CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) - Welcome to the Shooper Bowl.
The Shoop brothers bring an unusual connection between the coaching staffs at North Carolina and William & Mary this weekend.
Both men downplay the thought of the game turning into a chess match between John Shoop’s playmaking offense and Bob Shoop’s defense, but it’s clear the brotherly bond forms the most intriguing subplot of a matchup between one of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s top programs and a Championship Subdivision team looking for another win against one of college football’s big boys.
“This game really isn’t that much about me and Bob. It’s about our players playing William and Mary’s players, and our scheme battling their scheme,” John Shoop said. “It’s about our players blocking theirs, and their players shedding some blocks. That’s really what it’s going to come down to, not how familiar I am with Bob or how familiar he is with me.”
Maybe not, but in this first matchup of Shoop brothers, it can’t hurt the Tar Heels (4-2) to have an offensive coordinator who’s so familiar with the opponent’s defensive mastermind. Then again, perhaps the Tribe (6-1) has the advantage because their defensive coordinator knows how North Carolina’s offensive play-caller thinks.
“We’ve obviously talked enough football during the course of our experience that I know, generally speaking, his philosophy, but I’d say that he also knows mine, so it’s probably a wash in that respect,” Bob Shoop said. “The natural tendency, hopefully, is to not overthink this thing, so you don’t go, ‘Well, he knows that I know this, so therefore ‘ You can kind of get into that game right there.”
This matchup was scheduled well before the brothers were hired weeks apart by their respective schools. John Shoop left the Oakland Raiders and joined Butch Davis’ staff at North Carolina in January 2007, and a month later William & Mary turned to Bob Shoop _ who’s four years older than John _ to solidify the Tribe’s defense.
“It’s not like I called up the Stoops brothers and said, ‘Hey, how do you handle something like this?’” Bob Shoop said, referring to the family that has produced Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, Arizona coach Mike Stoops and Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops.
“I’ve tried to keep my eye on the ball. The coaches have been teasing me and different people have been teasing me about this game for a long time, calling it the Shoop Bowl or things like that, but I really keep trying to keep my focus on the fact that I have a job to do and he has a job to do.”
As brothers tend to be, the Shoops said they were competitive in sports when they grew up outside of Pittsburgh and bonded over that city’s pro teams and Pitt sports.
John Shoop said he didn’t talk to his brother during the offseason, calling it “quite awkward” not being able to speak to “perhaps my most trusted and valued resource,” and said he doesn’t plan to meet up with him before the game. Bob Shoop said he hasn’t seen his younger brother since the Meineke Bowl last year in Charlotte.
“We’re both trying to win this game,” John Shoop said. “I don’t know if it was a conscious decision (to limit contact) … but I’m sure as heck not going to tell him anything and I know he ain’t (going to) tell me anything either.”
AP Sports Writers Aaron Beard in Chapel Hill, N.C., and Hank Kurz Jr. in Richmond, Va., contributed to this report.