Return Of The Nick: Now What?

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Blame Nick Fanuzzi.

Had Fanuzzi eschewed the impromptu John Elway imitation during the second half in Stillwater on Sept. 19, many of you would not have spent the third quarters of the past two games running aimlessly around the metal bleachers at HRS, a la Ricky Bobby, asking Fanuzzi to help the Owls' offense. You would have rationally accepted the fact that those dreadful performances (23 plays for 42 yards against Vanderbilt and Tulsa) were as much a product of athletically capable defenses and hastily reconfigured offensive lines as they were a reflection of the Owls' confounding struggles at quarterback. The invisible fire surrounding an offense going down in flames obstructed your view, and Fanuzzi should be held liable for elevating your hopes to a stratosphere where only his presence can sate your qualifications.

Well, dreams apparently do come true and Black Knights can slip surreptitiously into the living quarters of third-year sophomores and lay healing hands on separated shoulders in the still of the night. In a matter of days Fanuzzi has been transformed from Fred Sanford to Jack Lalanne, and he will start behind center for your Mighty Owls on Saturday afternoon against the Naval Academy. Will his return alone be enough to jump-start the Owls' stalled attack?

"It's a little bit more than that," Fanuzzi said. "Obviously there are going to be things going on in the game that I'll have to pick up, but more than anything I can bring excitement and enthusiasm and a confidence - call it a swagger - back to this team, and get this ball rolling for the second half of this season. Go at it one play at a time, and one play at a time means getting first downs and scoring the first drive. If it doesn't happen the first, do it the second, third and fourth. At Oklahoma State we didn't have a smooth start, but we got things rolling."

OK, so Fanuzzi is confident, a character trait one expects from signal callers. But is it fair to heap the responsibility of reigniting the Owls' offense on his rehabilitated right shoulder? Don't the Owls need a suitable performance from the right side of their line, where tackle Scott Mitchell and guard Tyler Parish will start out of position for a second consecutive contest? Doesn't left tackle Kody Emmert need to provide better protection than he did last week against Tulsa? And shouldn't the staff utilize freshman tailback Charles Ross in a manner that benefits the offense as a whole while alleviating pressure on Fanuzzi as he makes his return?

The excitement over Fanuzzi's return is warranted; his arm strength, cocksure and toughness are sure to provide a breath of fresh air to the Owls' deflated offense. But so many pieces must fall into place before the Owls can pick up where they left off at Boone Pickens Stadium, and that truism should weigh on those waiting anxiously for Fanuzzi to make his HRS debut.

"He's just got to make sure he distributes the football to everybody that he can," Owls coach David Bailiff said. "It's not just on his shoulders. We've got to get everybody over there stepping up and making plays."

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Totally agree MK. You got to hope his confidence spreads throughout the offense and those guys start playing better. I know some guys on the line are playing out of position, but you would hope that a second full week together would do some good. Their play is as important, if not more, than Nick's return. But, it will be nice to see him back in the saddle.

Do you think the O-line can recover from last week's problems? Will a second full week of work together help solve some of the problems? I know you said Hicks is getting closer to coming back (@ECU hopefully), so that will be a boost.

Unfortunately I don't think adding Fanuzzi will make a huge difference. It all comes down to line and receiver play this week.

It's got to be a huge boost to the entire team to have him back on the field. They can see just like the fans that he's the best QB to lead the team.

Cowl - It made a huge difference at Oklahoma State with the same offensive line and the same receivers.

That doesn't mean that I'm certain we're just all of a sudden going to see a completely different offense, but I didn't really harbor much hope the past two weeks that the Owls were going to be able to keep up with the likes of Vandy and Tulsa without Fanuzzi. Now with him back in the fold, I think the Owls have a legitimate shot at beating Navy. A win, which if accomplished, would give the team a real confidence (not that the D or ST are lacking confidence) boost and a heap of momentum heading down the stretch (sound like a familiar formula to anybody?).

I scripted the first series of plays for the Owls over on the Parliament. Every play involves getting the ball to #28. We need to see him on a slip screen soon, his natural pass catching ability, speed and burst make him an ideal player to run that type of play. And yet I've yet to see a RB slip screen so far this year. Also we should continue to have him run into the flats and on wheel routes on passing plays. No doubt Navy has seen the Tulsa film, and doing so will bring a defender away from guarding the Owls' other receiving targets.

Talon: It wasn't the same offensive line at Oklahoma State. You forget that Eric Ball filled in for Jake Hicks and did a solid job. Scott Mitchell had his issues at right tackle that game, and those problems mushroomed next to Tyler Parish. That duo should be better after two weeks and one game under the collective belts. - MK

Fanuzzi!! You can do it "O" line!! All he needs a little time in the pocket!! Beat NAVY!

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