Week two of the season has already begun but I wanted to take a look at something from week one.
I tuned into the UCLA game week one to see what kind of offense they would be running this year. I don't know what I expected to see but it wasn't a quadruple read option for a touchdown on the first play. Let's take a closer look.
Pre-snap UCLA is in a spread formation and Rice counters with either a nickel package or a linebacker covering the tight end.
Before the snap the slot receiver has gone in motion, the defense adjusts by moving toward the left of the offensive formation and the safety at the top of the screen crashes in. At the snap the UCLA linemen are moving to their blocks leaving the, circled, defensive end unblocked.
Brett Hundley, the UCLA Quarterback, has triple option available to him at this point. He can run the read option on the defensive end or he can pitch to the receiver crossing the formation. The Owl linebackers and safeties continue to move to UCLA's left along with the receiver in motion and away from the side with the read option. But what is going on at the bottom of the picture?
The read option has caused the defensive end to lose contain, the receiver in motion has caused middle linebackers and the safety to move out of position. At the bottom of the picture the tight end is blocking the corner and the receiver is open, but for what? A screen pass? A pitch option? Whatever it is, this FOURTH option has caused the nickel back/linebacker to close in to cover it.
Brett Hundley has a huge running lane and he uses his strength to break some attempts at arm tackles and his speed to run away from everyone else. But look at that receiver following him down the field in pitch relationship. Even if someone was still able to stop Hundley he still has his fourth option.
UCLA isn't running the pistol anymore but their option attack is still as dangerous to Cal as it ever was.
Let's look at UCLA's second offensive play. Before the snap they are again in a spread formation with a receiver in motion, this time to the right and the running back is lined up on the left. Rice shifts its defense to account for the motion, once again they are in a nickel package.
After the snap UCLA looks like they are running a read option to the left and the flanking receiver takes a step back to be available as an option. The Rice DBs aren't going to be fooled this time, they fly up to provide run support.
It isn't a run, it is play action and the DBs are in no man's land. The flanker is open for a short gain but the tight end is about to blow by the coverage as the DBs get caught flat footed.
Hundley pump fakes the short receiver and throws long to the tight end. John Madden called corner backs "One Step Guys" because they had to be able to accelerate to full speed in one step*, but even if he could go full speed in one step this DB is beat.
The tight end barely has to break stride to catch the ball and the result is a huge play. If the pass was perfect this would be a touchdown.
So Brett Hundley can run and he can throw. UCLA runs the option and the play action pass off the option. Anyone, like me, who was hoping that UCLA would run something that the Cal defense does better at defending has got to be disappointed. At least their special teams are on a near par with ours tallying a NCAA record with three of their own extra points blocked (all in one half) and a collision on a punt return resulting in a turn over.
*If you have not read John Madden's "One Knee Equals Two Feet" I highly recommend it. Even 26 years after it was written the book provides great insight into the action on the field and what goes on behind the scenes.