Fedora plans wide-open offense at Southern Miss|[12/14/07]

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 14, 2007

HATTIESBURG — As a child in football-mad Texas, Larry Fedora would watch games on TV with his father. Inside the last two minutes of the half and game, he noticed, teams went into a no-huddle, shotgun formation and moved the ball effectively.

“If they can do that inside the last two minutes,” he asked his father, “why can’t they do that the whole time?”

“Because they can’t,” his father replied, ending the conversation there, but certainly not ending that philosophy in Fedora’s mind. Using that principle, he devised an offense through the years that is predicated on speed, spreading the field and putting up points.

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“Offensively, we’ll be a one-back, multi-tempoed, no-huddle offense,” Fedora said to a cheering throng of about 800 when he was introduced Wednesday to replace 17-year coaching veteran Jeff Bower. “We’re going to spread the field. We’re going to throw it around. We’re going to spread it horizontally and create vertical seams in the defense.

“Now that doesn’t mean we’re going to throw it every down. I’ve had a back go over 1,000 yards just about every year and I understand we have a great one here. The thing that we’re going to do is we’re going to be explosive. We’re going to fatigue the defense, and we’re going to put the ball in the playmakers’ hands and put some points on the board.”

Exciting football had become a knock against Bower, considered by many Golden Eagle faithful as too conservative. The Eagles finished the regular season 7-5 and earned a berth in the Papajohns.com Bowl in Birmingham on Dec. 22. Losses on national television to Boise State, Central Florida and the worst of all, then-winless Rice in Hattiesburg, helped with USM officials forcing Bower out the door following his 14th straight winning season.

Athletic director Richard Giannini, who said he spoke with many interested coaches, said the search kept coming back to Fedora. A stadium expansion project, which will increase attendance at M.M. Roberts Stadium to 40,000 and also add skyboxes, is scheduled to be complete by next season. Attendance at games this year had dwindled following a slow start to a season that began with the Golden Eagles being picked to win the Conference USA championship.

“We really felt that it was important that we get someone that had incredible energy, and incredible passion for the game of football and tremendous passion to be successful,” Giannini said. “There is no question that we got the number one guy. From day one, he was on our list.”

Fedora comes to Southern Miss from Oklahoma State, where he was the offensive coordinator for one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the country. The Cowboys averaged nearly 35 points and 485 yards per game. Concersely, Southern Miss averaged 28 points and 394 yards of offense per game.

Although he has yet to name his assistant coaches, Fedora stressed that his high-powered offense will be complemented by an attacking defense.

“We’re going to be fundamentally sound. We’re going to be tough and we’re going to hit you. We’re going to hit you in the mouth where you don’t like to be hit,” he said. We’re going to get after you from the start, and that’s the way the players are going to be coached. You’ll see it on Saturday, I promise you.”

Fedora even quoted a few lines from legendary Army general George S. Patton to describe his coaching philosophy.

“Patton said, ‘Instead of waiting to see what might develop, attack constantly, vigorously, and viciously. Never let up, never stop, always attack,'” Fedora said. “That is what we are going to do.”