O’Collegian, Daily Trojan offer solid follow-up football stories

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Oklahoma State's O'Collegian focuses on special teams play in its follow-up coverage.

Oklahoma State

Balls ricocheting into nets, special teams breaking tackles, and runners packing together to win a cross country event. College sportswriters focused on these, and other, angles during the first full week of sports on campuses across the country.

Here are some of the high (and low) lights.

Here’s a terrific lead by O’Collegian writer David Youngblood on Oklahoma State’s special teams play on Saturday.

Dez Bryant was surprised by what he saw.

As he returned the first punt of the game against Washington State, Bryant got a block from a teammate, made a cut and turned upfield.

Suddenly, there was no one left in front of him.

“I was excited when I saw open field,” Bryant said. “I couldn’t believe it, to be honest.”

A WSU player would eventually chase down Bryant, but not before he had returned the punt 42 yards and set the tone for a dominating performance by Oklahoma State’s special teams.

OSU rode big returns and an improved defensive performance to a 39-13 victory Saturday against the Cougars in Seattle.

Youngblood focuses on a key play, describing it through the eyes of player who returned a punt 42 yards. Then, the writer ties this play to an overall theme. It is an excellent story. The writer also cites coach Mike Gundy and three players. Would have liked some comments from Washington State’s coaches and players, something that could have been culled from the game interviews or from follow-up phone calls but I know it can be difficult tracking down sources on Labor Day.

The Daily Trojans’ Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz does an equally fine job in a follow-up to Southern Cal’s 52-7 rout of Virginia. He describes a key play, puts it in perspective and speaks with several key players and coaches at USC.

Here are a few other football game stories to check out.

Daniel, Williams direct Arch Rivalry shootout.

Tar Heels take season opener, barely

Rodriguez and co. can’t come away with win in opener

I love a good cross country story, perhaps because too many young writers believe such beats are not as worthy as football or basketball. (And partly because I ran myself.) If anything, readers and sports editors are more impressed when these stories are covered just as thoroughly as football.

Here is another cross country (who should never, ever be called ‘harriers’) story to check out this week. The Daily Iowan focuses on the importance of pack running.

Some other things to consider when covering cross country:
Convert distances from metric to English standard. Sadly, most readers are not able to tell you that a 6K run is 3.75 miles. (You can slip in the fact that a 5K race is a 3.1-mile event somewhere later in the story.) Plus, try to convert times to pace per mile, writing that ‘someone averaged 5:08 per mile,’ something that is more accessible than writing that someone ran 18:45 for 6K. That’s a foreign language to most non-runners. In addition, find a feature angle when covering sports like cross country, swimming and wrestling, among others. Devout fans will read anything on these sports, but you need to attract the non-fans as well. So approach these stories with the eyes of a coach but with the perspective of an unknowing fan.

Don’t bury leads Get right to the key angle or play. Do not offer background or a general overview like “All good things take time.” The following lead delays the main angle, that Indiana scored twice at the 78th minute to knock off a ranked team.

The IU women’s soccer team (1-2-0) came into the Aggie Soccer Invitational unranked and winless. The other three teams in the tournament were all ranked in the top 14, but the Hoosiers were able to leave Texas with a split in the weekend’s games.

IU picked up its first win of the season Friday night, defeating No. 14 Tennessee 2-0, its first win versus a ranked opponent since it defeated then-No. 13 USC last year. On Sunday, the Hoosiers fell to the host Texas A&M, 3-1.

The game was deadlocked at a 1-1 tie until the Aggies scored twice in the 78th minute.

This story does a pretty good job of offering key facts about a game played 10-plus hours away, too far away to send writers. Instead, the newspaper staff planned well by apparently using the school’s press release and by calling players.

Here are a few other soccer gamers to check out.
■ The Daily Tar Heel poses some intriguing questions in a lead (although I would have liked more answers and details), the Maneater revealed how Missouri adjusted its attack to defeat Auburn, and the Daily Eastern News describes a shot that ricocheted into the goal to break a tie game.

Don’t just offer stats I’m noticing many volleyball stories are really recaps of stats, where writers focus on how many kills, blocks and digs players have. That’s pretty darned boring – especially if the writer attended the game. (Beat writers are required to attend games they cover, right?) Find stories, trends and angles that are cultivated by attending practices and regularly speaking with key people on the team. The Red and Black, for instance, focused more on Georgia’s coach earning a milestone victory.

Show, don’t tell Here’s a story that relies too heavily on telling: “After falling behind 5-0 in the first game, the Frogs got it together and cruised through the second and third games, tightening their passing and hitting along the way.” (Glad to hear the Frogs were hip and relaxed. But this story does not explain how the team worked together and tightened passes?) Writers need to offer reasons and examples for all assessments. If you do not feel as confident on a beat, ask coaches and players to explain the games to you before, or after, a practice. That way, you will learn the sport better and the players and fans will get a more informed report. This takes time, so be patient.

Avoid cliches like the plague Found a few of these in stories this morning – “opened the flood gates,” “started to click,” “the second half was all blue and orange,” “got on the board,” “imposed her will from the left side to the tune of 14 kills,” and “Johnson was once a wrecking ball for UCLA.”

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One Response to “O’Collegian, Daily Trojan offer solid follow-up football stories”

  1. How to Get Six Pack Fast Says:

    I read your blog for a long time and must tell you that your posts are always valuable to readers.

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