Is there a correlation between winning big games, pulling off upsets, and making the occasional risky call?
“I don’t think there’s any question about it,” said Gran. “Sometimes you see head coaches in big games and if they get stressed out and are hooting and hollering and screaming, then that’s the mentality that the kids are going to take. They feed off of the mentality of the head football coach. He’s always been unbelievable in big games.”
Of course, the calculated gambles don’t always work, but after 17 years as a college head coach, Tuberville says he’s not afraid to be second-guessed.
“I don’t care about that – we’re trying to win games,” Tommy told me. “Everybody is going to second-guess you – there are times where people want you to go for it and you punt. I’m going to do what I think will give our players the best chance to win the game and a lot of times it’s by gut feeling.
“You can’t be predictable. And you want the guys in the Red and Black to know that this guy is trying to win the game.”
Just remember that before you leave your seat.
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