Football isn’t always beautiful and yesterday afternoon’s opener against the Holzgerlingen Twister, at times, was very ugly. But, ugly or pretty doesn’t matter if the score’s in your favor at the end. It was, so this cold, wet and sloppy Sunday was a great day to be a Razorback.
Before I describe the game, a little bit about the atmosphere. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a football game in Germany has a different feel than in the States, but the disorientation started early. The players line up numerically for a “pass check” where each player’s paperwork was compared to the actual player. “Typical German need of rules and order,” I’m told by several Razorbacks.
The crowd was likely kept down by the weather, but I was struck by how quiet everything was. No bands, no PA system announcing play outcomes, and except for big plays, no fans cheering. I could hear the QB and defensive calls, I could here the pads popping and the players grunting and straining as though I was at a practice. The strangest thing of all though was the absence of a game clock…more on this later.
The first half was frustrating. We were unable to get anything going, often getting into 2nd and 3rd and long situations; Tough spots when we hadn’t established much of a running game, and the defense could commit to stopping the pass. Luckily, our defense played just as well as theirs and we went into the half tied 0-0.
The game changed in the 3rd quarter. After another defensive stop, we gain 6 yards on a inside run…(2nd and 4!!!) On the next play, a nicely thrown pass across the middle to receiver Michael Mayer and a tough run after the catch and we’re finally on the board: 7-0 Razorbacks. Another three and out, a blocked punt, recovered on the 2. A short field leads to a quick score: 14-0 Razorbacks, just like that.
The Twister threaten, moving the ball deep into our territory before fumbling on the one yard line. What followed is something I’ve never seen before, a 20 play 97 yard drive…but no points. We finally get into a rhythm , running inside zone repeatedly, and grinding all the way to the Twister 2-yard line before a holding penalty stalls the drive. After a third down incompletion, the head coach tells me I might as well call a 4th down play because less than two minutes remain. This is how I find out the game is effectively over. Without a clock, I hadn’t realized that we’d run out most of the fourth quarter. The failure to convert is disappointing, but the 20 play drive was the most rewarding series of the day for the Razorback offense. Final Score; Razorback 14, Twister 0.
Winning is winning and though the surroundings are unfamiliar, the feeling of exhilaration and relief isn’t markedly different than in the States… We were sloppy, but the Twister is supposed to be a good team and we definitely won the 2nd half and showed glimpses of what we can do. It’s also rewarding for a coach when all three side have significant contributions. The defense gave us a shutout, the special teams gave us a short field by blocking a punt and the offense iced the game with a long drive.
Now, we have three weeks off until our first league game against the Pforzheim Wild Dogs. Enough time to fix some of the problems we saw today.