A eulogy for the Beef

07/21/03 NIFL Fan Article by Andrew Hoyle

Friends, we are gathered here to mourn the untimely passing of the Omaha Beef for the duration of the 2003 NIFL playoffs. The Beef were euphemized with extreme prejudice in their own Slaughterhouse by the Utah Warriors this past Saturday night. 4,391 fans of indoor football stood by helplessly as the Warriors' prolific passing offense vivisected the Beef defense one small chunk at a time en route to a 62-51 win. Utah's Danny Ragsdale (30 attempts, 21 completions, 1 interception, 218 yards, 5 touchdowns on the night) threw the ball with surgical precision, spreading it around to his receivers like a cancer upon the body that is the Omaha Civic Auditorium's artificial turf. Utah's offensive game plan was nearly flawless, with Ragsdale utilizing a three-step (or less) drop and a quick release all night Long. He was consistently able to find an open target and defeat the fearsome pass rushing tandem of Dwayne Harris and Richard "Big Sexy" Johnson. Excellent downfield blocking and the sealing off of the outside defensive containment by the Utah wide receivers led to the demise of Omaha's "bend but don't break" defensive philosophy.

But what happened to the Beef offense? This was supposed to be The Game when Omaha took another suspect defense out behind the woodshed for a good tanning. Was the Beef offense dead on arrival for this one? Not hardly. "Turnovers killed us tonight," coach Sanders said after the game. A rare pick of Beef QB Troy Travis (13 attempts, 5 completions, 1 interception, 58 yards, 0 touchdowns) in the second quarter led to a Warriors touchdown, as did a fumble at the Utah seven yard line late in the third quarter. This 21-point swing in scoring, and a third quarter that saw the Beef muster only four points, was what spelled out doom for the Beef. Travis went without a single rushing or passing touchdown on the night, something that hasn't happened all year. As Travis's fortunes go, so do the Beef's. That, and when the Beef lead in the time of possession category (as they did in this one), they lose (3 out of 4 times this year). Indeed, a fitting epitaph for the entire season; it should go on the headstone.

Coach Sanders pulled the plug on Travis with ten minutes to go in the game, sending in backup QB Matt LaFleur (8 attempts, 6 completions, 29 yards, 3 touchdowns, 4 rushes, 36 yards, 1 touchdown), but it was too little, too late as a Beef rally fell short of its objective. Omaha RB Clinton Childs (16 rushes, 62 yards, 2 touchdowns) got just one touch in that last ten minutes, a 3-yard pass from LaFleur.

So the Beef lost, fair and square. Utah came in with an excellent game plan, and executed it to perfection. I enjoyed the banter along the sidelines with Brian Gaines and Emmett White of Utah between kickoffs. They can take it as well as dish it out. I even enjoyed my conversation with Utah head coach Lee Leslie after the game. Despite the fact we don't see eye-to-eye on his context during a recent radio interview, he's still got my vote for NIFL Coach of the Year. He doesn't let his players talk smack on the field: "I tell my guys to shut their mouths or I'll put them on the bench. I don't want a bunch of thugs and gang members out there (on the field)." A good philosophy for a head coach to have, especially in this league. And any sport. Same radio interview, Lee; hope that makes it all better.

So now I'm on the Utah bandwagon. I was concerned when I first saw the Warriors come out for warm-ups. They looked loose, almost lethargic. A lot of singing, dancing, and laughing. I didn't think they were going to take the game seriously.
My bad.

Utah is a very athletic team, both in performance and appearance. There's not a fatty in the bunch, and I expect them to match up well with the OV Puppies. If Utah can exploit OVG's weaknesses and execute the same type of game plan it did in Omaha, playing in Wheeling won't faze the Warriors in the least. I expect there to be Kibble and Bits (and Bits, and Bits...) when it's all said and done, and for OVG's dynastic stranglehold on the NIFL hardware to come to an end.

Next year may mark the first time the Omaha Beef have to rebuild instead of reload. Most Beef players have been with the team since its inception, and age is starting to catch up with them. The quiet murmurings about this player or that player retiring may be true this time, and talents like RB LeAndre Moore have been waiting in the wings for a while. Fans keep begging players for just one more year, one more try at it, but there comes a time when it's just not possible, the body says no. To know that this group of Beef players have given their best should be good enough. And we thank them for all that they've done, from the bottom of our hearts. You have provided Omaha with something it desperately wanted: a football team of its own, and a group of guys we can be proud of, for actions both on and off the field. Last year was one and out; this year was out in the conference championship. Next year, there will be nothing less than an NIFL championship. Count on it.

The Beef will be back in the Slaughterhouse next year, and ownership is making the supreme effort to do all the things fans have been clamoring for. Owner Jay Noddle was by far the most humble person in the locker room after Saturday night's game, and gave a heartfelt speech to the players. All indicators point to this having been a successful marriage, and hopefully one that will last.

There's only two coaching jobs in the world Colonel Sanders says he wants, and one of them is right here in Omaha. He'd better not make me pull out that chicken bucket with his picture on it......

And finally, for the last time this year, the Omaha Prime Dancers are the best in the NIFL. Argue amongst yourselves until next season........

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