ROUGH N' TUMBLE

Ken Hoffman catches up with the new voice of Houston's XFL team

Photo courtesy of Houston Roughnecks

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

The Houston Roughnecks begin their debut season in the XFL (2.0) on Sunday, February 9, at TDECU Stadium on the University of Houston campus. Their first opponent is the dreaded L.A. Wildcats with kickoff at 4 pm. Tickets, starting at $24 for the lower bowl, are available online.

The game will be televised nationally on FOX (that's Channel 26 in these here parts). But even better, this game and the entire 10-game season will be broadcast on ESPN 97.5 FM. The station's morning host John Granato will handle play-by-play duties. Here are 10 questions for the radio voice of the Houston Roughnecks.

CultureMap: What will be your main challenges in calling XFL play-by-play?

John Granato: I don't foresee much in the way of challenges. Meeting with XFL people, they're doing everything to make it a first-class presentation. We'll have everything we need. I haven't done play-by-play in a while but I'm very confident in my ability. It's always been a dream of mine to be the voice of a team so it's more exciting than anything.

CM: How did you get the job? Did you audition?

JG: Actually, I got a call out of the blue from team president Brian Michael Cooper. He said they wanted me to do it and I said yes. I'm thrilled they had this kind of confidence in me.

CM: The press box is pretty far up and away at TDECU Stadium. Will you have a spotter in your ear?

JG: Not in my ear. There'll be someone sitting with us up there working stats and making notes but no one in my ear. It's on me to know the players and the situations.

CM: When was the last time you did play-by-play?

JG: I did a lot of stuff when I was at Channel 51. We produced UH and Rice football, basketball, and baseball games. It was a while ago, but I haven't forgotten.

CM: Have you memorized the rules that are different from the NFL, for example extra points and the kicking game? What do you think of the different rules?

JG: We've gone over them, but it'll definitely be different. I like a lot of the stuff. The games will go faster. There'll be more offense. Kicks and punts are way different and that will take some getting used to, but just because it's not traditional doesn't mean it's bad. I hope everyone keeps an open mind. Who knows? Some stuff might be better and adopted by other leagues.

CM: Are you going to practices to get to know the players?

JG: Yes. I'll be there a lot.

CM: Is June Jones good for quotes and easy to work with, or is he a [New England Patriots head coach] Bill Belichick mumbler?

JG: He's not Belichick, thank goodness. He's been very receptive to helping and promoting the game and the team. We all have to do our part to get the word out. That's why I'm essentially writing this column for your lazy ass. (Ken's note: that's 1, Granato.)

Continue on CultureMap to learn how an XFL broadcast differ from a typical NFL broadcast, and more.

Roughnecks vs Battlehawks

XFL Week 2 preview

Photo courtesy of Houston Roughnecks

Your Houston Roughnecks take on the St. Louis Battlehawks this Sunday at 5pm at TDECU Stadium.

A few things to expect from St. Louis this week.

  • QB Talk. They don't have a PJ Walker but the Battlehawks DO have Jordan Ta'amu. The former Ole Miss QB isn't just going to throw the ball around. He's a runner… And pretty good at it. He also avoided throwing any interceptions in his XFL appearance last weekend.
  • RUN. Speaking of running, this team played more conservative in their game against Dallas. Unlike most of the teams in this league, the Battlehawks offense avoided airing the ball out too much. Instead, they stuck to the run game... SUCCESSFULLY. They racked up the most rushing yards in the leagues' debut. Look to see a few different backs attack the ground.
  • DEFENSE. The secondary in particular stood out last week. DB Darius Hilary and Safety Dexter McCoil combined for 13 tackles and 4 assists. LB Terence Garvin caught fans attention with his 6 tackles and 2 assists.
  • PENALTIES. No this is the Tampa Bay Bucs BUT St. Louis did rack up their fair share of penalties in game one. Most were due to false starts. (One would assume this was a key issue to work on in practice this week but it's worth noting.)

Yesterday I spoke with Roughnecks Offensive Coordinator, Chris Miller. Here's what he had to say about last week's game.

"PJ Walker was obviously the hot topic of the week, was the transition to this offense as easy as PJ made it look?"

Chris Miller: "Well, I think PJ obviously did a nice job. He played very well in the game, managed it well. Got out and made some plays with his legs outside of the pocket. I think you have to give June Jones a lot of credit with the amount of reps we've put in since early December. In training camp we probably worked more than most, I know we had a few two a day sessions. In terms of the install and what June put in, what PJ's been able to grasp. A lot of its due to how many reps he's got. We've been able to hit the ground running."

"The XFL has this new offense the fans are really into. The DC Defenders showed out with their new trick plays last week. Do we have any big surprises in the playbook?"

Chris Miller: "Well we have a few wrinkles hidden up our sleeve, but if I told ya I'd have to kill ya. I can't do that... I think that's a move line. I'm just kidding but we've been reppin' a few things and working. We have some in our repertoire, we'll see if we will need to pull them out and you'll be one of the first to know."

"I noticed we're going for a lot of 2pt conversions, is there a thought process behind the PATs? Is it all situational?"

Chris Miller: "Well I think right now we're all learning about it. It's kind of going by feel right now. If you score first, you're thinking let's go for one and be up a conventional 7-0, but LA scored first and I think they missed their conversion or they may have gone for 1 so then you try to either match them or maybe go up 8 to 7. So my theory is, if you go for 4… if you go for two 2 point plays form the 5 and you hit them, that's 4 points. And if you go for four 1 point plays from the 2 and you only get two out of four then you're only getting 2 points for that. So it's kind of mathematical theories but I think as the game goes along, it's more situational how many points you want to be up at that time. There's no exact science to it so I think right now it's kind of new and we have to feel it out. It's interesting."

"How much improvement do you expect to see from your team and league wide in game 2?"

Chris Miller: "We've all got one week under our belt, one game. I think there was a lot of good football put on from what I watched. At the end of the day, it was new and there was a lot of uncertainty as to what we would see and what we would put out there. I think you just trust in your training and then it becomes football. STL is a very good team. They have a big defense, they're a physical bunch. It's a good group. I think it'll be a good challenge for us but maybe some of the areas we were a little bit rough in or didn't execute well we hope to see improvement in those areas."

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