Through seven games, the Oklahoma State Cowboys have the seventh-best red zone offense in the FBS. The reason? Senior quarterback J.W. Walsh. Walsh has flourished in his new role as a short-yardage and red zone specialist. Not only has he succeeded because of his physical talents, but he has also succeeded thanks to the plays and packages that offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich has installed for him. Today, we will look at three red zone packages that have fared well for Walsh and the Cowboy offense.
Full House Package
Ever since its unveiling in the beginning of the 2013 season, the wham read has been one of the Cowboys' most successful plays. This play was initially a variation off of the veer, but it has recently been changed to a wham read. The only difference here is the point of attack. In the veer, the running back attacks the inside shoulder of the unblocked defender. In the wham, the back attacks the opposite side of the handoff in search for a hole. This change was made in 2014, and the wham can be identified by the running back's motion to one side before the start of the play.
In the play, the offensive line blocks like they would in an inside zone while the fullbacks block the perimeter in anticipation for a quarterback keep. The play-side defensive end is left unblocked, as he decides where the ball goes. If the end stays, the quarterback hands the ball off and the play becomes an inside zone; this outcome does not necessarily get big yardage, as it becomes an inside run play in a congested area.
The real yardage comes on the other outcome. If the end crashes, the quarterback keeps the ball and the play essentially becomes a sweep. This play has been especially effective at the goal line because the mesh fake draws in the defense, who is mostly playing tight to the line to start with. This has given Walsh many opportunities to shine as a ballcarrier in open space.
Defenses have had difficulty defending these two options, so when the Cowboys pull out a play action off of the same look, the receivers have been wide open.
They have used a slant flat combination, as shown here:
And a seam route by the fullback, as shown here:
Plays like this become pitch and catch between Walsh and his receivers. With all of these possible outcomes, expect the full house package to continue giving defenses fits.
The Wildcat package has finally made its way to Oklahoma State, and we couldn't be more excited. Pardon the creative license, but every Wildcat formation needs a cheesy, semi-team specific name to truly be considered official.
The Cowboys first unveiled a Wildcat variation against Central Michigan. In it, Walsh became the inside run threat while a motioning receiver became the outside run threat.
Walsh has two options to where the ball could go, but unlike the full house package, his decision is made before the ball is snapped.
If the offense has favorable numbers in the box, Walsh fakes the jet and keeps the ball on the power:
But if the defense loads the box, Walsh can flip the ball to the jetting receiver:
Along with this play, the Cowboys have shown a play action off of the jet motion. Against Central Arkansas, they called this beauty for an easy touchdown:
The invert option has been used intermittently in the past couple of seasons, but OSU brought it back this past Saturday against Kansas. This play was responsible for two Cowboy touchdowns -- one by Walsh and one by freshman back Jeff Carr.
In the invert, the quarterback reads the play-side defensive end. Similar to the jet power, the play can either go to the outside or the inside. If the defensive end crashes, the quarterback hands the ball off on the sweep:
If the end widens with the mesh, the quarterback keeps it on a power up the middle:
Notice that this is the same play that was used in our first package, but inverted -- now, the quarterback is the inside threat and the back is the outside threat.
In conclusion, Walsh has been used in a number of different ways, all with great success. In fact, 10 of Cowboys' 20 conference play touchdowns have been in a Walsh package of some kind. Before the start of the season, many initially thought that he would only be used three to four times a game. Now, he has arguably become one of the most valuable players on the OSU's offense. Let's hope that the Cowboys continue to use all of these great concepts, as well as show some new ones in the future.