The next day was similar to the previous week with meetings and film work but the next game was the first conference game against Charlotte. I now was learning how to deal with a loss even though there is really no true way because not one person ever enters an even or challenge with the intention to lose. I did learn how to manage and keep control of the staff and team. Coach Partridge showed his integrity and control by keeping everyone focused on conference play starting. Winning the conference is a major goal because it can lead to a successful season even after a slow start. I learned more about the running backs in film in regards to their field vision, leverage, pad levels, blocking schemes and being able to read some tendencies due to stances. I enjoy this aspect because I continue to learn and I also get to express my interest but display my knowledge of the game I love. Another long day is over but I still feel energized and now my usual 4 hour drive home.
Game day arrives and I had an easier time arriving to the stadium but I also planned to get there earlier to miss any possible traffic. The staff and I prepared the recruiting room and set up all the manikins with the FAU jerseys as well as placed the helmets on the table for recruits to see. I really enjoyed one helmet that had reflective red chrome paint with the owl logo decorated as the American Flag. All the recruits and their guest also receive a complimentary meal from the University for attending the game as well as entry to the game. I was in the same station checking in recruits and having conversations with recruits and their parents as they entered the stadium. I enjoyed seeing the faces on some of the recruits because it shows how valuable their decision on where to attend college would be and it brings back memories to when I was in their shoes. I enjoyed the process during high school but tearing my ACL placed a large problem on my recruiting. I did talk to a recruit who tore their ACL and we connected and I also connected with his parents. His parents did show concern on their son not being recruited anymore by certain schools but I did give them confidence and spoke to them about alternatives that I have learned by learning the NCAA rule book. One thing I learned was the power of recruiting the mom because they are very influential over the final decision on where their child goes to play football. I was still in the check in area when the game started and I got to listen to the game. The owls came out to a fast start by leading 9-0 while driving just before half to try and add to their lead. A costly turnover in the final drive changed the landscape of the game since Buffalo scored off the turnover and the score at half was 9-7 with FAU leading. I was hoping they would adjust and come out the second half on fire but similar mistakes and fatigue began to set into the Owls. Turnovers in the second half would again be the issue for FAU and Buffalo capitalized on every opportunity. The final score was 33-15 with Buffalo being victorious which would drop the owls to 0-3 in the season. It was very quiet in the locker room after the game and I knew the next day would be the same. When you are selected to win and lose, at home, it does not leave a good taste in your mouth. I helped again with distribution of meals and then departed after but mentally, I was replaying the game and the conversation with the recruit who injured their knee.
The team had a few extra days to prepare for Buffalo since the previous game against Miami was on a Friday night. The team looked prepared and ready to get their first victory of the season. The office work preparations for the game actually busier because more recruits were planning on attending this game. Many wondered why since Miami was the first game but it was also on a Friday night and high schools play their games on Friday nights. I was in charge of making sure the list for coaches, recruits and guests were all up to date and each recruit had their lanyard printed and laminated. The athletes were in and out of the office the day before the game because of last minute meetings but they had to report to the facility by 5pm to prepare to head to the hotel. The whole team and coaches stay in a hotel the day before a game for last minute meetings, meals as a team and to make sure everyone is in bed by curfew. The most important aspect for athletes the night before an event, is to get a good night rest and a good meal. Florida Atlantic does a good job of preparing their student athletes for a game and our football operations does a stellar job making sure it is executed to perfection. I did learn more about the new recruits that were expected to come and I began to do my own research on them to know more about them for conversations. Compliance also was in our office and I got to listen in on the conversation which included some ways we can steer away from any violations as well as what to be careful with mentioning in conversations with recruits. I did a good job staying away from those items but it is imperative to be concise and clear.
The Owls are now 0-2 and next face Buffalo at home which should land the team’s first victory if they play as hard and well as they did against Miami in the first half. The day after the game was full of meetings and reporting to our supervisors on how the recruiting process went as well as game day assignments. I learned some questions to ask and ways we can gauge interest based on certain answers. We all are allowed to place any suggestions on how we can improve as a unit outside of the football team. Upon the completion of the meeting, I took the liberty to break down the Miami game and also help prepare the team and coaches for the game against Buffalo. Film breakdown can take a long time but it also depends what portions are being broken down. I broke down the whole game which can take quite some time but other coaches just break down their side of the ball (offense/defense/special teams). I did learn some new things to look for such as tendencies of coverages and reading the safety more because they tend to give away the defense if it is not already known. I learned more about the 4-3 defense in combination with secondary coverage. I knew most of it but did learn the “Over and Under” aspects as well as a better understanding of gap alignments. The 4-3 front is a “one-gap” scheme and sometimes a “two-gap” technique. Each defender in the front is responsible for a gap versus the run game. These gaps are identified by letters (A,B,C, etc.). When the offense breaks the huddle and lines up, the defensive will then “set” the front with a “closed” call to the tight end side. This is just a small set of information but there is a lot more to go in depth. Once I finished the film, I helped sort the papers that are sent to compliance and ticketing along with sorting out which recruits attended the game. We created a list for future use because those are subjects that can be used in writing letters to commits or recruits. We did not have a large showing which was not a surprise since the game was on a Friday night.
Game day arrived and I was lost for words at the atmosphere. It took me longer than expected to arrive at the stadium due to traffic. I saw seas of green and orange which touched my inner love for Miami but I also saw lots of red and blue which gave me a sense a pride for the school I working with. As I approached the stadium, I could hear chants inside and outside for both schools. It was a great experience for me because it was my first college game as an employee and not a fan. It was an extra blessing to be wearing red and blue because it was September 11th. I was working the recruiting room which was a great experience because of all the different backgrounds the recruits come from. I got my first hand experience of recruiting South Florida. I learned how to listen more than talk to recruits because they will tell you what they are looking for without even asking. Typical conversation is always a plus and football is easy for me to talk about which is an easy ice breaker. I also check-in the recruits so I did get to meet some parents, high school coaches and the recruits “entourage”. I did not get to see the first 8 minutes of the game due to helping at the check-in desk but once I entered the stadium, I had a realization in knowing I know my career path. This moment was the first time I realized I had a passion for college football which was stronger than my passion for the NFL. I did not get to speak to Graham much since he is also helping on the field but I did get to learn more about his on field work which I cannot discuss since it is confidential. I can state that analytics is becoming a large part of football. Florida Atlantic is a heavy underdog in this contest but you could not tell in the first half. The Owls were battling with all they had and entered half time only being down by 3 points (20-17). I was in a state of shock but also excitement because if FAU pulled out this victory, I would witness history being made for the program. The second half did not favor FAU as turnovers and exhaustion began to set it. It seemed as the team lost focus and was unable to regain the composure they possessed in the first half. The final score was 44-20 and FAU only score 3 points in the second half but had too many turnovers to win a highly contested game. After the game was over, everyone was told to be silent because the coaches do not want to hear any conversations or laughs because they just left their heart on the field. I helped the players after by handing out their post game meals and drinks. The night ended later than anticipated because of a rain delay but I was proud to be an Owl.
After a disappointing loss in week 1 at Tulsa (44-47 in overtime), the team began to focus on one of the programs biggest games which also plays a role into the recruiting battle with the University of Miami. I found myself in a challenging position due to the passion I have for the University of Miami but I have learned to separate business from pleasure. I grew up idolizing the program and now it was my turn to be on the opposite side cheering on the Owls. Game week was full of a variety of game day preparations because it would be a sell-out crowd as well as the first game recruits could attend. I found myself taking extra time to reflect on all the preparations for not only the coaches but also the staff in the office working extra hard to have everything prepared for the season home opener. There was plenty of “busy work” such as preparing lanyards for the staff, scouts, recruits, and game day staff. Our office is also responsible for communicating with compliance to make sure all of the student athletes are cleared and to make sure there are no NCAA violations when recruits are at the game. I also took the time to evaluate our opponent’s film from their first game against Bethune Cookman and I also reviewed some games from last year. These notes were then given to one of our graduate assistant coaches to use at their disposal. I learned more how to use the XOS Digital platform and how much easier it makes to watch game film. I enjoyed being able to make notes on the screen as I watched and using the remote to rewind or place plays in slow motion. I spoke to some of the coaches briefly to learn how they prepare for a big match up and many gave different answers but the similarities were focus and stick to the plans. This day left me with also a variety of office work such as laminating, sorting credentials, finalizing guest lists. I also made sure everyone received their copy of the itinerary. I did some work today with the Football Operations Director, Heather Henderson, and she broke down how she prepared the orders for hotels, post meal, pre game meals and all of the game day locker room needs. Tomorrow is the big game and the hours are long but move quickly.