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Gunslingers of the Old West

Mid-majors, specifically the WAC, boast some of the most ridiculous passing records in NCAA history. Hawaii, Boise State, Louisiana Tech, and former SWC member Houston; they loved to throw the ball, but those pass-happy offenses were brought on by necessity: teams weren’t as talented in the trenches as the big boys, and everyone digs the long ball — especially casual fans.

Bob Levey

The WAC teams of the 80's and 90's were fun, exciting and endearing, and helped lift the profile of underdog teams all over the country. The record books are filled with names like Tim Rattay, Case Keenum, Luke McCown, David Klingler, and Colt Brennan.

  • Jason Davis of UNLV attempted 41 passes in ONE QUARTER against Idaho in 1994.
  • David Klingler of Houston attempted 58.5 passes per game for Houston in 1990, and Hawaii's Timmy Chang attempted 2,436 passes in his career.
  • Houston's Andre Ware once had 517 yards passing at the half against SMU in 1989. Klingler threw for 716 yards in a game for Houston a year later. He averaged 467.3 yards per game that year. The next year, he threw six touchdown passes in one quarter against Louisiana Tech. He threw eleven in a game against Washington State.
  • David Neill - a freshman for Nevada - once threw for 611 yards in a game in 1988.
  • Louisiana Tech's Colby Cameron threw 444 consecutive passes without an interception.

You don't see gaudy numbers like this anymore, especially from the power five schools. Heisman candidates Marcus Mariota from Oregon and Bryce Petty from Baylor only attempted 40 attempts once the 2013 regular season. Texas Tech was second in the country with 392.8 yards passing per game.

With the new autonomy structure in place, the division between the Power Five and Group of Five conferences will grow wider. The money will continue to flow to the big boys of college football, and if the Group of Five schools want to continue to compete, they'll need to improve their product.

They need to tap into their inner WAC.

The modern spread won't cut it, there needs to be a full-on air raid revolution across the Grouf of Five. Hawaii and Louisiana Tech may not be going back to the air raid again anytime soon, but it lives on in places like Fresno State and SMU.

Fresno attempted nearly 52 passes a game last year and nearly reached 400 yards per game passing.  SMU was right behind then at 51.5 pass attempts per game. Spread guru Mike Leach's Washington State Cougars still led the nation with 58 pass attempts per game.

A lot of the spread teams run the ball more than they used to. Baylor and Oregon did lead the country in total offense with Fresno State right behind them. Today's spread artists like Gus Malzahn and Tony Franklin are incorporating the run into their attack more and more each year. However, Boise State, Hawaii, Louisiana Tech, and Houston made their mark in different eras with the air raid. We haven't seen the end of it.  With the new power structure in effect, it won't be long before somebody starts slinging the ball all over the field to try and create a level playing field.

So maybe a freshman like LA Tech's Luke McCown, who threw 72 passes against Miami in 2000 and completed 47 against Auburn that same year, will burst on to the scene. UTSA's Blake Bogenschutz threw for 4,003 yards and 57 touchdowns his senior year in Carthage, TX. Will he be the next in a long line of G5 greatness?

Spread 'em out and dice 'em up, you could be the next air raid superstar!