NORMAN — I went into last week’s Crosstown Clash with a good idea what to expect. Norman North would throw the ball early and often, while Norman High would relentlessly run the football. And, for the most part, I got what I expected, and came away impressed by many of the new faces at both schools.
But what most impressed me wasn’t any one play. Or one player. It wasn’t North sophomore Quan Hogan, who showed exactly why he’s going to be a star. Nor was it the Tigers’ stout defensive line, which finished the game with nine sacks.
It was the system.
Specifically, the system coach Greg Nation has put into place at NHS. Since he arrived on Main Street, the Tigers have been a run-first, run-second and they usually run on third down as well. Nation refers often to the idiom that when you throw the ball, three things can happen and two of them are bad, and that’s why his team ran the ball 40 times on Thursday but threw it just 11.
The Tigers know what their identity is. We know what their identity is. Every team they play against knows what their identity is, and they know exactly to what expect.
And it doesn’t matter. The Tigers run on them anyway, to the tune of 279 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s 38-31 victory.
Nor does it matter who’s in the backfield. Replacing Arkansas-bound Donovan Roberts last year? No problem: A’erion Hines and Imond Robinson easily filled the void. Replacing those two speedsters this season? Dupree Young and Darius Manning ran wild in their coming-out party last week.
One argument is that a lot of that success could be attributed to Zach Long, the three-year started at quarterback who graduated a year ago and is now practicing at OU.