MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The good news for West Virginia's football program is that tempo offense, popularized in part by Mountaineers Coach Dana Holgorsen, isn't going anywhere.
The bad news is the same as the good news, and WVU is going to have to deal with this throughout the Big 12 and beyond. To hear the participants tell it, there's no stopping tempo.
"Offense controls tempo. Defense can't do anything about it," Oklahoma State Coach Mike Gundy said.
It's a riveting reality, considering the phases college football produces. Offenses do something that produces an edge for a few years and then defenses counter and take a lead. The cycle repeats as coaches usher in one era while they store another in the basement.
This obsession with limiting the time between snaps and overwhelming defenses with as many plays as possible is different. The counter isn't necessarily available on film or in coaching clinics.
"You play well, tackle well, line up," Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops said. "Is there any way? Not really. You have to be as efficient as they are. So if they're able to get to the line, get their call and get ready to play, whatever pace that may be, you've got to be efficient enough defensively to have your call in order, to have it relayed and to be down in position to play.
"As much as anything to counter it, you've got to be as prepared to play on the snap with the tempo as they have to be. From there, it's who's going to make the play?"
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STOOPS' WORDS should carry meaning. His Oklahoma teams were among the first to push their foot through the floorboard.
"I remember in our Oklahoma game in 2008, (Texas defensive coordinator) Will Muschamp was calling our defense in the first quarter, and the kids were looking at their wristbands, and the ball was being snapped, and they're running 20 yards, and we're still looking at the wristbands," Texas Coach Mack Brown said. "Will and I decided, 'Let's throw out all the calls, play base defense, and let's play because we're standing around looking.'"
The Longhorns averaged 68.5 snaps per game last season - worse than Kansas. Brown has empowered co-offensive coordinator, and former Texas quarterback Major Applewhite, to mimic the tempo around the conference so that the offense will average 80-plus snaps per game.
And while that's good for the Texas offense that's been slow to change, it is perhaps better for the defense.
"What I do think is that last year our defense was at a disadvantage in this league because we had trouble preparing for tempo by not seeing it every day in practice," Brown said of the Texas defense that ranked No. 6 in the Big 12 and No. 72 in the nation in points per game.
"So we felt like it was very, very important for us to make sure our defensive coaches and our players got to practice every day against what they were trying to prepare for on Saturday because, if you haven't seen the tempo offense on a regular basis, it's a very difficult thing to do."
That's the best coaches can come up with, though it might be the smartest plan. Most are convinced formations and personnel packages aren't the answer because tempo strikes before the defense can organize and attack. The advantage for the offense is to play fast and prevent the defenses from doing something. The defense then guards the offense best by matching tempo with tempo.
"You don't slow them down and beat tempo in that regard," Iowa State Coach Paul Rhoads said. "You just figure out a way to play fast and execute your scheme as well as you can and then you just try to create some problems for them."
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THE OFFENSES have a pretty simple tool to solve whatever trouble the defenses can muster.
"It's all based on the quarterback," Gundy said. "If your quarterback knows what he's doing, (the defense) is not going to be a factor. He's got to be able to count to seven."
The defenses aren't given a lot of time to be very exotic, whether with a 3-4 or a 4-3 front, and the offenses know that and have taken advantage of it.