Beef gunned down by Outlaws, big changes on the way

04/30/03 NIFL Fan Article by Andrew Hoyle

Don't adjust the volume on your computer; that thumping noise you're hearing is my head hitting the desk. Over, and over, and over. It sounds just like the thumping going on last Saturday night when the Beef visited the Billings Outlaws. Too bad Omaha was on the receiving end, and not the giving, of all those thumps, over, and over, and over. I won't go into all the gory details at this point; there's not enough room in this forum to cover them all, but suffice to say that Omaha's play-by-play radio announcer called it dead on: a stinker. It was a game the Beef weren't going to gain anything from no matter what the outcome. Win, and you beat a 1-5 team, big deal. Lose, and you have what's going on in Burgerville right now: chaos. Once considered to be one of the flagships of the NIFL, a team envied and respected by others in regards to its offensive and defensive skill and execution, and a team with a bullseye painted on its back every week, the Beef are quickly becoming a one-dimensional laughingstock to the rest of the league. Immediately after last week's meltdown at Billings, a still-fuming coach Collins Sanders promised the Beef faithful that players' jobs were on the line. Going shopping, Colonel Sanders? Here's one armchair quarterback's grocery list. Let's see if there's enough here for a recipe for offensive success.

I'll take one deep threat to go. It's no secret Coach Sanders likes the big running backs; his teams have led the league in rushing four out of five years. Psst, coach, you're secret's out; the rest of the league knows you want to run the ball. But three yards and a cloud of dust won't cut it anymore. With the offensive line locked up man for man against the defensive line, and the defensive backs playing man to man coverage because they know the Beef won't throw deep, the linebackers are free to key on the running back every time. Clinton Childs is a great back, don't get me wrong, but he can't shake and bake two guys every time. And with a linebacker raising a hand indicating blitz every down, there's already one in the backfield, unblocked, getting a free charge at Childs behind the line of scrimmage every time. The solution has to be throwing deep more often, getting those defensive backs to whine for help from the linebackers. But the Beef quarterbacks haven't demonstrated they can go deep yet; backup Tory Veland went 3 of 10 for 41 yards passing Saturday night, including an 0 for 4 first half and four fumbles. Much heralded third-string QB Dallas Widmark fumbled his first two times touching the ball, giving the Outlaws one touchdown, and was picked off on his third snap. Even starting QB Troy Travis isn't famous for his vertical game. Find a quarterback that can go deep, accurately, or prove that one of these three guys can do it. The talents of WRs Herman Gordon, Steve Lovell, Tyrone Tyler, and Jesse vonBehren are being wasted if you don't. "If I have to bring somebody in at quarterback, I'll do it," coach Sanders said after the Billings debacle. Eric Crouch may be gone to Green Bay, but Joe Germaine was just released by the Cincinnati Bengals, coach. Hell, give Manute Bol a call; maybe he's ready to try football over hockey as a second sport. Find somebody, fast. It's becoming a real Achilles' heel to the team.

A side of height with that. The three quarterbacks for the Beef are taller than all the wide receivers for the Beef. Find one WR built like a tight end in the 6-4, 6-5, or 6-6 range to complement the other speedsters and provide blocking to one side for the screens and pitches. Enough said.

No turnovers, please, I'm watching my waistline. With seven turnovers in the game against the Outlaws, including five fumbles, the Beef have to work on keeping the ball in their own hands. Quarterback/center exchanges are a big problem right now, and where most of the fumbles are occurring. "It looked to me like we had the problem corrected," said coach Sanders. Maybe a little closer look at that one is in order, coach.

I'd also like an order of muzzles and blinders. The Beef are getting entirely too many dumb penalties. Early in the season it was personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties; now it's turned into a rash of offsides and false starts penalties, by interior linemen at that. There is absolutely no reason why a lineman should be offsides, ever. One of the greatest interior linemen to ever play the game of football at the University of Nebraska was a deaf guy named Kenny Walker; he was never, ever offsides or made a false start. Last I heard, he was teaching over at Iowa School for the Deaf. Might be worth a conversation or two.

Give me one bag of heart, hold the ego. With this much talent on a team, there's bound to be some egos running around out there, and there's bound to be one or two guys just mailing it in for a paycheck. It's time to throw it all out the window and start believing in what the guy with the whistle is selling. Put up or shut up, and listen to what the man's telling you to do. If not, it's bound to get a lot worse before before it gets any better. Don't bicker on the field, guys; save it for somewhere out of sight.

Give the defense some dessert. Herman Colvin's defense is what is keeping this thing from tipping over in the water and drowning everybody. As a whole, the "Beefense" is doing its part, and not in ways you would consciously think about. Dwayne Harris and "Big Sexy" Johnson are doing the brunt of the work up front, but Dontae Jones is quietly having one of the best years ever by a Beef defensive back. His five interceptions so far this season is giving the offense the chance it needs to find the end zone. He's sure to garner NIFL awards and honors by the end of the season if if he keeps going at his current pace. Colvin's halftime adjustments have been amazing also, with the Beef pitching two third quarter shutouts in a row, and allowing only 27 points in the third all year.

No more cookies, please. Falling under the category of completely superstitious, the owner's daughter made a whole batch of cookies for the players to have while on their 18-hour bus ride to Billings. Like in any sport, you've got your superstitious and ritualistic players. Tell her to make brownies for the bus ride to LaCrosse this week……..

This week the Beef go on the road yet again, this time staying in the division against a much-improved LaCrosse Night Train team that can't wait to play a down-on-their-luck Beef team. The Beef aren't having any luck against Pac West, so they might be a little more up for a game that could go a long way towards determining first place in the Pac North. No predictions, no guesses this time. Either the Beef offense shows up, or the pink slips are going to be raining down hard.

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