BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Auburn coach Gus Malzahn was in his second year leading a high school program when he watched Florida State’s Bobby Bowden turn up the tempo with a quarterback who was on his way to the Heisman Trophy.
He figures maybe that Charlie Ward-led offense in 1993 was a precursor to the wave of fast-paced offenses that have helped Malzahn and others win big and even sparked a proposal to change the rules.
“I was telling Coach on the way over here, I was watching Charlie Ward when they were playing shotgun and they’d go back and they’d start playing with pace,” Malzahn said Sunday. “I think Coach is one of those guys that kind of started a lot of this wide-open offense, so (Ward) could definitely run our offense.”
On Sunday, Malzahn received the Bowden Award named after the former Seminoles coach, a Birmingham native who coached them to the first of his two national titles in 1993.
The 5-year-old award is selected by the National Sports Writers and Sports Broadcasters of America and the Over The Mountain Touchdown Club.
Former Georgia coach Vince Dooley received the lifetime achievement award.
Florida State beat Auburn 34-31 on a touchdown pass by another Heisman winner, Jameis Winston, with 13 seconds left.
Nearly two months later, tempo is a hot topic.
The NCAA playing rules oversight panel could vote Thursday on a proposal to allow defenses time to substitute between plays by prohibiting offenses from snapping the ball until 29 seconds are left on the 40-second play clock.
Bowden’s against the rule until it’s shown that the fast pace leads to more players getting hurt, as proponents like Arkansas’ Bret Bielema and Alabama’s Nick Saban have argued.
“People like offense,” Bowden said. “Unless they can just show me evidence that boys are injured by doing that, I say leave it alone. Leave it like it is.”
Dooley ended his 24-year tenure as Georgia’s head coach in 1988. He said sometimes defenses just take some time to catch up with offensive innovations and when they do, coaches come up with a new way to get an edge.
Dooley asked Malzahn to explain the 10-second rule, which would penalize offenses 5 yards for snapping too quickly. It was an exchange between an old-school coach and one who’s part of the vanguard of no-huddle offenses.
Dooley: “What is the normal time y’all have been snapping?”
Malzahn: “It varies.”
Dooley: “Have you ever gone under 10?”
Malzahn: “At times.”
Bowden was more up to date on the rule but also reminisced about when he started skipping the huddle at times besides the final two minutes of the first half and game.
“We kind of stumbled into what they’re doing now, although they do it faster,” he said. “But when Charlie Ward was a senior, we found out that … every time he got in the two-minute offense, we scored. So the next year we said, `We’re going to use the two-minute offense.’
“We’d put Charlie in there and no-huddle. We even called it the Kentucky Derby. (Saying) we’re going to fly. We did it pretty good but not like they do now. They’ve really got it souped-up now.”
Dooley, meanwhile, raved about the job Malzahn did in his first season at Auburn, which was 3-9 in 2012. The Tigers went 12-2 last season and won the Southeastern Conference title.
Dooley said Malzahn “should have won every coach of the year award in this country.” The Tigers beat Georgia on a Hail Mary pass and then topped Alabama on a 109-yard return of a missed field goal.
“I thought the Auburn football team the year before was about as poor a football team as I’ve seen in this league,” Dooley said. “Any time you have a year like that, you’ve got to have some good things fall out of the heavens and some good things did fall out of the heavens. I’ve seen it once, but I haven’t seen it back to back.
“The team is extremely well coached, well disciplined, so there’s no doubt in my mind the best coaching job last year in the country was done by coach Malzahn.”