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Chalk Talk: What is Series Football and Why is it Important?

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Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma State Cowboys showed a lot of great new stuff against Central Arkansas this past Saturday, but while they opened up the playbook, there is still room for improvement. In today’s Chalk Talk, we will take a look at three of the Cowboys’ four touchdowns.

The first touchdown was off of a base play, which means that it is a frequently recurring play in the Cowboy offense. It is a little discouraging that OSU couldn’t get more production out of their base plays; they ended up using a bit of trickeration to score the other three, which is all well and good, but there shouldn’t be a real need to open up the playbook against an FCS opponent. These plays were either 1) already inserted into the game plan (which is ideal because it hopefully signals that they will be this creative every week) or 2) done in semi-desperation because they felt the offense needed a boost. No one is complaining that the Cowboys actually opened up their playbook in the first place. But if #2 was the case, it’s not a great sign when your team has to reach deep into their playbook against Central Arkansas (no offense, UCA).

So what’s the key to fixing this? How do you keep the concept of deception without using a bunch of gadget plays? The answer, my friends, is series football.

TD #2: Swing Wheel

swing wheel

The wheel route combo has long been a staple of air raid offenses. It serves as a simpler variation of the "switch" route from the Run and Shoot era. The Cowboys like to pull out this play when they need chunk yardage. If you remember, David Glidden scored off of the exact same play last year in the Cowboys’ season opener. This play works especially well in zone coverage, as the fake to the swing route sucks in the secondary on that side.

swing wheel gif

In this play, Central Arkansas was fortunately in zone coverage, and Mason Rudolph earned his first touchdown pass in BPS. Even though the play worked, it’s slightly frustrating that the Cowboys didn’t set the play up. They could have showed this same motion but handed the ball off to Carson, thrown the swing, etc. This is series football. Series football is the concept where plays are enhanced by pairing with them with similar plays, e.g. a run and a play action off the same run. Sometimes, the Cowboys are great at incorporating series football into their offense. Other times, not so much. 

TD #3: PA Scissors

pa fork

This play isn’t necessarily a gadget, but it is designed to catch a defense that is overly-aggressive. Usually, all bootleg plays are paired with a flood concept to the bootleg side. A flood is where all of the receivers run to to one half of the field in an effort to overload the coverage. In this play, the flood is happening to the opposite side. The quarterback's main target is the inside slot receiver, who is faking a crossing route and then breaking back to the outside. From there, it becomes  a simple high-low read between that route and the underneath route from the running back. The hope is that the defense flows to the boot side in pursuit of any crossing routes, leaving them out of position to cover anyone on the other side. This play is run by a number of different teams. It's even on Madden, in case you wanted to know.

pa fork gif

Similar to the wheel play, this play works best against zone, as the defense can be better tricked into flowing to the wrong side. This is because the defense watches the quarterback in zone, as opposed to having individual man assignments. For those who are wondering, this play can also fit into a series of its own; it is best paired with a basic outside zone and a traditional bootleg. That way, you can show the same look but have three possible plays branching off of that look. This leaves the defense off-balance, as they cannot overcommit in fear of being left out of position.

TD #4: Jet PA Slide

jet boot

Last week, OSU used quarterback J.W. Walsh in what was a variation of the wildcat package. They used a jet power twice against Central Michigan, with Walsh being the main ballcarrier. This jet sweep package seems to vary from week to week; this week, they aligned Rennie Childs and Jeremy Seaton as upbacks, making Walsh the set primary ball carrier.

jet slide gf

With the defense expecting run, the Cowboys caught the Bears off guard with a jet bootleg.The defense over pursued, and Jeremy Seaton was left wide open in the flat.

It is encouraging that Coach Yurcich & Co. decided to open up the playbook a little bit, but moving forward, it would be better to see them incorporate a little more series football into the offense. That way, you can still have that threat of trickeration, but you don’t have to use the entire playbook. The basis for most of these series starts with the run game, which the Cowboys struggle with, but we will leave that for next week. In conclusion, series football can aid a struggling offense. Simple deception can be a powerful tool for any offense, so why not use it? Right?