Preparation breeds results

For the average college football fan, a big play is merely something to cheer about on Saturday. It is the ultimate form of instant gratification, which is true for any aficionado and certainly is the case for those who follow Portland State with a watchful eye. And the Vikings have enjoyed their fair share of game-changing plays this season.

For the average college football fan, a big play is merely something to cheer about on Saturday.

It is the ultimate form of instant gratification, which is true for any aficionado and certainly is the case for those who follow Portland State with a watchful eye.

And the Vikings have enjoyed their fair share of game-changing plays this season.

Take the 80-yard touchdown pass junior quarterback Tygue Howland laid into the hands of junior wide receiver Aaron Woods versus Sacramento State.

Then there was the pair of interceptions freshman cornerback Deshawn Shead nabbed in Portland State’s 47-36 victory over Eastern Washington.

These plays become the story of the game–the moment everyone is raving about afterwards. But what is truly compelling is the story of how these plays come to life.

And that is a tale that begins weeks in advance in a place about as far from the authenticity of a football field as possible–in cyberspace.

Step 1: Obtaining the filmSure, the results are displayed for all to see on Saturdays, however, behind the scenes preparation for those big plays begins almost two weeks earlier.

This arduous process starts when Portland State video coordinator John Percich secures film for the Vikings’ next two opponents every Sunday, via a simple transmission on the Internet.

Big Sky Conference policy requires that teams exchange film of all their games, which is much different than the way Jerry Glanville received film when he made his living roaming the sidelines as an NFL head coach more than a decade ago.

Glanville, now the Vikings’ head coach, recalls when obtaining filming consisted of bartering with another coach. And during this process, a few surprises could arise.

“It could be shipped a day late,” Glanville said. “They didn’t want you to see some plays… They would score four touchdowns and you could only see two on the film.”

Glanville, who added that when the tapes were sent in the mail sometimes the film would “mysteriously” get lost, said that NFL made exchanging tape mandatory and then the rule trickled down to the college ranks.

“Now you’re guaranteed you’re going to get it,” Glanville said. “This has taken away all of the foreign intrigue.”

When Portland State plays nonconference foes, Glanville has to revert back to the deal-making tactics he was accustomed to while in the NFL.

Before the Vikings took on Pac-10 squad Washington State earlier this season, Cougars head coach Paul Wulff was unwilling to trade Glanville all of his film because his team had played more games.

“He would only make the exchange of two games for two games,” Glanville said.

Step 2: Sorting through the framesOnce the Vikings receive the film on Sunday, Glanville and his coaching staff begin to plow through it the following day.

Glanville said he and his coaches begin dissecting the film for the opponent they are playing in two Saturdays. This is the process because the coaches want to have all of the film prepared for the players so they can study it the week of the game.

Yesterday, Glanville and his staff began breaking down the film for Portland State’s matchup with Weber State on Nov. 1, and already prepared the film for Idaho State, who the Vikings play this Saturday, last week.

“You don’t have time to wait until the week you play,” Glanville said of breaking down the film early.

In the designated film room, Glanville, inside linebackers and special teams coach Bobby April, and defensive line coach Josh Fetter work from Monday to Wednesday to sort through all the game tape for opponent’s offense.

This is a complex process that takes “hours and hours,” Glanville said with a sigh.

Looking at the screen, Glanville calls out the play, April then types the call into the computer–complete with the formation, package and situation–as a form of tagging it, while Fetter charts the down and distance (for example, third and five).

After Wednesday, Glanville and the coaches shift their focus back to the upcoming opponent, which is a difficult task, indeed.

“The toughest thing is to erase them from your mind,” Glanville said about breaking down the film for the opponent one game away.

Step 3: Scouting the opponentThe tagging and compiling of Glanville and Co. sets the table for outside linebackers coach Kevin Emberton and secondary coach Alundis Brice.

Emberton’s job is to create the scouting report, which ends up looking like an oversized term paper with illustrations.

The scouting report consists of frames with the opponent’s plays that were gleaned from watching the film, breakdowns of personnel groupings and a “tip sheet” that highlights some of the opponent’s most glaring or important tendencies.

Sometimes Emberton said he can identify some pretty significant tendencies, like when he discovered that Eastern Washington passed 100 percent of the time when employing pre-snap motion on a particular play.

“It really helps Coach Glanville make his calls,” Emberton said, “because he knows whether it will be a run or pass.”

Once finished, Emberton distributes the scouting report to the other coaches and often hands it out to a few players, too.

While Emberton is responsible for the scouting report, Brice must diagram all of the opponent’s passing routes, compile the information and then pass it on to all the other defensive coaches.

Glanville said the offensive coaches have a similar process, but with the same goal: To make sure all of the players are prepared.

Step 4: Teaching the playersAs offensive coordinator Mouse Davis leaned back in his chair, he fired off questions to his five quarterbacks as rapidly as a blitzing linebacker barreling down on them.

“Who is this on?” Davis would ask while showing a play of the Vikings’ loss to Idaho State last season. “Where is it coming from?”

All of the previous week’s preparation is designed to make watching film an easy and digestible process for the players. Two-hour film sessions, where coaches show film and educate them on the opponent, are scheduled each weekday for the players.

And Davis certainly had their attention as he toggled through a list of packages, formations and special situations–such as all blitz packages, like he and the quarterbacks were watching Monday afternoon–for each of Idaho State’s games.

With his laser pointer in hand, Davis picked out certain parts of each play that he wanted to emphasize and often placed the onus on one of the young signal callers to explain what is going on or which option is best.

“Where would you have gone with it,” Davis asked sophomore Drew Hubel as he flashes an aerial shot of the game action.

Mixed in with chatter about ESPN personalities and former players, Davis also passed on a little wisdom. “I know you’d like to hit the touch,” Davis said in reference to a touchdown, “but there’s no need to get the touch… Get the football out–it’s an easy completion.”

Step 5: Play the game on SaturdayThe process requires almost two weeks, but the final phase is implementing what the players and coaches have learned-from obtaining the film to breaking it down to creating and studying scouting reports to watching the film–on the field.

Strategizing with film takes upwards of two weeks in hopes of setting up that one big play on Saturday that secures a victory.

“If you don’t do this then you go into a game blind and you are certain for failure,” Emberton said.