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Angry Birds against the Owls

How Angry Birds Built Nova's Special Teams

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Roc Bellantoni

Special teams is a very technical, but important, part of the game of football. As Coach Roc Bellantoni explained in The Playbook, there is a lot more going on during kickoff plays than might be readily apparent. In order to become effective as a player on special teams at the college level, players need to understand those sort of strategies and work together to execute on some of the most chaotic plays in the game of football.

How? Enter the Angry Birds.

A little over a week ago, Coach Roc tweeted a picture of his "Special Teams Goal Board" — he wanted his guys to make 100% on extra points and field goals within 35 yards, avoid penalties, win the turnover battle, win the net punting battle, win the field position battle and to make explosive plays. There was something else interesting about the board, however, it had an Angry Birds theme.

That popular iPhone/iPad/iWhatever game was all over the special teams visual. Later on, Coach Bellantoni tweeted pictures of Angry Birds themed t-shirts and other references were made to the game. What, however, does that have to do with Villanova football?

The Philadelphia Eagles have a deal with the Angry Birds creators to create an Eagles-themed version of the game and that franchise has participated in some significant promotions recently, including a live-action Angry Birds set-up. Could this be related somehow?

The answer is much simpler.

The special teams coordinator was looking for a way of getting through to his players, to explain what was important. So he paid attention and noticed that Angry Birds seemed to be a popular pastime, and when he thought about it, the game reminded him of special teams.

"You fly down the field and wreck stuff, blow stuff up," he said. "Each bird has a talent or role; one turns into a bomb, one accelerates, etcetera, they do their job unselfishly and with one purpose or goal. When they achieve their goal, knocking down everything, they cheer and move on to the next one."

Essentially, although the birds aren't blocking on a football kickoff, they are applying many of the same principles in their quest to take out the green pigs.

From the first special teams meetings, Angry Birds have been the theme for Villanova. They've embraced it, worn the angry birds shirts and applied the principles on the practice fields. Its outside-the-box, but it has been an effective rallying point and motivator.

Fans won't have to wait long to see Villanova's Angry Birds in action, either. The first special teams play of the game is at 7:00.


For more Mayors Cup coverage, check out yesterday's game preview.

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