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Chalk Talk: Mason Rudolph’s Legs Help Cowboys Past Tech



Mason Rudolph may have effectively led the Cowboy offense with his arm in OSU’s 41-34 victory over Texas Tech, but his legs played a key role as well. Rudolph kept the ball on zone reads four times for 48 yards and two touchdowns, and each of those carries were without contact. In fact, on most of them, Rudolph jogged either out of bounds or to the end zone with no defenders within ten yards of him.

The zone read acts as an excellent constraint play to capitalize on overly aggressive defenses. Because OSU is an RPO-heavy team, and oftentimes their offense will be almost exclusively RPOs in their “turbo” tempo, it makes a play like the zone read very effective. No offense can build a scheme off of the zone read, but when the defense sees the same actions over and over, it becomes a valuable tool to keep opposing teams from being too aggressive.

Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich occasionally adjusts some of the offense’s base RPOs to a zone read. Here’s an example:

In this play, the offense runs a weak lead zone with a two-man passing concept. The play is tagged with a read, so the end man on the line of scrimmage is left unblocked.

Yurcich intelligently tagged this play with a read after running it, and variations of it, a couple of times throughout the drive. The defense bit hard on the handoff, and the corners ran with the receivers’ routes, effectively clearing out the right side of the field.

OSU ran this same play for a fourth-quarter touchdown, this time with Rudolph walking into the end zone untouched:

And the Cowboys didn’t just tag a read on this play. They did a number of times throughout the game, including off a strong-side wide zone:

And a zone play out of 10 personnel (where Rudolph read the outside linebacker instead of a lineman):

Yurcich used the zone read, either on tags or true zone reads, to considerable success. He was smart enough not to overuse them, and because of how well OSU was running the ball, the defense flowed toward the running back and Rudolph ran for an easy first down every time. Rudolph isn’t necessarily a dual-threat quarterback, but his running ability adds an entirely new dimension to an already potent offense.

What was your favorite play from OSU’s win over TTU? Leave your opinions in the comments below!

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