Where I watched Florida and Oklahoma square off for college football’s national title, the sounds of the game were, well, almost silent. Only images. The trash (and otherwise) talk among my boys drowned out the Fox announcers and rendered even the crowd noise emanating from the mega screen in front of us moot.
Only what we saw mattered. And what we saw, time and time again, was a man in a headset gesticulating on the Florida sideline. A man focused. A man with a plan, with complete intentions of seeing it executed.
In fact, Charlie Strong, Florida’s defensive coordinator, seemed to get more air time than Gator head coach Urban Meyer.
Strong was the most important man on the field Thursday night not named Tim Tebow. His scheme and his players stymied, stunned and thwarted the most explosive offense in college football history. The Sooners came into the game scoring 50 points as easily as an NBA team (well, at least most of them.) They left with a 24-14 loss that could have been laid at the foot of a defense that didn’t even bend, let alone break.
OU’s Heisman Trophy QB Sam Bradford was intercepted twice for the first time since before the leaves changed colors, and was held to his third-lowest passing yardage (256) of the season.
Two years ago, his scheme totally flummoxed another Heisman winner, Ohio State QB Troy Smith, who completed just four passes in a loss.
Now Florida has earned two national titles in three years, much of it due to the man in the headset. The man who can’t seem to get a shot at being a head coach.
If he isn’t a head coach at a top-tier BCS school by Monday, Rev. Al Sharpton should be standing on the doorsteps of Congress on Tuesday.
Shaming major-college football ADs – the last Neanderthals, it seems – over their continuing policy of shunning capable, qualified men who happen to not have been born white for head football coaching positions doesn’t seem to be working.
The dearth of black head coaches – eight among 119 – has been widely discussed this season, even as four more African-American coaches were added to the club in the last month, including DeWayne Walker at New Mexico State. Yale also made Tom Williams the second black head football coach in Ivy league history.
There is no stronger case than Strong. A coach since 1990. Defensive coordinator for seven season. Two national titles.
Thursday was typical for his aggressive, attacking Jason-like defenses. They set the tone physically. They wear you down and wait to pounce on even the slightest opportunity. On the third play of the night, safety Major Wright crushed Sooner wideout Manual Johnson, arriving like a raging rhino just as the ball did right in front of the Gators sideline.
Cut to Strong.
Then the Gators executed two critical goal-line stands int he first half – one by holding the Sooner off for four downs, the other by snatching the ball out of the air as it bounced off the chest of a Sooner receiver.
Cut to Strong.
In the game’s most pivotal play, with Florida still leading by only three and the Sooners driving into Florida teritory, Gator safety Ahmad Black yanked the ball from the hands of OU receiver Juaquin Iglesias.
Cut to Strong.
From afar, he would seem to be a perfect fit for Boston College, whose old-school AD, Gene DeFilippo, fired head coach Jeff Jagodzinski earlier this week after Jagodzinski interviewed for the New York Jets vacancy despite being told he’d be fired if he did so. He did and he was.
I liked DeFillippo’s move. Jagodzinski had three years left on his contract. “We will find somebody who really wants to be at Boston College,” DeFillippo said, “and they will be here for the length of their contract.”
If you haven’t made the call yet, Gene, do so. Before someone calls Rev. Al instead.
photograph courtesy University of Florida