On Saturday Texas shocked Oklahoma to win the Red River Rivalry. The Longhorns, 1-4 entering the game, weren’t supposed to be able to compete with the 4-0 Sooners, but Texas took an early 14-0 lead and held on at the end to win.
During the game the announcers gushed over the offensive game that Jay Norvell called. His play calling was innovative and confusing making good use of misdirection. They were partially right. Norvell called a great game, and he obviously had his offense prepared, but the bread and butter for the Longhorns was the quarterback power.
Traditionally the power is run out of the I-formation and looks like this:
The offensive linemen on the play side of the formation, left side in the diagram, down block. This means they block the lineman in front of them or to the back side, right in this diagram. The back side guard pulls through the backfield to block the first person he sees. The full back also goes to the same area to block the first man he sees. The quarterback gives to the tailback who follows his blockers through the hole.
Ideally the hole will be created by the lineman pushing everyone to the inside, and the pulling guard and full back pushing everyone outside. It’s an old play and one commonly run. On Saturday Texas used some updated versions. Here’s one of the updated versions.
From the shotgun with an H back on the back side, it’s the same play up front. Look at the offensive line; all of the play side linemen down block, and the back side guard pulls to lead the play. Instead of using the full back as the second kick out blocker, Texas used the H back from the back side. Instead of handing the ball to the tailback, the quarterback keeps it himself. And, in an additional wrinkle, the tailback is fakes a read option going the other way. The read option is certainly a variation that can be added onto this play.
I couldn’t find a highlight of this play in particular, but here is the whole game. This play is at the 17:18 mark of the video.
To get even more power at the point of attack, Texas dispensed with the read option portion and used the running back as another lead blocker. This was the play the Longhorns used over and over again to get their second touchdown. Here’s what it looks like.
The offensive line is using the same down blocks with the back side guard pulling. The H back is on the play side of the formation and tries to kick out from there. The tailback is the third blocker. The quarterback follows his blocks for gain after gain.
This is good play calling and innovative adaptation of traditional plays and concepts with modern offense. All of football is part of a continuous evolution. A spread formation can (and is) often used to run the power or the counter or a dozen other plays that were designed for a different time, different athletes and different formations. But, if the principles are sound, like they are for the power play, the play can be adapted to the I formation, the spread or whatever comes next. Texas illustrated that nicely.