|No. 19 Tulsa's road takes Malzahn back to Arkansas|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 29 October 2008 12:45|
With the resources and recruiting base of a bigger school, could his creative attack have even gaudier totals than the 55.6 points and 601 yards the Golden Hurricane are averaging? Or would his system crumble at that level of competition?
Malzahn had the briefest of opportunities to answer those questions in a drama-filled season at Arkansas (2-4), and now a scheduling twist takes him back there this Saturday as Tulsa (8-0) faces its biggest nonconference test in its attempt to become the next BCS buster.
ingdale High School after its 14-0 season and Class 5A championship in 2005.
He was going to be in charge of the play-calling as Houston Nutt's offensive coordinator, and the Razorbacks even signed a few touted recruits from Springdale, including quarterback Mitch Mustain and wide receiver Damian Williams.
It was Malzahn's chance at the big time - except that's not how it worked out.
Instead of using his wide-open offense, the Razorbacks relied - understandably - on the NFL-bound tandem of Heisman Trophy runner-up Darren McFadden and Felix Jones on their way to the 2006 SEC West title. After that, Malzahn took his playbook and joined old friend Todd Graham across the state line at Tulsa.
The results have been astounding. The Golden Hurricane, who'd developed a steady offense under Steve Kragthorpe, took it to another stratosphere with Malzahn calling the shots.
Tulsa led the nation in offense last season with 544 yards per game and then showed it wasn't a fluke with even more crazy numbers this season.
If Malzahn feels like rubbing that success in Arkansas' face, he certainly won't admit it. He's been about as tightlipped as can be when it comes to his former team, saying he doesn't ``need to be distracted by anything, and that's the honest truth.''
t,'' Malzahn said, shrugging off the notion that he has hard feelings about his time with the Razorbacks.
``We've got a chance to do something unbelievably special.''
Arkansas is certainly a special place for Malzahn, who grew up in Fort Smith and can't remember missing a game in the series with Tulsa that's been dominated by the Razorbacks. Arkansas has won 16 straight since Tulsa's last win in 1976.
He's also got two former Springdale players in kicker Alex Tejada and tight end Ben Cleveland on the Razorbacks still, and there's plenty of others he coached or recruited only two years ago.
``I'm very familiar with a lot of people. I recruited a lot of the guys. Some of them are my old high-school players,'' Malzahn said. ``It'll probably be interesting, but this week is really going to be about our team, about our team having a chance to reach some goals.''
Malzahn will play a large part in that. His no-huddle spread offense is the signature element of Tulsa's best start in 66 years, and the Golden Hurricane have scored in every quarter this season.
n defense with other plays that they run.''
Nutt saw enough in Malzahn, who wrote a book on his no-huddle attack, to bring him to Fayetteville but that hurry-up pace hardly saw the light of day. As the passing game faltered late in the year, there was constant speculation about how much control Malzahn really had.
Although the coaches presented a unified front, Malzahn left shortly after the season. Both Williams and Mustain transferred to Southern California, and the Razorbacks endured a turmoil-filled 2007 before Nutt left to take over at Mississippi.
``We gave him a great opportunity to get from high school to college,'' Nutt said. ``The thing that he has is excellent imagination and creativity - does a good job of putting some defenses in some very tough situations.''
Nutt's departure could take some of the soap opera aspect out of Malzahn's return, since only defensive tackles coach Bobby Allen is left from the staff Malzahn worked with.
Still, it's enough to get fans talking - just like when Graham gets ready for his annual game against Rice, where he coached for one year before reneging on a contract extension to come back to Tulsa.
``Too much is made out of that kind of stuff. You have coaches that leave different places. If I told you every detail of my departure from Rice, there are two sides to every story,'' Graham said.
n's) deal. The key is in coaching, you better look, do your research and make sure you fit a place. That's the key to being successful.''
AP Sports Writer Noah Trister in Little Rock, Ark., and Associated Press writer Justin Juozapavicius in Tulsa contributed to this report.