Bobby Bowden was still an assistant coach in those days, the offensive coordinator at West Virginia. The Mountaineers were getting ready to play South Carolina in the 1969 Peach Bowl, and Bowden put in a call to Darrell Royal, the legendary coach at Texas.
It wasn't to wish Royal a Merry Christmas.
"We were an option team," Bowden recalled recently, "and Darrell Royal gave me their wishbone."
Though West Virginia didn't get to take any of Royal's tailbacks, the Mountaineers were able to beat the Gamecocks, 14-3.
"They had a hard time stopping it," said Bowden, who would start his own legendary head-coaching career the next season in Morgantown. "Our philosophy was, 'Give 'em something they haven't seen.' The question is, 'Can you execute it good enough to win?' "
Overhauling an offense might be an extreme measure for coaches preparing their teams for bowl games, but Bowden isn't the only one to have tinkered with success.
Over the years, coaches have done everything from changing the cadence count of the quarterback to the color of uniforms in trying to find an edge.
What Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen and his staff come up with during their 45 days between the regular-season finale and their Jan. 2 Orange Bowl game with Florida remains to be seen. As teams throughout the country keep practicing for their bowl appearances, coaches are getting bleary-eyed watching tapes of opponents, looking for that sliver of an opening that could give their teams a game-breaking pass play or help in a game-saving goal-line stand.
Some, like Bowden and former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer, had remarkable success in bowl games. Others, like retired Nebraska legend Tom Osborne, watched their teams struggle for years before finally breaking through.
It got so bad for Osborne during a streak of seven straight New Year's Day bowl losses that he took a visit down to Tallahassee, Fla., to see Bowden, who was in the midst of 14 straight bowl games without a loss.
"He told me he gave his teams two weeks off after the season," said Osborne, who retired from coaching four years ago and is now in his first term in Congress, representing Nebraska. "I thought, 'Well maybe he's got something.' "
Osborne tried that approach for the next three years.
"For three years, we didn't play very well," Osborne said.
It finally clicked after the Cornhuskers lost to Bowden and Florida State for the national championship in the 1994 Orange Bowl. While the game was competitive -- Florida State won, 18-16, on a late field goal -- it was obvious to Osborne and his coaching staff that he needed to get faster players to contend with the teams he was playing in bowl games.
But the Cornhuskers also did something else.
They started to let their players have a little more fun. Back home in Lincoln, Osborne kept the weight room open but practiced a lot less strenuously on the field. The bowl trip became less a business trip for a bunch of 18- to 21-year-olds looking to have a little fun in South Florida or Arizona.
"We changed our whole process," said former Nebraska defensive coordinator Charlie McBride. "We practiced early in the morning and gave them more time off in the afternoon. We didn't give them a curfew until a few days before the game. Of course, having early morning practices helped get them to bed."
The result? After losing to Florida State, the Cornhuskers came right back the next year and beat Miami in the Orange Bowl to give the long-frustrated and criticized Osborne his first national championship. The next year, Nebraska did it again, crushing Florida in the Fiesta Bowl.
"There's a fine balance between how hard you work and how you're going to play," said Osborne, whose overall record of 255-49-3 included a mediocre 12-13 record in bowl games. "Some coaches like to use two-a-days for bowls, but players can get sick of football after a while and don't want to even play in the bowls."
Friedgen gave his Terps off four days for Thanksgiving, then followed a run of workouts and regular practices with three two-a-days that ended Sunday.
"In every bowl game I've been associated with, there's a fine line for overworking the kids," Friedgen said. "You don't want to beat them up, but you want to get them in shape. So it is a challenge, and it's a challenge to me because it's my first time doing this, too."
While winning eight of the 13 bowl games his teams played in, including two national championship games in the Orange Bowl, Switzer rarely if ever changed his routine.
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