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Offensive coordinator Brian Scott's affinity for run-and-shoot produces air raid at ODU

Brian Scott coordinates the Football Championship Subdivision's most prolific offense, and Saturday his Old Dominion air raid left fans, statisticians and New Hampshire's defense breathless.

Monarchs 64, Wildcats 61.

But like a rapper who chills with opera, or a poet who indulges in pulp fiction, Scott's off-the-job tastes in football run counter to expectations.

LSU 9, Alabama 6.

"That's what I like to watch," Scott said of last season's overtime collision between the No. 1 Tigers and No. 2 Crimson Tide. "A lot of strategy involved in that game. Good, hard football."

In style and pace, could two games be more different?

Alabama and LSU combined for 535 yards and no touchdowns in 118 snaps that November evening. ODU and New Hampshire combined for 1,549 yards and 16 touchdowns in 195 snaps.

The Tide and Tigers threw 46 passes. The Monarchs and Wildcats threw 117.

So how did this former wing-T, high school quarterback come to directing an offense that Saturday attempted 79 passes and ran the ball on back-to-back plays only three times?

"It's kind of been an evolution of a lot of different studies," Scott said. "I was always really intrigued with the old run-and-shoot. … A lot of video study when I got into coaching."

Scott entered the ranks as a high school assistant after graduating from Maine in 2000. A self-described "very average" quarterback with more toughness than talent, he started as a senior in 1999, passing for 192 yards per game as the Black Bears endured a 4-7 season.

His position coach was Bobby Wilder, now ODU's head coach. The two reunited when Scott joined Maine's staff in 2004, and when Wilder headed south to restart the Monarchs' dormant program, he asked Scott to run the offense.

"Even though I'd been a long-time offensive coordinator when I was hired here," Wilder said, "I completely turned the reins over to Brian because of how much I trust him, how hard he works in his preparation, and (his) attention to detail in terms of teaching fundamentals and techniques."

In a program that relies on homegrown Hampton Roads recruits, Scott finally had his chance to be the mad scientist. Play fast, spread the field, give skill players the space to showcase their athleticism.

The results are stunning for a start-up. From 2009-11, ODU ranked fifth, eighth and fifth nationally in scoring, averaging between 33.6 and 36.7 points per game.

Through four games this season, the Monarchs lead all of FCS in scoring (59 points per game), passing offense (491.3 yards per game) and total offense (669.8 yards per game). They produced 824 yards against New Hampshire as quarterback Taylor Heinicke set national records with 730 yards passing and 791 total offense.

"If we were up in the Northeast, we probably wouldn't be running this," Scott said. "We'd be back to the tight end stuff, more pro style, trying to pound it. But we're fortunate to be in the 757 area that we can find skill guys, and fortunately we got Taylor as a quarterback to make it real fun."

Heinicke hails from suburban Atlanta and inherited the starting job last season as a true freshman when senior incumbent Thomas DeMarco sustained a high ankle sprain.

"It all starts with the quarterback," Scott said. "We weren't doing this when DeMarco was here. We were a little more like Oregon. He was more of a runner. … Taylor does more of the air raid (passing) stuff well, so that's what we're going to do."

The offenses Scott studies include Oregon, Houston and West Virginia. The Cougars last season with Case Keenum and the Mountaineers last year and this with Geno Smith are better role models given their passing skills.

"We've got our own philosophy here that we've put in place," Scott said. "Just maybe steal a little thing here and there, but it's more building off what our kids do well."

And it's not just Heinicke. Nick Mayers, Blair Roberts, Antonio Vaughan and Larry Pinkard rank among the Colonial Athletic Association's top 10 in receiving yards. The offensive line has allowed only five sacks as fourth-ranked ODU (4-0) prepares for Saturday's game at Richmond.

Wilder's faith in, and history with, Scott and quarterbacks coach Ron Whitcomb, another former Maine signal caller, trump any temptation to micromanage.

"We love to debate, talk about and research situations that come about in a game," Wilder said. "That's how we prepare for games. That's how we practice. When you have some guys who are calling your plays and coaching your quarterbacks who are adept at situational football what you end up seeing, like we saw Saturday from our offense, is a group of kids, they don't panic, they don't give up. They think they've got an opportunity to be successful because they've practiced different situations like that."

ODU rallied from a 47-24 deficit early in the third quarter and set the bar plenty high for the rest of the season. The improbable victory is yet another reason for a Bowl Subdivision program looking for an offensive makeover to consider Scott.

You may recall that before becoming Oregon's offensive coordinator in 2007, current Ducks head coach Chip Kelly coordinated New Hampshire's offense for eight years. ODU pays Scott $115,000, but while high-end for FCS, that pales to what an FBS school can offer.

"Right now I'm focused on getting ready for Richmond," Scott said. "When the season's over you obviously visit that stuff."

ODU's season is far from over, and Scott insists the offense can improve: Fewer dropped passes, better pass protection, quicker reads.

"If we look at (New Hampshire) like this was it, we've reached the pinnacle, then we're not going to go where we need to go," Scott said.

Where the Monarchs can and ought to go with this offense is the national playoffs, and beyond. Don't expect any 9-6 games.

David Teel can be reached at 757-247-4636 or by email at dteel@dailypress.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/ teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP

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