1. Oklahoma State lines up in what they call the “Diamond Formation.” This is a formation that former offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen basically invented, and it’s the closest thing you’ll ever see to the Cowboys lining up in a goal line formation. When a team runs the spread offense like OSU, it’s easy to pick up 20 yards when they need it.
The hard part in the offense is picking up 2 yards, which explains why so many drives stall in the red zone. The offense is designed to give every play the possibility of being a big gain. When there aren’t many yards to be gained, it can be tough.
The diamond formation has a back on both sides of the quarterback, and another directly behind him. This allows them to easily run in any direction without tipping their hand by loading up a formation on one side or the other, and raises their odds in converting those pesky short-yardage situations.
2. Remember what I said to immediately look for last time? It’s the offensive line’s first move. This time, the line explodes up-field1, which means this is a run play. On this particular play, the Pokes are running what’s called a Zone-Read play.
There are two things that can happen on a zone-read: J.W. Walsh can hand off to Joe Randle who runs to the zone side of the play, or he can keep it if he likes what he sees. Here, Walsh takes the snap and fakes a hand off to Randle, who’s moving from his right to left.
What Walsh is looking for is the unblocked defensive end on the top-half of the screen (ed. note: the “DE” label is supposed to be over the guy who’s circled, not the linebacker, my bad). The unblocked end sets the edge2, and offensive coordaintor Todd Monken leaves him unblocked so Walsh can “read” him as he makes the hand off.
If the end follows Randle, Walsh pulls the ball and can easily clear the edge. If the defender sits and tries to play the quarterback keeper, Walsh gives Randle the ball so that he can run the designed zone run to the opposite side.
Basically, they force the defense into making a decision, and whichever decision they make is going to be wrong. In this case, the end follows Randle.
3. With the defensive end running himself out of the play, the biggest issue with any zone-read that the quarterback ends up keeping is the linebacker on that side of the field. Not only are backers big, but they’re also fast and can deliver a game-changing hit that can easily injure a quarterback. Monken knows that, and counters with the tailback in the diamond formation.
On this play, that tailback is Kye Staley, and Monken designs the play so that Staley’s a lead-blocker in case Walsh decides to pull the hand off. The linebacker begins to over-pursue to the outside, so Staley simply seals him off and creates an inside running lane for Walsh.
4. With the linebacker sealed and the receiver blocking the corner back on the outside, the play turns into a foot race between Walsh and the unblocked inside linebacker. With the play being compressed due to the Cowboys being in the red zone, Walsh has the advantage because the backer doesn’t have much room to work with and take an angle. Walsh knows that, and runs to the outer-most part of the running lane that Randle created, eventually and easily scoring a touchdown.
Here’s a full clip of the play.
- The offensive line can go up-field on a run play, but must stay behind the line of scrimmage on a passing play. ↩
- “The edge” is the outside lane of the defense, usually between the defensive end and the corner back. If a runner can “get to the edge” of the defense and turn the corner, it’s likely they’ll have a huge gain because most of the defenders are on the opposite side of the edge, meaning they’re behind the runner. ↩