Just here to find out how to stalk Pat McAfee legally? Fine. Here.
For a chance to attend the Cheez-It Bowl with Pat McAfee, share your passion for Cheez-It using photo or video with #CheezPickMePatEntry and tagging @CheezIt on Twitter.
I also got to shoot from the hip with Pat for about 20 minutes on the phone today. Here’s that part.
On Friday, December 27th at 10:15pm, two of the most unique (and powerful) offenses in college football will meet at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona. The Washington State Cougars (#6 ranked offense in all of college football) will square off against the 24th overall ranked (AP) Air Force Academy Falcons, who are 10-2. Washington State head coach Mike Leach and his air raid offense will duel with the flexbone offensive system employed by the Air Force Academy led by their head coach Troy Calhoun, the former Falcon quarterback.
For those uninitiated, the air raid offense regularly employs a single running back and 3 or more WRs on every play and is difficult to defend. The flexbone offense employs 3 running backs, 5 linemen and some combination of tight ends and wide receivers. Both offensive systems are unique in that very few Division 1 programs run either system probably due to their complexity.
Worth noting, I did not play a lot of defense during high school football, but one of our conference rivals, Whiteland High School, ran the wishbone offense and it’s similar to what the Air Force Academy runs. Basically, there’s a fullback, a tailback and a halfback and a lot of motion into the backfield. This allows for a dive, a sweep, a quarterback keep and a pass play to come out of the exact same formation and motion. It’s difficult to defend at any level and just as hard to master.
Similarly, the Cougar offensive system is pretty complex in that the way plays are drawn up, the entire goal of the offense is to determine whether the coverage is man or zone. If man, the quarterback will find the open player based on separation and anticipation and the receivers run their predetermined routes. If zone, the route runners will break their routes off to settle in said zone for an easy completion. The quarterback’s job is to manipulate the defense into showing him the coverage whether it’s pre-snap or post.
It’s worth noting, specifically for Colts fans, that the Washington State offense is 6th overall in FBS and features one of the premier college quarterbacks in this year’s class in Anthony Gordon, who leads FBS in total offense himself with 5,228 yards. Additionally, this match-up features two of the best kickers in college football, Falcon Kicker Jake Koehnke and Cougar Kicker Blake Mazza. If ever the hashtag were more relevant in a football game starting after 10pm on a Friday — something something #FortheBrand.
Pat McAfee is a god among men and one of the greatest entertainers in American sports, so it’s fitting that Cheez-It reached out to the former Colts punter not only because he’s the life of the party, but for a cause benefiting Veterans, because as I found out, Pat has a profound respect for service members and that theme was felt in our interview.
“From an exclusive Cheez-It section in the stadium, former NFL punter Pat McAfee is coming out of retirement for an Extra Cheddar Kick benefiting veterans. The Cheez-It Bowl will be the most cheese-infused bowl game in history!”
Pat and I got about 15 minutes of each other’s time just to chat about all the things.
First of all, Pat called me on time and gave me more than the allotted time as our conversation was very natural and had this flow to it that happens rarely. I hope our conversation sparks his week because it did for me and outside of the written stuff he had (that I also had but needed to confirm some things), I think we had an interview for the ages.
We first spoke about the details of the game and the contest at hand to get it out of the way. I asked him about the two unique offenses detailed above. Pat spoke very highly of Mike Leach specifically and expressed a great deal of respect and gratitude for the Air Force Academy and service members in general throughout our conversation. This Marine finds that admirable as I did not know Pat had a foundation that benefits veterans until today.
The Pat McAfee Foundation was formed to provide scholarship assistance to the sons and daughters of US Military Personnel. Please visit https://thepatmcafeefoundation.org/ a 501(c)(3), so your donations are 100% tax deductible. Please consider contributing to this cause because if anyone needs higher education, it’s the dependents of a serving member of our military. I say that only half tongue-in-cheek.
We brought up the Colts fans trying to find Andrew Luck’s replacement and Anthony Gordon. Pat thinks highly of the WAZU QB, but put a lot of his success on the field squarely on Mike Leach and his coaching. In terms of the Air Force offense, Pat likened it to a time-release painkiller in that while it may not work right away, eventually the defense makes a mistake. We agreed that both teams are inevitable on offense and that this game has the potential to be the highest scoring bowl game this year!
We talked about the two highly ranked kickers for each team and what the professional potential for each looked like, and Pat was frank with me that college stats don’t mean much and it’s more “between the ears” when millions of dollars are involved. Fair enough. We did agree, though, that this game has barn-burner potential and to smash the over on this game if you’re betting. Pat said he wouldn’t say who he thinks will win until he shakes both coach’s hands. I found that interesting. It’s in the eyes and the handshake. I feel that. The only caveat is that the Cougars have a lot of time to prepare to play against the Falcon flexbone offense and that it’s much harder to prepare for in a week’s time AKA during the season.
After we talked about the game and the promotion, we talked about the Colts. I asked specifically how he felt about Jacoby (Pat has said he thinks Jacoby gets another year starting under center and that this draft and team will be built around him in the short term). He noted that Jacoby is young in terms of tenure at starting QB in the NFL, that 2017 doesn’t count because he came to the team 10 days before the season started and had no familiarity with the organization/playbook. This year is difficult to judge because of specifically TY Hilton and Parris Campbell’s absence, says Pat. Colts are 1-9 without TY and Parris Campbell was a high draft pick that hasn’t played due to injury. He expects the Colts to bounce back and is excited for the future.
We chatted briefly about the re-signing of Jack Doyle (he’s reliable) and the decision to have surgery by Eric Ebron (he’s gone). Pat said the Colts aren’t going to invest long-term in two high profile tight ends and Jack’s their guy based on their financial decisions and Eric’s independent decision to have season-ending surgery. He still thinks highly of Eric Ebron, and expects he’ll have a fruitful career probably elsewhere.
We talked about the contest at hand. Frankly, Cheez-It is building a 2-story booth for Pat and a few guests to sit and enjoy the game together in the corner of the endzone. Think Boogermobile, but not obstructing the view of ticket holders and an actual desirable seating situation. Cheez-It is putting up airfare, hotel and tickets to the game for the best photo/video submission. Additionally, Pat is “coming out of retirement” to kick a football into a giant bowl of cheddar cheese at halftime. Among cheesy promotions I’ve ever seen in my life, this is by far the cheesiest. My wife and I are entering and plan on winning. See you in Phoenix!
Also, not that any of you care, but Pat allegedly jumped into the canal in Broad Ripple years ago. I took shots of liquor with him at Landsharks and Broad Ripple Tavern earlier that night. I am sort of an accomplice? Haha. Again. Allegedly.
For a chance to attend the Cheez-It Bowl with Pat McAfee, share your passion for Cheez-It using photo or video with #CheezPickMePatEntry and tagging @CheezIt on Twitter!