Walk This Way

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While it's a standard part of any college football team's itinerary, what transpires when a visiting team arrives at the stadium on the day before a game for their walkthrough can be as good an indication of a team's character and confidence as one can find.

In general, David Bailiff keeps his walkthroughs short and to the point. A look around to let the younger players get their first glimpse of their new surroundings, a chance to familiarize themselves with the location of the 40-second clocks and the route to and from the locker room.

On a sizzling afternoon in Denton, the Owls took their first steps on to Fouts Field, a stadium on its last legs, soon to be replaced by a new structure located just the other side of I 35E.  After nearly six hours on a bus, it was more important than usual for the Owls to get their bodies in motion.

"It's important to get the blood flowing after the long ride, so we'll let them have a little fun and play some catch at first," Bailiff said.  "Then will go over a few things, review our substitutions, and familiarize ourselves with this stadium.   We get that out of the way today, so when we get off the bus tomorrow, we know it's time for work," he added.

Some teams will use a walkthrough for a more intense set of drills, others treat it in a far more light-hearted manner.

Teams such as Oklahoma during the Barry Switzer era or Miami in the heyday of "The U" turned the Friday walkthrough into a form of performance art, enhancing their image by engaging in such strenuous activities as throwing Frisbees.  They seemed to revel in the knowledge that their opponent the next day was watching their unassuming routine, their relaxed manner in stark contrast to the  building set of nerves common among their hosts.  Their lark itself becoming a psychological weapon to further weaken an underdog's belief in their chances the next day.  

Normally a team has exclusive use of the field during its walkthrough. But while his team limbered up on the field, Bailiff could not avoid noticing the North Texas cheerleading squad taking photos in one end zone and various elements of the North Texas band moving through the exits.  It was hardly the stuff of controversy or extra motivation, but that has not always been the case.

Earl Bruce was bringing a very talented Iowa State team to Lincoln to face Nebraska, and decided to hold his walkthrough in Omaha on the campus of Nebraska-Omaha, rather than at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.  He closed the workout to all media, but one intrepid Omaha station gained access to one of the buildings that overlooked the field, and shot video to show the Cyclones on the field.

Bruce and the Cyclones were enraged to see the footage on the news that night.  After upsetting the Huskers the next day, team members cited the outrage over the invasion of their space as a primal motivational factor.

It was the rare moment when the non-descript practice of the walkthrough was elevated to the lead item of a game story.

For the most part, they will remain a part of the process to bring a team to game time.

And this week, that time is 6:05 p.m. (central).

Week 2 of the 2010 season comes to a close.


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