Braxton Amy took practice off to allow his body to heal from the first game of the 2010 season. After practice I caught up with him and asked him about the Arkansas Pine Bluff opening drive, UTEP’s running game, and Friday’s game with the Miners rivals from Houston, the Houston Cougars.
Fearlessly, I told him I wanted to talk about Arkansas Pine Bluff’s initial drive of the game. The Golden Lions had taken the ball from their own 20 yard line and marched the ball down the field with a 10 play scoring drive. The drive had many worried about the ease with which Pine Bluff was able to move the ball on what was supposed to be an improved defense. As Yogi would say, it looked like Deja Vu all over again.
Amy, flashing a smile, calmed my nerves and explained what had happened. Amy is a straight shooter, and you call always count on him telling it like it is.
“Well, it was a little difficult because they have a new offensive coordinator, so I mean it wasn’t really I guess a certain film we could watch, so we could kind of guess what they were going to come out with. They did some things we weren’t really ready for, and we kind of, first game, we had some communication problems. We shook some rust off.”
Pine Bluff’s offensive line averaged just under 300 pounds per man, and they had some talented players at the skill positions. It was also apparent that they were well coached, focused on playing their game, and had every intention of bringing home a win.
“They were big boys. They were big, and we watched their film from last year, and they were a lot better than they looked last year. I’m not saying that we under estimated them or anything, but they were pretty good. They’re going to win some games.”
Once that first drive was out of the way, the Miners defense began to impose their will, and by the second half, the defense was substituting players liberally. Twenty-three defensive players were in on tackles.
“We are a young defense, so as many guys as we can get in there, and get that first experience out of the way, that’s better for us. That’s going to force them to grow up faster, rather than coming out for the ESPN game where the light’s really on.”
I asked him about the importance of having a running game that can hold on to the ball and eat up some clock. He surprised me with his answer.
“Well, our offense is a big play offense. We’re not depending on them to develop a great running game to chew up clock. As long as they put up points on the score board, we’re happy with that. Whether it be two plays or thirteen plays. As long as they’re putting points on the board, we’re okay with it.”
I mentioned the defense’s ability to stop the run, and how important that is for teams to win championships. As I should have known, Amy was focused on the next game, not looking at winning championships.
“I don’t know if necessarily that’s going to be the answer for this team. They’re going to throw the ball about seventy times, so we’ve got to stop the big passes. They’re going to complete the ball. They have guys on scholarship. They have great athletes on their team as well. You can’t take everything away. We can slow it down, and buckle down in the red zone, and we’ll see how it turns out”
Braxton doesn’t sugar coat it, or blow smoke. If you look at his last quote, you will see the game plan on defense, and the keys to winning the game. From the defensive side of the ball, anyway.