in Football

On Mike Yurcich and the intricacies of playcalling

A lot of people, including me, have been crushing Mike Yurcich for the past few days for his poor playcalling performance on Saturday, and understandably so.

The staple of these complaints has been the second-down fade he called for JW Walsh to Tracy Moore at the goal line when OSU was trying to take the lead in the 4th quarter.

Except that…he didn’t call it.

And apparently there’s some confusion about whether or not it was even an optional checkdown. Watch Mike Gundy talk about it at 16:15 here:

He acts like that’s not even a choice, that it was supposed to be a run the whole way.

Whether or not that’s true — and if it is, my gosh JW, know what you’re good at — one truism remains of any criticism lobbed at Mike Yurcich about the plays he does or doesn’t call.

Oklahoma State’s offense is laden with combo plays — that is, plays that are run/pass options based on how the defense lines up. You can read about that — and lust over the Brandon Weeden offense — here.

So a lot of times when we say “I can’t believe the game Yurcich called, that was TRBL!” Well, our disdain might be more properly redirected at No. 4.

I’m not sure how much leeway he has compared to what Weeden had but the offense hasn’t changed much so I would imagine it to still be quite a bit.

A lot of the Oklahoma State is about executing the small number of plays they run. We think of offensive coordinators dialing up calls like we play Madden — thousands of choices, hope you make the right one!

The reality is much different than that — there are route trees for receivers and run/pass options (like I mentioned earlier) and a lot of it has to do with your general offensive theory and how well that is played out on Saturdays.

And OSU’s offensive line did their OC no favors last week. You can have Tom Brady throwing to Jerry Rice and if your offensive line can’t block me and Amilian then you don’t have much.

The criticism of Yurcich has been, in my opinion, mostly fair, I suppose, mostly because it doesn’t feel like he’s created space with the offense. I don’t know if that’s a Saturdays issue or a middle-of-the-week issue but I don’t think he’s always put put Walsh in a position to succeed (why is OSU playing the running QB and not running him, especially out of the diamond?)

It’s an issue that needs to be taken care of to get this offense rolling again.

One thing Todd Monken was so good at was putting guys in positions on the field with the ball and nobody within 10 yards of them. That felt like every Josh Stewart play last season.

Even without Weeden, Monken had the offense cranking in 2012 to the tune of the most yards in a single season in school history (yes, more than 2011).

Yurcich hasn’t demonstrated that yet — this year’s team is on pace to be the fourth-most futile of the Gundy era1 — and he needs to.


  1. 2013 — 6162 yards (projected), 2012 — 7111 yards, 2011 — 7096 yards, 2010 — 6763 yards, 2009 — 4774 yards, 2008 — 6340 yards, 2007 — 6322 yards, 2006 — 5327 yards, 2005 — 3573 yards.
  • Poker

    So the running quarterback, decides to change the play on his own, and throw a fade. A pass that requires finesse and touch which he doesn’t possess? Has he thrown a fade in a game in his career?
    Has he checked to a fade before? What did he see that this became the correct decision with the game on the line. Trying to prove he can throw it as well as run?

    He’s young and will learn, but Yurcich and Gundy need to find out the answer to these questions quickly and before the next game.

    • OSU-Bill

      I assume that all the QBs practice fades often. I also assume that it becomes obvious in practice whether the QB-receiver combo is good enough to reliably go to this play in a game. Almost all executions (at least ones with consistent success) involve a quick throw out of the pocket–the ball has to be timed exactly to reach the spot where the receiver will be in a very short period of time. On the play in question, didn’t JW roll out to the right? That alone should have removed the fade from the play options.

      • Poker

        I can’t find a video anywhere of that play. I’m not sure he rolled right. I could be wrong however.

        • Myles

          on that play JW took the ball and threw the fade. No roll out. People seem to be forgetting the next play. THe same horrid outside zone that has prolly gained negative yards this year more than positive. On the 1 yard line that is just a terrible call. 2nd down might be on JW but what about that outside Zone?

  • ck1911

    Good points- in that case Chelf got a raw deal as the O-line was horrible for the 2 series he had against MS St.

  • David Hudson

    To play devil’s advocate, if it was an option at all, Yurcich DID call it. It’s not fair to lay the blame entirely on him, but the 10 fold raise he just received means people are talking about his calls on Monday morning, good or bad.

    • Matt Amilian


  • run262

    It seems Walsh was responsible for the bad goal line call, if so my criticism of Yurcich that particular play was not correct. However, it was not Walsh who was calling a run up the middle when it clearly was not working. While the O-line did poorly (and they did), it did not make it any easier that WVU stacked the middle and dared JW to throw. I am not saying Chelf should have been put in, but Yurcich needed to adjust to that one way or the other and he never did. He also called a poor game against MSU, so this is not his first time making poor play-calling decisions.

    • Illinipoke

      Hell I’d be fine with a run up the middle, it was the attempts outside with Smith that killed us.

      • Nathan

        Exactly! How many opportunities do we give Smith to run parallel to the line of scrimmage, before we put Roland in to run downhill?

  • willham

    “Without blockers, all running backs look about the same.” — some famous coach whose name escapes me.

  • Nathan

    I understand that Yurcich and Walsh aren’t the only people to blame, but it’s amazing to me that the same things that made Chelf average got him benched and Walsh does them and we just shrug it off. Walsh succeeded in a gameplan that didn’t capitalize on his weaknesses – against Mississippi State. Same story as last year. From this point on, every team that we see is going to put together a game plan that focuses on forcing Walsh to make throws he struggles with. If he can’t make them, why not bring in Chelf, at least in shared duty, to make the defense adjust?

    • htownpoke

      This +100000000

  • Scott in Texas

    So I get off a plane Saturday around 2:45 and and check my ESPN app and I can’t believe the score. Between baggage claim and Customs I see we have a 2nd and goal at the one to at least salvage this thing. But no. And it gets worse. I see the final and turn off every appliance in my house. I’ve found this is the best way; crawl into a shell until Sunday afternoon.

    So today I start reviewing what happened. I can’t believe it. The only thing that could be worse is if Pistol Pete accidentally shot himself. Or maybe did so on purpose.

    And by the way…UH beat UTSA worse than we did. So there we are. Right now, if we played UH, I’d take UH by 3.