They’re a matched pair of opposites. The University of Nevada offense is brand new to the Air Raid, and its coordinator has known it intimately since its inception.
Matt Mumme was attending junior high in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, in 1989 when his father, then-Iowa Wesleyan coach Hal Mumme, pieced together the Air Raid offense in collaboration with assistant Mike Leach.
Almost three decades later, Generation I of the Air Raid faces Generation II on Saturday (3 p.m., Pac-12 Networks) at Martin Stadium when a Washington State team (3-0) coached by Leach plays a Nevada club (0-3) whose first-year offensive coordinator is Matt Mumme.
As Leach routinely mentions prior to these types of matchups, there won’t be much “memory lane stuff” as the game approaches. But the memories are there, as palpable as the game film that plays such a central role in coaches’ lives.
“Shoot, I have fond memories from before even VHS – it was reels of film on a projector,” Matt Mumme (the surname is two syllables: MUH-mee) said by phone this week from Reno, Nev.
“They had to get it all cut up and taped together and all that stuff. I remember those days and just the fun of being around not only my dad but coach Leach. Just growing up in the Air Raid. That’s all I really know.”
He’s not kidding.
Mumme was a quarterback at Kentucky – a backup to Tim Couch – when his father employed the Air Raid there in the late 1990s, with Leach as offensive coordinator. Later as a coach, the younger Mumme assisted his father at New Mexico State and other schools, then ran the Air Raid on his own as OC at Davidson in North Carolina and as head coach the past four years at LaGrange, an NCAA Division III school in Georgia. (Hal Mumme, too, has been coaching D-III football in recent years, at Belhaven in Mississippi.)
So that’s what Matt Mumme, 42, said when newly hired Nevada coach Jay Norvell phoned him out of the blue and offered him an OC job: The Air Raid was all he really knew.
But that’s what Norvell wanted. He’d spent time at Oklahoma, which was still using elements of the Air Raid that Leach had installed as OC in 1999. And last year Norvell worked with Chip Lindsey, who sprinkled similar concepts into his spread-option schemes as OC at Arizona State.
It’s been a rugged initiation at Reno for Norvell, Mumme and their version of the Air Raid, which probably lacks both the personnel and the experience level to make it hum. The young, winless Wolf Pack are coming off an embarrassing 30-28 home loss to Idaho State, an FCS school that hadn’t upset an FBS opponent in 17 years.
Mumme started a true freshman quarterback, Kaymen Cureton, who has kept the ball almost as many times as he’s completed a pass – not a very Air Raidish statistic.
The Wolf Pack’s slow start is no surprise at Washington State, where Leach went 3-9 in two of his first three seasons before nabbing back-to-back bowl bids the past two years.
“The biggest thing in this offense is just pure repetition,” Mumme said, echoing Leach’s thoughts to a T, “just getting time on the field to do it. We’re young. The two big spots where we’re doing well are O-line and our running backs. But I don’t think we’re anywhere near where we want to be in the passing game.”
Success at running back is a tradition at Nevada, where then-coach Chris Ault (with help from now-WSU running-backs coach Jim Mastro) created the run-friendly pistol offense in 2004. As it happens, Matt Mumme is a fan of the pistol, having adopted elements of it a few years ago to lend unpredictability to his pass protection. He’s now doing the same thing at Reno, with help from the retired Ault.
“Getting the opportunity to come here with coach Norvell and getting to pick Chris Ault’s brain, with all he’s done on offense here at the University of Nevada, was pretty cool,” Mumme said.
Other concepts Mumme is propagating are foreign to his players. He’s been helped by the presence of receiver Kaleb Fossum, a former WSU walk-on who transferred to Nevada this year so he could be on scholarship. Fossum caught four passes in a season-opening 31-20 loss at Northwestern, but is sidelined at the moment with a knee injury.
So the connections between the Nevada and Wazzu programs are striking. Mastro is one of three former Wolf Pack coaches on Leach’s staff, the others being Ken Wilson and Derek Sage.
“You can’t throw a dead cat without hitting somebody from Nevada around here,” Leach said.
Reunions aren’t Leach’s cup of tea when they conflict with football business. But he took a moment to recall Matt Mumme’s initiation to the Air Raid as a teenager.
His father “always watched a ton of film, so you know that Matt didn’t have any choice on the subject,” Leach said. “I mean, if I was watching film at the house, he’s going to drag Matt in and make him watch it. ‘Hey, Matt, what do you think of that?’ Matt says, ‘Hey I think I want to go to bed.’ Hal says, ‘Too bad, we’re going to go ahead and talk about this stick route. What do you think if we do it like this and motion to this?’
“And so I think over time Matt gave in,” Leach said, “and has been a real successful coach.”