Western Michigan HC Tim Lester after a win over Pitt.

One of the fascinating elements of football can be the chess match between one team’s offensive playcalling and another team’s defensive coverages. Teams certainly have repeated tendencies on both sides of the ball, which is part of why film study can be so important. But even by those standards, it’s remarkable to hear a coach say that his team knew exactly what to expect from the opposing defense…because of the coverages the opposing head coach called in a game six years ago.

That’s what Western Michigan Broncos head coach Tim Lester said after his team’s 44-41 upset of the Pitt Panthers Saturday, though. That win was Western Michigan’s first win over a Power Five school in five years, and they were a 15-point underdog going in. But as per Will Graves of The Associated Press, Lester said afterwards his team extensively studied tape from the Syracuse Orange game against Pitt in 2015 (Lester was the Syracuse OC then), and Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi’s defense remained remarkably similar six years later.

That feels like the scene in Patton where the titular U.S. general (played by George C. Scott) shouts to the desert that he knew what to expect from opposing general Erwin Rommel thanks to reading Rommel’s 1937 book Infantry Attacks:

Of course, offenses are always going to know at least some of the coverages to expect from a defense after even just a couple weeks of tape. And many coaches use at least a somewhat-similar scheme from year to year, and that doesn’t always end up badly; the key is bringing in enough tweaks so that it’s not entirely predictable.

But the specific quotes here from Lester are remarkable, especially considering that he’s referencing a game from six years ago, not one from last week. It seems surprising that so much of the information on Narduzzi’s defense from six years ago remains so current. And that’s maybe an even bigger incentive for some change at Pitt than a home loss to a MAC team alone would be.

[Will Graves on Twitter, The Associated Press; photo from Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously worked at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.