If you listen to the podcast this week, you’ll hear us talking about the Option Offense Plays of the Week. We typically do two:
- My favorite play from the Army game.
- A different option offense look from somewhere else in college football.
Deciding on a favorite play from the Army game was tough this week. I thought QB Kelvin Hopkins’s 19-yard run on 3rd-and-6 from the Colgate 22 in the final minutes of the 4th quarter was arguably the game’s most important play. But I chose the triple-option pitch to SB Kell Walker on Army’s second drive as my favorite because we talked about this specific set in this exact kind of situation last week. Plus, Walker showed outstanding individual effort in a high leverage spot. Army went up by two touchdowns because he made a great play.
The play started just after Colgate stuffed a Dive for no-gain on 1st down from their own 12. That gave Army 2nd-and-10 inside the red zone in a critical situation. Positive yardage would put Army in four-down territory with a chance to go up by 14. Another stuff would’ve meant 3rd-and-10—and a very real risk of having to settle for a field goal. Colgate had moved the ball pretty effectively with their read-option offense, so points were important.
As with my favorite play last week, the Black Knights set up in a bunch set with two receivers out wide. As I said, this was exactly the kind of set we were looking for in exactly this kind of situation. A lot of times, OC Brent Davis likes to run out of a bunch set with two tight ends tight to the formation. The offense then runs to the short side of the field in an attempt to flat-out hammer the defense. That’s fine, especially with a guy like Ahmad Bradshaw at quarterback because he’s very elusive in traffic. However, it does sometimes lead to “running into the wall” as Coach Monken put it in his post-game press conference.
We saw a lot of that in the second half of the Air Force game.
The two wide receiver set makes sense in long yardage situations this year because Hopkins is a legitimate passing threat. Army doesn’t necessarily throw a lot on 2nd-and-long, but they do it often enough that defenses have to pay real attention to those two wide receivers. This then opens up space for the offense to work, giving them room to get a little more creative.
Hopkins took the snap under center, faked to the fullback, took a step to the left, and then pitched to Walker. The defense crashed down on FB Andy Davidson, who sold the Dive by barreling into and through the D-Line, before coming after Hopkins. This in turn gave Walker a half-step on the nearest defender. Walker turned the corner and fought his way forward, doing an outstanding job of keeping his balance on the sideline. He got good yardage right off but kept fighting forward. I thought he scored—even after looking at the replay—but they called him out at the Colgate 3. That gave Army a short 1st-and-goal, and FB Darnell Woolfolk scored on the next play.
Army 14, Colgate 0.
The other Option Offense Play of the Week is actually a two-play series from Tulane’s loss to Houston last week. The Green Wave run a variation of the triple-option out of a spread set using the zone-read as their base play. The quarterback typically takes the ball out of the shotgun with a running back in motion. After the snap, the quarterback can either hand off or keep. If he hands off, the play becomes a power run. If he keeps, the play (usually) becomes a quarterback counter or a pass. He can also theoretically pitch, but that’s not common. Usually, this offense is Dive/Keep/Pass.
In the clip, the quarterback fakes the Dive and drops back, completing a pass deep over the middle. This is open because the defense is spread so thin that they have no idea where the ball is going. It could go anywhere!
The next play is the same, but it’s a hand-off. Again, the defense can’t get bodies to the ball-carrier fast enough because they have to cover so many different avenues of approach. They have guys in position, but the blocking is good, and the defense is a hair slow to react. The back powers through tacklers at speed and barrels into the end zone. I love it!
Houston wound up beating Tulane pretty soundly, but I thought the Green Wave played reasonably well, especially in the first half. They now stand 5-6 with Navy coming to town. The Mids are giving up 5.2 yards/carry on the ground this year, and I expect them to struggle against this particular look. For that reason, I think the Green Wave go bowling this year for the first time in recent memory.