LITTLE ROCK — Right idea, wrong school.
Early on, it was clear that innovative, successful offensive coordinators at FBS schools were high on Arkansas State University’s wish list to succeed Bryan Harsin, and I mentioned a few schools where the OC met the criteria. North Carolina was omitted, but the Tar Heels’ Blake Anderson was on ASU’s radar and he was hired Thursday.
Anderson’s flair for offense is impressive.
The first year Anderson was at North Carolina, the offense set all sorts of school records. Production declined this year, partly because North Carolina had two offensive lineman and a tailback selected in the first three rounds of the NFL draft and partly because the Tar Heels’ record-setting quarterback missed five games.
Anderson’s one year at Lafayette should stand him in good stead since the Ragin’ Cajuns and ASU are in the Sun Belt Conference.
Representing the Sun Belt, ASU is again headed to Mobile, Ala., and alum who traveled to the GoDaddy Bowl the past two years have some tips about routes, rations and restrooms for bowl-going rookies.
Nearing Hattiesburg, Miss., take the I-59 ramp marked New Orleans-Gulf Coast to avoid the seemingly endless stoplights on U.S. 49 through Hattiesburg. Crossing the ‘Bama line, stop for boiled peanuts — either in a Styrofoam cup or a bag — to break up the drone on the predominantly two lane U.S. 98. Forewarned: The fruit stand/boiled peanut place just outside of Mobile doesn’t have restrooms; porta potties are out back.
This advice courtesy of Paul Holmes, who will be making the trip for the third straight year. Contacted independently, Holmes and fellow bowl veteran Chief Deputy Attorney General Brad Phelps agreed on a couple of things. At the top of both lists were the vittles at Wintzell’s Oyster House.
The unofficial headquarters for ASU fans during bowl week, the restaurant claims to be the home of oysters, "fried, stewed and nude." Holmes prefers the latter, although he contends the technical description is topless since the morsels are on the half-shell.
Both Holmes and Phelps also endorse the Mardi Gras-style parade on the night of Jan. 4, about 24 hours before ASU plays Ball State. Holmes suggests getting to Veet’s — a restaurant-bar on Royal Street — in the middle of the afternoon and staking out a table up front to watch the parade. From the floats, folks throw beads, Mardi Gras masks and other trinkets. Moon Pies are also airborne, but the launching pad is in question.
For the past two years, Phelps said, the parade crowd has been a sea of red.
Also popular with the ASU contingent is a catered tailgate event in a huge tent just outside the stadium. Tickets are sold only through the ASU Alumni Association and they go fast.
Touring the USS Alabama battleship received a two thumbs up — one from each man polled. For those willing to admit familiarity with the work of Steven Segal, portions of his movie "Under Siege" were filmed aboard the battleship. Disguised as a lowly petty officer and cook in the 1992 flick, Segal did in all the bad guys who boarded the battleship and saved the world.
Also located in Battleship Memorial Park is a WWII-era submarine. Tours are not for the claustrophobic.
The Renaissance is the team hotel, which guarantees the presence of former players, plus families of current players and coaches. The downtown hotel can be a bit pricey on bowl weekend, but there are several reasonably-priced chain motels along Interstate 65.
Built more than 60 years ago, Ladd-Peebles Stadium is located in a neighborhood so there is little parking available and a shuttle bus is the way to go. For football historians, Bear Bryant made his debut as the Alabama coach at the stadium in 1958, losing to LSU 13-3.
Also worth knowing, January nights are cold in Mobile.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau.