It was somewhat ironic that the Tulsa football team was late for the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl banquet Sunday night and the news conference yesterday afternoon.
After all, Tulsa has one of the quickest offenses in NCAA football, averaging an offensive play every 23 seconds. Many times, Tulsa, operating out of a no-huddle scheme, needs only 14 seconds from setup to snap.
"We call it the ‘Run and Gun,’ man," said Todd Graham, who is completing his fourth season as the Golden Hurricane’s head coach. "It’s put it in the left lane, and put the hammer down."
It is a breathtaking scheme designed to leave opposing defenses gasping.
"We want to get 85 snaps on offense, and we want the other team to have 65 snaps," Graham said. "To do that, we run a fast-paced, no-huddle (offense). We practice like that, therefore our kids are in better shape. It takes two, three years to get in shape to run this system. It hurts your defense at first. But it starts to pick up as the years go by."
» When: Friday, 3 p.m.
» Where: Aloha Stadium
» TV: Live, ESPN
» Radio: Live, KKEA, 1420-AM
» Video streaming: Live on espn3.com
Tulsa was ranked No. 1 in total offense in 2007 and 2008, and is fifth this season.
Why the fast pace?
"I’m tryin’ to make a livin’, man" Graham said. "It sells tickets."
Graham said the offense is traced to Rich Rodriguez, now Michigan’s head coach. In the 1993 NAIA championship game, Graham was defensive coordinator for East Central (Okla.), and Rodriguez was the head coach and offensive coordinator for Glenville State, which ran a no-back, no-huddle attack.
Eight years later, Rodriguez, who became West Virginia’s head coach, hired Graham as linebackers coach.
"The origin of the offense comes from Coach Rodriguez," Graham said.
Through the years, Graham kept notes on the offenses that caused him the most grief. That collection became the offensive playbook when he was named Rice’s head coach in 2006. The next year, he accepted the head coaching job at Tulsa, where he was the assistant head coach for three years through 2005.
"I spent a lot of time developing this system based on attacking defensive principles," Graham said. "It’s been in the making for well over a decade. We basically run everything I hate to defend."
Graham said he emphasizes establishing the run first. But his teams regularly pass for more than 4,000 yards per season.
"It’s an awesome offense," said quarterback G.J. Kinne, who started his college career at Texas. "We’ve got a great system. Hawaii has a great offense, too. It’s going to be a fun game to watch."
Tulsa arrived Sunday afternoon, and practiced for 2 hours yesterday at Aloha Stadium. The Hurricane players were not discouraged by the downpour the past two days.
"When we left Tulsa, it was 30 degrees," Kinne said. "We get here, it was in the upper 70s."
Tulsa does not believe Hawaii’s humidity will hinder the hurry-up offense.
Graham said it was his team’s preference to play in this bowl. The other possible option was to play in Fort Worth, Texas.
True to his style, Graham tried to pull a fast one on his players.
"I was really concerned if we weren’t going to go to Hawaii, how was I going to get them ready to go to Fort Worth?" Graham said. "Nothing against Fort Worth, but when I heard we were invited to Hawaii, I decided to play a little joke on them. I told them we were going to Fort Worth. They were all like, ‘Oh, no.’ I let that go on for about 30 seconds. Then I told them we were going to Hawaii, and they all cheered. They were extremely fired up to come to Hawaii."