Oklahoma State Run Game: Why It Will Be Feast or Famine at Times

Written by Adam Lunt

After a dominating performance last Friday, it’s tough to find areas for criticism. But I feel like the run game was certainly lacking the punch it did in the opener vs. Tulsa. I mentioned in a previous article that Justice Hill didn’t have his best game, and in general the OL was lacking physicality to open up large rushing lanes against an inferior opponent. 

But also there are other components to the equation that lead to lack of success. In my film study, I found two plays that I wanted to highlight to bring some clarity as to why. Let’s focus on two main areas.

  1. Fast pace — how that can impact run game negatively.
  2. Zone blocking scheme and some of the downsides that occur at times.
Play No. 1

I’ll set the stage for you here. It’s 1st and 10, and J.D. King just had a nice 7-yard run. OSU is looking at a 2nd and 3 inside the red zone. On 2nd and 3, Mike Yurcich wants to play with pace to try and catch a tired defense off guard. It’s a pretty simple strategy.  This play is set up so fast that the camera crew almost doesn’t have enough time to switch it back to the normal game watching frame. It’s a pretty basic run play with zone blocking concepts and is designed to go off the left side.  

The only problem is this play doesn’t favor OSU. Whether it was planned this way or not, South Alabama has a strategic advantage on this play, even with the pace going as fast as it did.  

Oklahoma State is in their base package, 11 personnel, with one Cowboy Back offset right behind the RT. Both corners are showing press coverage with one high safety. This means that there are seven guys in the box against six available blockers. That is a disadvantage that you want to avoid. The problem is, given the fact that OSU is trying to play fast, sometimes you don’t have time to evaluate those factors as much as you would in normal play.  

For the most part this play is blocked as it should be. Aaron Cochran is responsible for the man in front of him (SDE), Marcus Keyes is responsible for the man in front of him (DT), and ideally you would like Brad Lundblade to make it to the second level to seal off the LB. He doesn’t quite make it there due to traffic, and that’s possibly a reason why King cut the run back up to the middle/right.

Larry Williams at RG is responsible for blocking the man in front of him (DT), and Zach Crabtree is responsible for getting the second level and sealing off the backside LB. Britton Abbott needs to make sure backside DE isn’t able to crash down LOS and make a play. All of this happens reasonably well, with exception of Lundblade’s block. The problem is that the weak-side LB goes unblocked and makes a play at the line of scrimmage. A lot of times the run game is strictly numbers vs. numbers, and in this case OSU lost the numbers game.

Normally this would probably be a check play, but given the pace it’s something that you just roll with. It’s another reason why OSU was able to have so much success in the RPO game on slants, with the LBs really crashing in hard against the run, leaving them exposed in the middle of the field in pass game.  

Before you start complaining about the pace, remember plays like this don’t happen without it.  The example above of an unsuccessful play is just cost of doing business.  

Play No. 2

The next play is the downside of zone blocking.  The idea of zone blocking is to block the man in front of you. If there is no one in front of you then it’s your responsibility to move play side and help other lineman with defenders in their zone. This can also change based of play design, where the entire line shifts and you’re responsible for players in front of you in that particular area post-shift.  

A pretty big key to zone blocking is to have mobile offensive lineman, ones that can get out of their stance and move laterally to a certain spot. You’ll see exactly what I mean from this play.  

In this play I really only want people to focus on the RG Larry Williams and the RT Zach Crabtree. Due to the alignment of the DL, this play is challenging for these guys. Since the play is going left, the entire line is moving left as well. Lundblade is responsible for getting a block on the LB at second level, which leaves the DT in 0 technique right in front of Lundblade for Larry Williams.  

This means that after the snap Williams has to immediately slide over to try and get a block on someone who is aligned 2-3 yards to his left on the play side. Same situation as Crabtree with a DE aligned in 3 technique, although his block isn’t as difficult from a distance perspective, he is going against a more athletic player (at least I would hope so) which makes it equally as challenging.  

Williams actually does a pretty nice job of getting out of his stance quickly and engaging with the DT, but ultimately the DT is still able to make the play in addition to the backside DE that Crabtree was responsible for.

To be a clear I’m a big advocate of zone blocking, I think there are a lot of reasons why it’s is a great scheme. But there are downsides to it as well, this was just trying to shine some light on that aspect. Overall these are two good examples of where the players didn’t necessarily do anything wrong, but the situation/scheme ultimately was reasoning for the play failing. Not every play is going to work all the time, but it’s good to understand why something didn’t work instead of just lighting the whole thing on fire.

  • Tayvl

    Very interesting stuff. Adds a new dimension to hurry-up that I had never considered.

  • b

    Good stuff. This is why I contribute $ to the site.

  • OrangeTuono

    Nice work Mr. Lunt.

    So I’m hearing that on some of the fast paced snaps, we had a couple of execution speed bumps.
    Rudolph didn’t always make the best RPO decision – hand-off with 7 in the box – and back to your run game analysis our RB’s sometimes made the wrong read running into the pile as opposed to hitting the hole.

    So perhaps Rudolph needs another second or two in order to make his reads?

    • Adam Lunt

      Neither one of the examples I mentioned were RPO plays. But to your point, decision making is tough and can take some getting used to from the QB. Depending on the play you may be reading a DE or Safety/LB.

      In terms of the RB’s, they need to be preparing to get the ball every play, as the read is from the QB not the RB. So if they’re having issues picking the right holes, that is a vision issue overall and not just RPO runs.

      • OrangeTuono

        Ah hah said the blind man. Thanks for the clarification. I assumed Rudolph could RPO or change the play pre-snap, but makes sense that the fast snaps might be pre-scripted sets of plays.

        • Adam Lunt

          He could definitely change the play pre-snap, but as it stood both were run plays. To your credit, It’s tough to see if the play is RPO or not sometimes because the OL block the same way on either run/pass at times. In this case, watch the WRs. They start blocking right after snap, pretty good indicator of a called run play.

          The play I referenced from the Texas game last year, was a RPO play that was used with tempo. Rudolph pulled the ball and threw the post because UT was out of position. Same situation with OSU’s first TD on Friday. 4 yard gain, hurry up to the line, RPO and a 66 yard TD pass to Washington. They will mix scripted run/pass plays and RPO into their tempo game.

          • Glen W. Walker

            This may be as fundamental as it gets but why would your wide receivers automatically begin to block when spread out? I would think a safety or other DB would notice and crash down on the run. Why not run routes to pull the secondary away from the designed run?

          • Adam Lunt

            Safeties will be watching what is happening in the backfield, most likely reading the Quarterback. So most WR activity will go unnoticed, and they’re the primary run support from DB perspective. Also savvy CB’s will have their eye in the backfield as well, so you risk having an unblocked CB crashing in on the LOS if you just run up the field as a WR.

            Best bet is to get the block on the CB.

          • Glen W. Walker

            True, but wouldn’t a good bump and go at least throw the CB’s attention off? I know there’s the risk of illegal blocking downfield but that’s what situational awareness is for.

  • Steve King

    I love the Adam Lunt articles. More please.

    • Adam Lunt

      Thanks Steve, appreciate the feedback.

      • Dylan

        Agreed.

        One point of constructive criticism (which I have seen mentioned before), having gifs or clipped video segments vs. 2 hours of the entire game footage. I love re-watching the play several times to try and absorb all the nuance you write about and being able to do that smoothly without refreshing the whole page each time would be amazing.

        Excellent write-ups though, and I will continue to devour anything you post here.

        • Adam Lunt

          UPDATED!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • BBinKC

    I love the breakdown, but you have to figure out a way to do the videos without linking the entire game. It makes it impossible to view the play more than once.

    • Scott Sechrest

      Was mentioned in the last thread as well. He’s looking into it. Animated Gifs for the win IMO. To me its really interesting to watch a play loop over and over so you can focus on individual players and see how the whole play comes together.

    • Adam Lunt

      I’ve heard this a few times. It’s just very time consuming. Especially given the fact that I’m linking sometimes 9-10 videos/article, easier to just link YouTube. But I can certainly understand wanting to watch the video 3-4 times to understand the dynamics of the play. I’ll do it moving forward. Thanks for feedback.

      • Dylan

        With Porter making some $$$ now. Sounds like you need a raise!

        • Adam Lunt

          UPDATED!!!

  • OSU Student

    I’m glad someone finally mentioned the downsides that come with an ultra fast pace. I personally think OSU should do away with it (kinda). OSU is talented enough offensively that it doesn’t need the added advantage of running plays before the defense gets set. If we slowed down and lined up a play based on what the defense is showing, I’d take our offense head-to-head vs any defense we will play this entire season (unless we meet Bama in January, but I’m trying to stay grounded. It’s only week 3). Our offense didn’t ever need to go super quick against Tulsa week one. We scored so much because our big plays worked, and we’d go 70 yards in one play. When the big plays aren’t working, and we’re trying to nickel and dime it downfield, I personally believe a faster pace hurts us. I don’t mean we should slow down to an NFL pace, but just taking 5-10 seconds to survey the defense before selecting our set and snapping the ball. Our offense will have the advantage over any defense we face this season. Too quick of a pace can sometimes not only be an unneeded addition, but it can hurt our offense. I say slow it up a bit. LR at OU plays at a jogging pace and they dominate just about every defense they play. We can do the same.

    • OSU Student

      The only time I’m all for rushing a snap is when we get tackled at the 1 or 2 yard line and hurry to set up a quick dive or sweep to get into the endzone.

  • Stepdaddy

    I don’t understand in the hurry up offense why there cannot be designed run plays where the OL uses trap blocking techniques. Anyone that knows any thing about offense line play knows that when you have a weak OL or a struggling player you can help them immensely by using trap blocking techniques where a guard or tackle or both pulls allowing the center and opposite guard to block down rather than reach block which Lundblade and others struggle with. It really doesn’t seem that complicated. Maybe the legos football kit only allows for zone blocking.

    • Adam Lunt

      We’ve done this regularly with the Cowboy Back in the past. Although I will say I don’t see it as much.

      I think to answer your question it comes down to personnel. We need OL who can protect the passer. These are going to be more finesse based lineman in general. If I’m running a man blocking scheme with trap blocks, I want some maulers out there, guys that can dominate the LOS. Doesn’t really align with the goals of the offense as a whole in my opinion.

      • Stepdaddy

        I understand what you are saying when the call is a run/pass option. That limits the type of blocking you can do. In that situation, the OB is looking for the mismatch. However, there need to be designed runs especially for 1st down and short yardage situations. Again if you know anything about OL or if you ask anyone who does, they will tell you that you can make it easier on your center or the weak side of line (i.e. right) by allowing the center to block down the majority of the time and pulling the strong side guard or tackle. This is really basis football 101. Look at what OU and KSU do when comes to blocking. Are you suggesting the KSU OL is better than ours? They cross block, trap block, and pull guards and tackles the whole game. Do a little homework and report back.

  • Jeff in Tulsa

    Great stuff. Thanks!

  • Mylin

    Haha. I spent about 10 mins explainly passionately to my gf why that last play should be a combo (double team) between blade/Williams up to the backer.

    Even in zone principles a zero can’t be left alone by the center!! Cmon Henson.

    Great stuff